- Cowman, Ian, Dr
- History - general, Biographies and personal histories
- RAN Ships
- None noted.
- September 1996 edition of the Naval Historical Review (all rights reserved)
Some pressure was brought to bear on Millen to reverse his decision. Admiral King-Hall, C. in C. Australia Station, persuaded Captain Hughes-Onslow to send a letter of apology to the Minister, which the latter agreed to accept, subject to certain alterations being made, and he offered to reinstate Captain Onslow on the Board. But on hearing that Onslow might be returning Manisty tendered his resignation as an appointed member of the RAN. According to the Governor-General the Minister was placed in a quandary for Manisty was generally considered ‘a really capable officer’. The Minister approached the Governor-General and it was he who in turn induced Manisty to withdraw his resignation.49 Hughes-Onslow left Australia in March 1913 never to return.
Millen later argued that he had been forced to choose between both men, and that he had only reluctantly dispensed with Onslow’s services.50 The Second Naval Member was relieved of his duties on 30 October 1913. Adding to the internal damage in the wake of the dismissal were the generally unfavourable press comments, a heated debate in Parliament, a proposal for a Royal Commission, and a pamphlet outlining the case for Hughes-Onslow – ‘The Australian Navy Board Scandal’ prepared at his own expense, which was forwarded to all senior officers in the Royal Navy, to Australian members of Parliament, and to members of the House of Commons.51 Such was the furore and the delicate sensibilities of Australian authorities, the Governor-General had to persuade the Admiralty not to launch their own inquiry. Yet there remained many who felt that Hughes-Onslow had been badly done by, and there always seem to have been differences between what lay on the surface and what lay at the heart on this issue. Evidence would in fact suggest the opposite to the ‘official’ version, namely that Captain Hughes-Onslow was ‘fitted-up’ for a fall. Indeed, that Senator Millen was all too eager to grasp the mantle, using the dismissal as part of a planned ‘shakeup in naval administration.’
This can be traced back to the previous administration under Andrew Fisher. Creswell’s future had already been discussed with the Admiralty when Senator Pearce visited London in 1912. At that time Pearce saw Creswell’s flag rank as purely temporary, it was anticipated he ‘would be found some other appointment when the Fleet unit came into being in 1913’.52 During the parliamentary debate on the dismissal Millen admitted that Manisty would be replaced at the end of the next parliamentary session. Indeed he inadvertently revealed that the ‘whole future of the Board’ was under review. Communication from the Prime Minister to the Governor General early the following year clearly indicated that the Government wished for the services of a Rear Admiral to serve as First Naval Member as a replacement for Creswell.53
This in fact may explain later confusion that arose over the appointment of Admiral Patey, who was initially led to believe he would be C. in C. Australia rather than merely Commander of the Australian Fleet.54 Only the fall of the Cook government and the outbreak of war prevented Creswell from forcible retirement.
So it may well be that the Hughes-Onslow incident was used as a ‘golden opportunity’ by Millen. Since the previous year the Federal Government had been contemplating some kind of review and the Hughes-Onslow – Manisty imbroglio provided too perfect an excuse. In the end whatever one might say about his manners and his foolishness, Hughes-Onslow seems to have been a scapegoat and a victim. He was a convenient lever for change, one that was intended to encompass the whole of the Navy Board. Perhaps the view that comes closest to the truth was expressed by one of the members of the House of Representatives, Mr. Mathews of Melbourne Ports, when he said:
I do not wish to speak slightingly of the other members of the Board, but as a matter of fact, he was the only sailor amongst them. Almost the whole of the naval work is done in my electorate of Melbourne Ports, and these matters came under my notice; but I have always found that, try as one will to get justice, no matter what Government are in power, nobody can get justice from the Board. By hook or by crook they have always managed to get the best of the Ministry. If the Naval Board is the best system of running the show, we might as well give it up at once…. It would have been better if the Government instead of suspending only one man, suspended the whole crowd of them until some improvement was made… it is highly necessary for the Government to introduce some system of controlling the Navy Department.55
1 Speeches by Senator Millen, Minister for Defence, Parliamentary Debates, House of Representatives, Vol LXXI, p. 3334, p 4725, p 3510. 2 For details see undated, MP 472, File 5/13/2332A, N.A; B. N. Primrose, Australian Naval Policy, 1919-194
2 A Case Study in Empire Relations, Unpublished PHD, ANU, 1974, p 38
3 Ltr Denman to Harcourt, G.G to Colonial Secretary; 11 March 1914. C.O. 18/122.
4 Despatch Governor-General to Secretary of State for Colonial Affairs, 16 December 1913, C. U 418/111/2081
5 Captain Constantine H Hughes-Onslow. The Australian Naval Board Scandal (Melbourne, Page and Bird Ltd., 1914), p. 5.
6 Cabinet Minute, 16 May 1910, Reel 1, Bundle 5, Item 26A, Pearce Papers, AWM.
7 John Mortimer, Foundation of the Royal Australian Navy’, Defence Force Journal, No 61, November/December 1986, p. 31; G.L. Macandle, Genesis of the Royal Australian Navy (Canberra, 1949), p. 205.
8 Letter Reid to Pearce, 25 July 1910, Reel 2, Bundle 5, Item 26A, Pearce Papers, AWM.
9 See S D Webster, Creswell, The Australian Navalist: A Career Biography of Vice Admiral Sir William Rook Creswell PHD Thesis, Monash University, 1976, p 203.
10 Ltr Henderson to Senator Pearce, 12 October 1910, MP 1185/3, File 2102/3/92.
11 The initial appointments were made very much on the basis of the personal favour, and the whole atmosphere was one of a club. Chambers was Creswell’s cousin, and Clarkson was formerly engineering officer on board Protector when Creswell was in command.
