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Bookshelf constructed from timber from Burdekin house and HMAS SYDNEY

Date: 1934
Overall: 195 x 378 x 140 mm, 1 kg
Medium: wood
Credit Line: ANMM Collection Gift from the Women's Pioneer Society of Australasia
Object Name: Bookshelf
Object No: 00045839

User Terms

    This handmade wooden bookshelf was built by S H Ravenscroft using timber from HMAS SYDNEY (I) and the historic Sydney building Burdekin House.
    SignificanceThis bookshelf demonstrates the production of souvenir items out of ship parts and other relics. It represents the vessel HMAS SYDNEY (I), as well as the historic Sydney building Burdekin House and how they have been commemorated by the general public .
    HistoryMr S H Ravenscroft was the landlord of Shirley House at 61 Market Street, the old premises of the Women's Pioneer Society.

    Burdekin House, located at 197 Macquarie St, Sydney, was built in 1841, probably by the architect James Hume for Thomas Burdekin (1801-1844). Burdekin was one of the most successful merchants of the 1830s in Sydney. He arrived in 1828 from London to establish a branch of 'Burdekin and Hawley', his family firm of ironmongers and general merchants, from which he prospered enormously and became a major property and land owner in Sydney and rural New South Wales.

    James Hume (1798-1868) was one of Sydney's earliest architects. He drew up the plans for St. Andrew's Cathedral (the foundation stone for which was laid in 1837) and the first building of the Great Synagogue (the foundation stone for which was laid in 1842).

    Burdekin House was occupied by members of the Burdekin family until its sale in 1922. Thomas Burdekin married Mary Ann Bossley and when he died in 1844 he left considerable property to her and to his four sons, Lloyd, Bossley, Marshall (1837-1886) and Sydney (1839-1899).

    When Burdekin House was first put up for sale in 1922, a hotel to be called the 'Waldorf Astoria' was initially proposed for the site. As a result, the Royal Australian Historical Society (founded in 1901) lobbied government to aquire the house for preservation. Although their attempt was unsuccessful, the house's destruction was averted when it was sold in 1924 to Thomas Ernest Rofe (1869-1945), a Sydney businessman and philanthropist. The grand spaces on the ground floor, and the back courtyard, were given over to the Royal Prince Alfred Hospital Ladies' Auxilliary for fund-raising functions and the upstairs rooms were let as studios for artists. A major public exhibition of fine and decorative arts was held at Burdekin House between 8 October and 21 December, 1929.

    HMAS SYDNEY was a Chatham class light cruiser built by the London-Glasgow Shipbuilding Company, Scotland. She was laid down in February, 1911 and launched on 29 August, 1912 by Lady Henderson, wife of Admiral Sir Reginald Henderson.

    Joining the battlecruiser HMAS AUSTRALIA at Portsmouth, SYDNEY was commissioned on 26 June, 1913. The two vessels then sailed for Australia in July, 1913 via St. Helena, Capetown and Mauritius, eventually making landfall at Albany, Western Australia for coaling on 19 September, 1913. In order to make their arrival all the more momentous the two ships were ordered to avoid major ports, travelling straight to Jervis Bay where the remainder of the main Australian fleet, HMAS MELBOURNE, HMAS ENCOUNTER, and three newly built destroyers were at anchor. The fleet then sailed north on the short voyage to Sydney triumphantly arriving in October, 1913.

    SYDNEY had been commissioned under the command of Captain John C. T. Glossop (1871-1934). The vessel's displacement was 5,400 tons, whilst her armament would ultimately consist of eight six-inch guns, one 13-pounder gun, four 3-pounder guns and two torpedo tubes. She was the sister ship to HMAS MELBOURNE and HMAS BRISBANE. The Chatham class was a subclass to the Town class light cruisers of the Royal Navy. Known to Australians simply as the Sydney class, the Chatham class differed from other subcategories of the Town class by having reduced deck armour in order to incorporate newly developed belt armour. Their six-inch guns were mounted in single turrets with no secondary armament other than her anti-aircraft weaponary that would be further increased during the First World War. The Chatham Class also had aircraft fitted during the War.

    Following a period spent in eastern Australian ports, SYDNEY proceeded to Singapore in March, 1914, to act as escort to the two new Royal Australian Navy submarines AE1 and AE2. Although the two submarines had managed to reach Singapore with comparatively little trouble, the next stage of the voyage to Australia would make up for this lack of incident. Soon after leaving port AE1 lost all power and SYDNEY was forced to take her in tow while repairs were carried out. In fierce currents the tow rope parted and AE1 was nearly rammed by AE2, which had to take drastic evasive action. As a result of this the helm of AE2 was found to be jammed and the two submarines were drifting helplessly out of control. SYDNEY had to cope with the situation but found that she herself was out of action as the parted tow rope had twisted itself around her rudder rendering the vessel immoveable. When going to the submarines' rescue she was unable to turn and very nearly rammed them.

    Captain Glossop ordered all three vessels to anchor until morning when a diver was put over to free the SYDNEY's rudder. AE1 was taken in tow once more and the flotilla got underway bound for Darwin. The flotilla entered Sydney harbour on the 24 May, 1914, where they were welcomed by the entire Australian fleet. SYDNEY spent the remainder of the pre-war months in Australian waters.

    On 3 August, 1914, SYDNEY was joined at Townsville, Queensland, by the destroyers HMAS WARREGO and HMAS YARRA before proceeding north to form a unit in Admiral Patey's Pacific Squadron. Following the outbreak of war the following day, SYDNEY operated in New Guinea and Pacific waters, taking part in the brief Allied campaign against the German Pacific posessions and carrying out a series of punative patrols. Highlights during this period included the capture of Rabaul (the capital of German New Guinea) between 9 and 11 September, 1914 and the destruction of the Angaur Island (now part of Palau) Wireless Station on 26 September, 1914.

