- Gregory, Mackenzie J.
- History - general, Biographies and personal histories
- RAN Ships
- None noted.
- December 1997 edition of the Naval Historical Review (all rights reserved)
Sir William was born at Gibraltar in 1852. At age 13, he entered the Royal Navy, joining the “Britannia” as a Cadet.
As a Midshipman in H.M.S. “Phoebe” he enjoyed a world training cruise, and over the next 7 years his service took him to the China Station, Malaya, and to East Africa. However, by 1878 he had become quite disenchanted with the Navy and its slow prospects for promotion. He resigned and migrated to Australia. Accompanied by his brother, for 7 years they explored the Northern Territory; then 1885 found the ex Naval Officer in Adelaide where an old shipmate John Walcot, was the Naval Commandant for South Australia. He persuaded William Creswell to join this Colonial Navy as a Lieutenant Commander.
So began an amazing naval career, spanning 37 years, and service in the Colonial Naval Forces of South Australia, Queensland, and Victoria.
As early as 1886 William Creswell had begun advocating a navy of its own for Australia. He met with nothing but opposition from the Admiralty, and obtained little support in his adopted country. With Federation in 1901 he found an ally in Alfred Deakin the Prime Minister, and eventually his persistence was rewarded when he was nominated as Director of the Commonwealth Naval Forces in 1904.
When the Royal Australian Navy was proclaimed in 1911, William Creswell as a Rear Admiral became its first Naval Member. He became Sir William in 1911 being awarded a KCMG, followed by a KBE in 1919. Retiring in 1922, he farmed until his death in 1933, and was given a State Funeral.
In my capacity as President of the Victorian Chapter of the Naval Historical Society of Australia, I recently received a phone call from Mrs. M. V. Millins who is the daughter of the late Chief Petty Officer Vaughan, Coxswain to Sir William Creswell.
Mrs. Millins informed me that she was in possession of the Dress Epaulettes of Vice Admiral Sir William Creswell, and would like advice as to their disposal to an appropriate Naval Establishment. After a number of discussions with her, it was agreed that the Epaulettes should be presented to HMAS “Creswell” at Jervis Bay. The Commanding Officer of “Creswell” told me that January 1998 marks the 40th Anniversary of the commissioning of HMAS “Creswell”, and that would be a very appropriate time for these special Epaulettes to be presented. I like to think that, in due course, these wonderful relics belonging to the Dress Uniform of the true founder of the R.A.N. might be displayed in perpetuity on a Dress Uniform of a Vice Admiral of the Royal Australian Navy.
It all makes one wonder what other treasures from our Naval past exist “out there” in an old tin box, in a garage or under someone’s bed.