Western Australia had long been opposed to the Federation of Australia, citing their superior mineral wealth and the concern that it would be non-beneficial to join any commonwealth. However the south-eastern section of the state preferred joining said commonwealth but the movement failed to gain support and ultimately fell back to the same mentality as in Perth. In 1887, the survey schooner was sold to the Western Australian "Government", it would be still three years until they gained sefl-determination under Premier John Forrest. Under the Colonial Naval Act of 1865, Western Australia was prohibited from having its own organised fleet until self determination. Purchasing HMVS Victoria from the struggling VCN in 1896, she landed most of her guns with the exception of the her 6" guns, operating mainly in a similar service to the Medea, survey of the North West coast. The Victoria was sold in 1919 to a Sydney based firm after the war.During the War, the Western Australian Colonial Fleet (WACF) gained a total of 2 Auxiliary Steamers, 2 torpedo gunboats and an old steam corvette that was arthritic and ancient.
In 1922, the WACF was re-organized into the Western Australian Colonial Navy, ceding harbour defense of Fremantle, leaving that matter to the freshly blooded Imperial Western Australian Infantry Force(IWIAF). At the same time, the WACN approached the RN for funding to design, build and support a 5000t "Colonial Patrol Aviso", arguing that out of all the Colonial Navies, it was responsible for the longest and remotest coastline to patrol, most of it hardly surveyed to the same standard as most Admiratly charts. The RN was greatly reluctant, the other colonial navies were known to appear out of the blue and demand precious money for years. Wary of the request, they simply replied that they would consider stationing a cruiser detachment in Perth.In 1923, no such move had been made and when lobbied again, the RN rather quietly agreed to pay £320,000 to build a ship/ships that could perform surveys of the coast, enforce security and be at the disposal to the RN.
Whilst it was originally proposed that the ship be designed and built in England but after a few bungled deals, it eventually was started in Victoria. Victoria had agreed to offer the Williamstown Drydocks, being the only two in the Colonies that could launch the final design. Laid down in 1925, the ship was unusual with its high spacious bow, wide hangar and twin diesels. The agreement was a reduced rate of renting the dock unless it took longer than 3 years to build. She was rushed out of the dock with a week to spare, under her own power(carrying the four Wackett Widgeon I's for her hangar), sailed to Fremantle for final fitting out of her cranes and final touches. During designing, the SA government approached the WACN, requesting that the WACN help out with patrols on the northern coastline of SA (Northern Territory), agreeing to donate £90,000, alongside a public campaign which raised £120,000, this easily funded the HMCS Swan, the seaplane tender aviso and helped arrange the purchase of the HMS Dublin in 1926 (Renamed HMCS Perth).
In 1935, HMCS Swan was of great use, saving many lives when a cyclone struck a pearling fleet between Broome and Dampier, thus vindicating the expense. In 1938, she received two more 12.7mm machine guns and swapped out her Widgeons for two Wackett Walrus's (Victorian Built Walrus's) and four Hawker Osprey's, mounted on her waist to boost AA capability but it still was woefully limited. When war broke out, she sailed with a convoy carrying IWAIF troops to the Middle East. In the Mediterranean, she was both an escort and a scout, coming under attack many times by German and Italian aircraft. In one case one of her Hawker Osprey's was shot down by a German fighter but concentrated AA fire and the other Osprey drove it off. This was the first casualty of her crew but not the last, outside of Alexandria, a 100lb bomb blew up the ship's tender and the midships air-conditioning unit, killing 7 and making life miserable until repairs could be properly affected.
Following this, she received the new Alexandria type camouflage and a beefed up AA suite, this came to a huge relief to the crew as the flight deck was painted a lighter grey-blue, reducing the scolding tendency of the dark deck under the summer sun. Used to a decent effect in the Battle of Taranto, three Osprey's bombed oil tanks at the base however it was hard to determine the effect of their involvement. Rest of the history to come.
|Victorian Colonial Navy
|Colony of Victoria AU
|Project Sail-fixing SB's sail shortage
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