- Temp Author
- Monograph, History - Between the wars, History - pre-Federation, WWI operations, History - WW1
- None noted.
- RAN Ships
- HMAS Tingira, HMAS Melbourne I, HMAS Parramatta I, HMAS Sydney I, HMAS Australia I, HMAS Penguin I, HMAS Berrima, HMAS Una, HMAS Yarra I, HMAS Warrego I, HMAS Encounter I, HMAS Brisbane I, HMAS AE1, HMAS Platypus, HMAS AE2
- January 2015 edition of the Naval Historical Review (all rights reserved)
The cruiser HMS Encounter (later to become HMAS Encounter) was laid down at Devonport Dockyard, United Kingdom on 28 January 1901. She was launched 17 months later on 18 June 1902 by Lady Sturges-Jackson who was the wife of the Admiral Superintendent of Devonport Dockyard. Encounter was finally commissioned on 21 November 1905 under the command of Captain C F Thursby RN (her completion was delayed as a result of a fire onboard during her outfitting and she was not actually ready for service until 16 December 1905). Encounter and her sister ship HMS Challenger, completed in 1904, were classified as Challenger Class light cruisers and were the only two of the class to be built.
Challenger and Encounter were described as good sea keeping ships with ample freeboard and a coal bunkerage capacity that was adequate to ensure a sustained cruising endurance. The two could be distinguished as Challenger had funnel tops that sloped aft whereas Encounter‘s were horizontal and thus parallel with the deck line.
Shortly after commissioning Encounter was ordered to sail for Australia to become part of the Royal Navy Squadron on the Australia Station. The cruiser departed Sheerness, Kent, on New Years Eve 1905 and set sail for Australia. Needless to say many of the Ships Company were unhappy with this departure date, as they had planned to spend the time with their families. The commission on the Australia Station was originally intended to be only for two years but Encounter was destined to never return to Britain.
The ships company’s morale was not improved when a rumour began to circulate that the ship was top heavy and that she would not be able to safely cross the often storm lashed Bay of Biscay. Fortunately the weather in the Bay of Biscay was mild and the ships stability in this area was not tested, although several Royal Marines taking passage to Australia, to join the Marine Contingent at Garden Island, suffered from the inevitable seasickness. Encounter continued on her journey to Australia via the Mediterranean, Suez Canal and Indian Ocean and arrived at Sydney in March 1906.
On arrival in Sydney she was inspected by the Commander in Chief of the Australia Station, Vice Admiral Sir Wilmot Hawkesworth Fawkes KCB, RN. The gun crews had spent a great deal of time and effort to clean and polish the Encounter’s six-inch guns and ‘soon had them looking like burnished silver’. As the Admiral was inspecting the ship he was supposedly heard saying to the Captain of Encounter in a dejected voice They’re all breech loaders, I suppose? perhaps thinking back to the days of sail and muzzle loading weapons. The gun crews were to say the least not impressed with this comment.
Encounter replaced the cruisers Katoomba and Mildura that had already departed for Britain where they were decommissioned and sold for scrap. HMS Encounter’s role on the Australia Station was to conduct regular ‘showing the flag’ cruises to Australian and New Zealand ports and to the islands of New Guinea and the South West Pacific. She also became the training ship for Australian seaman who had joined the Royal Navy. She frequently visited Hobart to take part in the annual regatta held each year. Her activities were not all easy as she was also constantly at sea conducting regular exercises with other ships and frequent gunnery shoots.
During 1907, Encounter had an incident onboard when she was calibrating her guns. Calibrating the ships guns required each gun to be fired with a full charge. As one Encounter sailor recalled – Nobody knew much what calibrating meant, much less how to work out the muzzle velocities, but we knew each gun had to fire in turn with a full charge. When it came to No 4 gun Starboard it was fired and it immediately recoiled right out of its cradle and came to rest on the upper deck to the rear of the gun-shield. Luckily there were no casualties, but it took an awful lot of red tape and files of correspondence and numerous inspections to prove that the piston nut was defective. I suspect the real and unofficial cause was that the unfortunate armourer forgot to fill the recoil cylinder and therefore there was no hydraulic action.
As a result of this incident all personnel onboard Encounter regardless of rank or rating were required to know the workings of the six-inch gun. Even the ships Paymaster Midshipman was required to become qualified on the weapon.
In early 1908 she proceeded to Colombo (Ceylon) to collect her new crew. This was a standard practice in the Royal Navy at the time where ships would stay on the Australia Station but her crew would change over every two years. On arrival at Colombo the crew who had brought Encounter out to Australia in 1906 disembarked and joined another ship to return home to Britain. Encounter with her new crew, and under the command of Captain P H Colomb RN returned to Australia.
In August 1908 the flagship of the Australia Squadron HMS Powerful, accompanied by Encounter and the third class protected cruiser HMS Pioneer (later HMAS Pioneer) sailed to New Zealand to welcome the United States Great White Fleet that was on its circumnavigation of the globe. While Powerful returned to Sydney with the US Fleet, Encounter remained in New Zealand waters until returning to Sydney in late November.
Tragedy struck Encounter early in 1909. On 5 January 1909 the cruisers pinnace was travelling between the ship, which was alongside at Garden Island, and Man ‘o’ War steps when it was run down in the vicinity of Lady Macquaries chair by the coastal steamer SS DUNMORE. Onboard the pinnace were 60 sailors, all in full marching order with rifles slung across their backs, who were going ashore to take part in a shoot at the rifle range at Long Bay.
As the DUNMORE hit several sailors were thrown into the water and due to the weight of equipment they were carrying, and the effect of having their rifles slung, some could not stay afloat until help arrived. As a result 15 sailors drowned and were subsequently buried at Rookwood Cemetery in the Anglican Naval Section. A large memorial still stands there to this day. From this tragedy and the subsequent Court of Inquiry the slinging of rifles by sailors in boats was discontinued.
The remainder of 1909 saw Encounter undertake routine peacetime activities such as visits to Australian ports (along the eastern seaboard) and New Zealand. Following a short period at Cockatoo Island Dockyard in November for a ‘Bottom Scrape’ (removal of barnacles and other marine growth from her hull) the cruiser proceeded north to Brisbane. On 8 December she arrived in Brisbane and picked up Field Marshal Lord Kitchener and his staff who were on a tour of Australian defence facilities (they had been invited to Australia by the Deakin government to tour the nation and make recommendations on the countries future defence). The cruiser then visited Darwin, Thursday Island and Townsville before returning to Brisbane in early January 1910 to allow Lord Kitchener and his staff to disembark.
