Trying to identify some naval vessels in turn of the 19/20th century photographs and am interested in a well-illustrated book about this era

January 06, 2009

Hi Mac,

I enjoyed your trivia quiz about Australia's Prime Ministers.

Here's a question for you: Which amongst them was a member of three different Parliaments in the course of his life, including the House of Commons?

Answer by email to you tomorrow.

Now, I wonder if you could recommend a naval history book to me please?  I'm interested in the pre-1911 Navy, both colonial and post Federation.  Let's say from 1880 to 1911.

I'm trying to identify some naval vessels in turn of the 19/20th centry photographs and am interested in a well-illustrated book about this era.  Can you suggest one?

Even if it is out of print, I'll be able to get a copy via interlibrary loan.

Best regards, 
Bob Meade


The answer to your quiz is: Sir George Houstoun Reid.

I am not aware of any book that might fill your needs, but here is a list they may be useful;

Publication: RAN Reading List March 2006/Australian Naval History



The Australian Centenary History of Defence - Volume 3 - The Royal Australian Navy

edited by David Stevens published by Oxford University Press, Oxford, 2001

The most up to date and definitive history of the Royal Australian Navy in the 20th century. The third volume in the Australian Centenary History of Defence series explores the effects of changing strategic circumstance, technological innovation, and differing national needs and expectations. The book reviews Australia's naval involvement in operations that have ranged from global war through to peacekeeping and natural disaster. In addition the book contains appendices including lists of major RAN ships and the professional heads of the RAN.

Australia's Naval Inheritance: Imperial Maritime Strategy and the Australia Station, 1880-1909, (Papers in Australian Maritime Affairs, No. 6)

by N. A. Lambert published by Maritime Studies Program, Canberra, 1998

A collection of essential documents relating to the rationale and organisation of the naval forces on the Australia Station before the formation of the Royal Australian Navy.

The Official History of Australia in World War 1 - The Royal Australian Navy 1914-1918

by Arthur W. Jose published by Angus and Robertson, 1940

Jose's history remains the fundamental source on Australian naval involvement in WWI. Written using the official records available after the war, this volume presents a detailed account of all major RAN operations in that war.

The Official History of Australia in World War 2, The Royal Australian Navy (Volume 1 1939 - 1942, and Volume 2 1942 - 1945)

by Hermon Gill published by Australian War Memorial, Canberra, 1957 and 1968

The official history of Australia's naval involvement in WWII. Written using the official records available after the war, these volumes together present a detailed account of all major RAN operations during WWII.

From Empire Defence to the Long Haul: Post-War Defence Policy and its Impact of Naval Force Structure Planning 1945-1955 (Papers in Australian Maritime Affairs No. 1)

by Hector Donohue published by Maritime Studies Program, Canberra, 1996

Following WWII, Australian Defence planners set about preparing the nation's strategic policies and the development of post-war force structure plans, however almost total reliance was placed on advice from the United Kingdom. While Australia opted for Empire defence, which included the Australian assistance in the Middle East theatre should war occur, defence planning graduated toward likely operations in the Pacific and South East Asia region. Clearly the post-war decision making processes have numerous parallels with the decisions influencing Australia's naval forces in more recent times.

Australia in the Korean War 1950-53, (2 Vols.)

by Robert J. O'Neill published by Australian War Memorial, Canberra, 1981 and 1985.

The official history of Australian military and naval experiences in the Korean War. The first volume describes the strategic and diplomatic background to the conflict. Combat operations are recorded in the second volume which include the experiences of Australian Army, Royal Australian Air Force and Royal Australian Navy contingents during the long, bitter campaign in Korea from 1950 to 1953.

Up Top: The Royal Australian Navy and Southeast Asian Conflicts 1955-72

by Jeffrey Grey published by Allen and Unwin, Sydney, 1998.

The official account of the experiences of the RAN in its involvement in conflicts in the South East Asian region, 1955-72, with a particular focus on the Far East Strategic Reserve, the Malayan Emergency, confrontation with Indonesia, and the Vietnam war. The other volumes of the Official History of Australia's Involvement in South East Asian Conflicts 1948-1975 are also interesting for those who wish to understand this period in Australia's history.

