- A.N. Other and NHSA Webmaster
- History - general, Naval history
- RAN Ships
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- April 1993 edition of the Naval Historical Review (all rights reserved)
In July 1991, Rear Admiral H.A. Showers, CBE, RAN (Rtd) died in Sydney. With his passing the last link with the historic first entry to the Royal Australian Naval College (RANC) in 1913 was severed.
A CNS endorsed decision was made in late 1991 to write a history of the 1913 Entry and the contribution that they had made to the RAN. Mr A. W. Grazebrook (RANR Commander) was selected to write this history and is currently collecting research material for the task. Many readers will know Mr Grazebrook as the Naval correspondent to Asia Pacific Defence Reporter.
The 1913 Entry to RANC commenced at Osborne House, Geelong, and later transferred to the Jervis Bay site in 1915. Of the 28 thirteen year old boys who entered the College in 1913, twenty three passed out from the College in 1916 (four were withdrawn by their parents and a fifth, Cadet Midshipman O.E. Albert died from meningitis in 1914).
Following their graduation all 23 newly promoted Midshipman were sent to join ships of the Grand Fleet (Royal Navy) then operating in the North Sea against the German High Seas Fleet.
Two of the 1913 entry were destined never to return from serving in World War I. They were E.S. Cunningham and F.L. Larkins who both lost their lives whilst serving in submarines.
A few of the 1913 entry left the RAN during the inter war years but a number continued to serve. With the outbreak of war in 1939, three had achieved the rank of Captain (H.B. Farncomb, J.A. Collins and J. Burnett).
During World War II several of the 1913 entry distinguished themselves on active service. Captain J.A. Collins (later Vice Admiral Sir John Collins, KBE, CB, RAN) commanded H.M.A.S. SYDNEY in 1940 when she sank the Italian cruiser BARTOLOMEO COLLEONI. Later in 1944 he was appointed to Commodore (1st Class) and was wounded when a kamikaze aircraft hit H.M.A.S. AUSTRALIA at the Battle of Leyte Gulf.
Captain H.A. Showers commanded several RAN warships including H.M.A. Ships ADELAIDE, HOBART and SHROPSHIRE. He was in command of HOBART when she was torpedoed by a Japanese submarine off Espiritu Santo. Despite serious damage Captain Showers brought the HOBART to port for repairs.
Three of the 1913 entry were killed during the war. Captain J. Burnett died when H.M.A.S. SYDNEY was sunk with all hands following her encounter with the German Raider KORMORAN in November 1941.
Captain F.E. Getting was mortally wounded when H.M.A.S. CANBERRA was sunk at the Battle of Savo Island in August 1942, and Lieutenant Commander L. L. Watkins was lost when H.M.A.S. PERTH was sunk in a battle against overwhelming Japanese forces in March 1942.
Three other members of the 1913 entry were heavily involved with setting up and controlling the coast-watching organisation in New Guinea and the Solomons. They were Commander R.B.M. Long, Commander E.A. Feldt and Lieutenant Commander H.A. Mackenzie. All three were decorated for their services in maintaining the coast-watching system.
Captain H. B. Famcomb was the first RANC graduate to reach the rank of Captain and during the war he commanded several ships including the aircraft carrier H.M.S. ATTACKER. He later assumed command of the Australian Squadron when Commodore Collins was wounded at Leyte Gulf.
Both Collins and Farncomb were promoted to Rear Admiral in 1947, Collins later becoming a Vice Admiral and Chief of Naval Staff in 1951.
The 1913 entry served the RAN well in both peace and war. Nearly a quarter of those who graduated in 1916 lost their lives during World Wars I and II and one of their number rose to command the RAN.
The written history of the 1913 entry should prove to be a fitting tribute to them and the Navy in which they served.