On this day:

1914-1918 > WW1

01 Jan 1914

HMAS Pioneer was commissioned as a training ship on 1st January 1914 after being handed over to the RAN on 1st March 1913.

28 Feb 1914

The E class submarines HMA Ships AE1, (LCDR T. F. Besant, RN), and AE2, (LCDR H. H. G. D. Stoker, RN), were commissioned in Portsmouth, England. AE1 and AE2 were laid down in Vickers Yard, Barrow-in-Furness, England. AE1 was launched on 22 May 1913, and AE2 on 18 June 1913. AE1 and AE2 departed Portsmouth on 2 March 1914, for Australia.

02 Mar 1914

HMA Submarines AE1 and AE2 sailed from Portsmouth on their maiden voyage to Australia. The passage took 83 days and was at the time the longest journey ever under taken by a submarine.

01 Apr 1914

LEUT A. M. Longmore, an Australian serving with the Naval Wing of the Royal Flying Corps, flew the First Sea Lord, Winston Churchill, on his first flight in a Maurice Farman seaplane.

24 May 1914

The RAN’s first two submarines, AE1 and AE2, arrived in Sydney after a record voyage from England.

Within a year both submarines had been lost on active service, with AE1 lost during the campaign in German New Guinea, and AE2 lost in the Sea of Marmora during the Gallipoli Campaign.

28 Jul 1914

LEUT A. M. Longmore, an Australian serving with the RNAS, made the first successful aerial torpedo drop by a naval pilot from a Short Folder seaplane.

30 Jul 1914

Garden Island Wireless Station intercepted the Admiralty warning to HM Ships that war with Germany was imminent.

03 Aug 1914

Even before the declaration of war between Britain and Germany, the Australian Cabinet met in Melbourne and promptly offered the Australian fleet to Britain.

Port war lookout and examination stations were manned by the Royal Australian Naval Brigade. Stations were established at all major ports.

All wireless stations in Australia were placed under the control of the Naval Board. Censorship of all cable and wireless traffic was enforced.

04 Aug 1914

Great Britain declared war on Germany. The telegram informing Australia of a state of hostilities was not received in Melbourne until 5 August. At the outbreak of war the strength of the RAN was 3800 of all ranks.

A warning shot was fired across the bows of the German merchant ship PFALZ by the Nepean Battery on Port Phillip Bay, VIC, when the vessel attempted to escape to sea. PFALZ turned back and was seized. Records suggest this was the first shot fired by British forces against the Germans in the First World War.

The Sydney pilot steamer CAPTAIN COOK, was commissioned as an examination vessel.

05 Aug 1914

The message conveying the news of the outbreak of war with Germany was received in Australia at 12.30pm.

The disposition of ships of the RAN, at the declaration of WWI, was: HMAS AUSTRALIA, (battle-cruiser), steaming north from Sydney; HMAS MELBOURNE, (cruiser), steaming south from Sydney; HMA Ships SYDNEY, (cruiser), WARREGO and YARRA near Thursday Island; HMAS PARRAMATTA, (destroyer), nearing Townsville; HMAS PROTECTOR, on passage from Melbourne to Sydney; HMAS ENCOUNTER, and submarines AEI and AE2, at Sydney; HMAS PIONEER, at Port Phillip, VIC; HMAS GAYUNDAH on passage from Sydney to Brisbane.

07 Aug 1914

VADM Sir George Patey, RN, wrote the first wartime order for the RAN, and for that matter the Commonwealth of Australia, whilst onboard his flagship, HMAS AUSTRALIA, (battle-cruiser). It was Operational Order No. 1, headed ‘Intention’.

10 Aug 1914

An Australian Government Order-in-Council was gazetted placing all Commonwealth Naval Forces, including the Naval Board, under British Admiralty control, for the duration of WWI, (and was later repeated for WWII).

11 Aug 1914

HMAS AUSTRALIA, (battle-cruiser), and the Australia Squadron, under VADM Sir George Patey, RN, arrived in St Georges Channel, near Rabaul, on a search for ADML von Spee’s forces.

The German naval and merchant services code was captured from the German vessel HOBART, (merchant ship), at Port Phillip, VIC. The boarding officer, CAPT J. T. Richardson, RN, used a subterfuge to allow the German Captain to retrieve the codes from their hiding place. Richardson seized the books at gunpoint as they were about to be thrown overboard.

