Australia’s Colonial Navies


Australia’s rich naval history since Federation has as its foundations the navies inaugurated by the Colonial Governments over the preceding eight decades. These Governments acquired, developed and matured a range of maritime capabilities which were later forged into the one Commonwealth Naval Force and later the Royal Australian Navy.

Growing wealth from gold strikes in New South Wales and Victoria made the colonies more attractive to foreign powers and as uncertainty about Britain’s ability to protect the colonies grew, colonial leaders realised the need for greater defence self-reliance. Similarly, during the 1850s, sightings of foreign warships in the western Pacific combined with Britain’s deteriorating relations with Russia added to a sense of urgency to build coastal defences in key ports and acquire gunboats, torpedo boats and other vessels.

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In this revised and much expanded edition of Australia’s Colonial Navies long-term society member Ross Gillett provides great insight into Government decisions about the acquisition of vessels their employment and final fate. Of equal importance are the men who crewed these ships and how the community perceived their performance. He has provided a most useful and authentic source of information for all Australians who are interested in the origins and development of Australia’s early naval defences. This seminal work on Australia’s Colonial Navies is now available in several electronic formats.