- Vickridge, G.L.W., Lieutenant, RANR
- Biographies and personal histories
- None noted.
- RAN Ships
- None noted.
- March 1978 edition of the Naval Historical Review (all rights reserved)
Captain Goodenough was a strong advocate of a more systematic combination of the education of the practical seaman and the scientific officer, and felt that the time honoured tradition of sending midshipmen to sea at an early age prematurely confined the young naval officer in the narrower groove of his professional career. He also felt that seamanship and the principles of command should be methodically taught rather than left to chance observations. In a paper delivered to the United Services Institute, Goodenough stated, ‘. . . if we continue to acquiesce in the meagre education which is at present permitted to naval officers, we must resign ourselves to the position of a Chinese military mandarin, and be at the beck and call of civilians and consuls, and to be hustled and forced into perpetual mistakes in war.’
In August 1871, Captain Goodenough was appointed naval attaché to the Maritime Courts of Europe with orders to visit the different arsenals of the Continent and to report to the Foreign Office upon the navies of the European powers.
After twelve months he requested that he be allowed to return to regular service afloat, but it was not until April 1873 that he received the offer of Commodore of the Australia Station and command of HMS Pearl. Commissioning in May 1873, Pearl sailed from Spithead in June.
From the first day of the commission. Captain Goodenough, as in the past, exhibited concern for the welfare of his men. In his address to the ship’s company on the day of commissioning, Goodenough spoke of establishing a canteen, ‘. . . to sell cheese and eggs, and other small luxuries.’ Another example of his humanitarian nature was a rule he made when he had rewards and punishments to give; offenders were seen first and the rewards were given after, partly so as not to keep defaulters waiting and getting more uncomfortable every minute, but also as he expressed it, so as ‘. . . not to leave himself with a bad taste in his mouth.’ His views against corporal punishment were most decided.
Goodenough also held strong views on the subject of leave, always wishing to give as much as possible but at the same time anxious that the men should use and not abuse their liberty. Although eager to establish a canteen, he would not sanction the sale of beer, but would gladly have substituted it for the rum issue. Goodenough held that many a boy received his taste for drinking spirits from the rum ration served to him.
Pearl sailed for Wellington, New Zealand and on 17th September 1873, Captain Goodenough relieved Commodore Stirling in command of the Australia Station and hoisted his broad pennant as a Commodore of the Second Class.
On assuming his command, and in accordance with his instructions, he sailed at once for Fiji arriving in November. Together with the British Consul, Mr. Layard, he was ordered to report on the advisability of annexing the Fijian Islands to the Crown. During the ensuing five months the two men held their enquiry, the report from which was laid before the British Parliament.
In April the Commodore left Fiji and arrived at Sydney in May where, a few days later, he was joined by his wife and children. At Admiralty House, Goodenough, after ten years of married life, established his first and only home.
After a brief visit to Melbourne and Launceston in July, Pearl returned to Sydney and in September sailed for Fiji with the Governor of New South Wales on board. Sir Hercules Robinson’s mission was to decide on the annexation procedure and on 10th October 1874, Fiji became a British Colony.
Pearl returned to Sydney on 24th October. Three days later the Commodore unveiled the statue of Captain Cook which now overlooks Botany Bay. Within a year, James Goodenough was to share the fate of the man whose statue he had unveiled. For the next three months the Commodore was occupied with refitting the schooners employed in cruising the South Sea islands. Early in December he visited the Bulli and Newcastle coalfields to see the different types of coal in their natural state. About this time the Sydney merchants entertained the Governor at a banquet held in honour of the annexation of Fiji. Commodore Goodenough, when called upon to return thanks for the Navy, expressed his concern that colonists who go to the Islands must have ‘. . . higher interests and desires than those of making money, and to endeavour to secure the welfare of the people living there.’
Earlier in the evening, Sir Hercules Robinson spoke of, ‘The labours of . . . my friends Commodore Goodenough and Mr. Layard, . . . (who) have not yet received the appreciation they deserve . . . To them we are indebted for the very complete information as to Fiji which we now possess.’
In January 1875 Goodenough left Sydney for South Australia, stopping first at Portland where he joined a kangaroo hunt. HMS Pearl returned to Sydney the following month and early in April sailed for the New Hebrides where the Commodore was anxious to investigate the ‘blackbirding’ of natives.
The labour trade occupied much of the Commodore’s attention in the New Hebrides. He visited many of the islands, everywhere trying to establish friendly relations with the inhabitants. At each place he would land first, not allowing others to run a risk which he would not share himself. He believed that open dealing would always be successful and inspire confidence in the Island natives so that they would be friendly with white people.
Pearl returned to Sydney at the end of May 1875 and on the 29th, Commodore Goodenough was created a Companion of the military division of the Order of the Bath for his gallantry during the Chinese war and other services. For his distinguished service in connection with the Colony of Fiji he was also made a Companion of the Order of St. Michael and St. George. On the eve of his final cruise, Commodore Goodenough wrote of his concern for populating the tropical regions of Australia. ‘The great drawback to the future is that people will . . . lose their English character, becoming employers of labour of an inferior race, and then to a certain degree (become) corrupted in their convictions about personal freedom and independence.’ He envisaged the servile races would come either from the islands or China. It is perhaps a fitting tribute to Goodenough’s concern that for the most part Australia resisted the importation of a coloured labouring class.
The Commodore sailed from Sydney in Pearl on 14th June with the newly appointed Governor of Fiji, Sir Arthur Gordon. The passage to Fiji was a rapid one and after a stay of three weeks in the Group, Pearl sailed westward. On the day before he left Fiji, the settlers of the new Colony presented Goodenough with an illuminated address.
From Fiji, Pearl proceeded to the New Hebrides and then to Vanikoro in the Santa Cruz Group where the inhabitants had been very hostile towards white men. Goodenough did not want to visit Nakapu as he thought the risk too great, but he was particularly anxious to visit Carlisle Bay, where an English warship had been attacked some months before. Goodenough felt that there was a considerable risk in landing and before leaving the ship he finished a letter to his wife in the event of an accident.
At first the Commodore intended taking Pearl into the Bay, but finding that there was insufficient water, took three boats in instead. After landing on Thursday, 20th August 1875, Goodenough gave away some calico, bargaining at the same time with a knife or two for some matting. Gradually the natives seemed less timid and one man came up with a present of some yams.