April Fools’ Day is often one of the most light-hearted days of the year. With a long tradition of pranksters competing for the ultimate hoax one might wonder who would seriously consider choosing the day as a ‘birthday’, but at HMAS Cerberus in Victoria, it’s a day to be celebrated as the day Navy’s largest training establishment was commissioned in 1921.
Since first opening its doors as Flinders Naval Base in 1920, Cerberus has lived up to its nickname as the ‘Cradle of the Navy’ and now encompasses specialised training for all three Services, as well as being the home of the Royal Australian Navy Recruit School where all sailors commence their naval careers.
Commanding Officer Cerberus, Captain Stephen Bowater, said celebrating a ship's commissioning was important for sailors to share in both the history and the future of that ship.
“At some point in their career, almost every sailor and officer in the Navy passes through Cerberus. Whether it’s a short stay or a long one, each person remembers their time here; Cerberus has a way of shaping your future,” Captain Bowater said.
“Ninety five is an impressive milestone for anyone. Cerberus has seen many changes over the years but the mainstay has always been training our people to be the best in their fields. I’m proud to say we do that really well.”
Original plans for Cerberus to be used as a Fleet Base were abandoned and adapted to focus on training which included a Torpedo School, a Destroyer Base and a Submarine Base capable of accommodating up to 2,000 personnel. During the Second World War, training needs expanded as wartime recruits passed through at the rate of 400 a month. The first Women’s Royal Australian Navy Service (WRANS) sailors started training at the base in 1942 heralding the arrival of women serving in the Navy.
The site of the base spans nearly 3600 acres with many buildings heritage listed to ensure their historical significance continues long into the future. Despite the need to accommodate and train up to 1500 service men and women a year, the essence of Cerberus has remained the same as it continues to train sailors, soldiers, airmen and women.