Dinner on an aircraft carrier: Remembering the Battle of the Coral Sea

Last Thursday I had the privilege to attend the commemoration of the 75th anniversary of the Battle of the Coral Sea on board USS Intrepid, a WWII aircraft carrier, where the museum’s new documentary Clash of the Carriers, premiered in front of Prime Minister of Australia, Malcolm Turnbull and Mrs Turnbull, President of the United States, Donald and Mrs Trump, veterans of the battle and 700 guests.

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75 years ago today a queen arrived in Sydney

RMS QUEEN MARY in Sydney Harbour, 1941. ANMM Collection 00045046.

RMS QUEEN MARY in Sydney Harbour, 1941. ANMM Collection 00045046.

On 28th March 1942 the troopship RMS Queen Mary arrived in Sydney with 8,398 Americans on board, destined for the Pacific War. These first American troops to be transported on the ‘Grey Ghost’ (the nickname for the camouflaged giant, yet fast, former liner) had embarked in Boston on the 18th February on what became known as their ’40 days and 40 nights’ voyage.

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Throwback Thursday: American troopship convoy departs for Australia 1942

Wartime: SS Mariposa in Sydney, unloading an aircraft. ANMM Collection 00035944.

Wartime: SS Mariposa in Sydney, unloading an aircraft. ANMM Collection 00035944.

SS Mariposa was launched in 1931 by the Matson Line to carry 700 passengers in luxury across the Pacific from San Francisco to Sydney. Stripped down to carry up to 5000 personnel, Mariposa was one of the minor ‘monsters’ of the Allied troopship fleet during World War II. The world’s biggest ocean liners, nicknamed ‘the monsters’ were requisitioned to transport troops and materiel because they could outrun most enemy ships and submarines and therefore needed fewer naval escorts as they sailed around the world.

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The ‘triumphant procession’ of the ANMEF

troops of the Australian Naval and Military Expeditionary Force, marching on Randwick Road

Contingent of the Australian Naval and Military Expeditionary Force, marching on Randwick Road, 18 August 1914.
Photographer: Samuel J Hood Studio, ANMM Collection

On this day, 100 years ago, a contingent of the Australian Naval and Military Expeditionary Force (ANMEF) marched through Sydney for final embarkation. Fourteen days after Britain declared war on Germany, the ANMEF contingent made their way through streets flooded with tens of thousands of well-wishers. It would be the start of many marches to come throughout the war, and one of the many photographer Samuel J Hood captured with his Folmer and Schwing Graflex camera. Yesterday, a service was held at Government House and re-enactment of the march took place. As Royal Australian Navy (RAN) cadets marched down a soggy Macquarie Street, they paid homage to the ‘khaki clad contingent’ who had taken the same steps a century before under a clear blue sky. Continue reading

When in doubt, Razzle Dazzle them

The HMT ZEALANDIA in Sydney Harbour in her dazzle paint. ANMS0047[060]

The HMT ZEALANDIA in Sydney Harbour in her dazzle paint. ANMS0047[060]

We often see WW1 through a black and white lens. Images of trench life, battle scenes and soldiers are always shades of grey. The endless mud is never brown, the blood is not red and the uniforms of both sides are the same indistinguishable colour. So it was with some surprise when I came across some plans for the painting of Allied ships whilst looking at the unique “dazzle” defence of ships during the war.
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International Fleet Review and Tall Ships Fesitval Wrap-up

Seventeen tall ships, more than 40 warships, 8000 navy personnel from 19 nations and almost two million visitors flooded into Sydney during the first two weeks of October for the International Fleet Review. The celebration was to commemorate the centenary of the first Royal Australian Navy fleet entry into Sydney Harbour on 4 October 1913, with activities and events spanning nine days.

A wet and overcast day did nothing to dampen the enthusiasm with large crowds venturing out to welcome the tall ships into Sydney Harbour. Lord Nelson, Lady Nelson, Spirit of New Zealand, Tecla, Europa, Coral Trekker, South Passage, Picton Castle and Yukon made the museum their base with their captains and crews a welcome addition to the museums community for the duration of the IFR and Tall Ships festivities.

HMB Endeavour with Picton Castle en route to the Australian National Maritime Museum. Photographer Milo Brogan

HMB Endeavour with Picton Castle en route to the Australian National Maritime Museum. Photographer Milo Brogan

On October 4, the anniversary of the first fleet entry, people crowded to witness seven warships follow the same route as the first Royal Australian Navy vessels into Sydney Harbour. This was an impressive sight with the namesake ships of the original seven, HMAS Sydney, HMAS Parramatta, HMAS Yarra, HMAS Darwin, HMAS Perth, HMAS Bundaberg and HMAS Diamantina, making the journey.

