- Walter Burroughs
- History - general, History - pre-Federation
- RAN Ships
- None noted.
- June 2011 edition of the Naval Historical Review (all rights reserved)
The Colonies responded to the Russian threat through increased harbour fortifications and by commissioning their own warships. While New South Wales and Tasmania had operated a number of wooden sailing vessels for colonial service starting with the 44 ton schooner Francis entering service in September 1793, these were not officially classified as a warships. The Tasmanian Government did however acquire the small British built 12 ton torpedo boat TB 191, shipped as deck cargo, arriving at Hobart in May 1884 and could claim to be the first warship commissioned by the colonies. South Australia had a small 920 ton but heavily armed cruiser Protector built in England boasting 1 x 8 inch gun and 5 x 6 inch guns, she arrived in Port Adelaide in September 1884. The first warship built by an Australian Colonial Government was a small 65 ton wooden ketch Spitfire armed with a 32 pounder swivel gun, built for New South Wales was launched at Darling Harbour in April 1855. Victoria had a 580 ton sloop HMVS Victoria built in England armed with one 32 pounder and six smaller guns, she arrived at Hobson’s Bay in May 1856. Queensland had the steel twin screw 360 ton gunboat Gayundah again built in England, armed with 1 x 8 inch gun and 1 x 6 inch gun, she arrived at Moreton Bay in March 1885. These were the origins of Australian State navies which remained in place until Federation in 1901 when the naval assets of the individual states came under the command of the Australian Commonwealth Government. Under the terms of a 1902 Imperial Defence Conference further subsidies were intended to again improve the strength of the Royal Naval Squadron, this however did not receive widespread support especially from those seeking greater levels of independence. A further Imperial Conference held in 1909 provided for three fleet units to be maintained in the Pacific – with two units maintained by Britain, replacing the old East Indies and China Squadrons and one by Australia replacing the Royal Naval Squadron in Australia. New Zealand continued to provide a subsidy to the Royal Navy. Federation of the colonies in 1901 gave rise to independent Australian armed forces and the creation of the Commonwealth Naval Force. Following a period of consolidation the RAN was established in 1911 with RN forces departing finally in 1913.
We cannot look into the mirror of our naval history without glimpsing the remarkable William Rooke Creswell who first came to prominence as the commanding officer of firstly South Australian and secondly Queensland naval forces. Creswell was an inconspicuous Royal Naval lieutenant who being wounded in action had accepted early retirement to help recuperate and take up farming in Australia. As this was not the anticipated success he took the position as First Lieutenant on South Australia’s only naval vessel the formidable pocket cruiser HMCS Protector. He was in command of this vessel when she saw action in the Boxer Rebellion. Creswell visioned combined Australian naval forces working with but independent of the Royal Navy and spoke against subsidising RN ships with resources better deployed locally. His views were opposed by the Admiralty but found support with politicians of nationalistic sentiment. Ultimately most of Creswell’s proposals came to fruition and he can be said to be the ‘Father of the RAN’. His testimonial was seen in August 1914 when at the outbreak of world war Australian possessed a modern fleet well trained and ready for active service. After the war a grateful nation was proud to acknowledge the promotion of Vice Admiral Sir William Creswell, RAN.