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Old 19-07-2008, 20:54
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Default The History of HMAS Tingira

IF ALL THE GREAT SHIPS of Her Majesty’s Australian Navy, the ship which has possibly received the least acclaim, and yet the one which should receive high honours, is HMAS Tingira.

Tingira, an aboriginal word for ‘open sea’, was originally the clipper sailing ship Sobraon, built in the yard of the famous shipbuilder, Alexander Hall of Aberdeen. Sobraon was launched in 1866 and was the largest composite ship ever built.

For 24 years she sailed between England and Australia and her Commander, James Aberdour Elmslie RNR, earned the utmost respect from his sailing fraternity and all those who ventured the seas to place their lives in his capable hands. Captain Elmslie never unduly stressed his ship or her passengers.

The New South Wales Government, in 1891, negotiated with Sobraon’s owners Devitt and Moore to purchase her after she had reached Melbourne, or rather Hobson’s Bay, in January 1891. Sobraon was towed to Sydney Harbour, arriving there on 15th February 1891.

This action by the Government to purchase Sobraon had been brought about because a ship had been urgently needed to replace the Vernon, an old Blackwaller which had been acquired in 1867 to act as a floating reformatory for boys who had been dispatched to her under the regulations which emanated from the Act for the Relief of Destitute Children, the Act to Establish Juvenile Reformatories and the Public Schools Act of 1866.

The Vernon had been lying at anchor off Garden Island until 1871, when she was towed to the confluence of the Parramatta and Lane Cove Rivers, where she was moored off Cockatoo Island, then named Biloela, an Industrial School and Reform School for Girls.

Sobraon was placed in Sutherland dock. Cockatoo Island for an inspection and complete refit. She was found to be as sound as a bell and by October 1892, after £31,429 had been spent on modifications, the great ship was prepared to enter the second stage of her life as an Industrial School Ship, or Nautical School Ship, for underprivileged boys whom the court had found destitute, or for other reasons saw it fit to hand these boys into the strict, disciplinary life on board Sobraon, under the careful control of Superintendent Frederick William Neitenstein, Lieutenant William Henry Mason, and their officers.

Apart from being disciplined, the boys were given the opportunity to develop their skills as tradesmen and were inculcated with a basic education both moral and academic. The band was in much demand on many an important ceremonial occasion, and such was the standard of their tuition and development that some of the lads found positions in orchestras. Indeed, many of them attained acclaim, both at home in Australia and overseas, in the field of sport as well as music.

The Sleuth and Dart were two of the vessels used as tenders to the Sobraon. It was in these vessels the boys were given an opportunity to learn the rudiments of a life at sea, and occasionally those who showed an interest in the sea would be taken on a short voyage to develop and further their interest. The aim of this exercise was to encourage young lads to join the navy or merchant service which at this time was undergoing a dramatic change, as steam was gradually winning the race with wind propelled ships.

In 1911 the New South Wales Government, which had been constantly studying the means of making progress in the treatment of children whose young lives were disadvantaged, decided to dispose of the ‘Nautical’ type of reform in favour of a land based system. Accordingly Brush Farm was purchased at Eastwood, NSW.

It was here that the boys from the Sobraon were housed until an establishment at Mt. Penang was constructed in 1912. It is interesting to note that the porch at the entrance to the main building is known as the quarterdeck, even to this day. Sobraon was sold to the young Commonwealth Government for £15,000.

In 1890, the Premier of New South Wales, Sir Henry Parkes, initiated moves towards the federation of the Australian states, which led to the formation of the Commonwealth of Australia being decreed on 1st January 1901.

In March 1901 the naval forces and establishments of the State Governments were transferred to the Commonwealth, but the States continued to administer them under State Acts and Regulations until February 1904, when the Commonwealth Defence Act came into force.

An amending Act, decreed on 12th January 1904, led to the establishment of a Naval Board of Administration, with Captain W.R. Creswell as Director.

