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.

29 May 2017

Range Finder – HMAS Creswell

HMAS Creswell has many historical artifacts on display around the base, this amazing peice of equipment is called a "RANGE FINDER",  it came from the first HMAS Sydney.  The Range finder has been at the base from at least 1923 where it featured in a College Magazine.  Sydney achieved fame in World War 1 when it defeated the German cruiser EMDEN on 9 November 1914.  You can see the evidence of the action on the rangefinder.

The rangefinder has only been recently put back on display was originally painted battle ship grey. The paint was removed revealing the amazing brass and workmanship.


Damage suffered during the battle with the German cruiser Emden.


HMAS Sydney 1


26 May 2017

HMAS Creswell

26th May 2017
I recently found an old photograph of the base from around 1915 the curator of the Navy Museum had not seen before. I was asked if I would like to come to the base and take a comparison photograph from the same position today as was taken in 1915.



As you can clearly see there has been a lot of changes. The original dark building in the original picture has been demolished, a park now occupies that space. In the recent photograph, you can clearly see the multi-story blonde brick slabs built in the 1970's, a far cry from the beautiful old original timber buildings.
In the original photograph on the top left and the top right, you can make out the back of the original Geelong House which towers over the large grass parade ground called the "Quarterdeck" you can still see this in the recent image.


This image shows the back of the two buildings that make up Cerebus House.  They were at one-time separate buildings but during later renovations were joined together. The distinctively roofed squarish building in the foreground can be seen in the original photograph.


The view from the front balcony of Geelong House overlooking the Quarterdeck. 846-QuarterdeckHere you can see the original layout.  The grassed area is known as the Quarterdeck because of the shape.   The quarterdeck is a raised deck behind the main mast of a sailing ship. Traditionally it was where the captain commanded his vessel and where the ship's colours were kept. The road running around the perimiter recreated that shape.

In the background You can clearly see Geelong House on the left with Cerebus House on the right with the two story Stewarts Quarters behind. During the period of 1930-58 the Stewarts Quarters was used as holiday accommodation and known as the "Anchorage".  The building was demolished in 1980.

The clock tower in the foreground has it's own amazing history and more of that including rare images from inside the tower can be seen here.


The bell which is rung every day.  The date signifies the date the Navy regained possession of the facility after it had been closed as a navy base in the 1930's and turned into a holiday resort.CaptureREF:http://news.navy.gov.au/en/Jan2015/Fleet/1744/100-years-at-Jervis-Bay---College-seeking-descendants.htm#.WSifQOvfqHt

Throughout the fascility there are reminders of the rich history of the "Royal Australian Naval College" HMAS Creswell. running down the inside of one of the corridors of Cerebus House are photographs of the first cadets with each young mans history.  Considering the boys average age was only 13 years old when they entered the service.  Thrust into the first world war shortly after graduation, they went on great adventures, some lived long rewarding lives, while others were lost at sea during their service to the nation. Their individual stories could fill an historical publication by themeselves.



23 May 2017

The Schooner Huddersfield and the missing white women mystery.


1919 a large crowd of people had gathered on the shoreline of Currambene Creek to watch the launching of the Schooner Huddersfield.    Everything went as planned as she slipped effortlessly across the timber slipway entering the cold water of Currambene Creek.  The successful launch was greeted with a loud cheer from the crowd who had travelled from all over the district to watch this historic event.


Launch of the Huddersfield in 1919


The Huddersfield, a 3 masted auxiliary topsail schooner built to the order of Mr Sidney Moore by local shipbuilder Joseph Dent at Huskisson,  she measured 112ft long overall and weighed 174 tonnes, had a loaded draft of 9ft aft and 7ft 9in forward at a cost of 7500 pounds.
Built of locally sourced spotted gum hardwood including her 3 masts,  which at the time would normally have been from Oregon.  Quite amazingly her keel was made from one piece and her kelson was also in one piece, including a stinger 14x4, underneath the deck in one piece.  This say's a lot about the local timber available at the time.
Sheathed in copper she was regarded as a strong beautifully crafted vessel,  built by one of the best boat builders on the coast.

After the launch, the vessel was taken to Sydney to have her Scandia crude oil engine of 100 h.p. fitted.  She was capable of a speed of 61/2 knots. She also had a crude oil winch fitted capable of lifting 3 tonnes supplied by Messrs. Nelson and Robertson of Sydney.

