- Editorial Staff
- History - general
- None noted.
- RAN Ships
- None noted.
- March 2021 edition of the Naval Historical Review (all rights reserved)
This year, 2020, marks the 50th anniversary of the formation of the Naval Historical Society of Australia. Following the Melbourne/Voyager/Frank E. Evans collisions and sentiment turning against an unpopular Vietnamese war all was not well with the public perception of the RAN. To Lewis (Lew) Lind, a journalist and public relations officer working for the General Manager of Garden Island Dockyard, there was an obvious need to better tell the story of a dedicated navy with proud traditions.
On 25 May 1970, Lew convened a meeting on Garden Island and some 40 people attended during their lunch break. Within 40 minutes the Naval Historical Society of Australia was launched, an interim committee appointed with Lew as President, funds raised and a provisional constitution approved. Offices were found in the Royal Marine Barracks (Building 31) at Garden Island where the Society remained until it moved into its current premises, an old wooden Boathouse (Building 25) in March 2001.
Lew remained as President for a remarkable 18 years and was associated with the Society until his death in 1994. The stability of the Society has been retained with a small number of presidents, and when I came along three years ago, my predecessor Captain Paul Martin had been in the role for ten years.
The Society has enjoyed many highlights over the past half-century including:
Establishment of a small museum to protect items of naval heritage, leading to the formation of the Naval Heritage Centre.
Salvaging parts of the hull from HMAS Parramatta (I) for memorials to be built at Parramatta and on Garden Island.
The establishment of an HMAS Kuttabul memorial commemorating the attack on Sydney by Japanese midget submarines.
We continue to enjoy the patronage of the Chief of Navy, for which we are extremely grateful, and for the provision of office space at Garden Island where we provide support to naval visitors. This also houses our valuable library. We work closely with the Director Naval Heritage Collection and the Seapower Centre-Australia and enjoy close liaison with HMAS Kuttabul and HMAS Creswell. Until recent restrictions we also conducted successful tours of Garden Island and trust these will again become a feature of our activities. Regular presentations on a range of maritime topics are provided by a number of speakers in four locations around Australia. Online presentations, available to all members with internet access, commenced in May 2020.
Shortly after its launch in 1970 the Society published the Naval Historical Review and it has remained in much the same format to this day, although we no longer rely on advertisements. The Society has also been involved in the publication of books and monographs on naval ships, establishments and personalities. In moving to the computer age we started producing DVDs, introduced a website and now offer members the choice of hard copy or electronic communications.
Online communications have provided the ability to widen our sphere by using a monthly digital newsletter Call the Hands which together with a number of historical papers serve a broad-based audience of over 2,000. Numerous queries from all around the globe come our way on items of interest concerning the RAN. We are also pleased to provide advice to those conducting research into naval projects.
We were recently involved in another anniversary to mark the 75th anniversary of the official opening of the Captain Cook Graving Dock. Owing to restrictions placed upon all of us by the current coronavirus this activity was unfortunately cancelled. An anniversary function including a church service at the historic Garden Island Chapel is planned in July to mark our 50th anniversary with announcements to be made shortly.
May I propose a toast – to another half-century of service.
David Michael, Captain RAN Retd
President Naval Historical Society of Australia