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HMS DORSETSHIRE at Circular Quay

Date: April 1938
Overall: 105 x 80 mm
Medium: Emulsion on nitrate film.
Credit Line: ANMM Collection
Object Name: Nitrate negative
Object No: 00022213
Place Manufactured:Circular Quay
Related Place:Circular Quay,

User Terms

    This image depicts the British warship HMS DORSETSHIRE docked portside in East Circular Quay. On 3 April 1938, HMS DORSETSHIRE arrived in Sydney for the celebrations marking the 150th anniversary of British settlement in Australia. The Sydney Morning Herald provided occasional reports on the warship's 26-day stay. 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'.
    SignificanceThe Samuel J Hood photographic collection records an extensive range of maritime activity on Sydney Harbour, including sail and steam ships, warships, 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. They are also highly competent artistic studies and views - Hood was regarded as an important figure in early Australian photojournalism. Hood’s maritime photographs are one of the most significant collections of such work in Australia.
    HistoryThe Sydney Morning Herald of 4 April 1938 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.'

    While it is tempting to dwell on the subtext behind those 'friendly terms', there were other reports that marred the visit of HMS DORSETSHIRE.

    The Argus in Melbourne reported on 5 May 1938:
    Brisbane. Wednesday - No solution has been offered for the fatal shooting of Leading Seamen Robert Edmund Dickenson, aged 29 years, which occurred on H.M.S. Dorsetshire early on Monday morning, when the warship was between Townsville and Cairns. Captain F.R. Barry, commander of the Dorsetshire, to-day refused to comment on the tragedy, saying that the matter was closed so far as the public was concerned.’

    The Northern Standard in Darwin further expanded on the incident, when it reported on 8 July that 'Seaman Dwyer, who was charged with the murder of Seaman Dickinson, of H.M.S. Dorsetshire, at Cairns, was acquitted. The acquittal was received with an outburst of cheering by sailors in court. It followed a brilliant plea by defending counsel (Dalmada, a Portugese). He emphasised that evidence for the prosecution was wholly circumstantial and that any one of the 150 men had an equal opportunity to murder Dickinson. The jury was absent for 49 minutes.'
    Additional Titles

    Web title: HMS DORSETSHIRE at Circular Quay


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