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Flying Squadron rounding Bradley's Head in Sydney Harbour, December 1869

Date: 1869
Sight: 145 x 272 mm
Overall: 548 x 659 x 27 mm, 3.4 kg
Image: 145 x 272 mm
Medium: Watercolour paint, paper
Credit Line: ANMM Collection
Object Name: Painting
Object No: 00017882
Place Manufactured:Sydney
Related Place:Bradleys Head,

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    A monochrome watercolour showing the Royal Navy Flying Squadron making their official entry into Sydney Harbour , saluting as they round Bradley's Head. Attributed to the artist Frederick Garling.

    The visit was part of a circumnavigation of the world under the command of Admiral Hornby. According to the photocopy of an inscription on the back of the frame written by Sub-Lieutenant James Burgess on the PHOEBE, the image depicts the Squadron's official entry into Sydney Harbour on 12 December 1869. The ships had entered the day before on the 11 December and had anchored at the Quarantine Station near Manly. Burgess identifies the ships as the frigates LIVERPOOL, ENDYMION, PHOEBE and LIFFEY and the corvettes SCYLLA and BAROSSA.
    SignificanceFrederick Garling's sketch captures the essence of Royal Navy performance and might in mid-Victorian times. It shows their impact on colonial society and illustrates a particular stage in warship design and strategy.
    HistoryThe artist Frederick Garling (1806-1873) has a prominent place among Australian maritime painters. As official artist
    on Stirling's expedition to Swan River and as a Customs official in Sydney he had a thorough knowledge of ships and
    an accurate eye in depicting them. He produced an extensive body of work, mostly in watercolour, characterised by fine detail and careful composition.
    Garling is regarded as being faithful and accurate in his portrayals of ships. He lent a watercolour painting 'Flying Squadron' for display at the Sydney Intercolonial Exhibition in 1870, where it received a 'commended' award in an amateur class. It seems probable that this monochrome sketch was a study for another larger work.
    The painting shows a lively scene on Sydney harbour with a line of warships, clouds of smoke from a gun salute and a
    number of other craft - small sail and pulling boats as well as a paddle wheel ferry or two - obviously out on the
    water to see the Squadron.
    There is a stately feeling imparted by the line of tall rigging as the warships advance in procession, in single file, up harbour. The puffs of smoke and bustle of small craft and spectators give a context of celebration.

    The painting gains additional interest from the inscriptionon it's back by James Burgess. He had been a sub-lieutenant in HMS PHOEBE, one of the ships in the Squadron. Burgess noted that he had discovered the picture in a 'Curiosity Shop' in Sydney in 1907 and went on to comment on the appearance of the vessels. Despite Garling's reputation for accuracy, Burgess seems to be correcting him on order of the line and the paint worn by one of the ships (his phrasing is a little unclear) .

    'The Flying Squadron' (more properly the Particular Service Squadron) of the Royal Navy visited the Australian colonies in 1869 in the course of around the-world voyage intended both for training ships' companies
    and testing the capabilities of steam-driven warships to go long distances under sail power. The ships were all wooden hulled, fully rigged for sail, and fitted with steam engines. This reflects an interesting stage in the
    development of warships and the interlinked naval strategies of the day. Auxiliary steampower was used in warships from about 1850, and was one of the greatest 19th century innovations in warship development, since it gave ships
    power of movement in tactics and action independent of wind. But sail was still necessary for long voyages because of the difficulty and cost of carrying and obtaining enroute adequate coal supplies. The Admiralty's' blue water' strategy underlay the Royal Navy's supremacy on the high seas throughout the nineteenth century; it entailed long patrols by ships in squadrons, and the ability to gather together in an overwhelming fleet in the event of conflict anywhere in the world.

    Garling's picture of the Flying Squadron shows the Royal Navy in operation at the height of its power and mystique.
    The Squadron was commanded by Rear-Admiral G.T.P.Hornby; at this time the Australia Station was still commanded only by a Commodore.The sailors in the Squadron were being trained up to the crack standards for which the Royal Navy was famous. Surplus numbers of men were carried for distribution to the naval stations visited around the world.
    The voyage of the Flying Squadron was indeed an exercise in showing the flag and demonstrating strength and the visit to Sydney had a strong element of spectacle.
    The six ships approached Port Jackson in two columns under plain sail watched by' some thousands of persons' on South Head. The double line which they kept until abreast of the upper light-house was then changed, and the LIVERPOOL entered the Heads with her consorts following in line, every ship carrying all sail up to royals then, as if by magic, the yards seemed imbued with life, and with an alacrity speaking volumes for the admirable efficiency characteristic of all well disciplined British men-of-war, everything was furled, yards squared, and all made snug in a few minutes after the anchors were down.

    The next day residents had 'the opportunity of witnessing the war vessels under steam as they proceeded in line to
    their anchorage in Farm Cove, at tended by yachts, steamers and ferries, and receiving and returning salutes as they rounded Bradley's Head. This is the moment recorded by Garling. It is interesting that he portrayed this event, rather than the more picturesque scene of the ships approaching under full sail which newspapers of the day illustrated. Warships moving understeam were seen in 1869 as signs of modernity and power, and Garling's sketch gives these ships an air of drama and importance.
    One newspaper wrote that the Squadron provided 'the grandest nautical display sever witnessed in this harbour'. It listed every officer (including J.O.Burgess) in the Squadron, and carried portraits of all six Commanders. Two grand balls were given for them, and a public reception in the form of a picnic was held.

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