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Newspaper clipping addressing the visit of HMS DORSETSHIRE and RMS EMPRESS OF BRITAIN

Date: 1938
Medium: Ink on paper
Credit Line: ANMM Collection Gift from the Estate of John Watt
Object Name: Newspaper clipping
Object No: ANMS0405[028]
Related Place:Circular Quay,

User Terms

    This newspaper clipping features two photographic prints of HMS DORSETSHIRE and RMS EMPRESS OF BRITAIN, which arrived in Sydney in April 1938. The RMS EMPRESS OF BRITAIN is the upper image with the text below it reading, 'The Empress of Britain outside the Heads....' The HMS DORSETSHIRE is the lower image with the text below it reading, 'Another Celebrations Visitor: H.M.S. / Dorsetshire berthed at Circular Quay. / Her displacement is 9900 tons.'
    SignificanceNewspaper and magazine reports of the day present a snapshot into the excitement surrounding the arrival of the ships for the Sesquicentenary celebrations. They display popular perceptions held by the general public of Sydney and its distinctive maritime qualities.
    HistoryOn 2 April 1938, RMS EMPRESS OF BRITAIN arrived in Sydney Harbour to the cheers of thousands of Sydneysiders. The Argus in Melbourne reported that royal and distinguished passengers Princess Della Torre E. Tasso of Duino, Lord Tennyson, an English Test captain, and his wife arrived in Sydney for the first time. Amidst the buzz and excitement, the next day HMS DORSETSHIRE sailed into Sydney Harbour for the celebrations marking the 150th anniversary of British settlement in Australia. Although RMS EMPRESS OF BRITAIN only stayed for three days before moving on to Melbourne, HMS DORSETSHIRE stayed in dock in Sydney for almost a month. The Sydney Morning Herald provided occasional reports on the warship's stay.

    On 4 April 1938, The Sydney Morning Herald reported:
    Arrival at Sydney

    The thousands who inspected H.M.S. Dorsetshire during the week-end saw no signs of the severe buffeting the cruiser received in a cyclone off the Queensland coast.

    The Dorsetshire, which is representing the Royal Navy at the 150th Anniversary celebrations, encountered a 75-mile-an-hour gale off the coast near Brisbane and suffered minor damage. The breakwater, a steel plate on the bows, was bent by the force of the waves.

    The Dorsetshire arrived on Saturday morning, and was watched by the thousands who had assembled on the foreshores and at Fort Macquarie to witness the arrival of the Empress of Britain. She berthed at Circular Quay.

    The cruiser is of the same class as H.M.A.S Canberra. She is attached to the China station, but she began her cruise to Sydney from Singapore, where the crew attended the opening of the new naval base. On her quarter-deck are inscribed the names of the battles in which the former Dorsetshire - a sailing vessel - took part.

    Commanded by Captain F. R. Barry, the cruiser carries 709 officers and men. The ratings are very young, the average age being not more than 20. This is a sign of the intensive recruiting for the navy since Great Britain commenced her programme of naval expansion.

    When she was launched in 1930, the Dorsetshire was identical with the Canberra, but recently she was refitted with more modern guns. The sister ships exchanged salutes as the Dorsetshire steamed past the Canberra, anchored in Farm Cove.


    Few of the officers have visited Sydney before, and almost none of the crew, has travelled farther from England than the East.

    The cruiser was stationed chiefly in North China during the fighting recently. Her crew saw very little actual warfare, although they witnessed the peaceful occupation of Tsing-tao by the Japanese. The Chinese soldiers had evacuated the city before the Japanese fleet arrived, and a landing party from the warships entered without any resistance being offered.

    During her passage down the Queensland coast the Dorsetshire followed the example of Cook's Endeavour and anchored at sunset, without attempting the dangerous passage at night.

    H.M.S. Dorsetshire was ordered to Sydney with only a few days' notice, and no programme has yet been arranged. She will remain in harbour until April 27, in order that the crew may take part in the Anzac Day celebrations.'

    On its final day in the city on 28 April, the Herald reported that several British naval officers 'failed to answer their names when the roll was called'. One officer stated, 'Considering Sydney's attractions...perhaps we are fortunate that so few failed to show up.' Thousands of people gathered to farewell the officers, with many appearing 'to be on friendly terms with someone on board'.

    President of the Canadian Pacific Railway Company, Sir Edward Beatty is recorded in newspapers as saying 'We have been much impressed by the reception given to the Empress of Britain by the Australian people, and I desire to convey thanks through you for the cordiality and generosity displayed on the occasion of the liner's visit to Sydney and Melbourne.'

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