- Vennell, C W Lt RAN Retired
- Biographies and personal histories
- RAN Ships
- HMAS Cerberus, HMAS Tingira, HMAS Australia I, HMAS Sydney I, HMAS Melbourne I
- June 1979 edition of the Naval Historical Review (all rights reserved)
With the ship at last out of dockyard hands, we mustered one morning on the quarterdeck to receive Commodore (1st Class) Dumaresq (late captain of Sydney) as Commodore Commanding the Australian Fleet, the first Australian-born officer to do so. Several weeks later, at a civic reception at Perth, I heard him say, “I left Australia as a little boy holding on to my mother’s hand. I am proud to return in command of your fleet.”
At the time his broad pennant was hoisted in Australia at Portsmouth in 1919, the RAN had progressed to the stage where the ship’s company were sixty per cent Australian. As the senior officer on board, our new ‘guns’, Lieut-Commander H. M. Burrough RN (Admiral Sir Harold Burrough, GCB, KBE, DSO, DSM (USA), etc, etc, of Second World War fame) received DQ (as we came to know him affectionately) at the gangway and presented each of us to him.
An official visit by the Prince of Wales (later King Edward VIII, the late Duke of Windsor) brought the day of our departure for home still nearer. HRH was then a very young-looking RN lieutenant of twenty-four. He seemed very nervous but our sixty per cent ship’s company of tough Australian ratings cheered him to the echo. We were all presented to him. On 17 April 1919 we sailed down Portsmouth Harbour, past Nelson’s Victory, bound for home. With us as the Commodore’s guest was Lieut-General Sir Cyril Brudenell White, the distinguished Australian soldier who had planned the successful evacuation of Gallipoli three years or so before. We dined him one night in the gunroom where he gave a most impressive address especially for the ears of young officers not yet out of their ‘teens’. My reply as ‘Mr. Vice’ was less impressive.
To a youngster fresh from history lessons, Cape Trafalgar, Gibraltar, Malta, Port Said and the Suez Canal were a series of thrills. At El Kantara, then an Australian camp on the bank of the canal, the Diggers turned out in hundreds to see us pass. It had been rumoured that the Australian Prime Minister was returning home in Australia.
“Where’s Billy Hughes?” the soldiers yelled.
“We’ve drowned the B??!” our cheerful matelots shouted back. And then the Red Sea, Aden, Colombo, the long rollers of the Indian Ocean, and a series of tumultuous welcomes home.