Biography

Birth date: 26 October 1873
Birth place: Australia: New South Wales, Sydney, Rose Bay
Death date: 22 July 1922
Death place: Phillippines
Final rank: Rear Admiral

John Dumaresq was the first Australian-born officer to command the Australian fleet. He was born on 26 October 1873 at Rose Bay in Sydney but his family moved to England when Dumaresq was just two.

Dumaresq joined the Royal Navy as a cadet in 1886, aged 13. He was commissioned as a lieutenant in 1894 and served with the Channel Fleet. In 1904 he was promoted to commander and, having taken an interest in torpedo work earlier in his career, was attached to the Admiralty to supervise the equipment of torpedo vessels. Dumaresq was keenly interested in the science of naval warfare and he invented a rangefinder that greatly improved the accuracy of naval gunnery.

In 1907 Dumaresq married Christian Dalrymple and the following year he commanded the torpedo flotilla when it escorted King Edward VII on a visit to Russia. After his return, Dumaresq commanded two of the Home Fleet's torpedo destroyers. Promoted to captain in 1910, he invented several fire-control devices that were used in the First World War.

Dumaresq commanded the Shannon, a light cruiser, in the battle of Jutland in 1916. During this action he conceived the idea of launching aircraft from a ship's deck. In February 1917 he was transferred to the RAN as captain of HMAS Sydney and later in the year he took command of the British vessel Repulse, which he captained in a successful battle against the German flagship, Königsberg. Dumaresq returned to Sydney in December 1917. To his great pleasure the admiralty had agreed to the installation of an aircraft-launching platform on Sydney, the first to be fitted to a ship. The first flight was a success and the device offered ships some protection against zeppelins and land-based aircraft.

Dumaresq remained in command of Sydney until the end of February 1919. The following month he was given command of the Australian fleet with the rank of commodore. In June 1921 he was promoted to rear admiral, becoming the first Australian-born officer to attain that rank and to command the Navy.

By the early 1920s, cutbacks in defence spending led Dumaresq into conflict with senior political figures as he sought to ensure that the Navy was properly resourced. He returned to the Royal Navy on 29 April 1922, thus ending his service with the RAN. Dumaresq's final gesture, criticising Australia's apathy towards defence spending, suggests something of his willingness to publicly state his views on matters of national importance. Some regarded him as a strict disciplinarian but he was widely respected, shy of publicity, and has been credited with introducing an esprit de corps into the Navy that the young service had been lacking.

Dumaresq never reached England to take up his new appointment. He fell ill on the voyage and died of pneumonia in the Philippines on 22 July 1922.

Rolls and Awards

Collection Items

Photograph

300242

C.1919. STARBOARD BOW VIEW OF THE BATTLECRUISER HMAS AUSTRALIA (I) AS FLAGSHIP OF THE AUSTRALIAN SQUADRON AFTER WORLD WAR 1. THE SHIP FLIES THE BROAD PENNANT OF COMMODORE FIRST CLASS JOHN S. DUMARESQ RN, THE FIRST AUSTRALIAN BORN OFFICER TO COMMAND THE SQUADRON. THE SHIP DISPLAYS THE MODIFICATIONS...

300242

300246

SYDNEY, NSW. C.1919. PORT BOW VIEW OF THE BATTLECRUISER HMAS AUSTRALIA (I) AS FLAGSHIP OF THE AUSTRALIAN SQUADRON AFTER WORLD WAR 1. THE SHIP FLIES THE BROAD PENNANT OF COMMODORE FIRST CLASS JOHN S. DUMARESQ RN, THE FIRST AUSTRALIAN BORN OFFICER TO COMMAND THE SQUADRON. THE SHIP DISPLAYS THE...

300246

305332

STUDIO PORTRAIT OF REAR ADMIRAL JOHN SAUMAREZ DUMARESQ CB CVO RAN, COMMODORE COMMANDING AUSTRALIAN SQUADRON, 1919-03-22 TO 1921-06-14, REAR ADMIRAL COMMANDING AUSTRALIAN SQUADRON 1921-06-14 TO 1922-04-29. HE WAS THE FIRST AUSTRALIAN BORN OFFICER TO COMMAND THE AUSTRALIA SQUADRON. HE DIED AT MANILA...

305332

EN0164

Group portrait of the ship's company on the fore deck of HMAS Sydney. Several sailors are sitting or standing on top of the 12 inch gun. Officers in the front row are (left to right): possibly Paymaster Midshipman Thomas F Maynard; possibly sub lieutenant Harry L Howden; unidentified lieutenant;...

EN0164

EN0168

Portrait of Captain John Saumarez Dumaresq RN in his cabin aboard HMAS Sydney. He commanded the Sydney from April 1917 until 1919. Note a copy of the Tatler magazine on the table (foreground).

EN0168

EN0172

The ship's band on board HMAS Sydney at Portsmouth, England, in January 1919.

