HOME OF THE LADY DENMAN - Local history isn't always about the big story - the everyday story of life in the early development of the region can be a fascinating, entertaining and educational journey.

3 August 2015

HMAS Creswell.

Inside history

Following on from the previous post about the fascinating story of the missing bell that at one time sounded navy time across the parade ground called the “Quarterdeck” at HMAS Creswell, I had the unique opportunity of  being given a guided tour of HMAS Creswell’s history museum and to climb the ladders to the top of the bell tower.

HMAS Creswell  is a collection of heritage listed buildings, constructed in 1913, they are beautifully maintained and sit in an idyllic location on a small headland known as Captains Point overlooking Jervis Bay.  Creswell is a hive of activity and while we were there,  a batch of new trainee’s all dressed in blue and white uniforms were being put through drills.


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These are just some of the buildings on the base.

The Museum.
The museum has an amazing collection of artefacts,  which include diaries, photo’s,  precious objects and priceless documents,  all connected to the rich history of the base and to Jervis Bay.
The photo’ take you on a journey back to the very beginning of the base,  particularly interesting to me were the many photo’s that depicted the workers that helped build the facility in 1913,  living in tents on site and carving out the rugged bush with limited machinery. A photo of the train that was used to transport rocks from the quarry during the construction of the break wall,  and another of a steamer used to deliver supplies during the construction, all add to the story.

An image of the first group of 13 year old navy cadets to be trained at the base and their accompanying service history makes compelling reading.

There were portraits, photo’s and stories of officers trained at the base who served during conflicts Australia has been involved in,  many made the ultimate sacrifice,  their stories are told on panels accompanied by uniforms, ceremonial swords and personal items,  many of which have been donated to the museum by relatives.


The railway line used to move equipment and a Steamer


Workers at the site during construction

Locomotive 530 in use from 1912 to 1930’s

The Clock Tower Building.
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The clock tower was constructed at the same time as the rest of the buildings, recently renovated and looking fantastic, inside the building you find a large open space that was used as a gymnasium,  beautiful hardwood polished floors,  high ceilings and exposed steel trusses overhead.

The Peter Webber Collection.

gymThe building houses a world class collection of hand made model ships, tracing the development from sailing ships right through to modern steel war ships.  The detail and craftsmanship used in making these models is truly mind boggling,  each ship is accompanied by a text panel outlining the history of the vessel.



Born in Bournmouth England in 1923 Peter joined the Royal Navy and served as a Petty Officer in the Fleet Air Arm. He came to Australia in 1952 settling in the Shoalhaven.
The ship models on display are the result of years of experience and research and endeavour.  He made every part by hand in it’s entirety.
The assembly of models on display represents Peter Webber’s entire collection.

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a few of the magnificent ships on display.
Inside the Bell Tower

Connected by a series of narrow steep ladders,  the first climb brings you out into a dark empty room, once your eyes adjust,  the first thing you notice is the walls are covered with names and dates,  the markings are from trainees at the base who over many years,   broke into the tower and signed their names on the walls, it was seen as a challenge and quite an achievement to get your name on the walls, some date back into the 40’s.


The second ladder brings you to another room with a small window and old timber doors,  opening the doors gives you a view across the base and the beautiful blue water and white beaches of Jervis Bay.  


This floor houses the fascinating and unique mechanism that drives the bell and clock and keeps it on time.  Originally driven by a weighted pendulum the mechanism has been updated and now runs on small electric motors.  There are two wires connecting this device to the  floor above.  


After another steep climb you finally reach the top of the tower,  this room is bathed soft light, the light comes via the two large translucent clock faces that flank both sides of the room,  the first thing you see is another fascinating piece of machinery with a swinging pendulum and moving gears,  simple in design but puzzling to watch, how they worked this device out is beyond me, the wires from the floor below connect the two devices and then go vertically to the bell sticking out through the roof above,  there you see two large steel hammers ready to be drawn back at the appropriate time and ring the bell.

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You can see the two large steel hammers that have been in action since 1913, there ready to strike the bell,  all driven by the amazing mechanism on the floor below.


After the original bell went missing, when the base was turned into a holiday resort in the 30’s it was replaced with the bell shown here,  it’s smaller in size then the original bell.

Each floor features more names and dates and they make interesting reading,  there was some discussion about covering the signatures,  but they have become part of the towers history, describing many of the past students and their adventurous spirit.

Descending each level you finally come back into the light and our guided tour of the base and this fascinating building came to and end.

The history of the base is intertwined with the history of Jervis Bay,  the navy has played an amazing roll in the development of Jervis Bay,  their presence has been a positive and inspiring connection.

Since the terrorist attacks on the Twin Towers in America the base has been closed to the general population, so this remarkable museum can’t be seen by the general public at this time,  it’s a great shame,  and hopefully one day the authorities will be able to open the doors to the public again.

The original Bell.
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The original bell is housed in the foyer of the museum.  You can read more about the bells history,  disappearance  and it’s rediscovery here – Continue reading. 

IMG_1005 I would like to thank Lieutenant Commander David Jones for giving me the opportunity to experience the museum and the amazing bell tower. His knowledge, and passion for the Navy’s history in connection with the base and Jervis Bay is manifest.
And a special thanks to Ken Sheen who initially organised and accompanied us throughout our tour.



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