HMA Ships PARRAMATTA, YARRA, and WARREGO, (torpedo boat destroyers), launched a night torpedo attack on the German anchorage in Simpsonhaven, New Britain only to find the port was empty. During the day HMAS AUSTRALIA, (battle- cruiser), captured the enemy ship SUMATRA whilst patrolling St Georges Channel.

12 Aug 1914

HMA Ships PARRAMATTA, YARRA, and WARREGO, (torpedo boat destroyers), landed parties at Rabaul.

HMAS ENCOUNTER, (cruiser), captured the German steamer ZAMBESI in St George’s Channel, New Britain.

13 Aug 1914

HMAS MELBOURNE, (cruiser), intercepted the collier ALCONDA off Rossel Island, and requisitioned her cargo of coal.

16 Aug 1914

HMAS PIONEER, (light cruiser), captured the German merchant ship NEUMUNSTER, off Rottnest Island, WA.

18 Aug 1914

The auxiliary cruiser HMAS BERRIMA, (CMDR J. B. Stevenson, RN), was commissioned. BERRIMA was requisitioned for the RAN, from her owners, the P&O Steam Navigation Co Ltd, in August 1914.

ADML von Spee, C-in-C, German Pacific Fleet, recorded in his journal: ‘The AUSTRALIA is my special apprehension-she alone is superior to my whole squadron’.

20 Aug 1914

The German cruiser MAGDEBURG was captured by the Russian Navy, after running aground in a fog in the Gulf of Finland. Code books recovered from the cruiser were rushed to London, where intelligence experts matched them with merchant service code books seized by the RAN on 11 August, from the German ship HOBART, in Port Phillip, VIC. By November 1914 all German naval wireless traffic was being intercepted and decoded orders passed to the British Fleet.

26 Aug 1914

HMAS PIONEER, (3rd class cruiser), captured the German merchant vessel THURINGEN, off Fremantle, WA.

30 Aug 1914

VADM Sir George Patey, RN, in HMAS AUSTRALIA, arrived of Samoa, and the official surrender of German Samoa took place. The squadron comprised AUSTRALIA, HMA Ships MELBOURNE, and PSYCHE , and HM Ships PYRAMUS and PHILOMEL.

04 Sep 1914

The cruiser HMS PSYCHE, (later HMAS PSYCHE), and survey ship HMS FANTOME, (later HMAS FANTOME), joined the contraband patrol in the Bay of Bengal.

07 Sep 1914

A joint Australian army-navy expedition sailed for German New Guinea from Port Moresby embarked on board the auxilliary cruiser HMAS BERRIMA, escorted by HMAS AUSTRALIA, HMAS SYDNEY, HMAS ENCOUNTER, HMAS WAREGO, and HMAS  YARRA, together with submarines HMAS AE1 and AE2.

09 Sep 1914

HMAS MELBOURNE, (cruiser), landed a party of 4 officers and 21 petty officers, under LCDR M. A. Blanfield, on Nauru, to dismantle the German wireless station on the island. They did not occupy the island, and the formal surrender did not take place until two months later when Australian officers, embarked in the merchant ship SS MESSINA, accepted the German surrender.

11 Sep 1914

The RAN Brigade, supported by men from Australian warships, landed at Kabakaul, German New Guinea, (New Britain), to seize the German wireless station there. HMA Ships AUSTRALIA, SYDNEY, ENCOUNTER, PARRAMATTA, YARRA, WARREGO, AE1 and AE2 supported this landing, and stood by to repel any German warships. The brigade forced their way inland, encountering strong resistance from German native troops lead by German Army Reserve officers, as the RAN advanced to seize the German wireless station. Five RAN and RN naval personnel were killed or died of wounds; LCDR C. B. Elwell, RN; AB W. G. V. Williams; AB J. E. Walker; AB H. W. Street; Signalman R. D. Moffatt; Also killed was Captain B. C. A. Pockley of the Australian Army Medical Corps. AB Williams was the first to be killed, and thus had the dubious honour of being the first Australian to be killed in action during WWI. LEUT T. A. Bond, RANR, distinguished himself in the advance by single handedly capturing 30 native troops, and was later awarded the DSO, which, although not gazetted until 1916, was technically the first decoration awarded to an Australian during WWI

The SS ESTURIA was chartered as a destroyer depot ship. She transferred to the RN in 1917.

13 Sep 1914

The former South Australian gunboat, HMAS PROTECTOR, captured the German merchant ship MADANG, off Herbertshohe, New Britain.

14 Sep 1914

HMAS ENCOUNTER, (cruiser), shelled German positions at Toma, New Britain. This was the first occasion a ship of the RAN had fired on an enemy.

