On this day:

1900-1913 > Federation, RAN and pre-WW1

04 Apr 1900

CAPT Hector McDonald Laws Waller, DSO and Bar, RAN, one of Australia’s greatest naval commanders, was born at Benalla, VIC.

01 May 1900

CAPT William Rooke Creswell was appointed Naval Commandant of Queensland.

03 Jun 1900

HM Ships LIZARD, MOHAWK, and WALLAROO, which were part of the RN Australian Squadron, were dispatched from Sydney to China, to join the squadron commanded by ADML Sir E. H. Seymour, that was involved in putting down the Boxer Rebellion.

31 Jul 1900

The Victorian Naval Brigade Contingent, for the Boxer Rebellion, sailed from Melbourne in the transport SALAMIS.

06 Aug 1900

HMCS PROTECTOR, (CAPT W. R. Creswell, RN), sailed from Adelaide to China, to participate in quelling the Boxer Rebellion.

08 Aug 1900

Transport 105, (the vessel SS SALAMIS), sailed from Sydney with men from the NSW Naval Brigade, (146 men), Victorian Naval Brigade, (170 men), and a platoon of Marine Light Infantry, (31 men), for service in China to suppress the Boxer Rebellion. The Marine Light Infantry, (MLI), were Australian soldiers destined for service in South Africa, but who were diverted to augment the two Naval Brigades. They were named the MLI as they wished to remain separate to the Naval Brigade members.

12 Aug 1900

South Australian gunboat, HMCS PROTECTOR, (CAPT W. R. Creswell, RN), sailed from Sydney for China.

15 Aug 1900

The Victorian Naval Brigade contingent to the Boxer Rebellion landed at Taku. They advanced to Tientsin next day, but fighting had ended and they were employed as police and firemen.

11 Sep 1900

HMCS PROTECTOR was commissioned as HMS PROTECTOR at Hong Kong

18 Sep 1900

A force of 600, drawn from the Australian Naval contingents, assembled at Tientsin for the attack on Chinese Boxer fortifications at Peking.

19 Sep 1900

The 600-strong Australian Naval Brigade Contingent, advanced by lighter and road to attack the Chinese Boxer fortifications at Peking. They arrived to find the fort had been taken by Russian troops.

30 Oct 1900

The Naval Brigade of HMS POWERFUL, (a previous flagship of the Australia Station), attacked Boer positions at Lombards Kop, Ladysmith, South Africa.

01 Nov 1900

RADM Sir Lewis A. Beaumont, KCMG, RN, was appointed Flag Officer Commanding the Australia Station. His flagship was HMS ROYAL ARTHUR.

06 Nov 1900

AB J. Hamilton, of the New South Wales Marine Light Infantry, died at Tung Chao in China. He was the first sailor to die in an Australian expeditionary force overseas.

24 Nov 1900

The former South Australian gun boat HMS PROTECTOR, was decommissioned at Hong Kong, and adopted her former prefix HMSAS.

01 Jan 1901

The effective strength of the NSW Naval Brigade was 416 officers and men.

03 Jan 1901

The Imperial Squadron based in Sydney consisted of HM Ships ROYAL ARTHUR, (1st class cruiser); PORPOISE and ARCHER, (torpedo cruisers); PYLADES, (composite steam corvette); RINGDOVE, (composite steam gunboat), and TORCH, (sloop). The Australian Auxiliary Squadron, also based in Sydney, consisted of HM Ships KATOOMBA, RINGAROOMA, TAURANGA, WALLAROO, and MILDURA, (Phoebe 3rd class protected cruisers); KARRAKATTA and BOOMERANG,(Sharpshooter class torpedo gunboats); DART, (screw schooner); LIZARD, (1st class gunboat), and PENGUIN, (composite screw sloop).

06 Jan 1901

The gunboat, HMCS PROTECTOR, (CAPT William Creswell, RN), arrived back in Port Adelaide after 153 days away, serving in China from September to November 1900, during the Boxer rebellion.

17 Jan 1901

Sir John Forrest was appointed Defence Minister, and CAPT R. Muirhead Collins, (former RN officer), became Secretary of Defence in the Commonwealth administration.

01 Mar 1901

The order was gazetted that all Australian armed forces should be transferred from the jurisdiction of the State Governments to the Federal Government, which under the Federal Constitution, would be the sole Australian Defence authority. The Commonwealth Naval Force came into existence. It’s war equipment consisted of a motley collection of largely obsolescent warships, including, HMC Ships CERBERUS and PROTECTOR, torpedo boats CHILDERS, COUNTESS OF HOPETOWN, LONSDALE, NEPEAN, and MOSQUITO, gunboats GAYUNDAH and PALUMA, and a number of small naval auxiliaries. Naval personnel strength was 240 permanent members, and 1348 members of the Naval Brigade.

29 Mar 1901

Transport 106, (China Navigation Company vessel SS CHINGTU), sailed from Hong Kong returning troops to Australia

28 Sep 1901

CAPT William Creswell, RN, submitted his historic report on Australian sea defence, commerce, and ports.

11 Feb 1902

Anglo-Japanese treaty signed. The treaty required Britain and Japan to join the other in the event of hostilities. Australian naval policy was strongly influenced by this treaty. It expired on 13 July 1921.

