- Barton, J.P., Midshipman, RAN
- History - general
- RAN Ships
- None noted.
- April 1993 edition of the Naval Historical Review (all rights reserved)
WILLIAM ROOKE CRESWELL
14. Creswell had held the posts of Naval Commandant in South Australia and Victoria. He always made it known that he believed there should be an independent Australian naval force. He had written newspaper articles providing well reasoned arguments for the creation of an Australian navy. He also wrote a report whilst Naval Commandant, Queensland called “The Best Method of Employing Australian Seamen in the Defence of Commerce and Ports”. “The Age” said of this report in 1901: “The Australian Navy is not a mere sentiment. It is a policy, and a wise policy too. Captain Creswell has rendered a service in trying to bring it out of the clouds and place it on the basis of a practical scheme.”
15. Creswell had a daunting task ahead of him. The.Navy consisted of run down ships. Ships that had been in the reserve were put back into service. New policies and training instilled enthusiasm and pride in the staff. Creswell planned to replace the old ships with new, however political opposition stopped his plans. At this time some sectors of the community opposed the navy’s development as they saw it being anti-British.
16. Creswell, undaunted by the negative attitude towards his idea, put forward a seven-year plan which would bring into service four fast torpedo boats, 16 torpedo boats and four destroyers. In 1906 Creswell went to London to discuss with Whitehall his propositions and study naval development. The Committee at Whitehall believed that the navy proposed by Creswell ”…would serve no strategic purpose and would be a waste of money and resources”.
17. On his return to Australia, Creswell did not give up. With the support of the Government, particularly the Prime Minister Alfred Deakin, 250,000 pounds were set aside for the cost of Creswell’s plan.
DEAKIN AND FISHER
18. Alfred Deakin and Andrew Fisher played important roles in the development of the Royal Australian Navy also. Deakin had been a champion for the cause before Federation. Despite the negative attitude towards Creswell’s ideas, Deakin stood behind him taking Creswell’s recommendations before Parliament. He then put 250,000 pounds aside for expenditure on naval defence. At the Colonial Conference of 1907 Deakin argued the case for an Australian Navy because of the threat being posed by Germany and Japan. However, he was unsuccessful.
19. In 1908, through Deakin’s invitation, the United States’ Great White Fleet visited Australia. This visit encouraged Australians to develop an interest in developing an independent naval force.
20. Andrew Fisher took over as Prime Minister in 1908. The Labor Government also believed in an independent navy and so carried on with Deakin’s plans. By using the funds set aside by Deakin, Fisher ordered three ships. In 1909 when the Germans were beginning to pose a threat to Britain’s supremacy, despite the States wanting to offer a ship to the British Government, Fisher was pushing for Australia to establish a naval ability of its own. Fisher saw Britain as not being as able to protect Australia due to the growing German threat.
21. In April 1909 Fisher questioned the British Government on a number of areas. He suggested that there should be a conference of the Empire’s self-governing countries in regard to naval defence. A conference to discuss these matters was set for July of that year. However, Fisher’s government was defeated before the conference and Alfred Deakin came into office again. Deakin attended the conference along with Captain Creswell.
CONFERENCE OF 1909
22. The conference of 1909 was the final step towards the creation of the Royal Australian Navy. Although the Admiralty still believed in the importance of one navy they realised that the Dominions had special needs and these must be taken into account. However the First Lord of the Admiralty said: “The main duty of the Conference as regards naval defence will be, therefore, to determine the form in which the various Dominion Governments can best participate in the burden of Imperial defence…”
23. The Admiralty proposed the creation of Fleet Units manned by Australian officers and sailors. Australia would also have full control, but should there be a war, the Fleet would be integrated into Royal Navy forces. The Fleet unit would become a part of the Eastern Fleet which also included the China and East Indies Fleet units. The British Government would replace the annual subsidy paid by the Dominions with a contribution paid by them worth one quarter of a million pounds. This would help the Commonwealth in taking over the cost of the Fleet unit. Australia accepted the offer of a Fleet unit and the Parliament approved of the plan on 24th November, 1909.