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Signal lantern from HMAS AUSTRALIA (I)

Date: c 1905
Overall: 510 x 265 x 255 mm, 11.8 kg
Medium: Brass, glass
Credit Line: ANMM Collection
Classification:Visual communication
Object Name: Signal lantern
Object No: 00004612
Place Manufactured:Birmingham

User Terms

    This signal lantern from HMAS AUSTRALIA (I) was used to issue signals to other ships using Morse code. It is fitted with a double kerosene burner, reflector and louvers. Instructions on the lantern read "suspend lantern when in use if vessel is floating through a total arc of more than 20 degrees".

    An inscription on the base of this lantern reads "A relic of H.M.A.S. AUSTRALIA / First flagship of Royal Australian Navy / Presented by the original members of the Lakes Golf Club / Surgeon Commander D. Austin / Paymaster LT CMDR F E Kedge., / P H Currey"
    SignificanceThis lantern represents the development of visual signaling in the Royal Australian Navy (RAN), and is a relic of its first flagship HMAS AUSTRALIA (I).
    HistoryHMAS 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 led the Australian Fleet Unit consisting of MELBOURNE, SYDNEY, ENCOUNTER, YARRA, WARREGO and PARRAMATTA into Sydney Harbour on 4 October 1913. 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, (19/04/2011)

    Additional Titles

    Assigned title: Signal lantern from the first HMAS AUSTRALIA

    Web title: Signal lantern from HMAS AUSTRALIA (I)

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