Following a short visit to Hobart, Encounter collected Lord Kitchener and his staff again, in early February from Williamstown in Melbourne, and took them to New Zealand for further inspections of defence sites. The cruiser returned to Sydney in early March to disembark their passengers. Following this Encounter steamed via Melbourne and Fremantle on her way to Colombo to collect her ‘new’ crew.
Encounter arrived at Colombo on 9 April 1910 and her ‘old’ crew disembarked and returned home to Britain in the cruiser HMS Hawke. Captain Colomb and a smattering of her ‘old’ crew stayed onboard to assist the ‘new’ crew. The cruiser then returned to Sydney via Fremantle. By July she was back into the routine of visits to Australian and New Zealand ports interspersed with periods of exercises and gunnery shoots with other ships on the Australia Station.
It was also reported in early 1911 that Encounter, along with other ships on the Australia Station, was beginning to suffer greatly from desertions. The lifestyle in Australia was deemed far better than that in England and many Royal Navy sailors were reluctant to return home for further service in the Royal Navy.
In February 1911 the cruiser was being prepared to take part in the British and Australian Solar Eclipse Expedition. This involved ferrying the scientists and their equipment from Sydney to the island of Vavau (in the Vavau Group east of Fiji) to witness the eclipse and act as the support vessel for the scientists. Encounter departed Sydney on 25 March and arrived at Vavau on 2 April.
She remained there to support the expedition until 4 May when she departed with the scientists and returned to Sydney via Fiji. She arrived back in Sydney in mid May and following a short period of leave was back into the old routine of exercises off the east coast and visits to Australian and New Zealand ports. It was on her return to Sydney that Captain Colomb departed the ship and handed over to Captain S A Hickley RN who became the cruisers new Commanding Officer.
In September 1911, Powerful and Encounter carried out exercises simulating night torpedo attacks, off Jervis Bay, with Torpedo Boat Destroyers of the newly created Royal Australian Navy. One of Encounter’s men remarked at the time – There seems to be some difficulty in getting colonials for the Australian Navy. Whether they succeed in establishing a Navy manned exclusively by Australian born men remains to be seen.
1912 found the cruiser in Hobart for the annual regatta, and then back in Sydney for a short refit at Cockatoo Island Dockyard in March. Following this she proceeded to New Zealand waters for further training exercises, gunnery shoots and port visits. In late April she took part in the unsuccessful search for the missing Dredger ‘MANCHESTER’ which had disappeared on a voyage from Wellington to Sydney. She returned to Auckland on 6 May without finding any trace of the vessel or her crew. In late May she returned to Sydney. On 21 June 1912, Encounter was paid off from the Royal Navy and the bulk of her officers and crew joined HMS Challenger for return to England.
Encounter was then commissioned into the RAN on 1 July 1912 under the command of Captain B M Chambers RN. Several Royal Navy officers and ratings stayed onboard Encounter, which then became the training cruiser for the fledgling RAN. These men while still Royal Navy were under the control of Australian Government and were paid RAN rates of pay, which was significantly higher than that of the RN. Thus Encounter became the first cruiser to serve in the RAN. Although commissioned into the RAN she was considered to be only on loan, until such time as the cruiser HMAS Brisbane, which was then being built at Cockatoo Island Dockyard, was completed and brought into service.
Captain Chambers also had the added responsibility of overseeing the opening of the new Royal Australian Naval College (temporarily located at Osborne House at Geelong) and had to alternate his duties between Encounter and the College. Eventually he requested that he be able to devote all his time to the College and left Encounter in March 1913 to take up full time command of the RAN College.
In mid 1913 the RAN fleet unit of HMA Ships Australia, Sydney and Melbourne, that had been built in England, sailed from Portsmouth on their voyage to Australia. In late September Encounter (now under the command of Captain A G Smith RN) and the torpedo boat destroyers HMA Ships Parramatta, Yarra and Warrego sailed from Sydney and proceeded south to Jervis Bay where by 2 October they were waiting for the arrival of the three new warships. The three new warships arrived on 3 October and the rest of the day was spent touching up all ships paintwork, polishing brass and whitening all the ships ropes in preparation for the RAN’s first fleet entry into Sydney Harbour.
Early on the morning of 4 October 1913 the RAN Fleet Unit set sail from Jervis Bay and by mid morning was approaching Sydney Heads. Shortly after arriving off the heads the Fleet, preceded by the battlecruiser Australia, entered Sydney Harbour as a Fleet Unit for the first time. Australia was followed by Sydney, Melbourne, Encounter and then the Torpedo Boat Destroyers. The Fleet came to anchor in Sydney Harbour amid much jubilation from the people of Sydney. The arrival of the RAN’s warships on their first ceremonial entry to Sydney was yet another visible sign of Australia’s steps towards nationhood.
Encounter continued with her normal peacetime activities for the remainder of 1913 and into early 1914. She was in Sydney on 24 May when the two new Australian submarines AE1 and AE2 arrived following their marathon journey from England. By mid 1914 the clouds of war were gathering in Europe, but on the Australia Station the chance of war in Europe while possible was still remote. In mid July the Australian Squadron sailed from Sydney on their routine Winter Cruise to Queensland waters. On 24 July 1914, Encounter was at Gladstone and by 30 July she was in Townsville when a signal was received indicating that war with Germany was imminent and all Australian warships were ordered to return to their operational bases.
Encounter, now under the command of Captain Lewin RN, returned to Sydney with all possible haste and on return she began to undertake repairs and maintenance in order to be ready for whatever eventuated. On 4 August 1914 war with Germany was declared. Encounter cut short her repairs and was ready for sea by the morning of 6 August. She then sailed to join up with Australia.
To the north of Australia lay the island of New Guinea and islands of the Bismarck Archipelago. The northern portion of New Guinea and several of the islands formed the German Colony known as German New Guinea. The Australian Government quickly formed an expeditionary force known as the Australian Naval and Military Expeditionary Force (ANMEF) which they planned would capture this colony and thus deny the use of the colony to ships of the German Pacific Fleet based at Tsingtao in China. This in turn would reduce the risk that the German warships would then mount attacks on Australia and its coastal shipping. The ANMEF was destined to sail northwards escorted by ships of the RAN.
Prior to this however the Australian Squadron, including Encounter had begun patrolling the St George’s Channel near the German island of New Britain on the lookout for enemy warships. One sailor reported ‘ We were all pins and needles at the time, expecting to bump up against the German cruisers SCHARNHORST and GNIESENAU’. On 12 August the lookouts in Encounter sighted smoke on the horizon and Captain Lewin ordered his men to action stations. Men in the other Australian ships recalled how they saw the cruiser steam off towards the smoke with the sound of the bugle, calling her crew to action, floating back towards them. Encounter’s gun crews rushed to their weapons and, stripped to the waist, prepared to do battle.