The Gulf Commitment: The Australian Defence Force's First War

by David M. Horner published by Melbourne University Press, Melbourne, 1992

A detailed analysis of the Australian Defence Force role in the 1990-1991 Gulf War, with an emphasis on its workings as a combined force.

More General Australian Naval Histories

The Navy and the Nation: The Influence of the Navy on Modern Australia

edited by David Stevens and John Reeve published by Allen and Unwin, Sydney, 2005

Despite the Navy being one of Australia's oldest and most important institutions, the links between nation-building and the Navy have never before received detailed study. Bringing together scholars from Australia and overseas, The Navy and the Nation examines the extent of the Navy's contribution to our national development and shows how the Navy played a vital role in defining our independent national identity.

No Pleasure Cruise, the Story of the Royal Australian Navy

by Tom Frame published by Allen and Unwin, Sydney, 2004

A comprehensive, easy-to-read history of the Australian Navy from its inception in 1901 to 2003. No Pleasure Cruise charts the RAN's emergence as one of the world's most respected navies, and its evolving relationship with the Australian public, press and parliament.

Island Nation: A History of Australians and the Sea

by Frank Broeze published by Allen and Unwin, Sydney, 1998

The story of the Australian people is a story of the interaction of land, cities and the sea. Island Nation sets out to restore the sea to its rightful place in Australia's history. It offers an alternative account of the past and opens new windows on the forces that have shaped our present.

Southern Trident: Strategy, History and the Rise of Australian Naval Power

edited by David Stevens and John Reeve published by Allen and Unwin, Sydney, 2000

Southern Trident examines the influences on the rise of Australian naval power and discusses current international and strategic issues in the light of history. The authors show how the creation of the Australian Navy was no simple display of nationalism, but rather the culmination of various complex and often revolutionary developments in areas such as politics, diplomacy, strategy, economic relations and technology in the Asia-Pacific region and far beyond.

Maritime Power in the 20th Century: The Australian Experience

edited by David Stevens published by Allen and Unwin, Sydney, 1998

From the era of the great battle fleets to modern peacekeeping operations, the 20th century witnessed the employment of maritime power as an instrument of diplomacy, a means of policing, and as an indispensable line of defence. This volume contains a collection of papers which examine how Australia made use of maritime power to preserve or protect its security interests during the 20th century, and in turn asks what maritime power is for, and what it can do in the future.

In Search of a Maritime Strategy: the Maritime Element in Australian Defence Planning since 1901

edited by David Stevens published by the Strategic and Defence Studies Centre ANU, Canberra, 1997

This book comprehensively examines our nation's search for an effective maritime strategy in the 20th century. Illuminating both the similarities and differences between eras, the volume provides a succinct overview of Australia's changing maritime priorities, and the evolution of broader strategic planning.

Reflections on the Royal Australian Navy

by Tom Frame, J.V.P. Goldrick and P.D. Jones published by Kangaroo Press, Kenthurst, 1991

This book represents the proceedings of a seminar held at the Australian Defence Force Academy in 1989. Though there was no specific theme in advance for the seminar other than the RAN itself, the editors have pointed out three major areas which emerged; the relationship between the RAN and the Royal Navy, the RAN's search for a viable balanced force structure, and the changing fortunes of Australian naval aviation. The papers in this book are an essential resource in any study of the RAN's history.

Work Hard, Play Hard: The Royal Australian Naval College 1913-1988

by I. J. Cunningham published by Australian Government Publishing Service, Canberra, 1988

The Royal Australian Naval College has been located at Osborne House in Geelong, Flinders Naval Depot and HMAS Creswell. As its last move to Creswell was in the 1950s, there are very few members of the RAN who would remember it in other locations. This account of the RANC records many aspects of its history; the people involved, the training they underwent or administered and the events, which occurred close to the College.

