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To commemorate the first visit of the Commonwealth Fleet to Sydney

Date: 1913
Dimensions:
Overall: 30 mm
Medium: Bronze
Credit Line: ANMM Collection Gift from Jean Beckett
Object Name: Medalet
Object No: 00030114
Related Place:Sydney,

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    Description
    This medalet commemorates the entrance of the newly formed Royal Australian Navy into Sydney on 4 October 1913. The obverse depicts the flagship of the fleet HMAS AUSTRALIA at anchor at Farm Cove. The reverse is inscribed 'To Commemorate the First Visit of the Commonwealth Fleet to Sydney'.
    SignificanceThe formation of the Royal Australian Navy (RAN) was a milestone in the Federation of Australia. When the flagship HMAS AUSTRALIA led the nation's new naval fleet into Sydney Harbour on 4 October 1913, huge crowds watched their arrival. This medalet was issued to New South Wales children who were granted the day off school, and is a tangible reminder of the important historic event.
    History"The arrival of the Australian fleet unit is not only an historic event, it is one of supreme significance. It marks a new era in Australian development. By the establishment of the Commonwealth the old colonial regime came to an end. We had created the means by which we could become a nation."

    So said Mr William M Hughes MP of the formation and arrival of the new Royal Australian Navy fleet in Sydney on 4 October 1913 ('Mr W M Hughes's View', The Sydney Morning Herald, Monday 6 October 1913, p 8). Tens of thousands of people flocked to Sydney Harbour to witness the arrival of the fleet just after 9:30am, led by flagship battle cruiser HMAS AUSTRALIA, and followed by light cruisers HMA Ships MELBOURNE, SYDNEY and ENCOUNTER, and destroyers YARRA, PARAMATTA and WARREGO.

    Large crowds of sightseers gathered at Mrs Macquaries chair, the Botanic Gardens, Government House, Farm Cove, and the various Sydney headlands. Many spectators were forced to walk to vantage points as the trams services struggled with the crowds. The crowded northern suburb ferries, which moved slowly across the harbor, were suspended from 9.30 - 11.30am. Sydney Harbour Trust regulations didn't stop Mr A J Vogan, who left early enough on his yacht GWALLA to greet the fleet eight miles outside the Heads. In the harbour, boats of all descriptions swarmed around the fleet to get a closer view.

    The buildings of Sydney were decorated with flags and banners, arches were erected over roads, and bands played patriotic Australian songs. The thousands of young spectators - who were granted the day off school - dressed in red, white and blue. The celebrations continued through out the night, as the warships were lighted from stem to stern. The flagship AUSTRALIA, "with its thousand electric lights, was the centre of the picture, a thing of dazzling beauty" ('Warships Illuminated', The Sydney Morning Herald , Monday 6 October 1913, p 6).

    HMAS 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 Co Ltd at Glasgow and sailed for Australia in 1913 after extensive gun, torpedo and machinery trials. 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, www.environment.gov.au/heritage/shipwrecks/australian.html (19/04/2011)

    Additional Titles

    Primary title: To Commemorate the First Visit of the Commonwealth Fleet to Sydney

    Web title: To commemorate the first visit of the Commonwealth Fleet to Sydney

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