1920 - Friday 7th May.
Once the engines were fitted and before she could be taken to sea she underwent trials to test her new engines and equipment.  From the time the vessel cast off until she returned to an anchorage in Rose Bay the engine worked without a hitch,  although the contract speed was for 5 knots the vessel exceeded all expectations by doing 71/2. The vessel would be capable of maintaining a speed of 61/2 knots per hour on a consumption of four gallons of crude per hour.

Her new commander Captain Muir was reported "exceedingly pleased with the trial and is looking forward to a smart trip across to Gisborne New Zealand."

Saturday 8th May.  
The Huddersfield's maiden voyage was to Gisborne carrying a cargo of 74,000 feet of hardwood, she
made the trip across in 16 days which was at the time regarded as a good run, she was loaded with timber and sailed back to Sydney.

1922 - After many successful trips across the Tasman for her owners she was chartered into the cattle-carrying trade between Broome and Port Moresby. Along with the cattle, she would carry a large variety of cargo, which could include benzine, kerosene, timber, dynamite and sundries.

1923 - Her contracts had run out and she spent 7 months laying idle in Sydney Harbour before being overhauled. The overhaul included adding passenger accommodation on her deck.

1924  March 13th -  At the completion of the overhaul the Huddersfield underwent trials before being placed into commission, replacing the Rachel Cohen in the service of the Federal Government.

1924 May 28th  - Under the command of captain H.C Bowden she left Sydney bound for Darwin where she arrived on the 7th of July after an uneventful pleasant trip.  Captain Bowden had been her skipper for three years, the crew consisted of the mate, driver, three able seamen, two ordinary seamen, and the cook - nine men all told.  Bowden was a very experienced skipper with 50 years of experience at sea,  he had sailed the Huddersfield from Australia to New Zealand and from Queensland across to New Guinea with 165 head of cattle without losing one head, which was quite a feat in those days.

Speaking of the Huddersfield he said, 'he has never yet been aboard a better vessel"


1924 November 6th - The Huddersfield was caught up in legal proceedings when a warrant of execution, issued by the local court in Holmes versus Boucaut Bay Company
and the Huddersfield was seized by the bailiff for debt amounting to 72 pounds, for wages to members of the crew. The news of the arrest was widely publicised but this was nothing
compared to what was to come as the Huddersfield was about to become involved in one of the greatest mysteries of her time.


The Huddersfield name made headlines across the world when she became involved in the failed search for two white women who were alleged to have been taken captive by aboriginals in the Northern Territory.  The women were reported to be apart of a small group who survived the sinking of the  Douglas Mawson which  foundered near Groote Eylandt during a cyclone en route from Burketown to Thursday Island, the rest of the survivors 10 men were reportedly attacked and speared to death by the local aboriginals.

The Douglas Mawson was also built and launched on the south coast of NSW at Bawley Point on the 11th of  April  1914.

1923 March 31st - During a voyage between Norman River and Thursday Island, the small steamer ran into a devastating cyclone.  When she didn't arrive at the expected time at her desination concerns were raised.  The area she travelled in had just been hit by a massive cyclone, it was hoped she had found refuge and was just running late. 
After a day or two concerns for the vessels and her passenger's safety started to gain momentum.  An extensive search was carried out without finding any trace of the missing vessel. 
The Douglas Mawson was presumed lost with all passengers and crew.  Time past and the Douglas Mawson name slowly drifted from the minds of the people involved.

July 1924 - 16 months after the loss of the Mawson a startling report appeared in the Brisbane Daily.  The message was to the effect that an Australian blackboy employed as a lugger hand had talked with natives on Cunningham Island, one of a small group off Arnhem Bay. He told them that he had heard of two white women who were held captive by blacks on the mainland of the Northern Territory.  One of them with a white girl infant was living in the camp of a wild black known as Bokara, and the other a younger woman was held by another wild native named Majara.


Huddersfield Expedition.

Capture 4

The news caused a sensation all over Australia, people called for the Government to send a rescue party immediately.  The Federal Government including the Prime Minister and cabinet minister, Mr Pearce were widely condemned for taking another four weeks to look into the matter.  Eventually, orders were given, not to send a warship,  but a three - masted schooner,  the Huddersfield.
The expedition became known as the Huddersfield Expedition. The Huddersfield was loaded with an armed party comprising  about 20 policemen,  their horses, a number of blacks trackers with constable Lovegrove in charge.
The decision to use the Huddersfield instead of a war ship was widely critisised because of the time it took the Huddersfield to reach it's destination.  The voyage took the Huddersfield 14 days for a journey of 375 miles,  at an average of 1 knot an hour to cover the distance from Darwin to  Elcho Island.  The Hudderfield's motor could not be used for some reason only working for about 15 minutes before stopping. The ships wireless would only receive but could not send messages.

