In the dead of night: The Battle of Savo Island

HMAS <em>Canberra</em> underway off Tulagi on the 7th or 8th August 1942. Image: US Naval History and Heritage Command.

HMAS Canberra underway off Tulagi on the 7th or 8th August 1942. Image: US Naval History and Heritage Command.

At 2 am on Sunday 9th August 1942 the Royal Australian Navy’s County class heavy cruiser HMAS Canberra (D33) was leading a combined US and Australian naval task force protecting the US 1st Division Marine landings on the islands of Tulagi and Guadalcanal in the Solomon Islands.

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Midget submarine attack on Sydney 31 May – 1 June 1942

The wreck of M14 being recovered. Image: <a href="https://www.awm.gov.au/collection/C48694">Australian War Memorial</a>, via Wikimedia.

The wreck of M14 being recovered. Image: Australian War Memorial, via Wikimedia.

My mother has often told me this story of the evening of Sunday 31st May 1942:

‘It had been a normal Sunday: Church, followed by lunch, a visit to my grandparents, some radio and then suddenly, while I was taking a bath, sirens split the air, Dad turned off the lights, and I shivered in the dark.’

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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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The Australian White Ensign and its connection with HMAS Vampire

HMAS <em>Vampire</em> flying the Australian White Ensign in 1967. Image: Navy Historic Archive. HMAS Vampire II.

HMAS Vampire (II) flying the Australian White Ensign in 1967. Image: Navy Historic Archive.

Flags are everywhere. We see them flying from government and corporate buildings, from ships and cars, at sporting events, and during festivals. They all mean something whether it be identifying a country or business, or marking the end of a marathon. This month marked the anniversary of one of Australia’s most significant flags – the Australian White Ensign (AWE), first flown on 1 March 1967.

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Tobruk: The lifting of the siege, 75 years ago

HMAS Waterhen in Sydney Harbour, c1925–33. ANMM Collection 00021576.

HMAS Waterhen in Sydney Harbour, c1925–33. ANMM Collection 00021576.

The 9th of December 2016 is the 75th anniversary of the lifting of the siege of Tobruk, the port on the north coast of Libya that proved such a thorn in the side of German Field Marshal Erwin Rommel during the eight months that the siege lasted. The Australian War Memorial describes it as one of the longest sieges in British military history.

Whenever the siege of Tobruk is remembered, the Australian soldiers, who formed the greater part of the garrison for most of the time, are quite rightly afforded pride of place.

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Finding Tingira: The search for the Royal Australian Navy’s first training ship

Oil painting of Sobraon (later Tingira), by William Barnett Spencer, c 1866. ANMM Collection 00009342

Oil painting of Sobraon (later Tingira), by William Barnett Spencer, c 1866. Image: ANMM Collection 00009342.

On a cold sunny morning in June 2016, Silentworld Foundation Director and maritime archaeologist Paul Hundley steered the survey vessel Maggie III into shallow water at the head of Berrys Bay on Sydney’s North Shore. Accompanying him were the museum’s maritime archaeologists Kieran Hosty and myself, staring intently at a laptop computer as it displayed readings from a marine magnetometer towed a short distance behind the boat. As Maggie III’s hull glided through water less than a metre deep, we watched for any indication that remnants of a unique sailing ship might lie buried in the silt below. Continue reading

Man in the machine: submarines, ships, sailors and National memory

Johnnie and Mehmet concept drawing detail. Image: Alexander Knox 2015.

Johnnie and Mehmet concept drawing detail. Image: Alexander Knox 2015.

This is not a blog about the current Federal election … this is about something much more enduring and exciting – a bold new art installation that plays with the idea of animus, memory, the machinery of war, and to a degree geopolitics. It will be launched in the coming months on the forecourt at the Australian National Maritime Museum, and today, International Museums Day with its focus on cultural landscapes, seems an appropriate time to reveal something of the art work.

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After Emden: HMAS Sydney’s War 1915-18

HMAS Sydney in the Firth of Forth when she was operating in the North Sea as part of the part of the British Grand Fleet. Image: author’s collection.

HMAS Sydney in the Firth of Forth when she was operating in the North Sea as part of the part of the British Grand Fleet. Image: author’s collection.

