- Foden, John J.F. RMA
- Early warships
- RAN Ships
- None noted.
- December 1972 edition of the Naval Historical Review (all rights reserved)
The first-class belted cruiser, Australia, of 5,600 tons burden, 8,500hp, 327ft long, 56ft beam, 12 heavy and 22 small guns, with a complement of 461 officers and men (afterwards increased to 499) was commissioned at Chatham on the 19th of November 1889, by Captain Martin J. Dunlop, and left Spithead, under sealed orders, on the 26th of December. Her destination turned out to be St. Vincent, Cape Verde Islands, which was reached on January 7 1890
Influenza broke out on the passage, and as many as 84 were on the sick list at one time.
The people at St. Vincent said the ship had come to take the island, which is a valuable coaling station, as there was a difference between our Government and the Portuguese at this time, and the ship arrived there the day an ultimatum was sent in. No occasion for using force arose, however. The ship left there on the 25th January, arrived at Gibraltar on the 2nd February, and went alongside the Mole.
While there did some torpedo practice and turning trials. The Undaunted having arrived from England, left on the 13th of March, and arrived at Malta on the 17th; remained there until the 7th of June, having alterations made by the dockyard; joined the fleet off Jaffa on the 11th, and cruised with it, visiting Beirut, Larnka, Marmorica. At a steam trial on the 13th, the Australia steamed the other ships out of sight in four hours.
On the 4th of July the fleet separated, and the Australia was left with the Levant, or Second Division, under Rear-Admiral Lord Walter Kerr, and cruised with it until the 9th of December, visiting nearly every anchorage among the Greek Islands and Turkish and Greek coasts, the time in harbour being fully occupied with constant drills, coaling and watering ship, pulling and sailing boats in races and at sea with tactics, gun and torpedo practices.
Ships had to coal from colliers alongside, and there was great competition as to which could do so quickest. The Australia’s crew got in 219 tons in 2¾ hours, and 500 tons in 9¼ hours. On the 28th July, at Phalerum Bay, in the Second Division Regatta, the ship’s boats won six prizes. On the 25th of August the Empress Frederick of Germany visited the ship, inspected the men, and said it was a pleasure to her to be on board a British man-of-war. On the 2nd of September, at Kalamaki, the ship was inspected by Lord Walter Kerr, with very satisfactory results. On the 7th of September, a great fire having occurred at Salonica, and the British Consul’s house burnt down, the ship was detached there to protect British interests.
From the 13th of December 1890 to the 25th of February 1891 was spent at Malta refitting; the ship’s company went through a musketry course and the usual weekly battalion and other drills.
On the 3rd of February the men were reviewed at Corrodino by the Duke of Cambridge; the day was very wet; on the 26th of February, sailed for a short cruise to Syracuse, Catania, Messina, Naples, Castellamare, and Salerno, giving opportunity to see Mount Vesuvius and the ruins of Pompeii. On the 18th of March the ship stopped off Malta to land seven officers and men, sick with fever, and then ran a full speed trial to Patras and Platea, where a torpedo course was gone through with the Hecla, winding up with a night attack on the Collingwood on the 1st of April.
The ship then joined the Second Division at Salonica, and cruised with it, visiting the same places as on the previous year. On the 22nd of May, at Phalerum Bay, a sad accident happened. William Droudge, a young AB, fell over a cliff, and was killed.
On the 1st of June, at Phalerum Bay, a ball was given by the captain and officers, which was honoured by the presence of their Majesties the King and Queen of Greece, Princess Margaret and Prince Nicholas.
At Thaso Island on the 13th of June, when a seining party was returning, William Collins, AB, fell overboard, and was drowned.
On the 2nd of August the Second Division was suddenly ordered to Alexandria, and remained there until the 14th, the cause of this being that the Sultan of Turkey, backed up by the French, was agitating for England to evacuate Egypt.
Here another accident happened. While going ashore in a native boat to assist in a performance about to be given by the Kangaroo Minstrel Troupe, John Stewart, ERA, and F. Gregory, blacksmith’s mate, were drowned by the capsizing of the boat.
On the 18th of August the ship was back at Salonica, and cruising in the Levant commenced again. The Second Division Regatta was held at Semnos on the 22nd of August, when the Australia’s boats won eight first and two second prizes. In the evening the Minstrel Troupe went away in boats, and serenaded the other ships of the squadron. On the 7th of September, at Port Sigri, Captain Dunlop left the ship to go as captain of the steam reserve at Devonport, and Captain Swinton Holland took over command.
On the 22nd of October the whole fleet assembled at Milo under the new admiral, Sir George Tryon, and cruised until the 11th of November, visiting Kos Island, Budrum, Giova and Arich Bays, Karagatch, Marmarice, and Suda Bay. At Kos had two boat races with the sister ship, Undaunted, with divided honours. At Karagatch, on the 2nd of November, the race in cutters for the Duke of Edinburgh’s cup came off. The Dreadnought won; the Australia was second. Was back at Malta on the 15th of November for annual refit, and remained there until the 12th of March 1892; the last three weeks of that time the ship was under notice to sail in six hours.