Newspaper article Daily News (Warwick, Australia)

Round Up the Troops; in the Fourth Instalment of Our Centenary Milestones Series, We Look at the Assembling of Troop Ships Ready to Set Sail for War, and the Threat of German Naval Vessels That Delayed Their Departure

Newspaper article Daily News (Warwick, Australia)

Round Up the Troops; in the Fourth Instalment of Our Centenary Milestones Series, We Look at the Assembling of Troop Ships Ready to Set Sail for War, and the Threat of German Naval Vessels That Delayed Their Departure

Article excerpt

Byline: Christina Ongley

ONE hundred years ago, troop ship movements were taking place all over the country, as contingents of the 1st Australian Imperial Force made their way to Albany, Western Australia, to sail for Europe and towards the battlefields of the First World War.

A convoy of New Zealand ships was also sailing across the Tasman Sea and around the southern coastline, under the protection of British, Australian and Japanese naval vessels for the two-week voyage.

The Australian and New Zealand ships would then sail together from WA, once all of them had been assembled in King George's Sound, off Albany.

The plan had been to sail several weeks earlier, but there had been postponements due to concerns over the whereabouts of a number of vessels in the German squadron known to be in the Pacific at the time, in particular the cruisers Gneisenau, Scharnhorst and Emden.

The newly-elected Prime Minister, Andrew Fisher, was growing increasingly nervous about the safety of Australian ships as they sailed around the nation's coastline, and he was unhappy about them being unescorted.

In deference to the anxieties of both the Australian and New Zealand governments, the British Admiralty delayed some of the departures and worked to arrange adequate transport to "pick up" ships and convoys sailing from various capital cities and Auckland.

One of the few exceptions was the Omrah, which had sailed unescorted from Brisbane on September24, 1914, with the 9th Battalion and medical staff, the same day the Australian Government had cabled the Admiralty inquiring about the safety of independent troop ship movements down the coast.

The Admiralty had replied it believed transports around the Australian coast were "free from undue risk", but nonetheless boosted the provision of its support vessels, and ensured the Omrah was at least escorted into harbour at Melbourne, where it would wait until it was deemed safe for the rest of the contingent to continue their journey towards Albany.

The Queenslanders waited almost a month.

General William Bridges, commander of the AIF, was unhappy with the delays because it meant deferring when his men would be ready for service. …

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