The Royal Australian Navy was formally established on 11 July 1911. Two years later the Navy’s first flagship, the battle cruiser HMAS Australia, arrived in Australian waters and, together with other warships of the fledgling Australian Fleet, assembled at Jervis Bay before making their way north for the Fleet’s official arrival to Sydney.
Southward bound out of Sydney for Hobart on the morning of Saturday 4 October 1913, the Wimmera passed the Fleet in the early hours. The ‘encounter’ was shortly thereafter recorded in Hobart’s Daily Post by one of the Wimmera’s passengers, Robert ‘Blair’ Hay, writing under the pseudonym of ‘the Pilgrim’ and who eloquently wrote:
‘Soon the Wimmera had rounded the Heads, but not before, with interminable trouble, and no end of fuss and shouting she had taken lots of sheep and cattle on board—and of all things in the world—scores of cases of fruit. It was now between one and two on Saturday morning, a dark night, sea calm, but a slight rain falling. A “night cap” and so to “bunk,” but not to undress or sleep. Patriotism forbade. One wanted just a glimpse, if even only the tiniest, of our brand new and OWN fleet, and a kindly steward easily earned his fee by having the Pilgrim on deck by five.
There they were in the dim distance, but with “lights burning brightly, sir,” in the darkness. One’s heart thumped a little. It was a far off sight, but we saw it, and were satisfied with what will always be an interesting memory.
There they were.
The battleship Australia, followed by the Melbourne, the Sydney, the Encounter, with the three destroyers abeam on the starboard. In five and a half hours they would proudly enter Sydney Heads amidst universal rejoicing in the city and Commonwealth. Rejoicing that, with thousands, no doubt, had something in it of a prayer and a hope. “God bless our land and save us from perils by land and sea, and grant us peace in our, and all, time.”…
Arrival of Australia’s first submarines – Sydney
The Royal Australian Navy’s first two submarines, the AE1 and AE2 were constructed by shipbuilders Vickers at their yards at Barrow-in-Furness, England and launched in May and June 1913 respectively. Following sea trials both vessels departed Portsmouth on 28 February 1914 together with an escort vessel, HMS Eclipse. Escorted and towed, the submarines sailed to Colombo, where escort duties were assumed by HMS Yarmouth to Singapore. At Singapore, a third escort was waiting. One of Australia’s newest cruisers, HMAS Sydney, then undertook to lead and tow each respective submarine, first to Darwin, then to Cairns and down the East Australian coast to Sydney.
During this period, the ss Wimmera was employed on the Sydney-Hobart run. Departing Hobart on Friday 22 May the Wimmera’s arrival in Sydney two days later, on Sunday 24 May, coincided with that of the AE1 and AE2 which entered Sydney harbour under the escort of HMAS Sydney before making their way to berth at the Naval Deport on Garden Island.
© Ralph L. Sanderson 2004-2021