‘Remembering AE1’ … a deceptively simple title that invites a sense of reflection and commemoration. This was the topic set before Year 9 history students in a national speech competition to help mark 101 years since AE1, Australia’s first submarine, disappeared with all hands at the start of World War I, never to be found. The occasion to deliver that speech would be the unveiling ceremony of Warren Langley’s wonderful artwork ‘…The Ocean Bed their Tomb’, a stainless steel wreath sculpture that now hovers over the water outside the museum.
Have you noticed the construction work outside the Australian National Maritime Museum in Darling Harbour? Work is well underway on our new Action Stations experience – an amazing visitor facility on the museum’s wharf between our ex-Navy submarine and destroyer, opening in November 2015.
“These men took pride in the fact they were the only Australian naval unit serving in the European theatre of war … They were therefore bent on proving to the Royal Navy and the Army that they could overcome any difficulties”.
CMDR L. S. Bracegirdle, RN, commanding the Royal Australian Navy Bridging Train at Gallipoli, 16 November 1915
One of the most popular parts of the War at Sea – The Navy in WWI exhibition at the museum is a wonderfully old-school diorama. It has no bells or whistles. You can’t swipe, touch or play with it — apart from a series of buttons that light up various sections. But everyone — even the ‘walk through’ visitor — stops and checks it out.
I’m pleased to announce the first winner of the museum’s #HoodsHarbour People’s Choice competition for the month of April. Myleah Bailey from Victoria has chosen this photograph from the museum’s Samuel J Hood collection via our Flickr Commons photostream. It depicts crowds at Circular Quay, Sydney welcoming home the crew of HMAS Sydney II on 10 February 1941. The ship had left Australia 10 months previously for battle in the Mediterranean and relatives were keen to see their fathers, uncles, cousins, brothers, husbands, fiancées, boyfriends and friends again. Myleah told us why this was her favourite from the Hood collection, which now forms the basis for the photograph’s exhibition label:
The faces and fashions change, but be it 1941 or 2014 the heartfelt message, and title, of this image remains the same – ‘Welcome Home’.
Our winner told me she ‘was very surprised to receive it! I really enjoyed seeing the pictures in the exhibition and there were many beautiful ones displayed.’ Congratulations Myleah!
On the 11th of November the museum will hold a Remembrance Day ceremony which features the vessel MV Krait and its role in Operation Jaywick in World War II.
Remembrance Day on the 11th of November each year was initially called Armistice Day as it was established on the first anniversary of the signing on the armistice that ended World War I. It was changed to Remembrance Day in Australia after the Second World War in order to commemorate all war dead.
The moment chosen for the signing of the armistice was the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11 month in 1918. On the first anniversary of the armistice in 1919, two minutes silence was instituted as part of the main commemorative ceremony in London. King George V personally requested all the people of the British Empire to suspend normal activities for two minutes on the hour of the armistice, which as he announced, had ‘…stayed the worldwide carnage of the four preceding years.’ The two minutes silence became a central feature of annual commemorations on Armistice Day.
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
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.
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