Mutiny! Naval Insurrections in Australia and New Zealand

by Tom Frame and Kevin Baker published by Allen and Unwin, Sydney, 2000

If you thought that naval mutinies only occurred on ships of the Royal Navy in the 19th century then think again. The RAN experienced a number of actions by sailors that were technically considered mutinies or mutinous behaviour. The most memorable action was that of several sailors aboard the battlecruiser HMAS Australia in 1919, when a number of stokers refused to sail from Fremantle. The majority of 'mutinies' were related to a failure of the Naval Board to redress the poor pay and conditions extended to RAN sailors. When these issues were addressed by naval leaders the oppositional behaviour collapsed.

More Detailed Histories

Australia's Colonial Navies

by Ross Gillett published by Naval Historical Society of Australia, Garden Island, 1982

This book is the product of many years of research into the separate naval forces of the Australian colonies. The vessels operated by each colony enjoyed, in the majority of cases, very varied careers and their design and construction are of more than passing interest.

Australia's Colonial Navies

by Colin Jones published by Australian War Memorial, Canberra, 1986

This is a fascinating account of Australia's naval history from 1788 until 1911. It was not until 1850s that the first colonial navy was permanently established. The next 50 years, until the new Federal Government was able to assume control of the colonial forces, is the major study of this book. Denied by Britain any legal status as warships outside territorial waters, the little ships were a familiar sight in Australia's colonial ports where they undertook a wide variety of military, diplomatic and constabulary tasks.

Bluejackets and Boxers: Australia's Naval Expedition to the Boxer Uprising

by Bob Nicholls published by Allen and Unwin, Sydney, 1986

The story of Australia's first military force to serve in Asia. This is the account of the naval expedition sent in 1900 by the colonies of South Australia, Victoria and New South Wales to help an international force crush the Boxer Rebellion in northern China.

Statesmen and Sailors: A History of Australian Maritime Defence 1870-1920

by Bob Nicholls published by the author, Balmain, 1995

Statesmen and Sailors is an account of how Australia acquired a navy. In the period immediately after Federation in 1901 the newly formed Commonwealth decided that it required some form of naval protection. The story examines events in Melbourne and Whitehall, with comparatively unsophisticated Australian politicians dealing with experienced politicians, bureaucrats and naval officers in London.

A Navy for Australia

by Alun Evans published by Australian Broadcasting Commission, Sydney, 1986

A Navy for Australia was written to coincide with the 75th Anniversary of the RAN in 1986. This is a brief book, which covers a broad swath of naval history starting with the establishment of British settlement in Australia, by naval forces, in 1788. Since then Australia's dependence on the sea has been enormous, though its interest in a navy has been uneven. Evans' style mixes overviews of a period with anecdotal accounts of specific events. This makes for an interesting book ideal as an introduction to Australian naval history.

First In, Last Out: The Navy at Gallipoli

by Tom Frame and G.J. Swinden published by Kangaroo Press, Kenthurst, 1990

Though Australian's memory of Gallipoli will always be dominated by the deeds of the ANZAC troops, it is important to recall that the RAN played a part as well. First In, Last Out was written to commemorate the RAN's participation for the 75th anniversary of the conflict. The title refers to AE2 being the first submarine to penetrate the Dardanelles, and to the men of the RAN Bridging Train who were the last to leave when the Allied troops were withdrawn after eight months. This book is one of very few on the RAN's participation in WWI.

The Royal Australian Navy in World War II

edited by David Stevens published by Allen and Unwin, Sydney, 2nd edn., 2005

The 2nd edition of this book contains papers presented at a conference of the same name in 1995, as well as later updates on the subject. They range from broad strategic overviews of the war to accounts of individual ships and events. It includes examinations of the social and political developments of the RAN and has some biographical accounts. As a result, the book is very readable and discusses a broad range of the RAN's wartime experiences.

HMAS Sydney II: The Cruiser and the Controversy in the Archives of the United Kingdom, (Papers in Australian Maritime Affairs No. 9)

edited by Peter Hore published by RAN Sea Power Centre, Canberra, 2001

This book is a collection of source material uncovered during research to find records in British archives about the disappearance of HMAS Sydney (II) in November 1941. It also investigates the opinions held by relevant authorities at the time of the ship's disappearance and attempts to resolve any outstanding controversy in records concerning this event.