Reports at the time told a terrible story of the murders, this news sparked much community outrage.  Papers all over the world ran stories about the tragedy the Huddersfield name became famous the world over.

Capture 2

Four Japanes murdered.
The Aboriginals of Arnheim Land were regarded as the hardest and fiercest blacks in Australia with some groups never having seen a white person.  Four Japanese had been murdered on the coast not long before this incident.

The search party did an extensive search, following leads given to them by other people who reported seeing the women, the terrain was difficult and despite doing everything they could with the resources they had, nothing was ever found.

Dispite many reports from other sources at the time verifying the story,  the Government official Mr. Pearce issued statements saying the Government believed the blacks had been misunderstood and that the report of the holding of Mrs. Willet and her daughter was without foundation.

From time to time over many years stories surfaced to keep alive the belief that Mrs. Willet and her daughter continued to be captive of the blacks, until at last these stories died away,  and no one can now know for certain whether the original stories were true,  and if so,  what fate overcame the mother and daughter.

1928 - The Huddersfield returned from her costly and failed expedition in October 1924 and spent many years lying at anchor opposite Stokes Hill.  She sprang a leak and was reported to have a stream of water coming into her from a space about a foot long and an inch wide. Her pumps were employed and the water reduced, the hole was repaired but she was still taking water, the owners stripped her of any worthwhile parts. She was in a bad condition with unconfirmed reports her hull was being eaten by toredoe worms.
imageTuesday 4th December For many years she was used as floating storage by pearlers and slowly deteriorated from the once beautiful ship to a rotting hulk.
Wreckage was found washed up on the beach at Port Hill and was identified as coming from the Huddersfield, she had sunk at her moorings.  At the time the vessel had not been moved for several years and had one caretaker on board.  The news of the sinking was passed on to her Captain A.J Swanson. He was in charge of the schooner when she was chartered by the Federal Government in 1924 for the Huddersfield Expedition.  At the time of her sinking she was owned by |Mr. Stretton of Darwin who had purchased her for about
105 pounds a few months prior.

2009 - Discovery of the Huddersfield.
Divers working in Darwin Harbour discovered wreckage in 1996 but the wreckage wasn't confirmed as the Huddersfield until 2009.


17 May 2017

Ships in the bay.

17th May 2017
We have another two ships in the bay today.

The HMAS Darwin (FFG 04), named for the capital city of the Northern Territory, is an Adelaide-class guided-missile frigate of the Royal Australian Navy (RAN). One of four ships ordered from the United States, Darwin entered service in 1984. During her career, she has operated in the Persian Gulf, as part of the INTERFET peacekeeping taskforce, and off the Solomon Islands.

The HMAS Toowoomba (FFH 156) she is the seventh Anzac-class frigate of the Royal Australian Navy (RAN). She was laid down in 2002 by Tenix Defence Systems and commissioned in 2005.

In 2007, Toowoomba was deployed to the Persian Gulf as part of Operation Slipper. Her second deployment to the Middle East occurred during the second half of 2009. As part of this, she became the first RAN vessel to operate with the counter-piracy Combined Task Force 151.

HMAS Darwin
may-17th-2017-darwin-04REF: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/HMAS_Darwin_(FFG_04)
HMAS Darwin spent most of the day anchored off HMAS Creswell.

HMAS Toowoomba (FFH 156)


12 May 2017

Fishing report for Jervis Bay 1912

"The bay at present is discoloured to a milky whiteness by the whale-oil factory operations."


Sun (Sydney, NSW : 1910 - 1954), Thursday 24 November 1912, page 12

This fishing report makes interesting reading, especially the part about the bay being covered with a white slick from the whaling operation.  The correspondent actually wrote the article aboard the whale processing factory ship the Loc Tay.  The Loch Tay and another factory ship the Polynesia were a permanent fixture in the bay at this time and were part of a larger whale hunting operation being carried out off the NSW coast using Jervis Bay as a base.
By December whale numberes had dropped,  catches were becoming harder to secure and many of the whales contained small amounts of oil, the small numbers of whales could not support the whaling operations.
This is the second reference to the discoloured water I have found,  and was also one of the reasons whale processing and hunting operations were eventually completely stopped inside Jervis Bay.
 You can read this disturbing story below.

