On Friday 1 November the SA Maritime Museum will take delivery of the ship’s bell from South Australia's colonial naval vessel, Protector. On loan from the Royal Australian Navy, it will join a collection of over 80 artefacts linked to Protector and its crew. These include paintings by acclaimed artist Frederick Dawson, historic photographs, diaries, medals, shell casings and curious souvenirs acquired by crew from China during the Boxer Rebellion.
The bell's installation will be marked by a special event at the Museum on 1 November at 10am. The day also marks 99 years since the Royal Australian Navy’s convoy left Albany in 1914 carrying the first Australian Infantry Force to the First World War in Europe. Twenty five descendants of Protector’s original crew will participate in the event.
Commissioned by the South Australian Government in 1884, Protector was South Australia’s only naval vessel prior to Federation. The ship and most of its crew were based in Port Adelaide. It was the flagship of South Australia's Colonial Navy and considered a vital defence against the feared Russian invasion. In 1900, Protector sailed to China to assist Britain’s imperial force in suppressing the Boxer Rebellion.
Protector later became part of the first fleet of the Royal Australian Navy which celebrates its centenary this year. It served through the First World War and sailed with the contingent sent to German New Guinea. Protector was at Rabaul in September 1914 where Australia suffered its first casualties of war. It was tender to the submarines AE1 and AE2 which later served at Gallipoli. Many of its South Australian crew reached ranks of distinction in the Royal Australian Navy including William Creswell, who became the Navy’s first Rear Admiral.
The South Australian Maritime Museum is researching Protector’s story as part of a major exhibition marking the 100th Anzac Day in April 1915. Curators will be working with descendants of the crew and the Royal Australian Navy to source mementos and stories to bring Protector's history to life. The Museum, in collaboration with the Australian Centre for Visual Technologies (ACVT), recently laser scanned and archaeologically surveyed Protector so that it can be ‘virtually’ brought back to South Australia from its current location on Heron Island. Visit http://tinyurl.com/mjbdl59 for details.
"The project is partially funded by an Australian Research Council (ARC) Linkage Project awarded to ACVT in 2013”.