HMAS Sydney: Loss and Controversy

by Tom Frame published by Hodder and Stoughton, Sydney, 1993

The loss of HMAS Sydney (II) with all hands is the worst defeat in the history of the RAN. The action with the German Raider Kormoran was particularly unsatisfactory from an Australian point of view; a result of inconsistent and possibly deceitful accounts given by German survivors compounded by there being no Australian survivors to explain Sydney's out of character and apparently foolhardy actions. This book provides one plausible explanation for the events leading to Sydney's sinking, though as the author points out, exactly what happened will probably remain in the realm of the unknowable. It is well researched, balanced and certainly the best account of the Sydney-Kormoran action.

Action Stations Coral Sea: The Australian Commander's Story

by Chris Coulthard-Clark published by Allen and Unwin, Sydney, 1991

The Battle of the Coral Sea was the first significant reverse for the Japanese armed forces during WWII. It remains the largest naval battle to occur in the vicinity of the Australian coast. Action Stations Coral Sea is an account of the battle from an Australian point of view, specifically that of the commander of the RAN forces Rear Admiral J.G. Crace, an RN officer on loan to the RAN. This is an interesting book, documenting the first substantial cooperation between the Australian and United States navies, and acting as a useful reminder of the role that the RAN played during the early stages of the Pacific War.

The Shame of Savo: The sinking of HMAS Canberra, Anatomy of a Naval Disaster

by Bruce Loxton with Chris Coulthard-Clark published by Allen and Unwin, Sydney, 1994

The heavy cruiser HMAS Canberra was heavily damaged, and subsequently scuttled, in a confused night action with Japanese cruisers off Savo Island in August 1942, which saw three USN cruisers also sunk. Some confusion has existed over whether or not Canberra was torpedoed and if so by enemy or friendly fire. Bruce Loxton was a Midshipman onboard Canberra at Savo Island. His account of the events leading up to, and surrounding the sinking, is excellent. Despite the fact that the author's sympathies obviously lie in favour of Canberra, the book is not a polemic; it is well researched, interesting and his conclusions logically argued. His discussion of the general state of the Allied navies' night fighting ability is also particularly worthwhile. The conclusion that Canberra was crippled by torpedoes from a US destroyer should be understood in light of the lack of Allied night fighting ability.

Australian Carrier Decisions: The Decision to Procure HMA Ships Albatross, Sydney and Melbourne, (Papers in Australian Maritime Affairs No. 4)

by Anthony Wright published by Maritime Studies Programme, Canberra, 1998

This book is the printed version of Dr Anthony Wright's study entitled Australian Carrier Decisions:Three Descriptive Analyses, which was first written between 1977 and 1978. Even after 25 or more years the strategic assessment remains valid today. While 'fine tuning' was necessary to meet the political and economic imperatives at the time this study was written, we should also recognise that Australia's naval policies are not generated in a vacuum but are also characterised by our own political and economic imperatives. It is fair to say that Australia's defence force structure is based upon what our society believes is necessary and is also willing to pay for.

Where Fate Calls: The HMAS Voyager Tragedy

by Tom Frame published by Hodder and Stoughton, Sydney, 1992

The controversy over the sinking of HMAS Voyager after its collision with the aircraft carrier HMAS Melbourne was the most traumatic in the RAN's history. This book is an excellent account of the RAN in the 1960s, the events leading up to the collision, the people involved and the highly publicised and convoluted Royal Commissions which followed. Although written in an authoritative manner, certain aspects of this book, for example the signalling explanation, should not be accepted without critical review of the events. It is highly recommended for anyone with an interest in the RAN's history. For junior seaman officers in particular it will give them an appreciation of the importance of their job.

