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Invitation for the launch of HMAS WARREGO

Date: 4 April 1911
Overall: 140 x 193 mm
Medium: Ink on paper
Credit Line: ANMM Collection Gift from Pamela Burden
Object Name: Invitation
Object No: 00016851
Place Manufactured:Sydney

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    HistoryFrom the Sydney Morning Herald, 5 April 1911 comes a description of the launch of HMAS WARREGO:
    "I name thee Warrego. In time of danger may thy movement be swift." Smash went a bottle of Australian champagne as the words were pronounced by Mrs. Pearce, wife of the Minister for Defence, and the third ship of the Commonwealth navy slid peacefully into the water. The setting of the scene was Fitzroy Dock, the time noon, and the date yesterday, April 4, 1911. Never before was there a display so brilliant on the Parramatta River. No aquatic event ever attracted such crowds; no function ever brought together a more distinguished gathering. The river was a mass of moving craft. Steamers and boats of all sorts, shapes, and sizes, decorated with all the flags and bunting they could procure, and carrying as many passengers as they dared, manoeuvred warily within prescribed limits. They came right on to the fringe of a line of danger flags, several times the length of the destroyer, and there awaited the eventful moment to cheer and shout.
    How many people turned out to see the Warrego launched it would be impossible to accurately state. But 50,000 would not be an unreasonable estimate. The island itself contained thousands of spectators, there were thousands on the water, and on every eminence within sight thousands and thousands more showed up. The heights and the foreshores of Balmain opposite the dock were black with heads. The trams could be seen emptying people out at every street which led down to the water's edge. They came along in hundreds upon hundreds, and wedged themselves in somewhere.
    A striking feature of the ceremony was the immense enthusiasm displayed. The crowds were out to do the thing properly. Officialdom had done its part, and the people backed it up nobly. Not only were the river craft gaily bedecked, but also the houses within the scene. Flagstaffs carried all the flags that could be begged or borrowed, and from numerous verandahs and balconies waved an Australian ensign or a Union Jack. The Warrego herself, as she lay high and dry on the slip, was a string of flags from end to end. Others were hoisted by the score in the immediate vicinity of the island, the sister ships Parramatta and Yarra were a blaze of colours, and the training ship Sobraon out in the stream had on all her holiday attire. Truly it was a splendid colour scheme, shown to the best advantage in beautiful autumn weather. There was scarcely a ripple in the water, a blue sky prevailed, and a pleasant easterly breeze freshened and invigorated all those who had turned out to witness the event.
    As the persons privileged to take part in the ceremony landed they made their way to the slip, and there viewed the destroyer as she rested awaiting her release. The water just lapped her stern. Her big bow was high and dry, level with a gaily-decorated platform, from which the christening ceremony was to be performed. An ominous grey thing she looked as one stood at her keel and glanced upwards. The name of destroyer seemed to fit that class of craft well. Apertures gaped from which later torpedoes may be discharged, and the whole make and shape of the little vessel seemed to suggest speed, secrecy, and destruction.
    "A pigmy alongside a Dreadnought," said a naval bystander to another, "but its presence in the vicinity of a big ship on a misty morning as grey as itself would make a man nervous. "The phrase "grey as itself" was striking. It would be difficult to see such a vessel on a grey morning till it was right upon you.
    The gathering on the platform was small and distinguished. It included the Governor- General, the Governor, the Prime Minister, Vice-Admiral King-Hall, Brigadier-General Gordon, Sir Samuel Griffith, Mr. Justice Barton and Lady Barton, Mr. Justice O'Connor, Mr. Justice Isaacs and Mrs. Isaacs, Mr. Hughes (Federal Attorney-General), Senator' Pearce (Minister for Defence), the Acting Premier (Mr. Holman), the Lord Mayor and Mrs. Taylor, Mr. Griffith (Minister for Works), Mr. Cann (Speaker of the Assembly), Mr. Edden (Minister for Mines), Mr. Trefle (Assistant Minister for Agriculture), Mr. Beeby (Minister for Education), Sir James Fairfax and Miss Fairfax, Mr. J. O. Fairfax and Mrs. Fairfax, Mr. Flowers (Vice-President of the Executive Council), Captain and Mrs. Rolleston, Mrs. Wade, Senator McGregor (Vice- President of the Federal Executive Council), Captain Siemen (German cruiser Cormoran), Sir Francis Suttor and Miss Suttor.
    Towards noon a long line of Australian naval cadets and men of the Naval Brigade was drawn up in double file west of the platform. Their band was in attendance, and also the bands of the Royal Australian Artillery and the police. At two minutes to 12 the bands struck up '"God Save the King," and the principal actors in the scene, headed by Lord Dudley in military uniform, and followed by Lord Chelmsford, the naval and military commanders, Mr. Fisher, Mr. Holman, and other Ministers of State, and Mrs. Pearce, came through the files of naval troops and mounted the platform. Not a second was wasted in getting to the actual work of the ceremony. Officialdom for once was scrupulously prompt. The affair was timed for noon, and at noon precisely it came off.
    The Minister for Works stepped forward and, in the briefest speech he ever made, asked for silence while Mrs. Pearce performed the ceremony. The request was immediately complied with, and Mrs. Pearce then took her stand in front of the destroyer's bow. Her voice was clear and silvery. "I name thee Warrego. In time of danger may thy movement be swift." Simultaneously the ribbon was cut, and the wine splashed over the vessel.
    For a full minute the Warrego refused to budge. But the arrangements were perfect in every detail. A hydraulic appliance had been placed in position to cope with any hitch, and its application within the minute started the destroyer on her glide to the water. She did it gracefully, and took the stream amid a tremendous shout of applause that was taken up the other side of the water. Even the gravest of those present joined in the shout It was infectious. Enthusiasm was in the air. A band struck up, first "Rule Britannia," and then "God Save the King." It remained for the numerous craft on the river to do the rest. There was a fearful medley of shrieking whistles, which overcame the shouts of applause and the bands combined. It was a pandemonium of joy. The noisiest New Year's Eve the city ever knew never approached anything like the noise which accompanied the launching of the first warship put together in Australia.”

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