- Rivett, Norman C
- Biographies and personal histories
- RAN Ships
- None noted.
- March 2003 edition of the Naval Historical Review (all rights reserved)
Born 1828 at Pirton, near Kempsey, Worcester, England.
Entered Royal Navy 1842, retired 1888.
Died 31 January 1896 at North Sydney, NSW, Australia.
THE ROYAL NAVY’S AUSTRALIAN STATION was established in 1859, just three years after the Colony of New South Wales was granted Responsible Government. From this date until the final decision was made in 1889 to build a Naval Store on Garden Island, there had been twenty six Administrations in office, with yet another change of Government before the Stores Building was completed in 1894. A duration of Government averaging sixteen and a half months.
In the same period there had been thirteen Naval Officers Commanding the Australian Station, an average appointment of twenty seven months. Two Commodores Commanding the Station had died in the line of duty.
Considering the Command extended from the Antarctic to the islands north of Australia, and the demands made upon the services of the Navy during the Maori Wars during the earlier part of this period, it is not surprising that it took over thirty years for a Colonial Government and the Admiralty, represented by the Officer Commanding the station, to achieve agreement regarding the location and establishment of Naval Base in Sydney, and in particular a dedicated Naval Store Building. The latter became a pressing requirement after 1872, when the Imperial Officer in Charge of the Commissariat Stores at Circular Quay was recalled, the British Army having withdrawn two years previously.
At this period the Navy relied upon the Commissariat Stores for supplies and storage space. After the departure of the British Army, the Navy had to share the Store with the Colonial Government. This was the situation pertaining when Paymaster Amphlett was appointed to the Australian Station in 1872, vide HMS Clio, for service in charge of Naval, Victualling and Medical Stores at Sydney.
The Commissariat Stores were described at this time as being ‘not only decayed and unsafe, but incommodious in view of the increasing needs of the Squadron.’
It was therefore proposed to build a Naval Store, and negotiations were commenced for a site. Garden Island, Fort Macquarie and Dawes Point were suggested with two sites at Woolloomooloo Bay being considered later.
So began Amphlett’s long quest for a Naval Store Building, concurrent with the Navy’s desire for a base. It was not always envisaged that the two should share the same location but by 1894 Garden Island became the site of both.
After a short home posting as District Paymaster and Transport Officer at Liverpool, England, from 1879 to 1882, Amphlett was re-appointed to Sydney early in 1882 as Storekeeper of the Naval Yard, a position he occupied until his retirement in 1888 at the age of 60 years.
His long association and knowledge of the Australian Station was unequalled and dated from its inception when he served in HMS Niger from 1859 to 1861, in New Zealand during the Maori Wars. He was serving in HMS Orpheus, the Flagship of the Station, when she was wrecked on Manukau Bar on 7 February 1863, an ordeal during which Amphlett acquitted himself with distinction.
After attending the Court Martial into the loss of Orpheus on board HMS Victory at Portsmouth, he was appointed to HMS Curacao ‘additional for transport service’ in November 1863, and returned to Auckland, New Zealand, as Transport Officer.
He was posted home to join HMS Nankin at Pembroke Dock in 1868 as Paymaster, but in 1872 was appointed to Clio on the Australian Station for service in Sydney.
In retirement, Amphlett became Paymaster of Imperial Pensions for the Colony of NSW, and was consulted by the Rear Admiral Commanding the Station and the Admiralty regarding the requirements and capacity of the Naval Store to be built on Garden Island.
As a result of Amphlett’s recommendations the capacity of the proposed Store Building was vastly increased and materialised as Asset 89.
Paymaster Amphlett died at North Sydney on 31 January 1896, having lived to see the completion of the Garden Island Naval Establishment, including the Naval Store, but sadly not long enough to see the official handing over of the Establishment which took place on 2 September 1896.