Mutiny! - HMAS AUSTRALIA

 

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HMAS Australia, along with most of the Australian fleet were in European waters when the Great War ended on November 11 1918. Australia sailed from Portsmouth on 23 April 1919 and arrived in Fremantle, Western Australia on 28 May.

 

The return to Australia was a very low key event. Even after its successful war record it was fair to say most sailors aboard the Flagship, Australia were expecting more from a grateful Australian nation.

 

There was to be no welcome home parade and many sailors were somewhat resentful of this.

 

Australia's arrival in Fremantle meant that many sailors were seeing home for the first time in many years.

 

The Flagship was due to sail from Fremantle on 1 June 1919. Before getting underway a group of sailors mustered on the quarterdeck and by way of a spokesman requested the Captain to delay the departure so as to enable the ship's company more time to enjoy the hospitality of the locals.

 

Captain Cumberlege refused their request.

 

In doing so a number of sailors 'sabotaged" the ship thus preventing it from sailing.

 

Later in June, five seamen were charged with partaking in a mutiny and were court martialed onboard HMAS Encounter in Sydney Harbour.

 

All were found guilty in 'joining a mutiny without violence' and received prison terms ranging up to two years.

 

The severity of the sentencing led to a public outcry in Australia. Critics stated that Australians did not respect the harsh discipline necessary in a naval service.

 

After consultation between the Admiralty and the Government it was concluded that, as of, 20 December 1919, the sentences would be remitted.

 

The affair reached crisis point when this remittance resulted in two of the most senior officers submitting their resignations. Both officers later withdrew their resignations and the matter was deemed to be ended. However the incident was to remain long in the navy's memory

 

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HMAS Australia Alongside In Fremantle WA