- Periodical, Semaphore
- History - Between the wars
- RAN Ships
- HMAS Fantome, HMAS Brisbane I, HMAS Encounter
- September 2010 edition of the Naval Historical Review (all rights reserved)
With Encounter running short of coal, Thring sailed for Suva on 7 December. Arriving two days later he received orders to return directly to Sydney. Encounter reached Sydney on 17 December and was immediately placed in quarantine. Only one member of her crew had shown any signs of illness during the voyage, and as testament to the effectiveness of the prophylactic and quarantine measures employed, none developed influenza.
Thus ended Australia’s first overseas relief expedition. This was one which, although unusual for the times, foreshadowed the now regular employment of the RAN’s assets to provide humanitarian assistance and demonstrate national interest in regional affairs. Indeed, in the context of the maritime doctrinal concepts of flexibility and adaptability, it should be noted that Thring’s orders were not restricted to providing medical aid. Preserving order in the Pacific was among the many subsidiary duties undertaken by the early RAN, and warnings of trouble brewing among the inhabitants of the Gilbert and Ellice Islands (now Kiribati and Tuvalu) had been received by the Naval Board in the weeks before the expedition.
While in Suva, Thring took care to discuss with Rodwell how best a warship might support his authority. On this occasion, no immediate assistance was necessary, but Encounter’s mission might easily have been extended to provide presence elsewhere, and back this up with a large landing force if necessary. It remains a poignant reminder that, by their nature, seaborne forces possess a variety of characteristics and attributes which are not necessarily present in other tools of government foreign policy.