Australian Naval Historian and author Dr David Stevens will present the annual Phil Renouf Memorial Lecture on Thursday 31 March 2016. Phil Renouf was the much-loved and highly respected leader of Sydney Heritage Fleet and this annual lecture series honours his significant contribution to Australian maritime heritage.

HMAS Sydney’s victory over SMS Emden in November 1914 marked an important milestone in the war at sea. But in no way was this the end of Australia’s naval war, and it certainly did not herald Sydney’s departure from our naval history. Indeed, the cruiser remained extremely busy throughout the Great War, roaming all over the world and achieving a number of naval firsts.

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How to make…a buttercream battleship or delicious destroyer cake

There are many things that come to mind when you think of a warship. Big guns, secret missions, white uniforms, badges, officers, ranks, commands and coded ciphers. Buttercream frosting? Not so much.

This month’s craft spot is inspired by none other than our new Action Stations experience, just launched. In much the same way (and not the same way at all) as how Action Stations is all about making the experience of our navy vessels more surprising, immersive and delicious, making an edible delectable destroyer or battleship cake embraces a little something of the surprising (a sweet and squishy rendition of a mean machine), the immersive (you enjoy its appearance, eat it up and experience all the goodness it has to offer) and the delicious — of course. And perhaps it’s also a good way to celebrate and salute to all things navy and nautical, just as we are doing every Family Fun Sunday this month.

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Year 9 students remember submarine AE1

Student speech competition winners Emelia Rose Haskey and Catherine McClymont with ANMM Director Kevin Sumption (centre back) and judges Jeff Fletcher and Daina Fletcher.

Student speech competition winners Emelia Rose Haskey and Catherine McClymont with ANMM Director Kevin Sumption (centre back) and judges Jeff Fletcher and Daina Fletcher. Photo: Andrew Frolows

‘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.

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HMAS Vampire: ‘Some funny memories’

HMAS Vampire’s crew boarding at Williamstown after refit, 1971. Image Sea Power Centre – Australia

HMAS Vampire’s crew boarding at Williamstown after refit, 1971. Image Sea Power Centre – Australia

Terry Gaffney describes his experience serving on our ex-Navy destroyer HMAS Vampire. This blog post is part of a series written by sailors who served on the vessels inside our Action Stations Experience.

I have so many memories of my service aboard two daring class destroyers (HMAS Vampire and HMAS Vendetta). As a leading cook, basically same stories apply to both. We did some good missions of help aboard them, notably in 1974 whilst on Vendetta going to Darwin on a relief mission, but on both warships we rescued stranded boats and did other rescue ops.

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HMAS Vampire: ‘A trip of a lifetime’

Vampire in service

Phil McKendrick describes his experience serving on our ex-Navy destroyer HMAS Vampire. This blog post is part of a series written by sailors who served on the vessels inside our Action Stations Experience.

Here are some of my experiences on board HMAS Vampire from 1972 to 1976.
I was actually first posted to HMAS Sydney directly after my engineering course in July 1972. When we were getting prepared to take Sydney out of refit I was asked if I wanted to go to destroyers. I certainly wanted to serve on board a gun ship and volunteered.

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HMAS Vampire: ‘A machine like no other’

HMAS Vampire in 1966

HMAS Vampire at sea, 1966. Image Sea Power Centre – Australia

David Simpson describes his experience serving on our ex-Navy destroyer HMAS Vampire. This blog post is part of a series written by sailors who served on the vessels inside our Action Stations Experience.

I was nervous. I was 21 and it was my first time at sea.

Typical of the Navy, I had been trained to maintain the gunnery system on board but had been allocated as the offsider to the petty officer in charge of navigational aids –gyro compasses, plotting tables, echo sounders, signalling lamps, masthead obstruction lights – none of which I had been trained to maintain.

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Lost at sea, my uncle John Messenger – ERA HMAS AE1

John Messenger - Photo Courtesy Vera Ryan

Photo – courtesy Vera Ryan

My uncle John Messenger, known as Jack, was born in Ballarat, Victoria. He became a fitter and turner and studied to be a draughtsman. He was the eldest son, with six siblings. My father Albert was the second youngest. Jack was 20 when he was born.

Jack moved to Melbourne and enlisted in the Royal Navy as a crew member on the Australian Station in 1909.

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New Action Stations experience coming to Darling Harbour

Artist's impression of the ANMM's new Warship's Pavilion

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.

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