Now in 1909, a proposal for Australia’s naval defence emanated from the Imperial Defence Conference; the Pacific Fleet was to be formed of three units, one attached to the Australian Station, one attached to the East Indies and one to the China Station, which was also to defend New Zealand. The East Indies and China units were to be under the British Admiralty’s control, while the Australian unit was to be paid for and controlled by Australia, and was to be eventually manned by Australians.

In 1910 the Naval Defence Act was passed and in October 1911 the adoption of the title ‘Royal Australian Navy’, was authorised by King George V. This same year saw the launching on the Clyde of HMAS Australia, and the purchasing of the Sobraon by the Commonwealth of Australia.

Sobraon was again placed in the hands of Cockatoo Docks for an extensive refit. She was again found to be as sound as a bell at the ripe old age of 55.

The stage was set for yet another honourable role in the long life of this ship, for at 8 o’clock on the morning of 25th April 1912, just three years before the famous Anzac Day, the white ensign was hoisted to commemorate the commissioning of HMAS Tingira, ex Sobraon, the first naval training ship in the Royal Australian Navy.

Tingira, an aboriginal word meaning ‘ocean’, or ‘open sea’, and pronounced Tinguy-rah, was to become the training ship to thousands of young boys who chose the Navy as a career under the Department of the Navy’s boy enlistment scheme. Though all those who trained in her went to sea, the Tingira did not - instead she swung at her moorings in beautiful Rose Bay, opposite Lyne Park, for the next 15 years.

The commissioning Captain of HMAS Tingira was Commander Lewin, RN, who, with his first lieutenant, Lieutenant Commander Browne, RN, and Executive Officers Dean and Seaton, were the first of a long line of distinguished men who had been carefully chosen for their special ability of imparting knowledge and instruction to sturdy, self reliant, intelligent boys.

The first intake of boys took place between 1st June and 28th June 1912, and at the date of HMAS Tingira’s decommissioning, 3,168 young boys had had the privilege of having their initial training, not on a shore establishment, or a stone ship which didn’t rock, but in the safe confines of one of the finest ships ever.

Farmer and Settler, a newspaper of high standing, published an article on the boys in 1926:-

‘Much misconception exists concerning the good ship Tingira. There are persons still so far behind the times to imagine her to be a hulk whereupon are confined for corrective purposes, the wayward youth of the city. And those misguided folk pass on their placid way, not taking the trouble to learn that on her broad decks are being trained the most highly skilled defenders of Australia’s shores. Boys from the best Australian homes, boys from the great public schools, from the outback spaces and from the city’s heart, who will pass into the navy, that is to be our bulwark against aggression’.

Many of these boys were to serve their country with distinction in World Wars I and II as well as the Korean campaign.

Indeed, Australia was shocked when it was known that a draft of ex-HMAS Tingara boys had been in HMAS Sydney during her action off Cocos Island, on 8th November 1914, when she sank the German raider Emden. There had been young German boys in the Emden also - and to this day, a strong bond of naval comradeship exists between Australia and Germany. A representative of the German Consulate is always an honoured guest at HMAS Tingira Old Boys Association’s Annual Dinner, in Sydney.

This bond of friendship initiated in HMAS Tingira forms the basis of a continuing, caring association of old shipmates. The Association’s journal of the NSW Branch proudly displays this statement on its cover - ‘In strength and unity, this Association will stand forever’.

The winds of change were certainly blowing in the late 1920’s and the Navy decided to stop the ‘boy’ training system and institute the direct entry system. So on 27th June 1927 HMAS Tingira was decommissioned. She had nestled in Rose Bay for 15 years and since 1892 had been home to over 6,000 boys.

In 1929, at the age of 63 she was bought by Mr. W.M. Ford, a prominent boat builder and floated outside his boatshed in Berry’s Bay. Mr. Ford died in 1935 and in 1936 Major Friere and Mrs. Ankin negotiated to purchase her for the sum of £2,600, and a company was formed to convert the ship into a floating museum, but because of financial difficulties this development failed.