12 Minute, 9 December 1910, MP504, File S8, 2272/2/1, N.A
13 The Australian Naval Board Scandal, p. 15.
14 11th Repon, Australian Naval Representative in London, 4 July 1912, MP 472/1.
15 See Cable Naval Office to Hawonh-Booth, 12 July 1912, MP 1049/1, File 14/0414; 11th Report Australian Naval Representative in London, 4 July 1912, MP 472/1.
16 Ltr Churchill to Harcourt, 18 June 1914, ADM. 1/8375/108.
17 Jon Sumida, In Defence of British Naval Supremacy. Finance, Technology and British Naval Policy 1889-1914 (London, Allen and Unwin, 1989), p. 149, p 155.
18 This was a time at the Admiralty when the organisation was known for its eccentrics It saw such personages as Sir John Fisher as First Sea Lord, and Sir Charles Beresford
19 Melbourne Punch, 24 October 1912, See Webster, p 226.
20 The Australian Naval Board Scandal, pp 13-14
21 Ibid., p. 27.
22 Ibid., p 16.
24 Report of the Select Committee on the Fitzroy Dock, 13 October-20 November 1913, The Senate Journal, Vol. 1, 1913, pp X11, pp. 59-60 The fact that the National Archives have no record of Naval Board Minutes from 1911-1915 would seem to confirm this. Officially they are listed as ‘lost’, but in fact there was never a definite system for taking them m the first plane.
25 The Australian Naval Board Scandal, p 16.
26 Ibid, p 45
27 Parliament of the Commonwealth of Australia – Royal Commission ‘Report on Naval Administration’. 4 October 1918, MP 341/1, File 1918/434.
28 The Australian Naval Board Scandal, p. 13
30 This too was criticised by the Royal Commission in 1918 as simply over-proliferation It meant that resources could not be concentrated on completion of one main base. Royal Commission, “Report…’, p 26 But one should not place all of the blame for this on Creswell, it should be noted that the United States suffered from exactly the same problem in the 1920s and that it is perhaps a truism that identifiable and autonomous sub-units exert a political influence out of all proportion to their size in establishing naval facilities in a federal system. See Lt R E. Krause, ‘The Trend in Naval Affairs’, United States Naval Institute Proceedings, Vol LI, No 4, April 1925, p 527
31 For details on Creswell’s involvement in the Henderson Report see Letter Thring to Bazley, 22 September 1938, Bazley Papers, AWM.
32 Admiral Sir Reginald Henderson’s Recommendations, 1 March 1911, MP 1587, File 218V, N A
33 Thring was in fact responsible for the setting up of a Naval Intelligence Service. ‘Report on the Naval Intelligence Service June 1918,’ MP1049, File S1, 18/0325 N.A See ‘Report on the Naval Defence of Australia’, by Commander W H Thring. 5 July 1913; ‘Strategical Report with Some Notes on Preparations for War’, by Captain Constantine Hughes-Onslow, undated, MP 1587, File 186 AK N A
34 ‘Naval Policy of Australia’. Remarks by Mr Manisty, 3 September 1913, MP 1049/1, File 1915/054, NA
35 ‘Report on the Naval Defence of Australia’, Summation by Commander W H. Thring. 5 July 1913, MP 1049/1, File 1915/054, N A
36 Remarks by the First Naval Member, 1 September 1913, MP 1049/1, File 1915/054, N A
37 ‘Defence of Australia -Port Stephens and Jervis Bay’, Appreciation by Admiral Creswell, 17 June 1912. File 1851/2/14, B 197.
38 Decisions of the Naval Board on Thursday 17 July 1913, Decisions of the Naval Board, Monday 21 July 1913, MP 1049/1, File 1915/054.
40 Webster argues Creswell was in favour of the Henderson scheme. See the exchange of views within the Round Table ‘Memo by Admiral Creswell’ 4 November 1912. MS 11/6/1/3, Harrison Moore Papers, Melbourne University Archives.
41 Covering Memorandum to the Strategical Reports by 2nd Naval Member, 8 September 1913, MP 1049/1, File 1915/054.
42 Minute by Naval Board, 4 September 1913; Remarks by the First Naval Member, 1 September 1913, MP 1049/1, File 1915/054
43 Minute by William Clarkson, Third Naval Member, 25 August 1913, MP1049/1, File 1915/054, N A
44 Remarks by 1st Naval Member, 1 September 1913, MP 1049/1, File 1915/054.
45 The Australian Naval Board Scandal, p 29.
46 Ibid.; p 30
47 Ltr Hughes-Onslow to the Minister, 11 August 1913, ‘Victualling and Messing’, Report Hughes-Onslow to Minister for Defence, 12 August 1913, cited in The Australian Naval Board Scandal, pp.32-33.
48 Ibid , p 34.
49 Despatch Governor-General to Secretary of State for Colonial Affairs. 16 December 1913, C.O. 418/111/2081.
50 not there
51 See The Commonwealth Gazette. 19 November 1913.
52 Minute by First Lord of the Admiralty, 19 August 1912, ADM. 1/8217, PRO.
53 Ltr. Governor General to Secretary of State for Colonies, 7 February 1914, Vol 2, PM’s Department Outward Letter Book, A 738, WA
54 Ltr. Patey to ADM., 19 March 1913, ADM. 1/8217. Churchill had written wrote to Harcourt expressing a preference for Patey as Commander of the Australian Fleet Unit. See Ltr Churchill to Harcourt, 7 February 1913, C 0 418/110/1555.
55 Speech by Mr Mathews, Member for Melbourne Ports, 2 October 1913,Parliamentary Debates, House of Representatives, Vol LXXI, 1913, p 1809.