Other men began to throw overboard any wooden or inflammable items to prevent fires in case of hits by enemy shells. One of the items eagerly thrown overboard was the cruisers large and unwieldy accommodation ladder. This much-hated ladder had caused several broken toes and crushed feet in its time, as it was heavy and difficult to carry into place. It went overboard in record time. Also thrown overboard were cabin fittings, officers furniture, bedding and clothing.
Unfortunately the ‘enemy warship’ proved to be only the British Steamer ZAMBESI, which had been commandeered by the German Administrator of Nauru to carry dispatches and stores to Rabaul. A shot across the bow of the ZAMBESI brought her to a halt and a boarding party from Encounter was sent across to the ship. Onboard was found a quantity of cement and steel destined for the wireless station at Rabaul and two Germans who were escorting these stores as well as carrying documents for the Administrator of Rabaul.
ZAMBESI was taken as a prize ship, the first for the RAN, and sent back to Sydney under the command of Lieutenant R C Garsia, RAN. Garsia later saw action onboard Sydney when she destroyed the German raider EMDEN and became a long serving officer in the RAN reaching the rank of Captain.
Two days later it was recorded in the diary of one German official at Rabaul, that at the village of Mioko, that wreckage which included cabin furniture, a broken oar, a small red buoy and a HMAS Encounter cap ribbon had been washed ashore. The Germans incorrectly surmised that Encounter had been sunk by one of their warships when in fact the ‘wreckage’ more than likely came from the items thrown overboard when Encounter went to action stations. Further diary entries in September reported that natives at Buka had, incorrectly, claimed Encounter sunk by a big ship with many funnels.
On 15 August, Encounter proceeded to Port Moresby to coal ship and then when this was completed sailed south. Coaling ship was a major evolution with all hands employed on the task. The men wore their oldest and most worn clothes for this hard and dirty task that involved bringing the coal onboard in baskets and tipping them down hatches, on the upper deck, into the ships coal bunkers. The ship was swathed in coal dust and it took the men several days to clean the dust out of their skin and eyes.
By 24 August the cruiser was at Palm Island off the north coast of Queensland (Palm Island is to the north of Townsville and inside the Great Barrier Reef). Here she was joined by the cruiser Sydney and the troopship HMAT Berrima carrying ANMEF personnel from Sydney and Melbourne who would act as a landing force in German New Guinea. It was originally planned that the three ships would sail to Port Moresby and on the way rendezvous with the troopship KANOWNA that was carrying more troops (some 500 volunteers from the Queensland Kennedy Regiment).
This plan was delayed when Rear Admiral Patey, RN who commanded the Australian Fleet ordered the ships to stay at Palm Island while the battlecruiser Australia escorted a New Zealand force to seize the German Island of Samoa. Patey was initially worried that the two cruisers would be no match if they met the German Pacific Fleet with its heavy battlecruisers SCHARNHORST and GNIESENAU.
Eventually on 2 September the three ships, now joined by the oiler AORANGI, were ordered to sail for Port Moresby where they were to replenish with coal and oil. The four ships arrived at Port Moresby on 4 September 1914 where they met up with the troopship KANOWNA and the warships Warrego, Yarra and the submarines AE1 and AE2. On the morning of 7 September the nine-vessel convoy departed Port Moresby bound for Rossel Island on the eastern tip on New Guinea. Unfortunately due to a problem with the stokers onboard KANOWNA (who mutinied and refused to take the ship out of Australian waters without extra pay) the ship was unable to keep up with the convoy and had to be left behind.
At Rossel Island the convoy met up with the battlecruiser Australia and they then sailed onto the island of New Britain (then known as New Mecklandburg). On 10 September Australia and Berrima left the convoy and steamed on ahead to Rabaul while Encounter remained behind with the submarines and two other colliers (WAIHORA and WHANGAPE). At 0600 on 11 September 1914 Encounter linked up with Australia and Berrima in the vicinity of Cape Gazelle (New Britain) and then steamed on past Herbertshohe (Kokopo) as far as Karavia Bay.
Naval Reservists and soldiers from Berrima then landed at Kabakaul (south of Rabaul) just after dawn and began to push inland to seize the German wireless station at Bita Paka. The first Australian casualties of the war were suffered that day when five Naval personnel and one Army Medical Corps officer were killed in action or died of wounds in action against German native troops commanded by German Army Reservists. Encounter remained in the vicinity of Herbertshohe, for the rest of the day, protecting the convoy from possible attack by German warships (the location of the German Pacific Fleet was still then unknown and it was expected that the attack on Rabaul could bring about an attack by German warships).
The following day Encounter landed a 12 pounder gun and machine gun with crews to assist with the occupation of Rabual and the surrounding districts. On the night of 13/14 September Encounter rendezvoused with Parramatta off Praed Point and the two ships were tasked with supporting Australian forces under Colonel W Watson who were continuing to push inland. On 14 September Encounter was called on to provide support by shelling the ridges near the village of Toma. The effect of this shellfire was described as having the desired effect as the Australian forces were met by German troops waving a flag of truce. Toma was subsequently occupied without any opposition by the German forces in the area.
During 15/16 September Encounter was involved in the search for the submarine AE1 that had failed to return from a routine patrol in the St George’s Channel on 14 September. No trace of the submarine was ever found and it is believed she had struck an uncharted reef while submerged. Encounter’s crew did however locate a burnt out launch, with a quick firing gun on it, stranded on an outlying reef. It was put forward at the time that the launch had sunk the AE1, but this was pure speculation as no wreckage or oil from the submarine was ever found.
By 17 September the German land forces at Rabaul were in a state of disarray and they surrendered on 21 September. On the same day, however, the Allied warships off Rabaul were advised to be ready to repel an attack by German warships believed to be in the area. No attack eventuated and it was later revealed that the German Pacific Fleet was avoiding German New Guinea (perhaps fearing the superior firepower of the battlecruiser Australia) and was heading eastwards across the Pacific in order to return home to Germany.
The next task of the RAN and ANMEF was to seize the German outposts on the north coast of New Guinea. On 22 September, Australia, Encounter, Berrima and the French cruiser MONTCALM sailed for Freidrich Wilhelm Harbour (Madang) with orders to land troops and seize the area. The ships arrived on 24 September and Encounter entered the harbour flying a flag of truce, which was a risky business as it was not known if the harbour was mined or defended by shore based guns.
