- Wilson, Graham, Warrant Officer Class Two, Australian Intelligence Corps
- History - pre-Federation, Colonial navies
- RAN Ships
- HMAS Gayundah
- June 1996 edition of the Naval Historical Review (all rights reserved)
This was too much for Wright who ordered Hesketh into close arrest and charged him with:
- Conduct unbecoming a gentleman in that he wrote a cheque for £60 on the Queensland National Bank, when there were no funds to meet it.
- Conduct prejudicial to order and discipline in that he borrowed £10 from a seaman.
- Conduct unbecoming a gentleman in that he gave in return a cheque for £10 dated 2 December 1886, and there were no funds to meet it.
- Conduct unbecoming a gentleman in that he wrote an order for the whole of his pay for February 1887 when it was already drawn upon to the extent of £16.
Unfortunately for all concerned, especially Hesketh, the Queensland Marine Defence Force did not have enough officers to form a court-martial and Commander Wright requested that the Admiral Commanding the Australian Station convene a court-martial. Rear Admiral Tryon was aghast at this suggestion, claiming, quite correctly, that he did not have the authority to try an officer holding a colonial commission. There the matter should have rested except for one point – Gayundah flew the White Ensign. When Gayundah was building in the UK, the Queensland government had officially requested that the ship be allowed to fly the White Ensign, their request being made largely out of reasons of prestige and based on their interpretation of the Colonial Naval Defence Act 1865. The Admiralty had at first declined, citing as precedent an earlier refusal to Victoria of the same request. Queensland persisted however, and eventually received an Admiralty warrant in September 1886 permitting HMQS Gayundah to fly the White Ensign.
The warrant stated that “as the armed vessel Gayundah belonging to the colony of Queensland, and her men” were placed at the disposal of Queen Victoria and accepted by her through the Admiralty Commissioners. She was granted the right to wear the White Ensign. Despite this wording, Tryon never attempted to exercise any control over Gayundah, regarding the warrant as principally a courtesy and when pressed stated that ‘the vessel is not now and never has been at the disposal of the Admiralty‘. Hesketh’s case was to prove the Admiral wrong as his initial refusal to convene the requested court-martial was not accepted and the Queensland government sought advice from its Attorney-General who gave as his opinion that, because of the Admiralty warrant to fly the White Ensign, Hesketh was subject to the Naval Discipline Act 1865 and should be tried by a Royal Navy court-martial. When this opinion was forwarded to Tryon he again refused to convene a court so Queensland cabled its case to London where the decision was made to support the colonial view and Tryon received an Admiralty instruction directing him to convene the court-martial.
Eventually HM Ships Rapid and Opal of the Australian Station arrived in Moreton Bay and duly hoisted the Union Flag on 4 May to signify that a court-martial was sitting. Tryon was not the only officer to question the legality of his trying Hesketh. Edward (Ned) Charlton, destined to be an Admiral in the Royal Navy but then a junior officer serving on board HMS Rapid wrote a letter from Brisbane on 24 April 1887 in which he outlined the reasons for their presence and went on to state that Gayundah “does not belong to our service and we can’t think how her officers come under the Naval Discipline Act. Admiral Tryon refused to try him but received an order from the Admiralty to do so as a test case.”
By this stage, Hesketh had been confined to his very cramped quarters aboard Gayundah for 62 days. His first move was to challenge the competency of the court to try him as he held a commission signed by the Governor of Queensland and was not subject to the Naval Discipline Act. This quite valid objection was immediately overruled by the court. He next pointed out that earlier that year he had requested that a seaman aboard Gayundah be tried by court-martial for mutiny with violence. This request had been denied by Commander Wright who had dealt with the man summarily and awarded him 42 days in prison. Hesketh pointed out firstly that if the offending seaman was not tried by court-martial then he also should not be and, secondly, that as he had already spent more time in confinement than a convicted mutineer, then the court-martial proceedings were unfair. Again the court dismissed his objections and proceeded with the trial. Hesketh was eventually found to be guilty of the first and second charges and partially guilty of the fourth and sentenced to be dismissed from HM service.