- A.N. Other
- History - general
- RAN Ships
- HMAS Encounter, HMAS Penguin (Garden Island)
- March 2001 edition of the Naval Historical Review (all rights reserved)
An extract from “A Short History of Garden Island” Volume 2 by Chaplain V.W.Thompson RAN, followed by some comments by a Mr H.V.Howe
Garden Island possesses a number of pieces of ordnance, ancient and modern. Among the ancient pieces are two brass carronades, concerning which one would like to know more. They were found on a small island, hence named Carronade Island, in Napier Broome Bay, in the East Kimberley District, Western Australia, 126 degrees 40 minutes East, 14 degrees 0 minutes South, during a visit of HMAS Encounter, then under the command of Captain Cumberlege R.N., in July 1916. They were discovered apparently in situ as they had evidently been placed for some purpose, on the top of the island, sunk perpendicularly into the ground, six feet apart, and about two feet of each protruding above the surface.
As they had all the appearance of being placed as leading marks, investigations were made. Sounds were taken with the object of locating wreckage if such existed, but nothing was found in that direction to throw light on the reason for the carronades being so placed. Officers and men of the Ship’s company with visions of. treasure-trove prepared to dig for doubloons and pieces of eight. Equipped with all the shovels the ship could provide, about a hundred men landed and dug up practically the whole of the island, in the hope of bringing to light the buried wealth; but not only was no gold found, but nothing that gave a clue to the mystery. The carronades were, however, removed and presented by Captain Cumberlege in 1916 to HMAS Penguin, where for a time they were exhibited on deck. Later they were removed to a position on the lawn in front of the Main Office. (Presently stored at Spectacle Island).
Captain Robins, R.A.N., in 1917, gave the following opening concerning these, carronades:
“In my opinion, after careful survey, they appear to be part of the armament of a Spanish or Portuguese caraval wrecked near there. One has lost a trunion and has as a badge a fancy crown, not a Royal one, also a double knot which is the badge of Seville, Spain. A gun factory was established there in the 16th century by Rey Carlos de Espaque, and all guns made there would carry this badge in a similar manner to those made at Woolwich.
They supplied all vessels fitting out by Royal Monopoly. The other gun has no badge and was probably a trade gun of the same period. These guns in all probability relate to the early periods of Australian History and probably of de Quiros’ time.“
The Carronades from Napier Broome Bay
Comment by H.V. Howe, 1 Fern St, Pymble, NSW
These two carronades are undoubtedly the first guns captured by Australians from enemy invaders – and are possibly relics of the first European landing on Australian soil.
In 1909 I was one of five white men on a pearling fleet working off Graham Moore Island on the extreme north-west corner of this contingent. We were fortunate enough to witness a re-enactment of the battle, in which the guns were captured.
The island aborigines had met white men on not more than a dozen occasions in the previous hundred years, but they had been in regular contact with trepang fishing schooners from Timor which visited the coast every year. From their crews many of the tribesmen had learned to speak Malay – which my companions and I also spoke as it was the lingua franca of the Asiatic crews on the pearling luggers.
Ability to converse freely with the tribesmen facilitated establishment of friendly relations, particularly with the tribal elders who thoroughly enjoyed giving strangers detailed explanations of the many corroborees we witnessed.
Passed from one generation to another with meticulous attention to preservation of the traditional form, these performances portrayed tribal history and mythology. The one depicting capture of the carronades is here described and explained.
At the foot of the sandhills above the beach on Graham Moore Island the women and children mustered, providing the chorus and orchestra – singing in a continuous undertone, clicking yam sticks together, and slapping thighs.
In front of them lined up warriors armed with spears and shields, bodies dedicated in conventional patterns with feathers stuck to the skin and painted in pipe clay. They stamped and shouted according to established ritual and occasionally a star performer gave a solo item.