8th January 2024

Colonial Australian Navies: part 2

Continuing with information from the book: ‘Kit Muster. Uniforms, Badges and Categories of the Australian Navy 1865-1953’  by John Perryman, with further information in Trove.

Prior to the 1880s, only NSW and Victoria had established their own navies. It had been felt by some that it was best to leave naval defence in the hands of the Royal Navy. However, in the 1880s there had been concerns about the potential for Russian, German and French vessels to attack, prompting a nation-wide reassessment of the need for local fleets.



Early in November 1882 Queensland’s government voted to establish its own volunteer navy and established it the following year.  However, the two gunships, Paluma and Guyundah (aboriginal for Thunder and Lightening), did not arrive in the colony until 1885 to patrol Queensland’s coast.

The Brisbane Courier, 20th June 1884 page 5.

In 1887 regulations were promulgated for both permanent and volunteer navies. The permanent officers were to were uniforms similar to that of the RN. A distinctive button was introduced, marked with H M Q N (Her Majesty’s Queensland Navy).

Introduced in 1887 when the uniforms were gazetted?

Two unfortunate incidents left the Queensland Marine Defence Force embarrassed. The Senior Naval officer, Captain Henry Townley Wright was ordered to hand over command of the Gayundah. He was an undischarged bankrupt (he was supposed to have been ‘dealt with’ this) and as well had been drawing cheques for questionable expenses, using government stores for his own use, and was fighting the Government over his pay. Things got heated. He arrested his replacement, and threatened to sail to Sydney. When told he would be fired at by the guns at Fort Lyrton, he allegedly considered shooting at Parliament House! Armed police approached the boat and after a long discussion, the Commissioner of Police managed to persuade him to disembark.

Captain Wright, R. N., 1885. State Library Queensland from original printed in the Queensland Leader.

Queensland Times, Ipswich Herald and General Advertiser, 19th November 1887 page 7.

The Telegraph (Brisbane), 10th December 1887 page 1. I can’t tell if this was a real parody performed on stage, or if this is a joke advertisement.

Morning Bulletin (Rockhampton, Qld), 30th October 1888 page 4.

Further embarrassment occurred when, during a flood in 1983 the Paluma, unfortunately out of action due to a refit, was carried into the Botanical Garden and grounded there. Further flooding some days later allowed another vessel close enough to get her towed back out of the garden!

Royal Australian Navy News, 27th November 1959 page 3.

During the 1890s depression the defence budget was cut. This could have resulted in the disbanding of the Naval brigades, but they survived until the budget was increased in 1898. In 1903 Queensland’s Naval Commandant, William Rooke Creswell, was appointed to the command of the new Commonwealth fleet.

Cpt Creswell, 1900, Commandant Queensland Navy.

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