- Book reviewer
- History - general, Book reviews
- RAN Ships
- None noted.
- September 2017 edition of the Naval Historical Review (all rights reserved)
By Peter Poland. Published by Halstead Press, Sydney in 2017. Soft cover of 176 pages with plentiful supply of black & white and colour photographs. Available from booksellers and online from $29.95 – with discounts available.
The name Poland conjures up pictures of a country squeezed between Germany and Russia but this name also applies to a proud English linage with many generations of the family in naval service. None more so than our author who, like his father, served in the Royal Navy.
Peter Poland has for many years been associated with the South Head Signal Station and has now written a book upon this iconic part of the landscape of Sydney Harbour. There is surely only so much one can say about a structure holding a signal mast, but the author is a fine story-teller, and has spun many historic vignettes around ships entering and leaving Sydney Harbour over the first years of the colony’s existence.
The level of research conducted is of a commendably high standard. For example who knows that the first coal exported from the colony occurred in 1801 with a transhipment of 150 tons of Newcastle coal from Sydney to India. We hear of nearly all important ships entering and departing Port Jackson from the large to the small sailing vessels. A comprehensive list in an appendix shows these visitors coming from America, Britain, France, Holland, Spain and Russia, plus Colonial vessels.
While the author is to be congratulated on a kindly and easily digestible story, it does possibly concentrate on the positive and may overlook unfavourable comment. The largest ship yet to visit the colony, in 1803, was HMS Glatton. Her captain, James Colnett, had some harsh words to say about an unmanned signal station, unmarked shoals and indifferent pilotage, but unfortunately this does not rate a mention.
Those who enjoy vexillology or the study of flags will be enthralled by the many illustrated pages showing plentiful samples of bunting flying from many halliards at the South Head Signal Station. Altogether a well-researched volume which provides a fine narrative of both naval and general interest.
Reviewed by Arcturus