The Royal Australian Naval College is Australia’s authority for the basic and leadership training of officers for service in the Royal Australian Navy. The main course run is the 22-week New Entry Officers Course which provides initial entry training for most of the RAN’s officers. The College also conducts the residential component of the Reserve Entry Officers Course. Further training for officers such as the Junior Officers Leadership Course and the Junior Officers Management and Staff Course also take place there.
The heritage significance of the RAN College is based on its historical and cultural importance, its aesthetic qualities, and its high diversity of flora and fauna. It has a richness of features that collectively contribute to its importance as a cultural landscape: the architectural features, their landscape setting, the waterfront landscape including wharf and breakwater, and the formal designed layout. The architectural features consist of the Quarterdeck area with the Gymnasium and Clocktower and Laboratory Blocks, the Midshipman’ Mess and Galley, Cerberus and Geelong Blocks, the Hospital, the Captain’s House, the Wardroom and Officers Mess, the Canteen, the Police Post, the Waterfront including the Waterfront Flats and Workshops and the historic residences. Also included are the period garages and sheds associated with the buildings, the tennis courts and residential gardens.
The design of the college itself, along with its plantings and landscape design, creates a satisfying and attractive unity in design, scale, materials, texture and colour, which has largely been preserved in subsequent additions. The historic college buildings, those surrounding the Quarterdeck and the period style residences, have a distinctive period charm. Its central formal Quarterdeck and imposing Clock Tower as a terminal feature of a central axis, echo traditional British naval designs. The informal arrangement of residences is stated to reflect ‘Garden City’ principles. Although the site is divided into functional precincts, an overall sense of unity is achieved through the sympathetic use of scale, massing, detailing and colours.
The character of its bay side setting adds to the significance of the College. The territory of Jervis Bay, with its surrounding shores, ocean beaches, lakes, estuaries, forested slopes and heath covered plateaus, is an area of exceptional beauty, possessing considerable environmental, scientific, cultural and historic value.
HMAS Creswell is historically significant for its association with the development of the Australian Navy. Following the formation of the Royal Australian Navy in 1911, construction of the Navy College began in 1913 and continued until 1915. The first intake of students at Jervis Bay commenced in January 1915, and training continued throughout the First World War. Three men from the College’s first intake were promoted to Flag Rank, including the Navy’s first Australian Chief of Staff, Vice-Admiral Sir J.A. Collins, Rear Admiral H.B. Farncombe, and Rear Admiral H. A. Showers.
During the 1920s the College was deemed too costly to maintain and its operations were removed to HMAS Cerberus in Victoria. From 1930 to 1958 many of the buildings on the College site were leased out as holiday accommodation, at a time when tourism was developing as a major activity in the Jervis Bay region. During World War Two some facilities were used by the three Services, but in the early 1950s, despite resistance from some local residents, the decision was made to return the College to Jervis Bay.
The Naval College was re-opened in 1958 and commissioned as HMAS Creswell in honour of Vice Admiral William Rooke Creswell, KCMG, KBE, RAN whose lobbying had helped to create the RAN. The Navy conducted extensive refurbishment of the site. Several buildings considered unsafe were condemned.
Jervis Bay gained national prominence on 10 February 1964 when the aircraft carrier HMAS Melbourne collided with and sank the destroyer HMAS Voyager while on exercises 30km south east of the bay. Search and rescue vessels from HMAS Creswell were involved in the rescue efforts. 232 men were retrieved, 82 died.
Substantial changes in the College’s curriculum took place during the late 1950s and 1960s. In 1968 the Naval College became associated with the University of New South Wales (UNSW) and was accredited to teach university courses. The unsafe buildings were demolished and new ones built.
In 1985 plans were raised to move other Naval facilities to join the College at Jervis Bay, including the Fleet Base East, then located on Garden Island in Sydney. The proposal met with opposition from environmental, peace and local groups, and was eventually abandoned.
The College’s association with UNSW continued until the Australian Defence Force Academy opened in 1987. Since then it has concentrated on professional naval studies for RAN officers.
Creswell presently consists of the Royal Australian Naval College and four other departments. The School of Survivability and Ship’s Safety teaches fire fighting, damage control and nuclear, biological and chemical defence. The Beecroft Weapons Range (add link to other heritage page) across the peninsula offers targets for Naval Gunfire Support practise. The fourth department provides administrative support for all sections operating out of Creswell.
HMAS Creswell has a small museum that focuses on the history of the establishment, the Staff and Cadets, their lives and their careers. Due to the security and staffing restrictions access to the HMAS Creswell Museum is by appointment only. Research services are not provided, but enquiries may be directed to email@example.com.