HMAS Sydney followed by HMAS Darwin and HMAS Perth. Photographer Milo Brogan

HMAS Sydney followed by HMAS Darwin and HMAS Perth. Photographer Milo Brogan

The formal ceremony for the fleet review occurred on the Saturday with Governor General Quentin Bryce in the role of Reviewing Officer. This was followed by impressive military displays including aerial displays and flypasts by Australian and visiting aircraft and a spectacular pyrotechnics and lightshow in the evening centred on Sydney Harbour and the Opera House.

Crowds at the Australian National Maritime Museum

Crowds at the Australian National Maritime Museum

The two main days for public access to the ships saw thousands of people visit Garden Island, Barangaroo and the museum wharves in Darling Harbour for a rare chance to get on board the vessels. Crews and hundreds of volunteers worked tirelessly to ensure each day ran smoothly with almost two million visitors enjoying the long weekend. The museum offered various sailing and ferry opportunities that allowed the public and members onto the harbour to see the vessels up close from the water. Additional entertainment was provided by the RAN Navy Band and several visiting bands from the UK, New Zealand, South Africa and Nigeria.

At the end of the review the tall ships gathered in Sydney Harbour for the 2013 Sydney to Auckland tall ship race. The challenging conditions had four vessels retire, with HMB Europa coming home strong to land first place.

Europa overtaking Picton Castle. Photographer Milo Brogan

Europa overtaking Picton Castle. Photographer Milo Brogan

With the review now over, the tall ships remain in Auckland to continue the International Tall Ship Festival and the warships have departed for training activities on the east coast of Australia. We wish all ships a safe journey home and thank all captains, crew, staff and volunteers for their hard work during the nine days of the International Fleet Review and Tall Ships Festival!

It was ‘a veritable blaze of splendour’: Lightshows of the past

'Searchlight Practice - USA Fleet' 1908 ANMM Collection

‘Searchlight Practice – USA Fleet’. Hand coloured postcard, 1908
ANMM Collection

Back in the olden days, you may be surprised to know, in honour of visiting international navy fleets, we hosted special events often called ‘Sydney Illuminations’. In 1908, during the United States Great White Fleet visit, ‘Magnificent! Splendid! Beautiful!’ were the words used to describe the electric lighting and searchlights placed around Customs House, Martin Place and Circular Quay. Even the great battleships themselves were lined from bow to stern in ‘dazzling brilliance’, in what culminated in a spectacular festival of light attended by thousands of people. Sound familiar? We’ve experienced the festival of light that is Vivid Sydney, and tonight a real treat is in store for International Fleet Review. Fireworks, projections and light will once again animate the Sydney Opera House and visiting ships on the harbour. At 7:40 tonight, it’s showtime! Continue reading

100 years: The first fleet of the Royal Australian Navy

On this day, 100 years ago, the Royal Australian Navy’s first fleet of warships entered Sydney Heads ‘from out the morning mist’, as The Sydney Morning Herald dramatically described it. Headed by our first naval flagship, the aptly named Indefatigable class battlecruiser HMAS Australia, HMA Ships Sydney, Encounter, Melbourne, Warrego, Parramatta and Yarra comprised our first Fleet Unit. Sydney’s shores were lined with thousands of people, dressed in their Edwardian best, with their waistcoats and feathered hats. Over the next few days, Sydney Harbour will come alive once more, this time without the Edwardian garb, for International Fleet Review and what will be the largest gathering of navy ships most of us has ever seen.

Video: Reproduced courtesy of Sea Power Centre – Australia, via 1913 Fleet Entry Continue reading

Who’s your seafaring relative?

Lieutenant William Henn, drawing published in the Australian Town and Country Journal 2 Oct 1886. See National Library of Australia's Trove.

Lieutenant William Henn, drawing published in the Australian Town and Country Journal 2 Oct 1886.
See National Library of Australia’s search engine, Trove.

This story was inspired by a monkey. Lately I’ve noticed that in addition to stories being discovered within the museum’s collection, some of our wonderful followers have been coming forward with stories of their own and relating it back to the museum’s collection. Enter Flickr user beachcomberaustralia and his seafaring relative, Lieutenant William Henn – America’s Cup sailor and proud owner of Peggy the monkey. Continue reading

A rainy day at Garden Island Boatshed

Naval Dockyard Police display at the Boatshed, RAN Heritage Centre, Garden Island Naval Heritage Collection Photographer Nicole Cama, ANMM

Naval Dockyard Police display at the Boatshed, RAN Heritage Centre, Garden Island
Naval Heritage Collection
Photographer Nicole Cama, ANMM

Today some of the museum’s staff braved the weather conditions to attend the launch of the Naval Historical Society of Australia’s latest documentary film, The History of the Captain Cook Graving Dock. The launch was held in the historic Boatshed building which was built in 1890 and is now part of the Royal Australian Navy Heritage Centre in Garden Island. As the rain pattered the roof of the old Boatshed, we heard senior officers of HMAS Kuttabul as well as members of the Society convey their passion for the site, as well as outline how Captain Cook Graving Dock remains an integral part of Australia’s maritime history. After the launch, my colleague Penny Hyde and I were treated to an interesting (and choppy) voyage back to the museum, aboard the museum’s RAN launch, MB 172. Thanks go to the Naval Historical Society of Australia and the Royal Australian Navy for such a well hosted event. Check out my photographs below and also our instagram feed for some more photographs from the day! Nicole Cama Continue reading

MB 172 returns to the museum

This week, MB 172 returned to the museum after its annual slipping. Looking great with a new colour scheme, the vessel can now be viewed from the museum wharves.

