- Feakes, Rear Admiral , CBE
- Ship histories and stories
- RAN Ships
- HMAS Australia I, HMAS Sydney I, HMAS Melbourne I
- December 1986 edition of the Naval Historical Review (all rights reserved)
Again the Australian cruisers parted company, the Australia calling at Durban, and the Sydney at Mauritius, en route to a rendezvous in the western entrance to Bass Straits, thence to a general mobilization of His Majesty’s Australian Fleet under Rear- Admiral Sir George Patey’s command at Jervis Bay, NSW.
The first real consciousness of the Australian people of their arrival at maturity dates from the arrival off Sydney Heads of the new Fleet Unit, October 14th 1913 – His Majesty’s Australian Fleet.
A general rendezvous of all units forming the Command had been made at Jervis Bay, and on the evening of the 13th the fleet had proceeded to sea en route to the grand entry at Port Jackson.
Sydney’s matchless harbour was in the rich fullness of its early summer morning beauty as, led by the battle-cruiser Australia, Captain Stephen Radcliffe, RN, flying the flag of Rear-Admiral Sir George Patey, KCVO, the Fleet Unit of cruisers and destroyers (less submarines) proceeded up the harbour of Port Jackson to their moorings in Sydney’s historic Farm Cove.
They were escorted by yachts, motor- boats, and a swarm of every type of small craft that could be persuaded to float on this calm and beautiful summer morning, to the accompaniment of the cheers of hundreds of thousands of Australian people who had assembled from distant parts of Australia on the bays, headlands and beaches, to welcome the Commonwealth’s own fleet.
The Rear-Admiral was welcomed in his flagship by all that was representative of Britain and Australia in Australian seas. The Cove itself was alive with small craft swarming round the ships in closest contact. Great was the pride of the people to see their own giant battle-cruiser swinging to her moorings, in company with her consorts, fast, modern cruisers and destroyers, in the Cove that had for generations sheltered His Majesty’s ships of war.
Deeper even than the feeling of satisfaction and pride, and perhaps vanity, was one of confidence and safety that the presence of the vessels brought to many thinking people alert to the growth of German naval power, whose Pacific fleet possibly was then cruising the Island groups under German dominion closely adjacent to Australia’s north-eastern coast. The Fleet arrived none too soon.
The fleet, after periods of intensive training, was becoming a fleet in being, when from out of the blue in August came the so-long-and-so-often threatened war, the war that again and again had failed to materialize during successive scares. Many quite normally sensible folk had come to regard a threat of war, or at least a war that could affect faraway Australia, as a bogey too obvious even to scare the children.
The vessels so warmly welcomed in October 1913, as a guarantee of peace were now, August 4th 1914, speeding to join a concentration of British Naval Forces in a search for powerful enemy forces in New Guinea and Pacific Island Groups. In May 1914, the Australian submarines had arrived, and thus completed the Fleet Unit organization to date.