Revisiting Persuasion: Jane Austen’s naval novel

Woodcut by Joan Hassall illustrating a pivotal scene from the novel, an accident in Lyme Regis. Anne Elliot is third from left and Captain Wentworth kneeling at centre. From the 1975 Folio Society edition of Persuasion, reproduced with permission.

Woodcut by Joan Hassall illustrating a pivotal scene from the novel, an accident in Lyme Regis. Anne Elliot is third from left and Captain Wentworth kneeling at centre. From the 1975 Folio Society edition of Persuasion, reproduced with permission.

If, like me, you’ve been meaning to reread Jane Austen, among other classics you first read long ago, then this year is the time to do it — the 200th anniversary of her death in July 1817. And if, like me, you weren’t sure which one to begin with, let me guide you as a reader of Signals to Persuasion, with its splendid central characters drawn from the Royal Navy at the end of the Napoleonic Wars. It’s not just chick-lit for the literati. You can read it, if you like, as an adjunct or appendix to the well-thumbed maritime classics of C S Forrester and Patrick O’Brian, most likely sitting on your bookshelves already.

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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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Finding HMS Affray – science, industry and defence

Man watching an AWA television on board the ship TAIPING Photo by Gervais Purcell, courtesy Leigh Purcell

Man watching an AWA television on board the ship TAIPING Photo by Gervais Purcell, courtesy Leigh Purcell

Gervais Purcell’s photographs depicting tests for an underwater camera by Amalgamated Wireless Australasia in Sydney have an interesting association with the discovery of the sunken HMS Affray on 14 June 1951 near Hurds Deep in the English Channel.

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Before Gallipoli – Turkey’s other great victory

This 1973 dinner menu from the P&O liner SS Oronsay was part of a series of paintings of famous sea battles by John Smith. This image depicts the Battle of the Dardanelles, 18 March 1915.  ANMM Collection Gift from William Brennan

This 1973 dinner menu from the P&O liner SS Oronsay was part of a series of paintings of famous sea battles by John Smith. This image depicts the Battle of the Dardanelles, 18 March 1915. ANMM Collection Gift from William Brennan

On 18 March 2015, Turkey will commemorate the 100th anniversary of a victory over Allied forces just prior to the Gallipoli land campaign on 25 April 1915. The defeat of an Allied fleet attempting to force the Dardanelles Strait is a little-known story in the tale of the Anzacs, but one that changed the whole nature of the ill-fated campaign.

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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

William Dampier – Buccaneer, Explorer, Hydrographer and sometime Captain

Copper engraving of William Dampier. ANMM Collection 00000846

Copper engraving c 1789 of William Dampier. ANMM Collection 00000846

Buccaneer, Explorer, Hydrographer and sometime Captain of the Ship ROEBUCK in the Royal Navy of King William the Third.

So reads the memorial to Englishman William Dampier in the village of East Coker, Somerset, England, the place of his birth in 1651. The memorial lists only a portion of Dampier’s eclectic career and speaks faintly of his contradictory character. Pioneer and pirate, criminal and captain, explorer, author, travel writer and buccaneer. Ironically Dampier, with his less than angelic past, visited Australian shores in 1688, a full century before the convicts of the first fleet. At its bleakest contrast, Dampier was a felon who created a historic legacy in the hallowed halls of literature, science and exploration.

Here’s how it came about. Continue reading