- Hobden, D.T.
- History - general, Biographies and personal histories
- RAN Ships
- HMAS Australia I, HMAS Australia II
- September 1996 edition of the Naval Historical Review (all rights reserved)
On the 4 October 1937, the ashes of the late Able Seaman Thomas Bull were committed to the deep from HMAS “AUSTRALIA”. At that time, the ship was hove to off Jervis Bay. In the memory of the officers of that ship, this was the first occasion on which a burial at sea with naval honours had been accorded to a sailor who was not serving at the time of his death. The eulogy was given by Captain H.G.D. Acland RN, and the service conducted by Chaplain Henderson RAN.
“The late Able Seaman Thomas Bull O.N. (Royal Navy) 198468 O.N. (Royal Australian Navy) 7579.
The South Coast Counties of England – Kent, Sussex, Hampshire, Dorset, Devonshire and Cornwall – had a large share in the provision of Empire Builders in the past and Empire Protectors of the present. In the centre of this coast lies Hampshire with the premier Naval Port of the United Kingdom – Portsmouth. Off Portsmouth Harbour and acting as a breakwater from the gales of the English Channel is the Isle of Wight.
In the last century, a favourite residence of Queen Victoria was Osborne House on the North Shore of this Island, overlooking the Solent – the strip of water dividing the island from the mainland – and Spithead, the outer anchorages of Portsmouth. Osborne, a few years after the death of Queen Victoria, was converted into a college for the training of Naval Cadets and later into a convalescent country home for officers of the Fighting Services.
The Island is, therefore, steeped in the traditions of the services and loyalty to the Crown.
Both born in the Isle of Wight, Mr. and Mrs. Bull raised, in the latter half of the last century, a large family of 9 sons and 2 daughters. Of the 9 sons, George, Bonsor, Alfred and Thomas joined the Royal Navy before the War (WWI), the first three reaching the rank of Chief Petty Officer, Petty Officer and Petty Officer respectively. John joined the army at the age of 15½ and is still serving in the Queen’s Bays with the rank of Sergeant Major.
Alec, Arthur, William and a second Alfred volunteered for service in the Army on the outbreak of war, the two latter being demobilised as Sergeant. One daughter, Queenie, was a V.A.D. from the early days of the War and the other daughter drove a crane in a munitions works.
The following letter to Thomas Bull’s mother is a treasured possession in the family:
Privy Purse Office
13th September, 1915.
I have the honour to inform you that the King has heard with much interest that you have at the present moment eight sons serving in the Army and Navy. I am commanded to express to you the King’s congratulations and to assure you that His Majesty much appreciates the spirit of patriotism which promoted this example, in one family, of loyalty and devotion to their Sovereign and Empire.
I have the honour to be,
Your obedient servant,
(Sgd.) F. M. Ponsonby
Keeper of the Privy Purse.
Thomas Bull was born on 4th August, 1882, and joined H.M.S. “St. VINCENT”, Boy’s Training Ship at Portsmouth, on 18th March, 1898, at the age of 15½. He left the Royal Navy, on the expiration of the engagement for which he volunteered, on 3rd August, 1912, his continuous service thereby extending over a period of over 14 years. He then had a few months at sea in the Merchant Navy, but returned to the Fighting Service the following year, volunteering for service in the Royal Australian Navy on 23rd January, 1913. He commissioned H.M.A.S. “AUSTRALIA”, the famous Battle Cruiser, in England, sailing for the Commonwealth in the middle of that year. She arrived at Sydney on 4th October, 1913. On the 24th Anniversary of his arrival (in the second “AUSTRALIA”) the ashes of Thomas Bull left Sydney on board the third ship in the Navy List to bear that name, and were committed to the deep.
It was stated earlier that Osborne House is in the Isle of Wight. While Her Majesty Queen Victoria was in residence, it was customary for a ship to be stationed off the Palace as Guardship. This duty, from 1894 to 1897, was frequently performed by H.M.S. “AUSTRALIA” – the first ship to bear that name. The boy Thomas Bull, must frequently have seen that ship and may have visited her. Perhaps this early connection consciously or unconsciously influenced him to volunteer for the Royal Australian Navy since he must have known that his first ship in that second period of his Naval career would be the Battle Cruiser “AUSTRALIA”.