- Graham-Smith, Mick
- Colonial navies, Biographies and personal histories, Ship histories and stories
- RAN Ships
- None noted.
- September 2009 edition of the Naval Historical Review (all rights reserved)
The firepower of the ships must have been quite formidable as 96 guns opened fire at almost point blank range. To give you some idea, the main armament of the St George was two 9.2 inch guns and ten 6 inch guns. She was eventually converted to a depot ship for destroyers and submarines during World War I. Two of the other ships involved were lent to New Zealand – the gunboat HMS Sparrow became the training ship Amokura and the light cruiser HMS Philomel became the first warship of the New Zealand Naval Forces – the new division of the Royal Navy. In 1914 she was involved in the New Zealand occupation of German Samoa (now Western Samoa) and in 1915 escorted the New Zealand Expeditionary Force to Princess Harbour, Albany, in Western Australia before they became part of the original ANZACs. Much later, on the creation of the New Zealand Navy in October 1941, their training base became HMNZS Philomel.
Returning to Stokes Rees, he was involved aboard HMS Thetis in the Benin Expedition in West Africa in 1897 and on returning to Simonstown he met and later married Florence Martin Smith, my great aunt. During the Anglo-Boer War of 1899-1902, he was responsible for boarding German merchantmen which were supplying war materiel to the forces of President Kruger. Although the use of radio telecommunication was not used operationally during that war, he saw the merits of its application in the Navy and was closely involved in its naval development. He also promoted trials for the supply of frozen meat to the Royal Navy.
A number of commands followed – in Singapore in HMS Amphitrite, in HMAS Wallaroo in Australia and Captain Superintendent of the Garden Island naval base in Sydney. Later he joined the Home and Mediterranean Fleets in the battleship Hood (the precursor to the famous World War II ship of the same name). During this period he took part in the blockade of Crete in the Greco-Turkish conflict. Promoted Rear Admiral in 1907 and Vice Admiral in 1912, he retired in the following year after 46 years in the Royal Navy. He died in London in 1929 and was buried at sea.
Cosmo Moray Graham
The second relative was my third cousin, Cosmo Moray Graham. Born in the Cape in 1887, he entered the Royal Navy as a midshipman before World War I and rose to the rank of lieutenant-commander at its cessation in 1918. In 1926 he found himself as executive officer aboard HMS Furious, an aircraft carrier in the Atlantic Fleet which had been the converted battle cruiser of the same name. Interestingly, a relative of his was James Graham, a marine engineer, who designed the conversions of the Furious to the world’s first aircraft carrier for both landings and take offs in 1916. In 1931 Cosmo Graham was promoted to flag captain in the cruiser HMS Curacao and chief staff officer to Vice Admiral, 3rd Cruiser Squadron in the Mediterranean. Two years later he was CO of the cruiser HMNZS Diomede.
In 1936 he was appointed Deputy Director Air Division, the forerunner of the Fleet Air Arm. In the following year he became its Director. During this period he was involved in further development of the full length flat top aircraft carrier. Caught in the midst of the conservatism of battleship hierarchy that nourished the `gun club’ mentality of stubbornly resisting naval aviation developments and also hostility from senior Air Force officers, his life was made very difficult. Despite improving landing and take-off techniques, progress was hampered by the unavailability of suitable aircraft for adaptation to naval warfare. An exception was the purpose built ‘stringbag’ Swordfish, a torpedo carrying biplane which gained recognition in World War II, particularly in the sinking of the Bismarck.
At the outbreak of World War II as senior naval officer in the Persian Gulf, Graham was the commander of Operation Countenance which took control of the oilfields in Iran for the Allies. Two ships in this mixed force were HMAS Yarra and the supply ship HMAS Kanimbla. Promoted to Rear Admiral in 1941, he later organised the evacuation of Rangoon in Burma when the port fell to Japanese Forces in March 1942. For his services he was mentioned in dispatches and made a CB. Although suffering illness, he was able to serve out the war in home waters, but died in 1946.