CN pays respects to Father of the Navy

This article has photo gallery Published on LEUT Ben Willee (author and photographer)

Location(s): Brighton, Vic

Topic(s): Naval Heritage and History, Commemoration

Vice Admiral Michael Noonan, AO, RAN, lays a wreath and salutes the grave of Vice Admiral Sir William Rooke Creswell at Brighton Cemetery in Melbourne, Victoria. (photo: LEUT Ben Willee)
Vice Admiral Michael Noonan, AO, RAN, lays a wreath and salutes the grave of Vice Admiral Sir William Rooke Creswell at Brighton Cemetery in Melbourne, Victoria.

Vice Admiral Sir William Rooke Creswell's grave with wreath at Brighton Cemetery in Melbourne, Victoria.

Vice Admiral Sir William Rooke Creswell's grave with wreath at Brighton Cemetery in Melbourne, Victoria.

In a moving ceremony at Brighton Cemetery in Melbourne, the Chief of Navy has paid his respects at the grave of Vice Admiral Sir William Rooke Creswell - the man considered the father of the Royal Australian Navy.

As a mark of respect, Vice Admiral Michael Noonan placed a wreath at Vice Admiral Sir Creswell’s grave.

“It was an honour to pay my respects to Vice Admiral Creswell - the father of the Royal Australian Navy,” Vice Admiral Noonan said.  

“Admiral Creswell staunchly advocated for the creation of the Royal Australian Navy, and in 1911 his vision became a reality. 

“We will always remember his outstanding contribution to our nation,” the Chief of Navy said.

There was a short service at the graveside, with the Commanding Officer of HMAS Cerberus, Captain Michael Oborn, and the Senior Naval Officer Victoria, Commodore Greg Yorke, also in attendance.

“Today we honour his service, his passion, his vision and his commitment to the creation of the Royal Australian Navy,” Captain Oborn said.

The service concluded with Commodore Yorke reading the Naval Ode, followed by the hunting sound of the last post.

Born in Gibraltar in 1852, Vice Admiral Creswell studied at Eastman’s Naval Academy in Southsea, England, before joining the Royal Navy at thirteen.

As a young Lieutenant, he went on to serve at sea in China, the Malay Coast (where he was shot during a skirmish with pirates), and Zanzibar, where he supported efforts to stop slave trading.

In 1879, Vice Admiral Creswell migrated to Australia as a pastoralist and in 1885 he joined the Royal Navy’s Australian Squadron as a Lieutenant Commander.

He spent more than 20 years advocating for Australia to have its own navy and supporting the expansion of the Australian Squadron’s fleets.

Vice Admiral Creswell eventually became the Senior Naval Officer in Australia and was appointed Knight Commander of the Order of St Michael and St George in June 1911, just a month before King George granted the title of Royal Australian Navy to the Commonwealth naval forces under Creswell’s command.

Vice Admiral Creswell’s efforts meant the Royal Australian Navy was ready for conflict during the First World War, and he used lessons learnt during the war to build a post-war defence programme.

He retired to Silvan, near Melbourne, and passed away in 1933.

HMAS Creswell, the home of the Royal Australian Naval College, is named after him.

Imagery is available on the Navy Imagery Gallery: https://images.navy.gov.au/S20192261.