From a time when each state in Australia had its own separate Armies and Navies. A large metal ship’s swivel atop a stone marker is a reminder and part of the state’s maritime past. The swivel is from the first naval ship in Australia and what was the colony of Victoria’s Navy.
In 1884 the Australian colony of Victoria added two “flat-iron” type gunboats to its navy. The vessels were patriotically named Victoria and Albert in reverence to Queen Victoria and her late consort Prince Albert. Victoria was the larger of the two vessels.
Victoria was ordered in 1883 from the English shipbuilders Messrs Wm Armstrong, Mitchell & Co Ltd, Elswick, Newcastle-upon-Tyne. She was launched on June 25, 1883, and completed in January 1884 at which time she undertook pre-acceptance trials.
In January 1884, a crew of Royal Navy personnel was signed on in Newcastle in readiness for the long delivery voyage to the colony of Victoria. Accompanied by Albert; Victoria sailed to Spithead on February 3, where for legal reasons, the two vessels were classified as ‘War Vessels at the disposal of the Imperial Government’ thus enabling them to undertake the passage to Australia as units of the Royal Navy.
Between 1856 and 1860, HMCS Victoria was under the control of the Victoria Police Department, but at the urging of Captain Seymour RN, she came under the control of the Chief Secretary and Commander Norman and his officers were commissioned to the Victorian Government. The Victorian Parliament passed “The Armed Vessels Regulation Act” which regularized the position of Her Majesty’s Victorian Ship (HMVS) VICTORIA and her crew, which effectively created the Victorian Navy, the first in the colonies. The law officers of the Crown in Britain and a horrified British Government were quick to disallow the Act, seeing it as leading to a most undesirable independence on the part of a mere colony.
In 1895 the Victorian Defense Department announced that Victoria and Albert were to be laid up and in 1896 Victoria was acquired by the Western Australian Government for use as a tug. Sold in 1902 to the Sydney tug company Fenwicks, Victoria was employed on towing duties based in Newcastle. On 1 April 1920, she was on-sold to J O’Connor of Balmain and eventually abandoned as a hulk in Kerosene Bay, Sydney. She was later broken up. All that remains of the historic vessel is the sling swivel.
Know Before You Go
The swivel link from HMVS Victoria is on display in a park at Gellibrand Street, Queenscliff, and can be viewed at any time.