- Cowman, Ian, Dr
- Biographies and personal histories, History - general
- RAN Ships
- None noted.
- September 1996 edition of the Naval Historical Review (all rights reserved)
Effectively it meant a system that operated less like the Admiralty and more like the U.S. Navy Department in the interwar period where accountability to political whims was paramount.
The new Navy Board was duly gazetted on 1 March 1911. Joining Pearce and Creswell were Captain Bertram Chambers as Second Naval Member, and Engineer Captain William Clarkson as Third Naval Member.11
Rounding out the new board was Staff Paymaster H.W. E. Manisty. Manisty had been serving as Secretary to Admiral Henderson since 1905, and had accompanied him on his Australian tour and been invited to stay on afterwards. It was perhaps a reflection of the early beginnings of the Royal Australian Navy – a collection of State run militia units – that there was a slackness in administrative habits. Creswell tended to lean too towards personal rather than professional relationships, and because of that Manisty took on the role both of Finance Member and Secretary of the Naval Board. It was the role of the minister and this dual appointment that was to prove to be one source of the difficulties.12
Hughes-Onslow arrived from England to take up duties as Second Naval Member on 21 October 1912 after Captain Chambers left to take command of Encounter early in July 1912.13 His appointment had not been without controversy. The Government had found great difficulty in finding a replacement for Chambers, even though they made full use of the offices of the Admiralty. Candidates were simply unwilling to serve in Australia. It meant giving up their seniority in the Royal Navy. It also meant serving in the relative backwater of the Antipodes in a service known to run on nepotism and for paltry pay. A short list of four officers had been drawn up but each candidate had withdrawn. Undoubtedly Hughes-Onslow only accepted the appointment because he had already retired from the Royal Navy lists.14 A more senior active and serving officer was preferred by Manisty, Creswell and Clarkson,15 but as Churchill pointed out:
At present I have the greatest difficulty in getting any officer, except those of inferior attainments, who would certainly do more harm than good, to volunteer for service under the Commonwealth.16
But at least Hughes-Onslow’s career had been quite distinguished. He was a specialist in gunnery and fire control, and had written reports both on the Pollen and Wilson Dreyer systems for the Naval War College at Greenwich, and he was a personal friend of Admiral Sir Reginald Henderson.17 He had a definable personality, was called ‘crusty’ by his contemporaries and does not appear to have suffered fools gladly.18 He had been charged early in his career with insubordination by a superior which had undoubtedly hampered his rise in the ranks. One news reporter – displaying a flair for quick assessment – described him as a ‘taut, dapper, wired-up looking officer, with a hurricane deck voice and a messroom manner.’19
Initially a clash of personalities developed between Hughes-Onslow and Manisty. In Hughes-Onslow’s eyes Manisty was ‘an officer of the Accountant Branch whose knowledge of the service was of a purely clerical nature’ but who nonetheless was ‘the mouthpiece and news centre of the office. He is the absolute and undisputed head of the naval branch proper, of the civil branch, of the legal branch, records, registers, and clerical side generally. What is left can be controlled by anybody. Even Manisty does not care who sweeps up the offices and licks the stamps‘20:
I began to find out that although I was supposed to be in charge of the Personnel Branch, my influence was entirely obscured by the organisation of the office which put all real power into (Manisty)’s hands, and I had come utterly to distrust his judgement and knowledge in regard to the subjects upon which he wielded so tremendous an influence with the Minister.. .the writing is the writing of the Minister, but the system is the system of (Manisty) and whereby he intends to conserve his present position as Managing Director of the Naval Board. This is the procedure dubbed “Board Control”, and under which Naval Members of the Board are treated like children not to mention fools.21
Secondly according to Hughes-Onslow every subject was dealt with by docket where various members of the Board were allowed to write their official opinions – the ‘minute’ system was standard practice in England.