Home' Navy News : July 21st 2011 Contents July 21, 2011
y. It presents me with constant
ery day. My job is very hands-on
s learning new things every day.
-- ABMT(M) Karen Pike
THE Commonwealth of Australia has a
mainland coastline of more than 20,000
kilometres and, with offshore territories,
has jurisdiction over one of the larg-
est combined maritime economic zones on the
Australia is without doubt a maritime nation,
and its history cannot be understood without
constant reference to the sea, but there is little to
suggest that the nation has yet developed a
national consciousness of sea power in its
For most Australians, the coastal fringe is
the key to their culture and lifestyle, and the
vast expanse of water that lies beyond is of
only peripheral importance.
The perception that the sea is a highway,
one which makes every other coastal state
in the world a neighbour, is yet to reach
Yet, this perception highlights the secu-
rity implications of the nation's broader
maritime setting. Any possible military
movement of persons or materiel, either by
or against Australia, depends critically on
the ability to make use of the sea.
Our Royal Navy forebears understood
this concept. Indeed, British articles of war
stated: "It is upon the Navy that, under the
good providence of God, the wealth, pros-
perity and peace of these islands and of the
Empire do mainly depend."
Australia's Navy came into being
on March 1, 1901, a few months after
Federation, and was known at first as the
Commonwealth Naval Forces (CNF).
Adequate only for minimal coastal
defence, the title did little to reflect Australia's
growing desire to assume full responsibility for its
own broader maritime defence.
At that time, Australia's most important security
relationship was with the United Kingdom.
Under the provisions of the Naval Agreement
Acts 1902-03, Australia and New Zealand both
accepted that they would contribute to maintaining
a Royal Navy squadron in the region until at least
The agreement was a continuation of the gen-
eral pledge that the Royal Navy would maintain
the Commonwealth's territorial integrity, but it
remained unpopular in Australia.
The annual grant of £200,000 to Britain -- far
less than half the estimated running costs -- was
generally felt to do nothing for Australia's national
Gradually the activities of maritime-minded
individuals, such as the Director of Naval Forces,
Captain (later Vice Admiral Sir) William R
Creswell, encouraged political interest in an effec-
tive blue-water navy.
On February 5, 1909, a new Labor admin-
istration under Prime Minister Andrew Fisher
announced its decision to order three destroyers
from British shipyards.
The first two (HMA Ships Yarra and Parramatta)
were to be completed and sail under their own
power from Great Britain, the third vessel (HMAS
Warrego) was to be constructed overseas, disassem-
bled and re-built in Australia to give its fledgling
ship-building industry experience.
Plans for an independent Australian destroyer
flotilla were soon overshadowed by a far more
At the Imperial Conference held in London in
July 1909, the Australian delegation was informed
that in the face of foreign naval expansion, the
Royal Navy could no longer guarantee sea suprem-
acy.It was feared that the position of Australia, iso-
lated and remote from British naval strength, might
be "one of some danger".
The solution proposed, required Australia to
acquire a self-contained 'fleet unit', comprising one
battle cruiser and three light cruisers.
with a flotilla of destroy-
ers and submarines, the
result would be a credible
ocean-going fleet. The
Cabinet gave provisional
endorsement in September
1909 and work on the force proceeded rapidly.
A new Naval Defence Act, passed in 1910, pro-
vided the clear legislative authority needed for the
enhanced maritime force.
This was to be a true national navy, a force
capable not only of defending Australia's maritime
interests, but also one that would allow Australia
to make a practical contribution to the regional
defence of the British Empire.
To reflect this added responsibility, and in par-
ticular the Australian Navy's planned integration
with the imperial fleet, the Australian representa-
tives at the 1911 Imperial Conference requested that
the King approve the addition of the 'Royal' prefix.
King George V's subsequent approval was
promulgated by a Commonwealth Naval Order on
October 5 that year.
The Australian 'Fleet Unit' sailed into Sydney
Harbour on October 4, 1913.
Since that time, the Royal Australian Navy has
continued to contribute to Australia's development
and has been indispensable in protecting Australia's
sovereignty and national interests.
JOHN PERRYMAN is senior naval historical officer at the
RAN Sea Power Centre.
FE AT SEA
HISTORIC: A copy
of the only original
document known to
exist referring to the
granting of the Royal
title by King George V.
Today's Navy, born from
the need to secure a
young nation, upholds
the best traditions of
I lov the Navy
chal nges eve
and m always
Links Archive July 7th 2011 August 4th 2011 Navigation Previous Page Next Page