Search the Collection
Advanced Search

Journal of wireless telegraph operator John Brown of the Royal Australian Navy

Date: 1914 - 1919
Overall: 32 x 317 x 220 mm, 1.7 kg
Medium: Ink on paper
Credit Line: ANMM Collection
Object Copyright: © John Henry Shadwell Brown
Classification:Books and journals
Object Name: Diary
Object No: 00001711
Related Place:Melbourne, Apollo Bay, Hervey Bay, Kupang, Foça, Jervis Bay, Sydney, Carlisle Bay, Port Stephens, Suways, Khalij as, Tarawa, Çanakkale Bogazi, Townsville, Banaba, Queenscliff, Waratah Bay, Palm Islands, Otway, Cape, Moreton Bay, Perth, King Island, Fort Denison, Star Harbour, Bremer Bay, Bunbury, Colombo, Nauru, Gilbert Group, Albany, Dili, Auki, Port Phillip Bay, Frankston, Wilsons Promontory, Fremantle, Istanbul, Sevastopol', Krym, Tulaghi, Graciosa, Plymouth, Bur Said, Shark Bay, Aola, Malita, ‘Adan, Lord Howe Island, Victoria, Twofold Bay, San Cristoval Island, Reef Island, Williamstown, Gibraltar, Santa Cruz, Portsmouth, Suva, Gizo, Brisbane, Izmir,

User Terms

    Handwritten journal of wireless telegraph operator John Brown of the Royal Australian Navy covering Brown's service in HMAS Ships PROTECTOR, WARREGO and BRISBANE, and at Williamstown Naval Depot. The journal covers his naval service from 1914-1919 undertaking battle practice and patrols in Australian waters, on the China Station (deploying out of Timor), the Solomon Islands, and the Dardanelles.

    Brown writes about daily life on board including ship activities, crew complaints (about food, the Captain, lack of enemy encounters), humorous episodes, shore activities (including concerts and sporting events), typhoons, gales, heat and humidity, and deaths through illness (influenza, beri-beri, malaria), disease and accidents (including those swept overboard during extreme weather conditions).
    SignificanceThis journal provides a personal view of life during World War I on board ships of the Royal Australian Navy.
    HistoryThis journal covers the period 1914 to 1919 commencing with action against German New Guinea and concluding with returning to Australia from England via the Suez Canal. In between these years Brown records his life as his ship undertakes patrols and ship searches, drills and battle practice.

    After German New Guinea (HMAS PROTECTOR), Brown is deployed to HMAS WARREGO which undertakes service on the China Station (Timor, Singapore, Bangkok, Saigon and Hong Kong patrols) in 1915-16 before returning to Sydney for coastal patrols off NSW and Victoria for the remainder of 1916. This is followed in early 1917 by deployment to HMAS BRISBANE for patrols off Western Australia, the Northern Territory and the Solomon Islands before returning to Sydney in mid-1918. The ship is then deployed on more patrols off the east coast of Australia primarily searching for German submarines, mines, and ships carrying contraband.

    In October 1918 BRISBANE is finally sent to the war front via Colombo and the Suez Canal but en route receive news of the armistice. The ship continues to the Mediterranean and through the Dardanelles (still littered with mines) to Sebastopol; troops and the wounded are picked up for trnasport to Portsmouth where they arrive in January 1919. After 38 days leave, BRISBANE returns to Sydney.

    The following extracts from Brown's journal are typical of his style and observations:

    Williamstown Naval Depot July 20th 1914.
    Without a doubt something is going to happen shortly. I was up all night last night decoding & decyphering messages, that came by wireless through several of the big wireless stations, from Whitehall right across the world to this station.

    July 31st. The past week has opened my eyes, I never knew that the British Navy posessed[sic] so much power. The wireless here has been crackling & crashing every night from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. We are in direct communication with Whitehall,
    by land line & cable. I have been coding and decoding, cyphering & decyphering until now I nearly know the vocabulary signal book off by heart. All night long messages have been coming in from Whitehall & all night long the wireless has been sending out its messages to the fleet 1000 miles away. Even now as I write the destroyer flotilla is steaming northward at full speed to keep an eye on the
    German cruiser Scharnhorst, anchored off Townsville. Every ship in the British Navy has its sailing orders. The fleets are stripped ready for battle. The patrols are told off for their different patrol areas. Every available ship will be at sea by midnight to night, ready to do battle with the best of Germany’s navy.

    Sydney HMAS PROTECTOR August 5th 1914
    The submarines go to sea every day for a dip. There is something wrong with the
    port engine of AE1, it fails nearly every time they want to use it. Something will
    happen to her one of these days. They still go out diving in her.

    New Guinea HMAS PROTECTOR September 18th 1914
    Submarine A.E.1. reported lost at sea with all hands. The news was received
    with great sorrow throughout the fleet. She went down with 36 bluejackets & 2 officers. & it is thought that she exploded while she was submerged. Parramatta went to sea with her & A.E.11, on the morning of September 13th. While steaming along, the Parramatta made a signal to both subs. “Are you all right”. AE.11 replied “Yes”, AE1 replied “I have had trouble with the port engine but it is now all right.” Later, AE1 made to Parramatta, “I am going to submerge a little, can you see me.”
    Parramatta replied “Yes, carry on.” A.E.1 submerged until only her conning tower
    was visible, she then made to Parramatta, “Everything is all right, I am going to dive”. A.E.1. dived & was never seen again. On returning to Rabaul A.E.11 reported that an explosion had been heard while she was submerged. Nobody will ever know how those lads died, they had enough air to last them for 24 hours.

    Sydney HMAS WARREGO April 1915
    We then proceeded to Clarence River, calling at three towns on the river, Maclean, Grafton, & Harwood. The river is not very wide & all the way up, people were rushing out of their houses cheering & waving flags. In the different places we called at, there was great excitement, there were banquets & concerts in our honour, in fact everybody was Navy mad.
    Related People

    Discuss this Object


    Please log in to add a comment.