The second interesting part of this story describes the Southerly winds arriving in  Sydney as the "JB wind".  I found a previous article that told a similar story and  mentions -  "Jervis Bay, where the weather comes from."


Writing aboard the Loch Tay In Jervls Bay, my angling horizon for the moment is naturally limited, but it has also been perceptibly broadened, for there is nothing the old fisherman likes better than to see new fishing grounds. Jervls Bay is the place where the southerlies branded J.B. in Sydney are first recorded, and there is no doubt the expansive inlet has more than its fair share of the breezes that are actually brewed on the fringe of the ice further south.  My last experience of Jervls Bay was aboard the Thetis, where the trawl swept across tho bottom for a couple of miles and the catch turned out to be chiefly red weed and skates. More intimate investigation during trip 3 to Captain's Point, where the Naval College is being built and to the little town of Huskisson, where the Dent clan predominates, revealed the fact that off Bowen Island and Captain's Point are good schnapper waters. On a new pier in front of the college site several workmen were fishing and catching large coloured leather-Jackets, slippery mackerel, yellowtail, and other fish, and a Dent party was wooing the red fish a mile further towards the strait between Bowen Island and the mainland. At Huskisson the little river is a first-class flathead, bream, and blackfish ground, and about 300 yards from its entrance a reef is the feeding ground for several varieties of marine fish. Around the bay are innumerable hauling grounds, where whiting, mullet, and bream were catchable, but there were no workers on them most of the time, although the Loch Tay folk would have been ready purchasers of a couple of baskets a day. At Huskisson no bait was procurable,  but no doubt a day's notice would suffice for the local haulers to bring some ashore. The bay at present is discoloured to a milky whiteness by the whale-oil factory operations.

Continue reading about the Loc Tay and Whaling in Jervis Bay.
Continue reading about - "Jervis Bay, where the weather comes from".

The S.S.Thetis mentioned in the article was a steam trawler which worked the coast from Sydney to Jervis Bay,  she was involved in the search for the S.S. Dandenong which sunk off Jervis Bay in 1876,  becoming one of the worst maritime disasters near our shores, 40 people went down with the ship including women and children.   The story of the disaster is about the amazing struggle for survival in impossible conditions,  involving great acts of bravery and sad loss - Continue reading about the S.S. Dandenong.

Sun (Sydney, NSW : 1910 - 1954), Thursday 28 November 1912, page 12

Serious complaints have been made at Jervis Bay respecting the discoloration of the water,  resulting from the work aboard the factory steamers on which the whales brought in by the gunboats have been treated.  A Nowra resident, Mr J. Miller, writes: -  The waters of Jervis  Bay are being polluted to such an extent that the fish are leaving tho bay instead of entering it,  as is their habitat this time of year.  The waters are of a milky appearance, and have a peculiar odour, while the shores are strewn with large pieces of blubber, intestines and the oysters to are turning white.   We have seen large schools of fish approaching the entrance, but as soon as they reach this discoloured water they immediately turn back. We attribute the above causes to the presence of two large factory ships, with their attendant gunboat whalers one, the Loch Tay, causing the greater pollution, we presume through the use of acids, chemicals, etc, in the treatment of the whales.  This boat has dealt with over 150 carcases, according to press reports.  This is ruining the fishing industry, and keeping tourists and amateur fishermen from patronising Jervis Bay.  We also understand that no revenue is being collected from these foreign ships. They carry all their own goods, butter, plumbers', materials, fitters, and coopers goods, in fact, they are fully equipped to do all their own work with their own men and materials.   This is no good to Australia.  I would also point out that in parts of Jervis Bay the deposited grease causes the sand to adhere to the feet when one walks on it.  - 

This complaint is true In the main, but during a recent visit to the Loch Tay,  the "Sun" representative found no evidence of the use of chemicals on the steamer.  The waters were certainly coloured milky white, but sharks were by no means deterred from entering them,  and off Captain's Point the fishing was good.  It is probably correct that shoals of fish outside, noting the discoloration, refrained from entering the bay,  but fish are curious creatures, and it Is quite likely that before long there will be a great rush of fish into the bay for the decomposing whale-meat.  At present they are puzzled by tho oil, which,  being on the. surface causes the water to lose Its pristine clearness. The oysters were certainly being spoiled in flavour by the oil.  A protest has been arranged at Huskisson and Nowra, but before it reaches dimensions sufficiently large to command attention the  Loch Tay will have followed her gunboats to New Zealand waters. The Polynesia and her two gunboats have gone, and the Loch Tay is expected to depart in a few days.




