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Defence - Naval Forces - Beaumont, Rear-Admiral - Minute by Prime Minister to Governor-General asking him to obtain from Admiral commanding Australian Station a Statement re the Naval Defence of the Commonwealth


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THE PARLIAMENT OF THE COMMONWEALTH,

HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES.

NAVAL DEFENCE OF THE COMMONWEALTH OF AUSTRALIA.

(1) COPY OF MINUTE BY THE RIGHT HONORABLE THE PRIME MINISTER TO HIS EXCELLENCY THE GOVERNOR-GENERAL, ASKING HIS EXCELLENCY TO OBTAIN FROM HIS

EXCELLENCY THE ADMIRAL COMMANDING ON THE

AUSTRALIAN NAVAL STATION A STATEMENT OF HIS

OPINIONS ON THE SUBJECT OF THE NAVAL DEFENCE OF THE COMMONWEALTH OF AUSTRALIA.

Presented by Command of His Excellency the Governor-General, and ordered by the House to be printed, 2Qth August, 1901.

(2) COPY OF A LETTER FROM HIS EXCELLENCY REAR ADMIRAL BEAUMONT IN REPLY TO A REQUEST TO ASSIST IN

INSTITUTING A SYSTEM OF NAVAL DEFENCE FOR THE

COMMONWEALTH OF AUSTRALIA.

Presented by Command of His Excellency the Governor-General,, and ordered by the House to be printed,. 16th August, 1901.

Printed and Published for the G o v er n men t of the Co mmo n w ea l t h of A u st r a l ia by R o bt . S. B r a in , Government Printer for the State of Victoria.

A 12. * P.9926.

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C o py o f M in u t e by t h e Rig h t H o n o r a bl e t h e Pr ime M in ist er t o H is Ex c el l en c y t h e Go v er n o r ^

G en er a l , a sk in g H is Ex c el l en c y t o o bt a in f r o m H is Ex c el l en c y t h e A d mir a l Co mma n d in g

o n t h e Au st r a l ia n N a v a l St a t io n a St a t emen t o f h is Opin io n s o n t h e Su bjec t o f t h e N a v a l

D ef en c e o f t h e Co mmo n w ea l t h o f A u st r a l ia .

MINUTE FOR HIS EXCELLENCY THE GOVERNOR-GENERAL.

Mr. Barton presents his humble duty to Your Excellency, and begs to state that the question of Naval Defence will shortly be under consideration in connexion with the general scheme of defence for Australia. Your Ministers recognise the importance of this matter, and are naturally desirous of obtaining the best advice procurable in reference thereto. To this end Mr. Barton has the honour to request Your Excellency to be good enough to communicate with His Excellency the Admiral Commanding on the Australian Naval Station, with a view to your Ministers being accorded the valuable assistance of that gentleman in the direction of instituting a system of Naval Defence.

Mr. Barton should, perhaps, point out that there would probably be some objection to the establishment and maintenance of a large permanent naval defence force, and that the basis of the organization which would probably find the most favour would be that the permanent forces should be limited as far as possible, consistent with maintaining an efficient nucleus, and that the main body should consist of naval brigades at the various ports *which should be subjected to a periodical course of drill afloat.

The question of funds is one that cannot of course be ignored, and, therefore, it becomes desirable that the greatest amount of good should be obtained at the smallest possible cost. Mr. Barton feels sure that His Excellency the Admiral will have already considered and formed an opinion on this very important and urgent question, and your Ministers will fully appreciate the receipt of the views of His Excellency in regard to the whole question, and Mr. Barton will be glad to be in possession of such information as early as may be convenient.

As Your Excellency is aware, Parliament is now in Session, and the matter will be brought forward for consideration at a very early date. (Signed) EDMUND BARTON.

Department of External Affairs, Melbourne, 10th June, 1931.

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O o py o f a Let t er f r o m H is Ex c el l en c y R ea r Ad mir a l Bea u mo n t in Repl y t o a R eq u est t o A ssist

in In st it u t in g a Sy st em o f Na v a l Def en c e f o r t h e Co mmo n w ea l t h o f Au st r a l ia .

M y L o r d ,

Royal Arthur, at Sea. 16th July, 1901.

