Was Steven Wainwright Cracknall a deserter from the Great White Fleet?

June 19, 2009 1:10 PM

Subject: Great White Fleet.

We have only just discovered that my wife’s grandfather – Steven Wainwright Cracknall was deserter from the Great White Fleet. So says the history of one of the country pubs he owned.

I have not been able to find his name on any list – have only ever seen one )-

Are you able to help me. His certificates say he was born in Oakland California

My late father In Law always said that his Grandfather was an Admiral in the USA navy but never talked of his family. We have therefore this large gap in our family history. I wonder if it is possible he came out under another name. I just don’t know where to turn to. All USA Navy history repositories have no record

If you have a look at a photo of  Peter Wainwright and my Father In law you would think they were the same person.

What do you suggest?

Look forward to hearing from you

Alan Jarrad.

Here is the list of all who deserted from the Great White Fleet in Melbourne in September of 1908, alas no Steven Wainwright Cracknall.

It is possible he used another name.

Deserters from Great White Fleet in Melbourne September 1908


The figures after the names namely 10 and 20 Pounds were the reward offered to turn a deserter into his ship. Some were considered more valuable to the USN than others, a few, apparently close to serving out their enlisted time were not offered for a reward.

There was certainly no US Navy Admiral with the name of Cracknall with the GWF, (see below)and in my view its very unlikely that a US Admiral would desert his ship to stay in Australia, there would be such a hue and cry to find him.

It may well be a family myth, that has grown with time.

I have had many enquiries about Fathers/Grandfathers who supposedly were serving in HMAS Canberra when she was sunk  ( as I was )

I hold a complete crew list at the time of her sinking at the Battle of Savo Island on August 9 1942.

In many cases the Sailor who is claimed to have been on board was never there, ending that family myth.

I know the US Naval History sites had no record of the GWF deserters, as the list I have given you was sent to them only recently from Australia.

I am afraid I am unable to suggest where else you might search.

There was no photo attached.

Best regards, 

June 20, 2009

Thank you so much for that. The history book about the pub that Steven Cracknall owned suggests he was an American sailor who jumped ship. He certainly was an American with the accent etc. he married twice and my wife’s family are from the first marriage. Most of the children from the second are still alive.

His Grandparent would have been a Wainwright but  did not jump ship. I was always under the impression there were at least 300 who jumped. Is this the complete list?

Thanks for taking the trouble.

He certainly is a mystery.

Will have to start looking for an alias

His mother was Elizabeth Agnes Wainwright.

Alan Jarrad


I found Rear Admiral Wainwright and needed to eat some humble pie.



It is a complete list for the Melbourne deserters.

The deserters in Sydney numbered about 31 but I do not have a list of them.

What state was the Pub located in that the American who jumprd ship was involved in?

Can you please give me the book title etc and when it was published?

I have long wished I might find some dependents who emanated from those US Sailors who decided to make Australia home after the GWF had sailed.

Alan I found this photo when searching for details of the GWF visit to Albany. 

At right is a rare portrate photograph taken of the four admirals and their staff Lieutenants while in Sydney. From left to right: Rear Admiral William Emory, Rear Admiral Charles Sperry, Rear Admiral Seaton Schroeder, and Rear Admiral Richard Wainright. The photo was taken by Vice Regal Photographers of Sydney.

From left to right: Rear Admiral William Emory, Rear Admiral Charles Sperry, Rear Admiral Seaton Schroeder, and Rear Admiral Richard Wainright 
My apologies for doubting the veracity of the story about Rear Admiral Wainwright.
He is I believe on the far right as you view the photo.

Best regards, 

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