The Chief reflects on Navy's 113th birthday

Published on LEUT Kate Mathias (author), LSIS Lee-Anne Mack (photographer)

Location(s): HMAS Harman, ACT

Topic(s): Naval Heritage and History, Chief of Navy

Chief of Navy, Vice Admiral Ray Griggs AO, CSC, RAN cuts the cake with Able Seaman Boatswains Mate Jake Hiep for the Royal Australian Navy's 113th birthday celebration held at HMAS Harman, Canberra. (photo: ABIS Lee-Anne Mack)
Chief of Navy, Vice Admiral Ray Griggs AO, CSC, RAN cuts the cake with Able Seaman Boatswains Mate Jake Hiep for the Royal Australian Navy's 113th birthday celebration held at HMAS Harman, Canberra.

As Chief of Navy, Vice Admiral (VADM) Ray Griggs AO CSC RAN addressed a reception in honour of Navy's 113th birthday, he reminded all those in uniform that it is a day to remember Navy’s heritage.

“March 1 is an important day for us to strengthen and remember our Naval heritage. It is a day to acknowledge the lives lost, the sacrifices made, and the selfless service given by tens of thousands of fellow Australians who have provided us with valuable lessons based on their own experiences and challenges. I firmly believe we cannot shape our own future without acknowledging our history and foundations,” said VADM Griggs.

At Federation the Governor-General became Commander-in-Chief, and on 1 March 1901 the states transferred their naval and military forces, and everyone employed in their connection, to the Federal Government, thus the day became birth date of the nation’s Navy.

In the following year the two existing arms of Australia’s Defence Force were officially recognised by the titles Commonwealth Naval Forces (CNF) and Commonwealth Military Forces.

The ships inherited by the CNF from the previous state navies were tired, old and inadequate even for training, and there was little hope for early improvement. It wasn’t until 4 October 1913 when the flagship, HMAS Australia, led the new Australian Fleet Unit comprising HMA Ships Melbourne, Sydney, Encounter, Warrego, Parramatta and Yarra into Sydney Harbour for the first time to be greeted by thousands of cheering citizens lining the foreshore. This was a moment of great national pride and importance, one recognised as a key indicator of Australia's progress towards national maturity, and commemorated last year by the International Fleet Review.

A birthday is also a point of reflection, what has passed in the previous year and what lies ahead. At this year’s 113th celebrations VADM Griggs spoke of the past year and its achievements on operations, the continual regional engagement conducted by the fleet as well as the positive impact of the International Fleet Review on the nation.

As the Navy celebrates this birthday it does indeed progress into a new era in the nation’s maritime history as exciting new capabilities come on line.

“The Australian Navy has grown and continued to mature into a force which I am immensely proud of. We are on watch around the world, ashore and at sea, on peacetime and active service getting on with the  job we have been given,” he said.