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ANMM Collection Reproduced courtesy of Donald Bastock

The last flagship of the Australia Station HMS CAMBRIAN

Date: c 1988
Dimensions:
Overall: 480 x 747 mm, 0.05 kg
Medium: Oil on composite board
Credit Line: ANNM Collection Gift from John Bastock
Object Copyright: © Donald Bastock
Classification:Art
Object Name: Painting
Object No: 00016912
Place Manufactured:Australia

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    Description
    This painting depicts the second-class protected cruiser HMS CAMBRIAN - the last flagship of Royal Navy's Australia Station - dressed overall saluting the arrival of the new Australian Fleet in Sydney on 4 October 1913. The flagship HMAS AUSTRALIA and HMAS MELBOURNE are in the background surrounded by various small craft.
    SignificanceThis painting depicts the arrival of the new Royal Australian Navy's fleet in Sydney, and the last flagship of the Royal Navy's Australia Station, HMS CAMBRIAN.
    HistoryUntil the 1850s Australasia was covered by the East India Station, a vast area that included the Indian Ocean and the waters around Australia. After pressure from the colonial governments of New Zealand and Australia the Royal Navy formed the Australia Station as a separate command in 1859. The station was established to guard British shipping and trade in the Australasian region and ensure sea routes were open and safe.

    The second-class protected cruiser HMS CAMBRIAN was launched at Pembroke on 30 January 1893, and started service with the Royal Navy's Australia Station in 1905, and became the last flagship of the station. CAMBRIAN's duties on the station were largely routine patrols including a number of trips to New Zealand. On 4 October 1913, the newly formed Royal Australian Navy's (RAN) fleet arrived in Sydney, and took command of Australian waterways. CAMBRIAN left Australia in October 1913 and returned to England. By 1923 after having undertaking harbour duties and being renamed HARLECH and then VIVID, the ship was scuttled.

    "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 Australian 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 people flocked to Sydney Harbour to witness the arrival of the fleet just after 9:30am, led by flagship battle cruiser HMAS AUSTRALIA, 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. The 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.

    Additional Titles

    Assigned title: The last flagship of the Australia station HMS CAMBRIAN

    Web title: The last flagship of the Australia Station HMS CAMBRIAN

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