I have the honour to acknowledge the receipt on the 1st July of Your Excellency *s despatch of the 14th June, P.M. 01/1650, inviting me, at the instance of your Ministers, to assist in instituting a system of Naval Defence for the Commonwealth of Australia. The question of what shall be the extent and character of the naval part of the general scheme of defence for Australia is, as Your Excellency *s Ministers justly recognise, of great importance, and, in my opinion, it can only be satisfactorily solved by a thorough examination of the conditions which are likely to prevail during a war in which the continent of Australia is involved, and by a careful consideration, in

the light of the data thus obtained, of the obligation which rests upon the Federal Government to provide for such a contingency a fleet of efficient ships and a trained naval force to man them. 2. Your Lordship will doubtless admit that, within the limits of a letter, it is not possible for me to explain in detail wliat I conceive these conditions would be ; nor would it be possible to arrive at the point of convincing those upon whom will rest the responsibility of deciding in what measure Naval Defence is needed, without a full exposition and explanation of the requirement of such defence, and what it will be able to effect; but I can now in general terms indicate what should result from the examination of these conditions, that is, in other words I can give what, in my opinion, are the obligations of the Federal Government in respect of the Naval Defence of the Australian Commonwealth.

(i.) They should cause to be maintained on the Australian Station, as defined by the Admiralty, a squadron of at least six cruisers in commission, two of them first-class cruisers of 7,000 to 8,000*tons displacement, and the others second-class cruisers of * the improved Highflyer type. (ii.) There should, in addition, be two such second-class cruisers in reserve. (iii.) These vessels ought to be replaced gradually by more modern vessels as the development

of naval construction renders it desirable or the increase of foreign fleets makes it necessary. (iv.) The vessels should be under the Admiral in Command of His Majesty *s ships on the station, the crews subject to the Naval Discipline Act, and embarked under the same

terms of engagements as in the Royal Navy. (v.) The head-quarters of the squadron ought to remain at Sydney owing to the repairing facilities and convenience of the existing depots there, but the ships should be

attached in turn for ordinary peace service, when not required for fleet exercises, to suitable ports in each State, where the Federal Government should give facilities for the gradual establishment of the secondary naval bases which will be essential in war as regards coal, stores, and repairs.

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The above gives, in broad lines, the naval force adequate for the Naval Defence of Australia at the present time. It will be seen, from the size and number of the ships required, from the necessity which will undoubtedly arise of replacing them from time to time by more modern ships, from the fact that they must be continuously manned by trained officers and men, and that the ships must not only be maintained in commission but must be gradually provided with new bases, that it is beyond the power of the Commonwealth at the outset to create such a force.

3. It follows, therefore, that such a force can only be acquired and maintained by arrangement with the Imperial Government, and I believe that if this course was adopted it would also follow that the greatest amount of good would be maintained at the smallest possible cost. 4. In view of the Federal Government providing for the immediate future an adequate and up-to- date sea-going fleet for the defence of Australian floating commerce and the protection of Australian, territory, I consider that it should take no part in the creation or maintenance of Naval Reserves or State Naval Forces, which experience has shown cannot be utilized in a manner at all commensurate with their cost, or assist, except within too narrow limits, in the defence of the Commonwealth.

The future may see the creation of an Australian Navy, but for the present the safety and welfare of the Commonwealth require that the Naval Force in Australian waters should be a sea≠ going fleet of modern ships, fully equipped, fully manned, with trained crews, homogeneous as to type and personnel, and under one command.

For the Federal Government to form out of the existing naval organizations a permanent force as the nucleus of the Naval Defence Force, the main body of which would be derived from Naval Brigades, as suggested in your Excellency *s letter, would not be sufficient, unless the force, is only intended to supplement the crews of His Majesty *s Ships in war; if not, then modem ships would have to be provided and maintained by the Federal Government for the officers and men of the Commonwealth Naval Force, in which they could be trained at sea, and a part maintained at all times in a state of efficiency and readiness for war, a system which would be much more costly,

and less efficient than if the ships and men were provided by arrangement with the Imperial Government. In conclusion, I beg to assure Your Excellency of my entire readiness to consider the question from every point of view, and of my sincere desire to assist your Ministers to arrive at a system of Naval Defence for the Commonwealth which shall be practical and satisfactory.

I have, &c.,

(Signed) L. A. BEAUMONT,

Rear-Admiral, Commander-in-Chief.

Printed and Published for the G o v er n men t of the Co mmo n w ea l t h of A u st r a l ia by R o bt . S. B r a in , Government Printer for the State of Victoria.