- Nicholls, Bob
- Colonial navies, History - general
- RAN Ships
- None noted.
- March 2003 edition of the Naval Historical Review (all rights reserved)
Plans they may well have been, but they display some glaring weaknesses. A number of the more obvious are:
Nowhere is there any consideration of the Royal Navy. Even taking into account the disparaging (and largely justified) remarks about the ships on the Australia Station and their officers, elsewhere in the RN’s world it was an entirely different matter. By 1908, when the Great White Fleet visited Australia, ‘Jacky’ Fisher had been First Lord for long enough for his full-blown shake-up of the Royal Navy to be producing results. Any moves against Australia would have prompted an immediate reaction, primarily against America’s eastern seaboard, with dire results for the as-yet numerically inferior United States Navy.
The sheer size and complexity of any United States military undertaking in the south west Pacific seems to have been quite ignored, as does the now-familiar concept of a fleet train or underway replenishment (with coal it should be noted).
The risk of a Japanese involvement as a consequence of their commitment to come to the aid of the Royal Navy does not seem to have figured in the war plans.
These reasons, as well as many others which will occur to readers, leads to the conclusion that the plans mentioned briefly in this article were most unlikely ever to have been exposed to serious scrutiny.
However, over the next nine decades:
- Auckland, as the 1908 plan suggests, did become ‘a strategic centre of operations’ in the south west Pacific – against one enemy, Japan.
- No surface warship ever bombarded Sydney – Japanese submarines withstanding.
- The only American invasions of Australia and New Zealand have been peaceful, at the invitation of the two governments. This is quite apart from the frequent recreational visits to the ports covered in the intelligence teams from the Great White Fleet.
On the other hand, the welcome given by the peoples of both countries to the visit of the United States Navy Fleet in 1908 was one of the foundation stones of the long-standing friendly relationship between the three countries.
Sources and further reading
The articles have drawn on a paper presented by Dr. James R. Reckner at the inaugural King-Hall Naval History Conference held in Canberra in July 1999 and later published by Allen & Unwin in 2001 under the title Southern Trident. The information has been used with the permission of the editor.
Dr. Reckner spent twenty years as a sailor, petty officer and officer in the United States Navy.
Further data comes from the author’s Statesmen and Sailors (Balmain 1995) copies of which are available through the Naval Historical Society of Australia.
Quotes in the articles are from the Naval War Plan series held in the United States Naval Archives.
Reckner’s Teddy Roosevelt’s Great White Fleet (1989) and Robert Hart’s The Great White Fleet: Its Voyage Round the World (Boston 1965) are both eminently readable accounts of the enterprise. They should be available in many libraries or by Inter-Library Loan.