Encounter sent her steam pinnace ashore with Captain Travers, Lieutenant Lyng (a Dane who was fluent in German) and a captured German officer. They brought back three German civilians who agreed to the surrender and occupation of the town without resistance. Australia’s picket boat then swept the harbour for mines and finding none allowed Berrima to enter and discharge her troops (both soldiers and Naval Reservists) who then took control of the town. Encounter remained in harbour with Berrima while Australia and MONTCALM patrolled outside the harbour.
Following the capture of Freidrich Wilhelm Harbour the four Allied ships proceeded north along the coast to Port Grand Duke Alexis (some 12 miles north of Freidrich Wilhelm Harbour) to put troops ashore and seize this area. Unbeknown to them the German gunboat CORMORAN was hiding in one of the many small bays of the port. CORMORAN was one of the German vessels of their Pacific Fleet and had escaped from Tsingtao in August. She was well hidden in the bay with overhanging jungle covering much of her hull and superstructure.
When the Allied ships reach Port Grand Duke Alexis, Australia and MONTCALM remained outside the harbour to protect the seawards approaches from possible attack by German warships. Encounter and Berrima entered the harbour and proceeded to put the troops ashore. The commanding officer of CORMORAN, Korvetten-Kapitan (Lieutenant Commander) Zuckschwerdt, had sent his men to action stations but had no intention of opening fire against the larger and better armed Encounter unless he was forced to do so. It was a tense moment for the Germans as Encounter slid past them at a distance of only 100 metres or so, but without seeing the German vessel.
CORMORAN remained hidden until after the Allied ships had departed and then crept out of the bay under the cover of darkness. She had been sent to undertake operations against merchant shipping in the area, but because of the large number of Allied warships present she left the area quickly and eventually sought refuge at the American island of Guam where she was interned. The Allied ships had in the mean time returned to Rabaul.
On 1 October, Australia, Encounter, Sydney, and MONTCALM sailed from Rabaul and proceeded north to meet up with a Japanese cruiser squadron, however they were not located and the four ships returned to Rabaul on 3 October. The following day the Australian Military commander at Rabaul, Colonel (later Major General) William Holmes, received information that suggested the German warship KOMET was hiding somewhere along the north coast of New Britain. He wrote a quick note to Captain Lewin in Encounter requesting he conduct a search along the coast for KOMET.
This note arrived just as Encounter was preparing to sail for Suva, Fiji as escort to a convoy consisting of Parramatta, Warrego, AE2 and four merchant ships. Lewin quite rightly replied that he had orders to proceed to sea with this convoy and could not take any action to search for KOMET. He also advised that he did not consider KOMET a risk, as the RAN ships HMAS Sumatra and HMAS Nusa were capable of preventing any action by KOMET.
Holmes then ordered Nusa to search for KOMET. Nusa, which was armed with a single 12 pounder gun, sailed from Rabaul on 9 October with infantry and a machine gun embarked. She subsequently discovered KOMET on 11 October and seized the vessel without casualties on either side. KOMET was later commissioned into the RAN as HMAS Una and conducted patrols throughout the New Guinea island group during the war.
Encounter continued with her plan to escort the ships to Suva. These ships were to take part in further operations to size German colonies in the South West Pacific. On 11 October Encounter was required to take AE2 in tow as the submarine was suffering from engine problems. The convoy arrived at Suva on 15 October during a very heavy rainstorm.
During her period in and around Fiji, Encounter captured the German schooner ELFREDE that was then sailed to Samoa as a war prize (the prize crew consisting of Lieutenant W.B. Wilkinson who had been trained in sail and two sailors). On another occasion an armed party was put ashore from Encounter to take possession of a German residency on an outlying island.
The story is told that the path to the bungalow was steep and the day hot and by the time the men arrived they were drenched in sweat. A German housewife sat on the verandah knitting and her husband was fixing the chicken coop with a hammer. The officer in charge of the patrol was a little confused as to what he was supposed to do but was put at ease by the German housewife who said – It is very hot: would you care for a glass of lager Herr Hauptmann. This was fetched and the members of the patrol were surprised to see this normally stiff necked and zealous young officer consuming the beer provided to him by one of the ‘Kings Enemies’! It is not known if any of the sailors in the patrol also received a glass of beer!
Encounter returned to Sydney in early November 1914 and commenced a refit to repair damaged and worn equipment after a hectic three months of war service in the tropics. She had achieved two notable firsts being the capture of the ZAMBESI on 12 August and the first shots fired in anger by the RAN with her bombardment of Toma Ridge on 14 September.
1915 found Encounter still at Garden Island undergoing a refit and on completion of this she undertook more convoy escort work and patrols on the Australia Station. On 12 July 1915 Encounter departed Sydney with stores and troops for the garrison at Fanning Island in the Gilbert Island group. Fanning Island had a cable station situated on it and it had been raided and destroyed in September 1914 by the crew from the German warship NURNBERG. Since then a small garrison had been situated on the island to protect it against another possible raid.
Encounter arrived at Fanning Island on 13 August and offloaded the stores and troops. She then departed and proceeded to Johnson Island. Sub-Lieutenant Stan Veale RANR who was serving in Encounter at the time described their short visit to Johnson Island – Our chart of the locality was dated December 1863 and did not show a reef about 200 yards off the island. The Navigator (Lieutenant George Langford RAN) was sent up into the foretop to keep a lookout for and report any hazards he observed, while the Captain took over handling the ship.
The first we knew of the reef was when we bumped over it into a deep lagoon, and anchored. I was sent with Langford in a skiff to find a way out. After much sounding with a hand lead line we found a passage to open water, and the old girl made her exit and then proceeded to Fanning Island, where we anchored again, in 6 fathoms at the bow and 20 fathoms at the stern.
Stagings were slung under the ship and Petty Officer Diver Lee put on diving dress and was lowered over the side onto the stagings, which were worked along aft. Lee sent up a slate on which he showed that our bottom was corrugated from under the bridge, then aft to a position under the mainmast.
We cruised all over the Pacific in that condition until we relieved HMS Cornwall on the Banka Strait Patrol (south of Singapore) on 10 December 1915. On 30 December 1915, we entered Kings Dock, Singapore where we saw the extent of the damage to the bottom. We marveled that the old bus had not been holed and stranded high and dry on Johnson Island forever ((Johnson Island was one of the sites of the US Atomic testing after World War II and the island was destroyed as a result of this testing.)). It was hell living onboard while crowds of Chinese and Indian ‘Dockyard Mateys’ worked day and night and made us seaworthy in three weeks.
