Monday, 7 October 2013

100 years Australian Navy

The 100th anniversary of the RAN in Australia is a current topic. The fire works and light display was televised the other night. I can sympathise with the team who created the visual history which was shone onto the sides of the Opera House and the pylons of the Harbour Bridge. To condense the entire 100 year history to about 30 minutes would be no easy matter. I have enough trouble condensing all the information I want to impart about the landing at Anzac into a couple of hundred pages, so I can appreciate the challenge they were faced with. What do you put in? What do you leave out? What do you emphasise, and what do you play down?
I noticed they briefly mentioned the operations in the Pacific to get rid of the German Pacific Fleet in 1914, and then a slightly more detailed account (maybe a full 5 seconds) of the battle between the Sydney and the Emden.
In The Anzac legend I have “devoted” a page to the operations in the Pacific and another few panels on the Sydney/Emden fight (hardly enough for either).

Of note here is that the Australian and New Zealand operations in the Western Pacific region forced the German Pacific Fleet to quit the region and sail to the east where it met and defeated a weak British naval force in the Battle of Coronel. It then sailed to the South Atlantic, where it was destroyed by an avenging Royal Navy task force in the Battle of the Falklands in Dec 1914. They were two of the few times that the two sides came to serious blows before the Gallipoli Campaign. The naval war turned into a blockade, which locked the German Fleet into its port until after the Gallipoli campaign and the Battle of Jutland in 1916.
As I outline in another episode, Churchill and Lord Jackie Fisher wanted to utilise their powerful Navy in the War, but the German’s wouldn’t come out to fight. Looking for other options was one of the many contributing factors which led to the adoption of the Dardenelles Plan, resulting in the landings at Gallipoli.
That’s a very brief overview, and does not include the smaller battles and the losses to submarines the British suffered up to that time.

Last night on the news they showed a report on the commemoration of the Sydney-Emden battle. It was interesting to hear what the German Naval officer said in his speech when he said- when two nations fight against each other within the bounds of humanity and rules of warfare, that afterwards they can come together as friends; - or words to that effect. How true is that? Let’s say it makes it a lot easier to share a common ground and know that they can look the other side in the eye afterwards with no sense of shame.

After the Sydney took the Emden’s crew on board as prisoners they sailed to Colombo, Sri Langka, where the Anzac convoy had sailed to and was waiting. As they approached the port, the Captain of the Sydney radioed ahead to the Anzac convoy saying that out of respect for the wounded German prisoners on board, that no cheering, etc should accompany the Sydney’s arrival, as it would be like rubbing salt into their wounds and in bad taste in respect to the defeated Germans. I think that says a lot about the respect between foes that the German naval officer was talking about this week.
That said, war is war. Nasty and rude. It’s a shame that it is has to be held up as an example of what is good, and what is bad in humanity. Because that is what war does – it brings out the best and the worst in human nature. That is something I am trying to portray in The Anzac Legend.


  1. It is difficult to condense what you want to say into a few words or pages. It comes down to making decisions as to what tells the story as you see it, I think. War is not a good thing.

  2. You're right Kate. Hopefully I make the right decisions. Thanks for your comments.