18 Jun 1902

HMS ENCOUNTER, (cruiser), later HMAS ENCOUNTER, was launched at Devonport, England.

22 Oct 1902

The Australian Star reported that the NSW Government had purchased the mansion ‘Tresco’ at Elizabeth Bay, as a residence for the Naval Officer-in-Command at Garden Island, Sydney.

10 Nov 1902

VADM Sir Arthur D. Fanshawe, KCB, RN, was appointed Flag Officer Commanding the Australia Station. His flagship was HMS ROYAL ARTHUR.

06 Jan 1903

Alfred Deakin, (later to become Prime Minister of Australia), and in his time the greatest political champion of Australian defence, wrote in the Morning Post; ‘The idea of a specially Australian navy manned by colonial sailors and under our own executive direction has been assiduously preached of late and that it has ‘caught on’ with the masses…’.

09 Apr 1903

The first message received from a ship at sea to an Australian wireless station was transmitted by the Queensland gunboat, GAYUNDAH, to a receiving station in Brisbane. The historic message read:- ‘Gun drill continued this afternoon and was fairly successful-blowing squally and raining -prize firing tomorrow. Marconi insulators were interfered with by rain but easily rectified and communication since has been good. Good night.’ The ship’s aerial was a tall bamboo pole lashed to the mast.

03 Jul 1903

Imperial ships of the Australia Station were:- ROYAL ARTHUR, (1st class cruiser); ARCHER, PHOEBE, and PYLADES, (3rd class cruisers); LIZARD, and TORCH, (gunboats).

03 Aug 1903

The first Marines Corps formed in Australia were the New South Wales Marine Light Infantry, recruited as the Third Contingent to join New South Wales’ volunteers in South Africa. The unit sailed in the transport SALAMIS for China.

17 Nov 1903

The Daily Telegraph, Sydney reported:- ‘New Survey Ship For Australia. The British Admiralty has purchased the yacht CONSUELO, (owned by the 26th Earl of Crawford and Balcarres), for survey work in Australian waters’. The vessel was a screw schooner of 270 tons displacement, 50 metres long and 8.2 metres beam, built in 1887 by Robert Steele & Co., Greenock, Scotland. She was commissioned HMS INVESTIGATOR in 1903, and in 1904 changed to HMS SEALARK. She sailed from Portsmouth in September 1904. In 1919 the vessel was sold to the Patrick Steam Company, Sydney.

Subsequently her name was changed to SEALARK III in 1920, NORWEST in 1923, had a change of owner to William Waugh Ltd in 1925, and was removed from registry on 26/05/1925.

The figurehead depicting Helen Elizabeth Lambert, (daughter of the first owner Charles Lambert), was presented to the Naval Dockyard, Garden Island.

01 Mar 1904

Control of State Defence Forces was formerly transferred to the Commonwealth of Australia.

10 Nov 1904

Water tender RIPPLE, built by Foster & Minty, Balmain, NSW, underwent trials at Sydney. It served in the RAN from 1913 to

24 Dec 1904

CAPT William Creswell was appointed Director of Naval Forces.

12 Jan 1905

Commonwealth Naval and Military Boards were constituted under the Defence Act of 1903-1904. The regular members of the Naval Board were the Minister for Defence, (Mr J. W. McKay) as President, the Director of Naval Forces, (CAPT William Creswell), and a civilian as finance member, (Mr J. A. Thompson). CMDR F. Brownlow, (Officer Commanding Naval Forces New South Wales), was named as consultative member.

18 Jul 1905

The naval prison at Garden Island, Sydney, was completed. It provided accommodation for 12 prisoners.

10 Sep 1905

VADM Sir Wilmot H. Fawkes, KCB, KCVO, was appointed Flag Officer Commanding the Australia Station. His flagship was HMS POWERFUL

21 Sep 1906

CAPT William Creswell’s report on the establishment of an Australian navy, and the role it could play in the defence of Australia, (submitted to the Committee of Imperial Defence in London), was condemned as being based ‘on imperfect conception of the requirements of naval strategy’.

23 Feb 1907

The Royal Edward Victualing Yard, (REVY), at Pyrmont, Sydney, was opened. This establishment was the storehouse for the RAN’s clothing and provisions. The yard was closed in the early 1980’s, but later became the home of the Naval Support Command from 1995 to 2002.

27 Mar 1907

CMDR William Clarkson, ANF, and CMDR W. J. Colquhoun, DSO, ANF, departed Australia for Japan to conduct an in depth study of the Imperial Japanese Navy methods of ship construction, administration, and training. The pair then also visited the United States, Canada, and England, to observe similar activities. This information was then brought back to Australia to help with the further development of the Australian Naval Forces. Clarkson and Colquhoun were both ex State Navy officers. Colquhoun had been awarded the DSO, and twice Mentioned in Dispatches, for bravery and leadership while attached to the RN Brigade in South Africa in 1899-1900, while Clarkson had served onboard HMCS PROTECTOR in the Boxer Rebellion in 1900, and later went onto become a Vice-Admiral in the RAN.

'On This Day' is based on the book "Navy Day by Day: Historic Naval Events in Australia and Abroad" written by the late Lew Lind. More information.

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