- A.N. Other
- History - general, Ship histories and stories
- RAN Ships
- HMAS Adelaide I
- September 2013 edition of the Naval Historical Review (all rights reserved)
By Leyland Wilkinson
HMAS Adelaide I was a 6 inch cruiser built at Cockatoo Island Dockyard. She was originally laid down in November 1915 but was not commissioned until August 1922. After conversion to oil fuel she saw war service on the Australia Station, she then paid-off into reserve and was scrapped at Port Kembla in 1949. She was fitted with a tripod foremast and a smaller mainmast. It is the mainmast that features in this story.
In the mid 1980s a message was received by the office of the General Manager of Garden Island Dockyard (Rear Admiral Nigel Berlyn) informing them that the historic mast from HMAS Adelaide I erected at a Memorial Park at Turramurra in northern Sydney was in need of major refurbishment prior to Anzac Day ceremonies. This mast had been salvaged from the old cruiser and then erected ashore in 1950. It was dedicated by the distinguished naval officer Rear Admiral George Dunbar Moore, CBE, RAN. Rear Admiral Moore was at that time Flag Officer-in-Charge Sydney; he had previously, with Rear Admiral Collins, represented the RAN at the signing of the Japanese surrender onboard USS Missouri in Tokyo Bay in September 1945 and was later appointed Australian Minister to the Philippines.
As apprentices from Garden Island Dockyard had previously worked on repairing this mast they were again called upon to conduct any necessary maintenance. The Garden Island Public Relations Officer (Lew Lind) together with the Senior Technical Instructor of Apprentice Training (Leyland Wilkinson) was detailed off to conduct an examination. After a quick scan of a road map they found a Memorial Park off Eastern Road Turramurra with a rather forlorn and singular flagstaff adjacent to some 1914/18 memorial gates.
Our dynamic duo concluded this was it and, with the extent of the work assessed, they then proceeded to Ku-ring-gai Council Chambers, the park custodians, to arrange their assistance with removal of the mast. The Council officers seemed surprised, but were nevertheless grateful for the interest, and offered to dismantle the flagstaff and deliver it to the Dockyard Apprentice Workshop.
Upon further examination by shipwright staff, the amount of rot in the timbers was found to be so extensive as to make it unworthy of repair and it would be quicker and less expensive to make a new mast. This information was passed to the General Manager but because of the historic significance of the mast from Adelaide it was to be repaired, retaining as much as possible of the original timber. The task was then completed, but as it still did not look quite shipshape, a naval crown or rostral was cast and fitted to enhance the overall appearance. With new paintwork completed an appreciative Council collected and re-erected the flagstaff. Job well done!
Mr Wilkinson was still mystified by this mast and its fittings which did not have that nautical feel, so he did some further research. He then discovered another nearby memorial park, known as the Sphinx Memorial Park off Bobbin Head Road in North Turramurra. Here was a most impressive mast, complete with yards; with identification plaque attached showing its origin and dedication and a further notation, of repairs by GID apprentices in 1956. Note: the plaque now records further restoration in 1995.
The General Manager then had to be informed of repairs to the wrong mast. With recriminations all round a team of workmen was hastily deployed from GID to refurbish the right mast as Anzac Day was fast approaching. Accordingly Turramurra has two fine flagstaffs, one featuring the mainmast of HMAS Adelaide I and the other of a very different but interesting naval heritage.