Able Seaman Miller
Great War Navy Bear
Listen to Andy’s story
Since the Great War started back on the 4th of August 1914 most stories you’ve heard are about diggers at Gallipoli or in France. But we sailors have a few stories as well. Most people don’t know it but sailors in the Royal Australian Navy were in the first Australian force to fight the Germans on land. Yep! In September 1914 sailors, and some infantry blokes, had to kick the Germans out of their bases on the islands north of Australia.
H.M.A.S. Australia was there. She’s my ship, as you can see from the ribbon on my cap. She’s a big ‘Cruiser’, with 26 guns and around 820 sailors. She’s the Flagship of the Royal Australian Navy, which means the Commander of our whole navy is onboard. The H.M.A.S. stands for “His Majesty’s Australian Ship”.
Anyway, after we got the Germans sorted on the islands near Australia we headed over to England to help the Royal Navy.
Around this time the first troopships filled with Australian and New Zealand soldiers left Albany in Western Australia. They sailed on the 1st of November 1914 and Navy sent ships along to protect them. A good thing too, because on the way H.M.A.S. Sydney, one of our “Light Cruisers”, got into a fight with a German Navy ship called SMS Emden near the Cocos Islands. Emden had sunk lots of supply ships and was a real pest for us in the Indian Ocean. After the battle Sydney was OK but Emden got knocked out of the war. That was the first ever sea-battle by the Royal Australian Navy – 9th of November 1914. And we won!
Up here near England most of the time we patrol the seas making sure the Germans don’t sink Britain’s supply ships and stopping German ships carrying cargo. That’s our main job.
This war is a hard slog on everyone, but at least on ships we have a decent bunk and dinner each night. I hear that the poor land-lubbers in the trenches sleep pretty rough. I hope that by stopping the Germans getting supplies to their soldiers and factories we are making the Diggers’ lives a lot safer.
Australian Sailors also served at Gallipoli with the Royal Australian Naval Bridging Train. They were there to help build and look after the wharves and piers, as well as unload and look after stores coming ashore. They wore the same uniform as the diggers but had special Navy anchor badges for their tunics and hats.