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Sailors with demolition charges on HMAS AUSTRALIA I

Date: April 1924
Medium: Emulsion on glass
Credit Line: ANMM Collection
Object Name: Glass plate negative
Object No: 00034974
Place Manufactured:Garden Island

User Terms

    This image depicts two sailors holding demolition charges on the deck of the former HMAS AUSTRALIA I in preparation for scuttling on 12 April 1924, some 24 miles from inner South Head of Sydney.

    An article in 'The Sydney Morning Herald' explained who was onboard:

    'It is by no means surprising that there was a rush of volunteers for the naval party which is to accompany the HMAS AUSTRALIA to her sinking place... a large number of naval ratings and officers volunteered for the work, but a very happy selection was made by those in high command. It was decided that only men who had served on HMAS AUSTRALIA would be eligible, and so 15 petty officers and stokers with long service on the vessel were chosen for the work.'

    [‘Desolate Scene’, The Sydney Morning Herald, Saturday 12 April 1924, p 17]
    SignificanceThe Samuel J Hood photographic collection records an extensive range of maritime activity on Sydney Harbour, including sail and steam ships, naval vessels, crew portraits, crews at work, ship interiors, stevedores loading and unloading cargo, port scenes, pleasure boats and harbourside social activities from the 1890s through to the 1950s. This photograph depicts a significant part of Australia's naval history, the fall of the Royal Australian Navy's first flagship - HMAS AUSTRALIA I.
    HistoryHMAS AUSTRALIA I was an Indefatigable class battle cruiser launched in 1911 and later commissioned as the first flagship of the Royal Australian Navy. It was built by John Brown and Company Ltd at Glasgow and sailed for Australia in 1913 after extensive gun, torpedo and machinery trials. It led the Australian Fleet Unit consisting of MELBOURNE, SYDNEY, ENCOUNTER, YARRA, WARREGO and PARRAMATTA into Sydney Harbour on 4 October 1913. It was the embodiment of the Commonwealth of Australia's sea power, and as the flagship of the new Fleet, was the focal point of public interest. AUSTRALIA visited most of Australia's main ports in the first year and several songs and music compositions were dedicated to the vessel.

    In World War I HMAS AUSTRALIA was active in the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans during which time the ship became the first battle cruiser to launch an aircraft in 1918 (light cruiser HMAS SYDNEY I was the first Australian ship to launch an aircraft in 1917). In the Pacific AUSTRALIA took part in seizing German Pacific colonies and destroying their radio networks. In the Atlantic it took part in sweeps, patrols and convoy escort tasks particularly in the North Sea and was present at the surrender of the German Fleet at Firth of Forth, Scotland in November 1918. HMAS AUSTRALIA arrived back in Australia in 1919.

    After the war, AUSTRALIA resumed normal duties in Australian waters until December 1921 when a lack of funding saw the vessel paid off into reserve. Most of the vessel's useful equipment and fittings were removed, and eventually it was decided to scrap AUSTRALIA under the terms of the Washington Naval Treaty of 1922 (which aimed at reducing global tonnage of warships after World War I). In January 1924, AUSTRALIA was sold for a mere £3,000 and on 12 April the battle cruiser was scuttled by demolition charges off Sydney Heads. In attendance were HMA Ships BRISBANE and ANZAC, and HM Ships DEHLI, DANAE, DAUNTLESS and DRAGON of the British Light Cruiser Squadron and steamers crowded with spectators. The vessel disappeared amid almost as much fanfare as when it first arrived in Australia only 11 years previously.

    In March 2007 the deepest ever remote operated shipwreck survey was undertaken some 50 kilometres off Sydney. The survey was a joint venture between the Royal Australian Navy, Defence Maritime Services and the Heritage Office, NSW Department of Planning. The visiting US Navy submersible CURV descended 380 metres down to the 180-metre long, 19,000 ton shipwreck - the largest in Australian waters. The site is protected under the Commonwealth Historic Shipwrecks Act (1976).

    Source: 'Famous Australian Shipwrecks', Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities, (19/04/2011)
    Additional Titles

    Assigned title: Image depicting the scuttling of HMAS AUSTRALIA (I) off Sydney Heads

    Web title: Sailors with demolition charges on HMAS AUSTRALIA I

    Primary title: Sailors with demolition charges

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