Photo of

MB 172 on display at the museum wharves

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A life in service of Australia: The Sam and Lyla Landau Collection

The final layout for the showcase – it all fits!

Every four months or so we install a small display in our New Acquisitions Case – to highlight recently-acquired objects or collections.  Our current feature is the Sam & Lyla Landau Collection. Samuel Landau’s career began in 1936 as administrative assistant to the Secretary of Defence. He became First Assistant Secretary working with the war cabinet secretariat during World War II, travelling with several prime ministerial delegations during that time.

In the 1950s he was secretary to the ANZUS meeting in Pearl Harbor; a member of the Australian delegation to Manila; the Commonwealth Conference in London; and attended the Imperial Defence College in London in 1958. From 1963 to 1973 Landau was Secretary of the Department of the Navy. In 1974 his career in the defence system took him to Washington DC as Minister for Politico-Military Affairs at the Australian Embassy. With his wife Lyla he attended many commemorative events and was often presented with small gifts and mementos which have been donated to the museum by his family.

Putting the display together starts with the curator selecting the objects and then discussing their conservation and display needs with a conservator and designer; a preparator is brought on board to make special supports; and a showcase layout is then provided by the designer. It’s a team effort that works well.

The finished product!

Photography competition winners announced!

To celebrate the museum’s 20th anniversary on 29 November 2011, we launched a photographic competition inviting visitors to share their museum moments from the past 20 years.

We received some fantastic entries from visitors across Australia, including a number of photos from Endeavour‘s  current circumnavigation voyage. Below we feature the winning entries. Congratulations to Jacob, Sophie and Mitchell!

If you would like to view more of the entries, check out our Flickr page.

The winning photographs, along with a selection of other entries will feature in an upcoming issue of Australian Photography magazine and the next issue of Signals, the museum’s quarterly publication.

What’s your favourite photo? Tell us in the comments below or on Flickr, we’d love to know!

Winning entries

Overall best photograph and category winner of From your archives – photographs from 1991 – 1999

200 degree view of ANMM from Batavia by Jacob R NSW

Jacob R. (NSW) Taken: December 1999
200 Degrees Darling Harbour from Batavia’s Mainmast.

Category winner of New memories – Photographs from 2000 – 2012

Endeavour at full sail by Sophie M WA

Sophie M. (WA) Taken: 13 October 2011
This photo is of HMB Endeavour firing its canon in respect as it circled the Leeuwin on its ways into Fremantle Harbour.

Category winner of Kids only! – Photographs taken by children 16 years and younger

HMAS Vampire artillery by Mitchell K NSW

Mitchell K. (NSW) Taken: July 2011
A view of the artillery on HMAS Vampire.

Operation Rimau, the tragic sequel to the success of MV Krait

At the wharves of the Australian National Maritime Museum sits a small unassuming Japanese fishing vessel. Next to the destroyer HMAS Vampire and the submarine HMAS Onslow, the craft looks even less impressive. However it certainly deserves its place as a historic vessel, as a symbol of one of Australia’s most daring wartime undercover operations and as a reminder of an ill-fated and tragic sequel.

MV KRAIT holds a special place in Australia’s history through its involvement with the Z Special Unit in World War II

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Hearts, flowers and bluebirds for Valentine’s Day

With Valentine’s Day just around the corner we take a look at a particularly lovely hand painted envelope from the museum’s naval history collection. A letter was sent by Stoker R Boland to his wife during World War II. Nothing unusual about that, is there? The letter no longer exists but the envelope with its bright and beautiful red roses, bluebirds and hearts does – and it’s just beautiful and quite a surprise. Boland was a stoker on board the destroyer HMAS Quickmatch and his job was hard and physical – keeping the boilers fed with coal.

The ship saw service in the South Atlantic, the Indian Ocean and with the British Pacific Fleet undertaking assaults against Japanese bases and the home islands of Okinawa and Honshu. During this difficult and dangerous time, Boland found the time to not only illustrate the envelopes he sent to both his wife and his mother but also did a number of sketches of life on board his ship of war.

We don’t know much about Stoker R Boland but his drawings, illustrations and sketches offer a wonderful peek into his life. If you know anything about this man and his family, do let us know.

Lindsey Shaw, senior curator

PS What are you doing for your loved one this Valentine’s Day??