    In October, 1914, SYDNEY and her sister ship MELBOURNE detatched from the Flagship HMAS AUSTRALIA and returned to Australia to form part of the escort for the first ANZAC convoy, which consisted of thirty eight transports carrying 20, 000 men and 7,500 horses. The escort consisted of SYDNEY, MELBOURNE, the British armoured cruiser HMS MINOTAUR and the Japanese battlecruiser IBUKI. The convoy left Albany, Western Australia on 1 November, 1914, bound for the Middle East. It was timed to pass some fifty miles east of the Cocos Islands on the morning of 9 November, 1914.

    At 0620 on 9 November, wireless telegraphy operators in several transports and in the warships picked up signals in an unknown code, followed by a query from the Cocos Island Wireless Telegraphy Station asking 'What is that code?' It was, in fact, the German cruiser SMS EMDEN ordering her collier BURESK to join her at Point (sometimes called 'Port') Refuge (part of the Cocos Island Group). After some debate between the vessels over which of the escorts should be dispatched, it was decided that SYDNEY, as the warship nearest to Cocos, should be sent. Detatching itself from the convoy at 0700 SYDNEY was able to exceed her designed speed, arriving at Cocos at 0915 and spotting EMDEN some seven or eight miles distant. At a range of 10, 500 yards EMDEN opened fire and SYDNEY was soon under heavy fire. SYDNEY was, however, faster and better armed than her German opponent and by 1115 EMDEN lay wrecked on North Keeling Island, although it continued to resist. SYDNEY then left the scene to persue the BURESK and, having forced the collier to be scuttled by its crew, returned at 1300 to secure EMDEN's surrender. Four members of SYDNEY's crew had been killed, whilst twelve had been wounded.

    On 15 November, 1914, SYDNEY arrived in Colombo, Sri Lanka, and from there was ordered to proceed to Malta where she arrived on 3 December. She was then ordered to Bermuda to join the North American and West Indies Stations for patrol duty. For the next eighteen months SYDNEY was engaged in observing neutral ports in the Americas, mainly in the West Indies with Jamaica as a base and off Long Island with Halifax as a base and Squadron Headquarters at Bermuda. SYDNEY finally left Bermuda on 9 September, 1916, arriving in Devonport, England, on 19 September, and from there proceeded to Greenock, Scotland for refit.

    On 31 October, 1916, SYDNEY was temporarily attached to the 5TH BATTLE SQUADRON at Scapa Flow, Scotland. On 15 November, she sailed for Rosyth, Scotland, whereupon she joined the 2ND LIGHT CRUISER SQUADRON, consisting of the four sister ships HMS SOUTHAMPTON, HMS DUBLIN, HMAS MELBOURNE and HMAS SYDNEY, attached to the 2ND BATTLE SQUADRON of which HMAS AUSTRALIA was flagship. For the remainder of the War SYDNEY's duties were confined to routine North Sea patrols.

    On 4 May, 1917, while on patrol between the Humber Estuary and the mouth of the Firth, SYDNEY fought a running engagement with the German zeppelin L43. After both combatants had expended all of their ammunition to no avail they reportedly parted company on good terms. In August, SYDNEY commenced a three month refit at Chatham, England, during which she aquired the tripod mast that is now sited at Bradleys Head, Sydney. Of greater significance, however, was the fact that she was fitted with the first revolving aircraft launching platform to be installed onboard a warship.

    On arrival at Scapa Flow in December, 1917, SYDNEY's commanding officer, Captain J. S. Dumaresq (who took over from Glossop earlier in the year on 5 February) borrowed a Sopwith Pup that was then being operated from a fixed platform onboard HMS DUBLIN. On 8 December the aircraft was successfully launched from the SYDNEY's platform in a fixed position. It was the first aircraft to take off from an Australian warship. Nine days later the Pup flew off the platform while it was turned into the wind; the first time an aircraft had been launched from such a platform in a revolved position. Early in 1918, SYDNEY took onboard a Sopwith Camel as a replacement for the Sopwith Pup.

    On 1 June, 1918, as British forces entered enemy controlled waters, two German sea planes were sighted by SYDNEY at 0933, diving towards HMAS MELBOURNE. Both planes dropped bombs although no hits were scored. The SYDNEY's Sopwith Camel was launched at 0955, together with the MELBOURNE's at 1000 to find and engage the German planes. MELBOURNE's pilot Lieutenant L. B. Gibson, failed to locate the enemy sea planes and soon returned. SYDNEY's pilot, Lieutenant A. C. Sharwood, on the other hand, persued the Germans for nearly sixty miles before he was able to engage them, shooting one of them down and being forced to bail out himself when he failed to relocate the SYDNEY. Sharwood's claim of one enemy sea plane having been shot down was not recognized by the Admiralty on the grounds that there was no independent corroboration. The incident did, however, serve to confirm Dumaresq's faith in aircraft.

    SYDNEY was present at the surrender of the German Grand Fleet on 21 November, 1918. She sailed from Portsmouth on 9 April, 1919, for the return passage to Australia. Other than visits to New Guinea in 1922 and New Caledonia and the Solomons in 1927, SYDNEY spent the remainder of her seagoing career in home waters, serving as flagship to the Australian Squadron from September, 1924 until October, 1927. She paid off at Sydney on 8 May, 1928. On 10 January, 1929, she was delivered to Cockatoo Island for breaking up.

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