Lists (None yet)

Login to create lists

Tagged (None yet)

Add Tags

Comments (None yet)

Add New Comment

2 corrections, most recently by David.Rowlands - Show corrections

Drama of...


* * *



It was on October 21, 1914, thal the Orvieto, flagship of the 28 vessels comprising the fleet which carried Aus- tralia's first Expeditionary Force to the war, pulled out

from Port Melbourne.

BEFORE that day there had been

much maritime activity around the coasts of Australia. The ships of the Aus- tralian Navy had been prepared. The Australia, the Dreadnought flagship of our "sure shield and defence," had by her mere presence saved the seaboard cities from attack. Except for her Von Spec's squadron would have raided our shores. With a naval fleet the Berrima had carried our Pacific Expeditionary force to German New Guinea.

The Troopships Sail

BUT the Orvicto fleet was different.

Here was an armada, a fleet such as liad never before embarked on such a voyage, a fleet which ran great risks but got through successfully, a fleet which had with it H.M.A.S. sydney, the winner of Australia's first sea battle. The date of the Orvieto's sailing was auspicious.

For most of those who participated in or watched the departure of those ships from Port Melbourne it may well be that the full Implications were not grasped. There is a sense of security about a great and well-ordered city, about n land- locked and well-known harbour, about large, solid - looking steamers. They were, too, merchantmen in their every- day paint and colours, for navy-grey and ! camouflage had not yet come to turn

them more ostensibly into ships of war. Even the crowds of khaki troops on board could not effect the transformation. Yet ships of war they were, and they might easily hnve suffered heavily long before they had crossed the Indian Ocean after leaving Australia.

The Emden

THE convoy was only 55 miles from the Emden when Australia's first   sea fight took place. Not long before that the R.M.S. Osterley had passed the fleet close to. Had she been captured later by the Emden it is odds on that the German would have learned of the proximity of the convoy, and a sorry tale for Australia might have followed. Von Muller, the Emden's commander, him- self said that had he known of the convoy he would have attacked, and that he would have considered lils chances of success great. He would have torpedoed an escorting cruiser and in the excitement he would have got among the troopships. And he thought he would have sunk half of them before

he, himself was finished. Yesl October ! 21 was an auspicious day for Melbourne

and Australia.

Like so many of those aboard them, many of the ships that steamed in three long lines from Albany after the convoy had been formed In the West Australian port have gone. Were an attempt made to re-form that convoy to-day there would be many gaps hi the divisions. Omrah, Afrlc, Miltiades, Wiltshire. Gee- long, Shropshire, Medic-here are some that have gone. Orvieto, too, went to the breaklng-up yard about five years ago. But they did their part lu writing Australia's history.

Ships That Are Gone

SOME of those ships which carried

the first of our men are still regular visitors to Australia. One, the Thcmistoclcs, is with us in Melbourne to-day. She led the starboard division of the second contingent, which left in December, 1914. All the three leaders of' that convoy nre still familiar in our ports. And if October 21 was a suitable sailing date for the first contingent, how about the suitability of the names of the three division leaders of the second?

Bearing the name of a great sea ad- venturer. Ulysses was flagship. ThemLs tocles. called after the far-seeing

Athenian who raised his countrj to MM domination and smashed the Persian power at Salamis, led the starboard line The port line leader. Ceramic, Is per- haps of the earth carthy by name but it would be Ägean clay and, therefore


Tin. Binden had gone before the second contingent set sail, but the voyage was not without its thrills The Königsberg was still somewhere round the shores ot East Africa, and memories of a ten«e few minutes off Sokotra come to mind

The Themlstoclos was the only ship m the convoy that carried guns She had two 4 7 qulckfirers mounted on her poop Tlicy had been put there-the shadow« of coming events?-In 1913. There «ere no escorting cruisers, but Berrima re- turned from New Guinea, was hi the convoy towing AE2, the Australian sub- marine which later did such good work in Turkish waters

False Alarm

COLOMBO, where Thcmistotlcs and

Berrima caused Sir John Monash some worry with men on the spree ashore, was behind. The vojage was proceeding smoothl} Then, one fine morning, the masts and funnels of an unknown cruiser were raised on the star- board beam, the vessel's course converg- ing with that of the convoy.

From the flagship carne the reassuring message that the stranger was posslbh an enemy, and to the Themlstocles the Inspiring command was given to prepare to break away from the convoy ard en- gage the enemy with her two 4" pop guns, while the Berrima slipped AE2 which would endeavour to torpedo the cruiser while the convoy scattered Foi . tunatcly Them~tocles was nat called

upon to fleht another Salamis Tin stranger turned out to be the Rovnl Indian Marine ship Duflcrln The vov ogc continued without Incident

The Canal

AND so on post Perini, past Poit

Tew ilk, to the Canal, where war in | tile shape of sandbags protecting the

bridge-for there had been skirmishes with the Turk on the eastern desert and an attack was made on El Kantara-b*

came apparent Vignettes remain in memory. A khakl-painted battle-ship moored in the canal . . Troop* Gurkhas, New Zealanders, Sikhs, Bençal Lancers .. A French warship and the crashing of the ' Marseillaise'

Sepojs, Guikhas, King's Own Scottish Borderers, Australians

There were colls, greetings cheers ' Who are }ou?" And a Jocular sema- phored message from tile bank, "Arc jo« soldiers'" Ever} moment held a thnll a glow of patriotic pride.

Alexandria And, for a while, good- bye to the sea and ships . until th« gathering at Mudros

The Mediten anean was an unpleasant sea In those dajs, a sea of dark black nights, when the transports raced un escorted and without lights, of da . sunny and calm, or stormy and gre\ swhen they zlg-zagged from port to port

of bustle and business In Mudros HBI bour, where was such on arra} of war sliips, hospital ships, trawlers troop« < submarines, sailers, motoi bart,e< launches, as had never been seen before nor has been seen since

Such comings and goints tranship ments emborkings disembarkation' until the duv of landing and afie

NAVY and nieicliant service Jiei

woikcd together, and tlnoughoi

those Gallipoli days, from the landing to the evacuation, they did their pan Truly, then, did those that went down io the sea In ships seo the wonders of tin deep-the wonders of tile deep devotio i the great courage, tho und}lng faith oí the men that made Anzac and marie Australia ii nation

i Vnr-ic Cose as It is lo-d.i>. The ileso iii ü lit ii li, »me a line of .utlsits ||

¡ is now visited onlj bj a few pitsrlms ann the men ssho tend the war H | cemeteries. The old concrete shcltci bears a while notice board with thr H

. words "Anz.ic Cove" jj