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November 24, 2011
By ASLT Katherine Mulheron
A VALUABLE piece of Navy's past
is back with the RAN after spending
almost a century as a child's plaything
and family keepsake.
The story began in 1914 during the
Battle of Bita Paka in German New
Guinea. The Australian Navy landing
party was the first to go into action in
World War I and AB Billy Williams,
from Northcote in Victoria, was
Australia's first casualty -- the Williams
Rifle Range at HMAS Cerberus was
named in his honour.
Four naval officers from the battle
were also awarded the first Distinctions
ascribed to Australians in the Great War.
The success at Bita
Paka led to the sur-
render of all German
territories and was
the first victory of the
war by British Empire
After the bat-
tle, the German
and brought back to
Australia by naval
members of the Australian Naval and
Military Expeditionary Force.
For many years the location of the
flag was unknown and it was eventually
thought to have been stolen. It was, how-
ever, being used by the family of CAPT
(later RADM) Fred Tickell, who held
the position of Director Naval Reserves
at the time the flag was seized.
RADM Tickell's grandson, Murray
Wright, recalls playing with his sis-
ters in the mid-1930s at their home in
Melbourne and using the flag to re-enact
their own naval battles.
"I was five at the time. We used to
play 'pirates' with it, without really
understanding the significance of its his-
tory," Mr Wright recalls.
A few years ago, Mr Wright asked
his sister Adrienne Shultze where the
flag was. It turned out it had not been
stolen at all. Their mother had passed it
Earlier this month, Mr Wright and his
sisters Adrienne and Helen returned the
flag into the RAN's care. They presented
the flag to the Commanding Officer of
Cerberus, CAPT Mark Hill, who accept-
ed on behalf of the Chief of Navy and
the Cerberus museum.
The Cerberus museum first learnt of
the existence of the flag two years ago
and its curator, WO
Marty Grogan, had
been eager to house it
at Cerberus since then.
"This flag is an
important addition to
the collection and we
are proud to have it
here," WO Grogan
said.CAPT Hill thanked
the family for its gen-
"This is a signifi-
cant donation to our Navy family, of
which you are all a part. It is a thing of
beauty," CAPT Hill said.
With Navy celebrating 100 years of
service and Cerberus commemorating
its 90th year, the addition of the WWI
German flag to the RAN's historical col-
lection is momentous.
Mr Wright and his sisters are thank-
ful their childhood keepsake has ended
up where it belongs.
"I think it's very important for his-
torical pieces like these to be given back
to the nation," Mr Wright said.
"We're very happy the flag has
found a home here."
"This is a significant
donation to our
Navy family, of
which you are all a
part. It is a thing of
-- CAPT Mark Hill,
CO HMAS Cerberus
IMPORTANT RELIC BACK IN RAN
HANDS: A German flag (above) from World
War I, captured by RAN personnel after
the Battle of Bita Paka, is now on show at
the HMAS Cerberus (inset) museum after
spending almost a century as a child's play-
thing and family heirloom.
Main photo: LSIS Paul McCallum
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