Following her running aground at Johnson Island, Encounter spent most of the latter part of 1915 patrolling in Pacific and South East Asian waters. There were several rumours throughout 1915-16 of the potential for German induced uprisings in the British colonies of South East Asia. Encounter and the cruiser HMAS Pysche and the destroyers Parramatta, Yarra and Warrego were attached to the Royal Navy to conduct patrols throughout the region.
Despite the damage received at Johnson Island, Encounter was kept on patrol until a suitable time in dock could be arranged. She visited Hong Kong, cruised along the coast of Borneo and Java, and visited Christmas Island before going to Singapore for repairs to her hull in December 1915. After completion of repairs to her hull in mid January 1916, Encounter remained in Malayan waters conducting patrols.
On 24 January 1916 Captain Claude Cumberlege RN took over as the cruisers new commanding officer. In mid February the cruiser was recalled to Australia for convoy escort duties as at that point Australia was completely without naval protection. This was to be Encounter’s lot for much of the war as there were no other Australian cruisers left on the Australia Station (either being deployed to the North Sea, or South East Asian waters). The Japanese did provide two cruisers, CHIKUMA and HIRADO (each with eight 6 inch guns) for convoy escort work and patrol work on the Australia Station in 1917-18.
Convoy escort work and patrols, in Western Australian waters, occupied Encounter and her ships company for the remainder of 1916 and into 1917. In July 1916, Encounter visited Graham Moore Island (now known as Carronade Island) located in Napier Broome Bay off north western Australia.
Captain Cumberlege had obtained information that two old Portuguese brass carronades (small cannon) were on the island and he intended to recover them. The two weapons were found on the highest point of the island buried upright with about two feet of each protruding above the surface.
A search of the island and surrounding waters was made for further artifacts and despite some furious digging by both officers and men nothing else was found. The two carronades were removed and presented by Captain Cumberlege to the Sydney depot ship HMAS Penguin. The two carronade were displayed onboard Penguin for some years and then later on the lawn outside the main office building at Garden Island. At time of writing they are in storage at the Naval Repository at Spectacle Island.
How the carronades ended up on the island is uncertain, however, in 1909 a member of the crew of a pearling lugger described an Aboriginal ceremony he saw conducted on the island. The ceremony was a re-enactment of a battle between the aborigines and two boatloads of white men in armour (replicated by canoes and men wearing sheets of bark) with bark tubes in the bow of each canoe (representing the carronades). The sound of the carronade firing was replicated by loud blasts on a conch shell. The aborigines eventually triumphed over the white invaders and the carronades seized as trophies of the fight.
It is believed the white men were Portuguese sailors and noting the age of the weapons the battle had taken place in the late 1500’s. Interestingly Cumbelege made no mention of any Aboriginals on the island in 1916 and his removal of the weapons was not contested despite the island having been a home to the local Aborigines only a few years before.
Encounter remained in Western Australia to protect shipping operating off the south western coast up until late March 1917. On 3 April she was dispatched to New Zealand to collect and escort a convoy of troopships to Fremantle. At Fremantle the New Zealand troopships joined up with Australian troopships and proceeded to Colombo, but with the more modern Japanese cruisers as the escorts. Encounter then commenced regular cruises between Fremantle and Sydney calling in at Port Melbourne and Adelaide on occasions.
In July the German raider WOLF was active along the east coast of Australia laying mines, off Gabo Island, which eventually sank the merchant ship SS CUMBERLAND. WOLF laid her mines off Gabo Island on 3 July 1917 and her captain (Captain Karl Nerger) claimed that Encounter had passed her while she was engaged in minelaying, however, official Navy records have Encounter in harbour at Port Phillip Bay at the same time that Nerger claims she was off Gabo Island.
On 6 August 1917, WOLF intercepted and captured the Burns-Philp merchant ship SS MATUNGA on her way from Sydney to Rabaul. MATUNGA was carrying coal for HMAS Una (formerly the German warship KOMET) and men of the ANMEF who were either reinforcements or men returning to Rabaul from leave. When it became obvious that MATUNGA was overdue, and a search by other ships including Una failed to find any trace of her, it was suspected her disappearance was the work of the same raider that had laid the mines off Gabo Island. In late August Encounter was dispatched from Sydney to Samarai (New Guinea) to commence a search for the mysterious raider in the Solomon Sea.
By this time WOLF had sunk MATUNGA and had sailed west along the north coast of New Guinea into Dutch East Indies waters. The Australians did not know this and Encounter disguised herself as a ‘tramp steamer’ and sent signals by wireless in an attempt to convince the raider that she was a merchant ship that had been sent to replace MATUNGA.
Encounter carried out a search for the raider in the vicinity of Woodlark Island and the Louisade Archipelago. The Japanese cruiser HIRADO was also called on to accompany Encounter but the Japanese Admiral refused to believe a raider was active in the region despite a number of missing ships in the Pacific region and would not allow the cruiser to take part in the search!
When the attempt to lure the unknown raider into action failed and her whereabouts was still unknown, news was received of more raider activity raider in the Pacific (at the time the Allies were unsure if there were one or two raiders active in the Pacific). At the same time as WOLF was causing havoc in Australian and South West Pacific waters, another German raider became active in the far eastern Pacific region. This was the only sailing vessel to operate as a raider, the SEEADLER, commanded by the flamboyant Count Felix Von Luckner.
SEEADLER had left Germany in December 1916 and after a mixed career in the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, in which she sank 14 Allied merchant ships and sailing vessels, she ran aground on Mopelia (sometimes spelt Mopeha) Island, in the Low Archipelago, on 2 August 1917.
Luckner and his crew escaped from the wreck and attempted to pass themselves off as shipwrecked Swedish mariners but they were captured and became Prisoners of War (they were placed in a POW Camp in New Zealand camp). Von Luckners career in SEEADLER and his antics as a Prisoner of War are not the subject of this history of Encounter, and any reader who wishes to know about SEEADLER’s career should read the book ‘The Sea Devil’ by Lowell Thomas for a better, although somewhat dramatized, description of this ships career and her interesting Captain.
The wreck of SEEADLER on Mopelia Island was soon reported and Encounter was dispatched to investigate the wreck and look for other members of her crew. HIRADO was sent to Fiji to search this area for the suspected second raider and the new Australian cruiser HMAS Brisbane was sent to the Solomon Islands on a similar mission.