HMA Submarine AE1, (LCDR T. F. Besant, RN), was lost with 2 officers and 32 ratings, while patrolling off the Duke of York Island. The cause of the submarine’s loss was never established.

HMAS WARREGO, (torpedo boat destroyer), captured the German steamer NUSA at Kavieng.

17 Sep 1914

Following the Australian occupation of German New Guinea, the British Admiralty ordered VADM Sir George Patey, RN, in HMAS AUSTRALIA, (battle-cruiser), with HMS MONTCALM, to cover HMS ENCOUNTER and the Australian Naval and Military Expeditionary Force, from attack, then search for the two German cruisers GNEISENAU and SCHARNHORST

21 Sep 1914

The German Ships SCHARNHORST and GNEISENAU, (heavy cruisers), stood off Papeete, Tahiti, and shelled the coal dumps at the port. ADML von Spee intended landing, but the presence of HMAS AUSTRALIA, (battle-cruiser), in the Pacific, changed his mind. The only Allied warship at Papeete was the small French gunboat ZEILE, which was scuttled by her crew.

24 Sep 1914

HMAS PARRAMATTA, (torpedo boat destroyer), captured the German merchant vessels MEKLONG and BRASS MONKEY, in Mioko Harbour, New Britain.

The German armed merchant cruiser KORMORAN, (CMDR Zuckschwerdt), arrived at Port Alexis several hours before the Australian armed merchant cruiser BERRIMA. The German ship hid in a side channel until BERRIMA departed.

26 Sep 1914

A landing party from HMAS SYDNEY, (cruiser), destroyed the German wireless station at Angaur in the Palau Islands.

27 Sep 1914

Wireless transmissions from HMAS AUSTRALIA, (battle-cruiser), were picked up by the German station at Yap, 1000 miles away

11 Oct 1914

The German Governor of New Guinea’s steam yacht KOMET, was captured by the NUSA, manned by the Australian Naval Brigade, at Bougainville. KOMET was later commissioned as HMAS UNA.

01 Nov 1914

The first convoy of 28 troop ships sailed from Albany, WA, for Egypt. The escort comprised HMA Ships MELBOURNE and SYDNEY, (cruisers), HMS MINOTAUR, and the Japanese cruiser IBUKI.

03 Nov 1914

HMAS PIONEER, (cruiser), lost her fore-topmast and suffered other damage in heavy seas, while escorting the first troop convoy in the Indian Ocean. PIONEER returned to Fremantle for repairs.

09 Nov 1914

The cruiser HMAS SYDNEY, (CAPT J. C. T. Glossop, RN), engaged the German raider EMDEN, (CAPT Karl von Muller), off Cocos Island. The superior armament of SYDNEY asserted itself, and the EMDEN was driven ashore on North Direction Island. The casualties suffered indicated the battering the Germans received. SYDNEY’s casualties were four killed and eight wounded, and EMDEN’s were 115 killed and 80 wounded. In the action SYDNEY fired 670 rounds of 150 mm shells, and one torpedo. After reducing EMDEN to a burning shambles, SYDNEY intercepted and sank the German collier BURESK.

14 Nov 1914

VADM Sir Goerge Patey. RN, in his flagship HMAS SYDNEY, (cruiser), rendezvoused off the Mexican coast with HMS NEWCASTLE, to block any attempt by ADML von Spee and his ships, to sail to Canada, or pass through the Panama Canal.

17 Nov 1914

The captured German yacht KOMET was commissioned as HMAS UNA, at Sydney. It was intended to name the vessel PRIMA, conveying ‘the first warship captured’ but UNA, meaning ‘the only warship’ was finally selected.

18 Nov 1914

HMAS AUSTRALIA, (battle-cruiser), steamed off the Mexican west coast in search of the German Pacific Squadron. On 26 November she rendezvoused with the Japanese cruisers ASAMA, IDZUMO, and HIZEN.

19 Nov 1914

The sloop HMAS UNA, (CMDR J. M. Jackson, RN), was commissioned. UNA, (as KOMET), was laid down in Vulkan Vegesack Yard, Bremerhaven, Germany, in 1911.

26 Nov 1914

ADML G. E. Patey, took command of his battle squadron off the Mexican coast. It comprised of HMAS AUSTRALIA, (battle- cruiser), HMS NEWCASTLE, (cruiser), and the Japanese Ships ASAMA, IDZUMO, and HIZEN.

'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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