11 May 2017

HMAS Newcastle. Jervis Bay.

11th May 2017
Today we have a fantastic selection of photos sent to us of the HMAS Newcastle which is currently conducting training exercises in the bay.
paul shot HMAS Newcastle 2


paul shot HMAS Newcastle 4 paul shot HMAS Newcastle 3


9 May 2017

Ships in the bay.

HMAS Newcastle is still conducting big gun practice today.
This morning the bay shook as volley after volley exploding from high powered ordnance landed on the live firing range of Beecroft Peninsula.
HMAS Newcastle - Continue reading.

H.M.S. Porpoise, Experiences in a hurricane off Jervis Bay.

1900 - HMS Porpoise returns to Jervis Bay badly damaged.

Porpoise was a Archer-class torpedo cruiser of the Royal Navy, she
had been at Jervis Bay for a week doing her quarterly big gun practice.  On completion she left the bay headed for New Zealand.

Friday 29th July 1900 -  Shortly after leaving Jervis Bay and still only a few miles off land she ran into a heavy gale,  which rapidly increased in intensity. The wind was blowing a hurricane and the seas mountainous.  The Porpoise rolled alarmingly when hove to,  and during one terrific lurch the starboard cutter was washed out of the falls,  and shortly after the port cutter was damaged by a heavy sea which broke over her quarter.

Saturday 30th  -  Throughout Saturday the gale raged with unabated fury and the vessel pitched terribly,  while heavy seas swept over her fore and aft.  The forward tackle on the port whale boat was carried away owing to the heavy strain, and although the boat was recovered it was greatly damaged through dashing against the ships side, t
he quarters of the officers and men were more or less flooded.
Sunday 31st - When the vessel was at last bought head to the wind and sea, she steamed back slowly to land, and on Sunday reached Jervis Bay again,  where she recieved orders to proceed to Sydney for repairs, before going to Tonga.

The officers reported the gale was the heaviest they had experienced during the Porpoise's commisson.


Built by J. & G. Thompson at Glasgow and launched on 7 May 1886. Commenced service on the Australia Station in December 1897. During the Samoan civil unrest in 1899, she took part in operations with HMS Royalist and HMS Tauranga. She left the Australia Station and was paid off at Portsmouth 20 May 1901.  She was sold at Bombay on 10 February 1905


4 May 2017

Navy activity today–Jervis Bay

At midday, a low flying helicopter was demonstrating some precision flying following one of the work boats from HMAS Creswell about the bay just above the water. It made a dramatic picture as they passed in front of Point Perpendicular.

With HMAS Newcastle in the background.

Ships in the Bay

4th May 2017 - HMAS Newcastle.
The bay has another visitor,  HMAS Newcastle moved slowly across the bay.
HMAS Newcastle (FFG 06), named for the city of Newcastle, New South Wales, the largest provincial city in Australia, is an Adelaide-class guided-missile frigate of the Royal Australian Navy (RAN). The last ship of the class to be constructed, Newcastle entered service in 1993. During her career, the frigate has operated as part of the INTERFET peacekeeping taskforce, served in the Persian Gulf, and responded to the 2006 Fijian coup d'├ętat. The frigate is active as of 2017.
REF: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/HMAS_Newcastle_(FFG_06)

Jervis Bay Autumn 2017

The Autumn light across the bay this morning was beautiful, the water was calm and clear.
click to enlarge


3 May 2017

Ships in the bay

HMAS Success (OR 304)

Anyone near the waters edge this morning would have heard 4 loud distinctive horn blasts coming from across the bay.  This would have drawn your attention to the barely decernable  shape of a large ship against the dark shoreline on the eastern side of the bay. This was the HMAS Success.  There are two ships in the bay at the moment, the other being a  spanish ship which I don't have any details for.  Being so far away in the dim light made taking a decent photograph difficult.. 
HMAS Success (OR 304) is a Durance-class multi-product replenishment oiler serving in the Royal Australian Navy (RAN). Built at Cockatoo Island Dockyard in Sydney, Australia, during the 1980s, she is the only ship of the class to be constructed outside France, and the only one to not originally serve in the Marine Nationale (French Navy). The ship was part of the Australian contribution to the 1991 Gulf War, and was deployed to East Timor in response to incidents in 1999 and 2006. The ship was fitted with a double hull during the first half of 2011, to meet International Maritime Organisation standards.