Encounter arrived off Mopelia Island on 9 November 1917. Chief Petty Officer Stidston who served in the cruiser at the time recorded the following in his diary:
9 November 1917 – 1000 HMAS Encounter arrived Mopelia Island. We could see the German raider SEEADLER on the reef between two islands. She had been set on fire before being abandoned and was practically gutted. Officers and men went aboard and found two 4.1-inch guns intact and some ammunition that escaped the fire. Through field glasses, huts could be seen on the island. Commander Wilmot, the Chaplain (Vivian Ward Thompson), and Sub-Lieutenant Harris set out to search the settlement that the Germans had built. They found a considerable amount of stores, enough to last some time.
10 November 1917 – A working party under Engineer Commander Brand and Lieutenant Commander Matheson boarded SEEADLER and brought off one 4.1-inch gun and miscellaneous ships gear.
11 November 1917 – 0600 A party went aboard the ship and put a charge of explosives in the remaining gun mounting and destroyed it. 0900 We sailed for Tahiti, 260 miles away.
Encounter reached Tahiti three days later. While there her steam pinnace was sunk when run down by a large motor yacht, but fortunately unlike the 1909 incident there were no casualties. This was the last ‘excitement’ in Encounter’s varied war career. She returned to Sydney and went into refit in December 1917. In the New Year, with the possibility of another German raider becoming active, she carried out regular patrols in Western Australia waters from April to July and then cruised between Fremantle and Sydney for the remainder of the war. On 18 November 1918 she was dispatched to Samoa and surrounding islands to provide assistance during a major outbreak of Influenza.
Her wartime crew consisted of 475 personnel. She carried only 21 ‘permanent’ officers (ie not including officers under training) which consisted of the Captain, Executive Officer (often called the Commander), five seaman Lieutenants (including the Navigator and Gunnery Officer), Engineer Commander, Engineer Lieutenant, Engineer Sub Lieutenant, Chaplain, Surgeon, Staff Paymaster, Assistant Paymaster, Chief Artificer Engineer, three Gunners of whom one was a Torpedo Specialist, Carpenter and two Artificer Engineers.
Of note is that many men spent their entire war service in Encounter (affectionately known as the ‘Old Bus) and that she was generally a happy ship. There were, however, many in her crew who longed for more activity. Officers posted to her considered they were serving in a second rate ship and long for a draft to one of the more modern Australian cruiser’s serving in the North Sea. Encounter’s desertion rate amongst the younger members of her crew was high. Many deserted and joined the AIF in order to undertake more ‘fulfilling’ active service.
A small cross section of her deserters is listed as follows:
Ordinary Seaman Richard Oswald Rapley deserted 28 June 1915 and joined the 8th Brigade Australian Machine Gun Corps. Reported Killed in Action 16 September 1916.
Ordinary Seaman Francis Trenery Guest deserted 15 July 1915 and joined the 3rd Battalion AIF. Reported Killed in Action 14 April 1918 (no known grave).
Ordinary Seaman Orlando James Lockyer O’Brien deserted 4 March 1916 and joined the 12th Light Horse Regiment. Returned to Australia 20 July 1919.
Stoker Harold Bendik Pittersen deserted 12 May 1916 and joined the 32nd Battalion and served under the assumed name of Harry Scott. Reported as Died of Wounds 18 April 1918.
Stoker 2nd Class David Timms Young deserted 21 June 1917 and served in the AIF under the assumed name of Brown. Full details not known.
Ordinary Telegraphist John Edward Boag deserted 1 June 1918 and joined the 10th Battalion AIF under the assumed name of Redmond. Arrived in Britain too late to see active service on the Western Front so transferred to the British Army and saw service in North Russia as part of the North Russia Relief Force. Served in the 2nd AIF during World War II.
With the exception of Pittersen all were ex Boys from the Training Ship HMAS TINGIRA and about 18 or 19 years of age.
With the end of hostilities and the demobilization of many of the RAN men who were ‘time expired’ the crew of Encounter was reduced in size and some of her armament was removed. From early 1919 until late 1920 Encounter was the seagoing training ship for the Fleet and an Instructor Lieutenant was added to the complement. Instructor Lieutenant M H Moyes RAN who had served with Mawson in the Antarctic in 1912-14 served in Encounter during most of 1920.
During her period as the training cruiser she took onboard many boys who had completed their training in the Training Ship HMAS Tingira and were now getting their first real taste of life at sea. The ‘Old Bus’ visited most Australian ports during this time. Although still considered to be only on loan to the RAN, Encounter was now considered an obsolete warship and was gifted outright to the RAN in early 1919.
Encounter was in Sydney in late May 1919, when the bulk of the Australian Squadron returned home from their service with the Royal Navy in the North Sea and Mediterranean. A month later she was the centre stage when the court martial of five mutineers from Australia took place onboard. Encounter’s commanding officer Captain J F Robins RN was a member of the Court Martial board.
When Australia returned home after five years of war her crew were weary and looking for a period of rest and relaxation. They found this in Fremantle and were reluctant to leave. When the Commanding Officer of Australia ordered his men to take the ship to sea the stokers refused and walked out of the stokehold and engine room. As a result five men considered to be the ringleaders were court martialled and when found guilty sentenced to varying periods of imprisonment at Goulburn Gaol.
This caused an outcry among the Australian population because of the supposed harshness of the sentences. The men were later released, but not before the matter had reached the level where the Prime Minister had to step in to prevent the First Naval Member (Rear Admiral Dumeresq RN) from resigning as he saw Naval discipline being eroded by public opinion.
In June 1920 the cruiser was involved in the activities connected with the visit to Australia of the Prince of Wales who was travelling in the British battleship HMS Renown. On 30 September 1920, Encounter paid off into Reserve in Sydney. Among her many long serving crew who left the ship on that date was her Canteen Manager, Victor Zammit, who had joined the ship as a Canteen Assistant in early 1914. He had spent six years in the ship providing canteen supplies to her men. There was little refrigeration space onboard Encounter and her crew were often forced to subsist on tinned salmon and salted meat. As a result the canteen was well patronised.
Although technically civilians the Canteen Manager and his assistants were classified as members of the crew and played an integral part in the running of the ship. Victor Zammit went on to serve in a variety of Australian warships until he eventually retired in the late 1940’s.
In early 1921 it was proposed to use Encounter as a depot ship, at Geelong, for the six J Class submarines, however, HMAS Platypus was chosen for this role instead. This is not surprising as she was specifically built as a submarine depot ship for the E class submarines AE1 and AE2. Throughout 1921-22 Encounter remained in Sydney with other ships of the Reserve Fleet tied up alongside her. A small care and maintenance party was responsible for looking after these ships and basically ensuring that the ships did not sink!
