Search the Register
Advanced Search
Image Not Available

Royal Navy Special Service Squadron World Cruise

Between 27 November 1923 and 28 September 1924, the British Royal Navy’s Special Service Squadron cruised around the world visiting and thanking those countries and allies who had offered their support during World War I. It was an opportunity to show naval strength and renew alliances. It was largely a public relations exercise to express Britain's sea power, particularly relevant in the aftermath of World War I. However, the trip was also made during a political climate that emphasised the imperative of peace and disarmament. The Washington Naval Treaty of 1922 outlined how allied forces were expected to enforce disarmament provisions. In the end, it named 24 British capital ships for scrapping.

The Squadron sailed from England via South Africa and the Indian Ocean to Australia and New Zealand. From thence it moved north-east across the Pacific to Canada and down the west coast of the United States. At San Francisco the Squadron split and the battle cruisers headed home via the Panama Canal and the east coast of the US, whilst the light cruisers continued southwards and around the tip of South America, stopping at various ports on both the west and east coasts.

The Squadron consisted of the battle cruisers HM Ships HOOD and REPULSE, and the light cruisers HM Ships DEHLI, DANAE, DRAGON and DAUNTLESS. At various ports local warships would join the Squadron for a short period; in Australia it was HMAS ADELAIDE that was afforded this honour.

The travel itinerary to Australia went as follows. The Squadron arrived at: Fremantle in Perth, Western Australia on 27 February 1924, Albany, WA on 2 March, Adelaide, South Australia on 10 March, Melbourne, Victoria on 17 March, Hobart, Tasmania on 27 March, Jervis Bay, New South Wales on 5 April and Sydney, NSW on 9 April.

At each stopover officers and sailors participated in a myriad of activities and the ships themselves held many events on board. Social events included musical revues, dinners, dances, openings, award presentations, visits to local attractions; sporting events were held (as both spectator and player) and city marches were very popular. While in port in Melbourne, newspapers reported that 70,000 people had already visited the ships of the fleet within the first two days.

While in Sydney, the fleet escorted the Royal Australian Navy's first flagship, HMAS AUSTRALIA, to Sydney Heads where it was deliberately scuttled in keeping with the terms of the Washington Treaty. ‘The Sydney Mail’ reported on the ‘social side’ of the visit. On Friday 11 April, between 8 and 9:30pm, a searchlight and pyrotechnic display was exhibited on Sydney Harbour. From Admiralty House to Bradleys Head and from Point Piper to Fort Macquarie, the visiting fleet and six Australian naval vessels were illuminated in a spectacular show during which hundreds of craft manoeuvred around to obtain a good view and tooted their sirens and whistles in reply. Skyrockets of varying colours were fired from different locations and exploded over the ‘majestic silhouette of HMS Hood’. Cremorne, Kirribilli and Fort Denison each became alight with flares of different colours. Hundreds of thousands of people reportedly attended the show.

Other official events held in honour of the visiting fleet were hosted at Government House and The Ambassadors on Pitt Street. There were ‘blue jackets all over the place!’ as the visiting sailors ventured throughout Sydney’s suburbs going to the beach and theatre. ‘The Sydney Mail’ reported on how ‘Sydney girls’ were responding to the visitors: ‘When the gentler sex comes under the influence of the brass buttons and gold braid there is a temporary setback for the shore boys in the unromantic tweeds’. One woman was quoted as saying, ‘“It’s thrilling … to be able just to start a conversation with an officer as if you had known him for years, and know that it’s perfectly all right.”’

The fleet departed Sydney for Wellington, New Zealand on 20 April.

The Squadron’s cruise is also seen under the following names: World Cruise, Empire Cruise, World Booze, and Booze Cruise!