Navy in Vietnam, a Record of the Royal Australian Navy in the Vietnam War 1965-1972

by Dennis Fairfax published by Department of Defence, Australian Government Printing Service,

Canberra, 1980

Navy in Vietnam was compiled primarily for the men who took part in the Vietnam War. It is one of the few official records currently available that details Australia's involvement during this war. After providing background on the conflict, the book describes the naval operations involving HMA Ships, Clearance Diving Team 3, Fleet Air Arm deployments, and logistic support. The book also includes useful tables and appendixes with information about those who served.

Australian Military Histories (including naval aspects)

Australia: Two Centuries of War and Peace

edited by M. McKernan and M. Browne published by Australian War Memorial, Canberra, 1988

Australia as a nation has considerable military experience. From the establishment of a penal colony in 1788 by British naval forces, much of the development of Australia in the l9th century was guided by military governors. Particularly early in the colony's life, the British military forces provided much of the skills necessary for its survival and improvement. Australia's armed services subsequently participated in most of the major conflicts of the 20th century. Two Centuries of War and Peace examines many facets of the Australian experience of conflict, from the wars between European settlers and Aborigines to the various post WWII conflicts. It is an important contribution to understanding the place that the Defence Force has in Australian society and history.

Anzac to Amiens

by C.E.W. Bean published by Penguin, Ringwood, revised edn. 1993

This book is a condensation of the Official Australian History of the 1914-18 War. Anzac to Amiens makes the events of this time more accessible to the general reader (the Official History is in 12 volumes). The author does have a pedantic way to his writing, unless you're specifically interested in the units you learn to faze out the extra (though understandable) detail. He also has a tendency to use language that could now be called quaint. This is still the best concise account of Australian involvement in WWI by the author who helped generate the 'Anzac tradition'. Of course, given the opportunity, you should also read the official history.

Australia at War 1939-1945

by John Robertson published by William Heinemann, Sydney, 1981

This is the best short account of Australia in WWII. It is well researched, concise and interesting. Robertson describes the way in which Australia's war was influenced by the decisions of her major allies, Britain and the United States, and the limited extent to which the Australian government had control over the war. Even though Australia's war effort was small in absolute terms it was one of the largest in per capita terms. Australian forces, though small, made significant contributions in particular areas (the Mediterranean in 1940-42 and the South West Pacific Theatre in 1942-45) though these were not the most crucial of the war. As Australia is still a middle power, likely to participate in future significant conflict as part of an alliance with larger powers, it is important to understand the implications of our situation. Examining the past realities is a good start. Again interested readers with extra time should read the full collection of Official Histories for Australia in the War of 1939-1945.

A Military History of Australia

by Jeffrey Grey published by Cambridge University Press, Melbourne, 2nd edn. 1999

A Military History of Australia traces the 'growth and development of the Australian armed forces as institutions'. It describes the conflicts in which Australia has been involved, the role military forces played in the development of the country and the place Australia's armed forces have in the national culture. Each chapter has a bibliographical essay, which makes it easy to find more information on most subjects. It is the best concise history of Australia's armed service.

The Oxford Companion to Australian Military History

by Peter Dennis, Jeffrey Grey, Ewan Morris and Robin Prior published by Oxford University Press, Melbourne, 1995

This is essentially a dictionary for any person, equipment, place, organisation or event, which has significance for Australian Military History. It is not only an excellent initial reference source but contains significant essays on subjects such as the conflict between Europeans and Aborigines after British settlement of Australia.

The Colonial Volunteers: The Defence Forces of the Australian Colonies 1836-1901

by Bob Nicholls published by Allen and Unwin, Sydney 1988

This book is an account of the defence forces of the Australian colonies from their origins during the 1830s to Federation in 1901. These forces were formed purely for local defence, with the role of national maritime defence falling upon the Australian Squadron and the Auxiliary Australian Squadron of the Royal Navy.

Armed and Ready: The Industrial Development and Defence of Australia, 1900-1945

by Andrew T. Ross published by Turton and Armstrong, Sydney, 1995

Australia's capabilities in industry, science and technology were key factors in WWII. This authoritative volume challenges long accepted beliefs about Australia's preparedness for war with Japan.


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