The honour of being William Cresswell – Father of the Australian Navy

Vice Admiral Sir William Rooke Creswell  was born on 20 July 1852 in Gibraltar. He was educated at Gibraltar and Eastman’s Royal Naval Academy, Southsea. He began his naval career at the age of 13 as a cadet on the Royal Navy’s training ship Britannia.

  • Having already served in the Channel Fleet, Creswell was transferred to the China Station.
  • His next seagoing appointment, was to the East India Station, followed by a period in Zanzibar.

Creswell retired from the Royal Navy in 1878 and, seeking to become a pastoralist, he emigrated to Australia in 1879. In 1885 he took up an appointment as First Lieutenant on South Australia’s only naval vessel, HMS Protector.

Creswell soon began agitating for the establishment of an Australian naval force to supplement the Royal Navy squadron based in Sydney. On 1 May 1900, he was appointed Commandant of the Queensland Maritime Defence Force, but was soon released to command Protector on its deployment to China to assist in suppressing the Boxer Rebellion.

After Federation, Creswell’s lobbying for an Australian navy gained momentum and in February 1904 he was appointed to the new position of Naval Officer Commanding the Commonwealth Naval Forces.

In 1909, Australia’s admiralty sought to dramatically increase its naval strength. The Naval Defence Act (1910) was passed, which created the Australian navy. In 1911, Creswell was promoted to Rear Admiral in the service of the Royal Australian Navy (RAN). As part of his coronation honours, the King made him Knight Commander of the order of St Michael and St George.

  • Considered the father of the RAN, Creswell retired in 1919 and took up farming in Victoria. He was promoted to Vice Admiral in 1922.
  •  Creswell has been honoured with the naming of the naval base, HMAS Creswell, the site of the Royal Australian Naval College at Jervis Bay, NSW.
  • He died on 20 April 1933 and was survived by his wife Adelaide Elizabeth (née Stow) and two sons and a daughter.

This bust appears at the front entrance of the Royal Melbourne Yacht Squadron, St.Kilda, Victoria.

It was erected as a token of appreciation of his services to Australia by the Victorian Branch of the Navy League, assisted by the St.Kilda Shore Committee, the Royal St.Kilda Yacht Club and many other Australian admirers.

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