Encounter’s resurrection began in late 1922 when the Naval Board decided that she would become the new Sydney depot and receiving ship. She would replace the elderly HMAS Penguin that was an old barque rigged composite screw sloop in use by the RN from 1877 until 1907. In 1908, Penguin had her masts removed and was roofed over to become the RN depot ship in Sydney. In 1913 she was transferred to the RAN to carry out the same task. By 1922 Penguin was in a poor condition and needed to be replaced.
On 1 January 1923 the former cruiser Encounter was commissioned as HMAS Penguin. In preparation for this role her armament had been removed and her normal appearance was also altered by being painted white overall with buff funnels. She thus became the floating home for Naval personnel working at Garden Island and for crews who ships were in refit.
She continued in this role until 15 August 1929 when she was decommissioned and replaced at the depot ship by Platypus. Platypus was renamed Penguin and remained as the depot ship until February 1941 when she was renamed Platypus and sent north to Darwin as the depot ship. Platypus later saw service in New Guinea waters later in World War II.
The former Encounter was then towed to Cockatoo Island Dockyard where throughout 1930-31 she was stripped of all usable fittings. On 14 September 1932 (which was the 18th Anniversary of her shelling of Toma Ridge in German New Guinea) Encounter’s hulk was towed out through Sydney Heads on its way to be scuttled some five miles north east of South Head. The old cruisers sea cocks were opened and a scuttling charge lit, however the charge failed to explode and as a result the ship drifted south and eventually sank, stern first, some five miles south east of the South Head Signal Station. One old salt was heard to remark that the ship had died hard and ‘was trying to make harbour just one more time‘.
The ‘Old Bus‘ was gone and while her wartime record was mediocre when compared to her younger sisters she still played a vital role in defence of the eastern coast of Australia, and the anti raider patrols in the South West Pacific. There were some that claimed she failed to live up to her name of Encounter, as she had not encountered KOMET and CORMORAN in 1914 or WOLF in 1917. However, with all battles at sea there is always one element of luck – that is actually finding the enemy in the first place. As the training cruiser she was also for many young Australian sailors their first ship and her epitaph belongs to one of them:
When on 14 September 1932, the shell of HMAS Encounter was sunk outside Sydney Heads, the Royal Australian Navy lost a ship which played a great part in implanting in our sailors the traditions of the Royal Navy. Most of the present personnel of the Royal Australian Navy received their first sea training in her, and she was more beloved than any other unit of our fleet.
Casualties 5 January 1909
- Ordinary Seaman Archibald David BALCOMB aged 19
- Ordinary Seaman Percy Thomas BARRETT aged 19
- Ordinary Seaman Frank Arthur BRISTOWE aged 19
- Stoker 1st Class William CUNNINGHAM aged 22
- Stoker 1st Class Arthur George DONN aged 23
- Ordinary Seaman William Henry EVANS aged 18
- Ordinary Seaman Alexander GIRLING aged 19
- Plumber’s Mate Frank GREGORY aged 19
- Ordinary Seaman Albert John HILL aged 20
- Ordinary Seaman Edwin James HORNSBY aged 19
- Stoker 1st Class Herbert H. HUMBERSTONE aged 24
- Ordinary Seaman Ernest George MARSH aged 19
- Able Seaman Joseph William OUTTEN aged 22
- Stoker 1st Class Frank SEARLE aged 22
- Ordinary Seaman David STRELITZ aged 21
The names of these fifteen men are recorded on a memorial at the Naval Section Rookwood Cemetery, Sydney.
The memorial has the following inscription:
In Memoriam – Fifteen men of the Royal Navy serving in HMS Encounter who were drowned in Sydney Harbour on 5 January 1909. Their names and ratings are recorded on the other sides of this monument which has been erected by their officers and ships company, assisted by the officers and men of other HM Ships on the Australia Station, and many sympathetic friends among the general public of this state.
HMAS ENCOUNTER/PENGUIN 1912-1929
HMAS ENCOUNTER 1912-23
- Captain B M Chambers RN 1 July 1912 – 12 March 1913
- Captain A G Smith RN 13 March 1913 – 27 January 1914
- Captain C La P Lewin RN 28 January 1914 – 23 January 1916
- Captain C Cumberlege RN 24 January 1916 – 30 October 1916
- Captain J B Stevenson RN 31 October 1916 – 22 November 1918
- Captain W H C S Thring RAN 23 November 1918 – 11 February 1919
- Captain J F Robins RAN 12 February 1919 – 30 September 1920
- Reduced to Care and Maintenance Party at Sydney on 30 September 1920 with either an Engineer Lieutenant or Shipwright Boatswain in command.
HMAS PENGUIN 1923-29
- Captain A G Crauford RN 9 March 1923 – 31 March 1925
- Captain J F Robins RAN 1 April 1925 – 30 September 1927
- Captain H P Cayley RAN 1 October 1927 – 15 August 1929
World War I Casualties (1914-21)
- ERA 1st Class Robert BANKS Official Number 7693. Died of Heart Disease 27 February 1915 and buried in Suva, Fiji.
- ERA 3rd Class Alfred Lachlan BIRD Official Number 3542. Died of Pneumonia 7 May 1919 and buried at Rookwood Cemetery.
- Master At Arms William CHALMERS Official Number 5202. Died as a result of suicide and buried at Rookwood Cemetery Sydney. Drafted from Encounter to Penguin one week before his death.
- Armourer’s Crew Charles Henry Foster GARDNER Official Number 2673. Died of Meningitis while on loan to the Australian Naval and Military Expeditionary Force (ANMEF) 22 December 1914. Buried at Bita Paka Cemetery Rabaul, Papua New Guinea.
- Warrant Mechanician Gerald HOLMES (Previously Mechanician with Official Number 7422). Invalided from the service on 26 November 1919 and died as an inmate at Callan Park Asylum (Insane Asylum) on 19 February 1920. Cause of death considered war related. Buried at Rookwood Cemetery (Grave no longer visible)
- Stoker George Edward HOWES Official Number 3351. Died of Tuberculosis 12 June 1915. Buried in Naval Plot at Rookwood Cemetery Sydney.
- Petty Officer John Charles JOPE Official Number 2456 (on loan from Royal Navy). Died following an operation on 29 February 1916. Buried at Albany Western Australia.
- Leading Seaman Ernest John William McMILLAN Official Number 2570. Died from drowning 3 August 1921. Buried in the Naval Plot at Rookwood Cemetery Sydney.
