Ship model : HMAS Australia (I)

Place Europe: United Kingdom, Scotland, Glasgow
Accession Number RELAWM09096
Collection type Technology
Object type Model
Physical description Lead, Metal, Wire, Wood
Location Main Bld: First World War Gallery: Australia Goes To War: The RAN mobilised
Maker John Brown & Co Ltd
Place made United Kingdom: Scotland, Glasgow
Date made 1925-1926
Conflict Period 1910-1919
First World War, 1914-1918

Scale model of the Indefatigable class battlecruiser, HMAS 'Australia', built by John Brown and Co Ltd, Sheffield and Clyde Bank in 1:64th scale. Most of the small fittings are made from soldered brass or cast white metal, and the deck from wood. The model is almost 2.8 metres long.

History / Summary

This is a 1:64 scale model of HMAS 'Australia' (I). It was commissioned by the Australian War Memorial in 1925, the year after HMAS Australia was sunk. The Memorial immediately saw the need for a representation of this popular ship and in mid 1925 contacted both shipbuilders John Brown and Company of Clyde Bank (Scotland) and the modelling company Bassett-Lowke of Northampton for quotes. Bassett-Lowke's prices were beyond the Memorial's reach and arrangements were made through the Australian High Commissioner in London to engage the services of John Brown and Co. who generously covered over 70 per cent of the building costs. Work started in mid October 1925 and was completed by 22 February 1926. The model was shipped to Melbourne aboard SS 'Ferndale' and went on immediate display at the Exhibition Buildings.

Most of the small fittings are made from soldered brass or cast white metal, and the deck from wood. The model broadly represents the ship as she was after the removal of her pre-war anti-submarine nets, but before her search light arrangement was extensively modified in late 1916. The extra armour fitted to the main turrets after the battle of Jutland are not present. The craftsmanship of work is very high, although some elements, such as main gun barrels, are unpainted.

The Indefatigable Class battle cruiser HMAS 'Australia' was the first flagship of the Australian fleet and was the centre of national pride throughout its life. Commissioned in 1912 and delivered to Australia in 1913, she served throughout the First World War, escorting the ANMEF to New Guinea and a New Zealand force to Samoa to occupy German colonies.

In December 1914 'Australia' sailed for England via the Pacific. Off South America she captured and sank Admiral Graf von Spee's supply ship, 'Eleonore Woermann'. In England she transferred to Rosyth in Scotland in February 1915, becoming flagship of the 2nd Battle Cruiser Squadron. Until 22 April the squadron undertook sweeps patrols and convoy escort tasks across the North Sea. In heavy fog 'Australia' collided with HMS 'New Zealand' and was withdrawn for repairs. These were not completed until 6 June and the ship consequently missed the Battle of Jutland. The rest of 'Australia's' wartime service comprised patrol and fleet exercises in the North Sea.

HMAS 'Australia' was also used for aircraft experiments in early 1918, successfully launching a Sopwith 1 1/2 strutter from a platform built over one of her 12 inch gun turrets. These were the first ever launchings of a two seater aircraft from a battle cruiser.

After returning home 'Australia' resumed her role as the RAN's flagship. In 1920 she played a major part in the naval activities associated with the visit of the Prince of Wales in HMS Renown.

In December 1921 she was paid off into reserve. HMAS 'Australia' was sunk off Sydney Heads in 1924 in compliance with the Washington Naval Treaty of 1922 which limited the numbers of capital ships. There was fierce but ultimately fruitless debate in Parliament about the wisdom of the action.