EN0172

EN0174

Group portrait of senior officers aboard HMAS Sydney. Identified left to right (back row): possibly Lieutenant Commander Rupert Garsia; Paymaster Lieutenant Commander Donald Andrew Peart; Surgeon Lieutenant Commander William J Carr; unidentified lieutenant. Front row: Commander Henry Priaulx...

EN0174

EN0178

Group portrait of officers on board HMAS Sydney. Not all have been identified. Identified left to right: back row, unidentified lieutenant (gunnery officer); unidentified; possibly Chief Gunner William Chisholm; possibly Paymaster Midshipman Thomas F Maynard; unidentified midshipman, possibly...

EN0178

EN0215

Group portrait of four officers and the ship's band with their instruments on board HMAS Sydney. In the front row are (left to right): an unidentified Royal Marine, holding the conductor's baton; Captain John Saumarez Dumaresq, RN, with a telescope under his arm; Commander Henry Priaulx Cayley;...

EN0215

EN0224

Unidentified seamen and officers watch as a Sopwith F.1 Camel biplane aircraft takes off from a platform above the forward gun mounting on HMAS Sydney. HMAS Melbourne can be seen in the background. This was an initiative of Captain John Dumaresq, RN; the first successful flight took place on 8...

EN0224

EN0475

Group portrait of seamen, officers and visitors on board HMAS Australia on the occasion of a visit by the Prince of Wales. Most of those sitting on the deck in the front row are midshipmen. Second seated row: unidentified; unidentified commodore; unidentified captain; Sir Joseph Cook, Minister...

EN0475

EN0478

His Royal Highness Edward the Prince of Wales inspects the Guard of Honour on the wharf during his visit to HMAS Australia and HMAS Brisbane. Walking beside the Prince is Commodore John Saumarez Dumaresq RN, Commander of His Majesty's Australian Fleet. The man behind the Prince and to his right...

EN0478

EN0483

His Royal Highness Edward the Prince of Wales chats to a seaman while inspecting the ship's company on board HMAS Brisbane during his visit to HMAS Brisbane and HMAS Australia. Standing behind the Prince and looking on are an unidentified army officer, Commodore John Saumarez Dumaresq and...

EN0483

EN0484

Group portrait of His Royal Highness Edward the Prince of Wales and several officers on board HMAS Australia during his visit to the ship. Identified left to right, front row: (half hidden, wearing civilian clothes) Sir Joseph Cook, Minister for the Royal Australian Navy (and Prime Minister of...

EN0484

EN0486

His Royal Highness Edward the Prince of Wales steps onto the wharf after visiting HMAS Australia. Descending the gangway behind him is Commodore John Saumarez Dumaresq, RN, commander of His Majesty's Australian Fleet. An unidentified seaman salutes on the right.

EN0486

Art

HMAS Sydney's fight with a Zeppelin in the North Sea

Featured in this work is an unusual action involving the Australian light cruiser 'Sydney', which took place on 4 May 1917. Under Captain John Dumaresq the cruiser was leading a British ship, 'Dublin', and four destroyers on a sweep of channels south east of Rosyth, Scotland, between the Forth and...

ART12418

Digitised Collection

Documents relating to William Smith Rhoades, 1911-1945

Documents relating to the First World War service of Chief Petty Officer William Smith Rhoades, Royal Australian Navy. Rhoades served on HMAS Sydney during the war and this file contains various documents relating to his naval service, including details on the encounter between the Sydney and the...

RCDIG0001235

Letters relating to William Smith Rhoades, 1911-1945

Letters relating to the First World War service of Chief Petty Officer William Smith Rhoades, Royal Australian Navy. Rhoades served on HMAS Sydney during the war this file contains letters written by Rhoades and by others pertaining to his service with the Royal Australian Navy. They include...

RCDIG0001347

Timeline

Date of birth 1873-10-26 Rose Bay, NSW.
Date and unit at enlistment (ORs) 1886 Joined the Royal Navy as a cadet.
Other 1894 Served with the Channel Fleet.
Date promoted 1894-08-28 Appointed lieutenant.
Date promoted 1904-06-30 Appointed commander.
Other units 1908-02-07 Commanding Officer HMS Nith.
Date promoted 1910-06-30 Appointed captain.
Other units 1910-06-30 Royal Naval College.
Other units 1912-11-18 HMS Prince of Wales.
Other units 1913-12-19 Commanded HMS Shannon.
Date of honour or award 1916-09-15 Companion of the Order of the Bath (CB).
Other units 1917-02-05 Commanding Officer HMAS Sydney.
Other 1917-11-06 - 1919-02-28 Commanding Officer of HMAS Sydney.
Other units 1919-02-28 Returned to Royal Navy.
Date promoted 1919-03-22 Commodore 1st Class.
Other units 1919-03-22 Captain of HMAS Australia.
Other units 1919-03-22 Commanding Officer HM Australian Fleet.
Date of honour or award 1920-10-15 Commander of the Royal Victorian Order (CVO).
Date promoted 1921-06-15 Rear Admiral.
Date of death 1922-07-22 Died of pneumonia.