Note: Able Seaman David GAFF, Official Number 2017 is incorrectly listed by the Australian War Memorial as an Encounter casualty. Gaff served in Encounter from 21 May 1913 until 31 December 1917. He was then posted to Cerberus for a month and then to the London Depot. Gaff was attached to the London Depot while in transit to join one of the Australian Torpedo Boat Destroyers, then operating in the Adriatic and based at Brindisi, Italy. He died en route and is buried in the St Germain Churchyard Cemetery near Lyon in France. It is believed he was still wearing his HMAS Encounter cap tally at the time of his death and thus was incorrectly listed as still serving in that ship by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC). His headstone at St Germain has been corrected by the CWGC to reflect his unit as the Royal Australian Navy and not HMAS Encounter.
The Australian War Memorial is yet to correct this anomaly.
Challenger Class Light Cruiser
1905 – 1932
- Displacement: 5880 Tons (6018 Metric Tonnes)
- Length: 376 Feet Overall (114.6 Metres)
- Beam: 56 Feet (17.06 Metres)
- Draught: 20.8 Feet
- Speed: 21 Knots (Sustained cruising speed of 10 Knots)
- Complement: 475 Officers and Men
- Cost: 420,000 Pounds
- Machinery: Two Keyham 4 Cylinder triple expansion steam engines developing 10,000 Shaft Horse Power (SHP) or 12,500 IHP; 12 Durr Boilers; twin screws.
- Coal Capacity: 1,225 Tons (1,250 Metric Tonnes)
- 11 x 6 inch (15.2 cm) Breech Loading Guns
- 9 x 12 Pounder Quick Firing Guns (later reduced to four)
- 6 x 3 Pounder Quick Firing Guns
- 3 Machine Guns
- 2 x 18 inch submerged Torpedo Tubes
Alexander R The Raider Wolf, Angus and Robertson, Melbourne 1968.
Bach J The Australia Station – A history of the Royal Navy in the South West Pacific 1821 -1913, NSW University Press, 1986.
Bastock J Ships on the Australia Station, Child and Associates – Australia 1988.
Bromby R German Raiders of the South Seas, Doubleday Australia, Sydney 1985.
Cassells V The Capital Ships – Their Battles and their Badges, Kangaroo Press, Roseville Sydney, 2000.
Daw C E / Lind L J HMAS SYDNEY 1913-1929, Naval Historical Society of Australia, Sydney, 1973.
Eldridge F B A History of the Royal Australian Naval College, Georgian House, Melbourne 1949.
Fowler H M The Log of HMS Encounter – Australia Station 1908-10, Westminster Press, London 1910. (Note H M Fowler was a member of the ships Royal Marine detachment. A copy of this book is held in the ADFA Library under DU112.4 F6 1910)
Gillett R Australian and New Zealand Warships 1914-45, Doubleday Australia, Sydney, 1983.
Gillett R Warships of Australia, Rigby Limited Australia, 1977.
Jose A W The Royal Australian Navy (The Official History of Australia in the War of 1914-18, Volume IX), University of Queensland Press 1987.
Lind L J Fair Winds to Australia – 200 years of sail on the Australia Station, Reed Books Pty Ltd, Sydney, 1988.
Lind L J HMAS PARRAMATTA 1910-1928, Naval Historical Society of Australia, Sydney, 1974.
MacKenzie S S The Australians at Rabaul (The Official History of Australia in the War of 1914-18, Volume X), University of Queensland Press 1987.
Odgers G The Royal Australian Navy – An Illustrated History,
Thomas L The Sea Devil – The Story of Count Felix Von Luckner the German War Raider, William Heinemann Ltd 1937.
Wilson H W The Log of HMS Encounter – Australia Station 1910-12, Westminster Press, London, 1912. (Note H W Wilson was a Petty Officer in HMS Encounter. A copy of this book is held in the ADFA Library under DU 112.4 W5 E5 1912).
Naval Historical Society of Australia Reviews – June 1974, June 1977, September 1979, June 1981, December 1981, February/March 1984, April 2001
Navy List 1913-1929, Government Printer Melbourne.
Royal Navy Destroyer (1934 – 1942)
Encounter was built in 1934 and was sister ship to HM Ships Express and Electra. Electra was also sunk in the Java Sea on 27 February 1942.
These destroyers displaced 1375 Tons and had an armament of 4 x 4.7 inch guns and 4 x 21 inch torpedo tubes. They could steam at 36 knots.
Naval Depot South Australia (1965 – 1994)
On 12 April 1915, the Commonwealth acquired land for the purposes of establishing a new naval depot in South Australia, to replace the existing depot at Largs Bay. The new depot was to be at Birkenhead, in the Municipality of Port Adelaide, and it had a number of advantages in that it was close to the port river and adjacent to ship repair facilities. Between the two World Wars the Birkenhead Naval Depot gradually grew as additional land was acquired. An ongoing feature at the depot was Naval Reserve training.
When World War II began the depot was officially commissioned as HMAS Cerberus IV on 13 September 1939. On 1 August 1940 the dept was recommissioned as HMAS Torrens. On 12 August 1941 two sailors from Torrens were killed when a mine, which they were defusing on the shore at Beachport (between Robe and Mt Gambier), detonated. It is believed these were the first naval personnel killed on Australian soil during World War II as a result of enemy action.
After the war Torrens returned to its peacetime roles of providing a naval presence in South Australia, assisting visiting ships and conducting reserve training. On 1 March 1965 the depot underwent another name change and was recommissioned as HMAS Encounter. This name perpetuated the former light cruiser, built for the Royal Navy in 1905-06. Her first commission was on the Australia Station and when the RAN was formed Encounter was loaned by the RN to the fledgling navy. She was commissioned as HMAS Encounter and later formally transferred to the RAN.
The name Encounter also commemorates the meeting between Mathew Flinders and the French explorer Nicholas Baudin off the South Australian coast in April 1802. Encounter’s crest perpetuates this meeting as it comprises the French and British Flags.
On 21 March 1994, HMAS Encounter was decommissioned and this marked the end of over 100 years of a permanent naval presence in the Port Adelaide area. The last Commanding Officer, Commander Brian Gorringe ADC, RAN officiated at the decommissioning ceremony, after which the White Ensign was lowered for the last time. The Ensign, which had been autographed by many of Encounter’s last ships company, was presented to Ms Diewuke Jessop, Acting Director of the South Australian Maritime Museum. Commander Gorringe retained the ships Commissioning Pennant.
The RANR Band then led the ships company from the grounds of the former HMAS Encounter out onto the adjacent roadway where they halted and dismissed. The Commanding Officer was at the rear of the march, in maintenance of the maritime tradition that the Captain is the last to leave the ship.