Southern Trident: Strategy, History, and the Rise of Australian Naval Power

Southern Trident: Strategy, History, and the Rise of Australian Naval Power

Southern Trident: Strategy, History, and the Rise of Australian Naval Power

Southern Trident: Strategy, History, and the Rise of Australian Naval Power

Excerpt

On the morning of 4 October 1913 the battle cruiser HMAS Australia, flying the flag of Rear Admiral Sir George E. Patey and accompanied by the light cruisers Melbourne, Sydney and Encounter, and the destroyers Warrego, Parramatta and Yarra, entered Sydney Heads. The spring weather was perfect, and the long grey line of ships of the Australian Fleet Unit had materialised punctually from out of a thinning sea mist in the east. Hundreds of small craft provided an eager escort, while hundreds of thousands of sightseers crammed the many headlands to stare at the imposing passage of one of the largest warships ever to enter Port Jackson. Waiting off Fort Denison to return the fleet's salute was the second-class protected cruiser HMS Cambrian, last flagship of the Australia Station, and on board was Admiral Sir George King-Hall, ready to haul down his flag as the last Commander-in-Chief.

Sydney Harbour was no stranger to imperial and foreign warships, but the battle cruiser, both majestic and forbidding at the same time, was something different. It was the embodiment of the Commonwealth's own sea power, and unquestionably superior to every other European warship in the Pacific. Already described as a ‘living sentient thing’ Australia's entering at the head of the fleet evoked a nationalistic euphoria never before experienced. ‘The sight of the Fleet meant more to the Australian people than the visit of any foreign fleet. It was our expression of patriotism, ships of defence bought in love of country and empire …’ wrote the Sydney Mail, while the Australian Defence Minister, Senator Edward Millen, remarked:

Since Captain Cook's arrival, no more memorable event has happened than the advent of the Australian Fleet. As the former marked the birth of Australia, so the latter announces its coming of age, its recognition of the growing responsibilities of nationhood, and its resolve to accept and . . .

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