An announcement that two brothers had been appointed to command sister ships in Australia’s Destroyer Squadron has brought to light the careers of twin brothers who were pioneers of the Royal Australian Navy.
THE TWINS, REGINALD AND HERBERT CREER, first joined the Navy in 1894, and were still serving 50 years later, at the end of WWII.
The twins had remarkable parallel careers as naval officers, beginning in the very first ships delivered to the RAN in 1911, and including simultaneous command of Australian warships. For a period of 11 weeks in 1921, they had command of sister ships of the RAN’s destroyer flotilla (Success and Swordsman), a record that had been claimed for Captain G. J. and Commander A. A. Willis, who commanded two Australian Daring Class destroyers.
The Creer brothers, who were born in Sydney in 1881, began their naval careers at the age of 13, when they became midshipmen in the newly formed Naval Brigade of NSW.
In 1900, Reginald was promoted to Sub- Lieutenant in the Brigade, and went off to the Boxer War, while brother Herbert was serving as a cadet in the sailing ship, Mount Stewart.
The twins changed uniforms for the Boer War, and were officers in Australian Commonwealth Horse Battalions.
They were among the first group of 12 officers selected to form the Royal Australian Navy when it was established in 1911. Herbert was appointed as navigating officer to HMAS Yarra, while his brother had the same job in HMAS Parramatta. In the First World War they served in the cruisers Melbourne and Pioneer.
After the War, they had their own commands before being demobilised in 1926, at the age of 45. Herbert had three years as Captain of the destroyer ANZAC, taking over from his brother Reginald when he was appointed to command the training ship, Tingira.
For the next 14 years, Herbert commanded a private yacht in Britain, while Reginald was master of a merchant ship on the China Coast.
At the age of 58, in 1940, the brothers joined the Royal Navy as Commanders, and were given assignments in South East Asia.
Reginald had command of a Gunboat Flotilla on the China Station, and Herbert had the Gunboat Command in Shanghai. Reginald was captured when Japan entered the War, and spent the rest of the campaign in Japanese prison camps.
Herbert took his flotilla to Singapore, where he was a Port Defence Officer when the Japanese began their drive south. He was ordered to leave Singapore on the last ship to escape from the colony. One of his final jobs in Singapore was to supervise the embarkation of the Australian nurses, who were to become the victims of the Bangka massacre.
He was then assigned as Camp Commandant of a staging camp in Colombo, and later to the command of naval establishments in India.
After four years and a half a century at sea, the twins went into retirement.