HMAS Tingira, ex Sobraon, was at last purchased by Mr. Karlo Selvinen who finally broke her up in Berry’s Bay in 1942.
Attached Images
File Type: jpg Tingira boys.jpg (3.5 KB, 291 views)
File Type: jpg Tingira badge.jpg (7.2 KB, 18 views)
File Type: jpg on-board Tingira.jpg (4.3 KB, 294 views)
File Type: jpg HMAS Tingira.jpg (53.1 KB, 80 views)
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Old 27-07-2008, 03:21
Robert McDougall Robert McDougall is offline
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Default Re: The History of HMAS Tingira

The word if comes to mind. If only she weren't broken up and had been kept as a training ship. There is much lost when an obviously successful training vessel is lost. That civilian trusts in modern times try to copy these training ships of old with smaller boats speaks volumes of how good they were. I don't know how old the tall ships that are used now days, but they must be ancient.
I am do have a preference to these vessels being under naval control, manned by naval ratings.
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Old 27-07-2008, 04:49
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Default Re: The History of HMAS Tingira

Ohhhhhhh! A reply to my post!!

I agree Robert. These were superb ships, the like of which we won't see again. I'm sure the remaining ones must be very old.
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Old 16-11-2009, 06:14
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Don Boyer Don Boyer is offline
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Default Re: The History of HMAS Tingira

Great story, Herakles.

For an American such as myself these historical tales of the allied navies from WWII is wonderful material to read. Very little of it gets incorporated in the American-produced histories of the war in the Pacific, so it's mostly new material to me.

Really enjoyed reading you post.

Best regards,
Don Boyer, GMT-2,
USS Bon Homme Richard (CVA-31)

"For a successful technology, reality has to take precedence over public relations, because nature cannot be fooled." (Richard Feynman)
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Old 29-03-2010, 10:27
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MistieWatters MistieWatters is offline
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Default Re: The History of HMAS Tingira

I wanted to say thank you for posting this information. It is the most detailed account I have found of the Tingara (granted, I have only been searching for 24 hours).

My Poppy was a boy on Tingara (don't know what year yet) but I know he enlisted to fight in WW1 and was underage. He was given a dishonourable discharge. Apparently there was some other intrigue surrounding his discharge, something to do with his wife not remaining faithful whilst he was serving

I found out about the DD at his funeral. If only I had known sooner, I would have asked a lot of questions!
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Old 29-01-2011, 04:27
JR Memorial JR Memorial is offline
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Default Re: The History of HMAS Tingira

The training of boys in the RAN was later continued with the introduction of the Junior Recruit Training scheme at HMAS Leeuwin. In the period of operation (1960-1984) more than 13,000 boys aged between 15 1/2 and 16 1/2 were trained there. The training concept was based on that also conducted at HMS Ganges. In July 2010 a memorial was dedicated at the Leeuwin site to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the scheme. The current Chief of Navy Vice Admiral R Crane AO CSM RAN dedicated the memorial . He is an ex Junior Recruit who rose from the lowest rank in the RAN to his present position as head of the navy.

Junior Recruits who served in the RAN wore an arm badge "Tingira" that recognized the historical link to HMAS Tingira.

Many ex Junior Recruits went on to serve on Active Service in the Malay Confrontation with Indonesia and also the Vietnam War. Many of these boys were still only 16 when they went to war. Something that perhaps would not occur in this era.
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Old 16-05-2011, 09:12
historian historian is offline
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Default Re: The History of HMAS Tingira

I am interested in the young boys on the training ship 'Tingiri'.
My Uncle - Bernard (Neil) Goldsmith Roberts, joined the Navy at age 14 years. He was one of the boys on the training ship the ‘Tingira’ for the pay of 3 pence per week. He told his son (my 2nd cousin Max Roberts) he was so hungry that he used to spend his whole 3 pence (3 cents) on 3 pies, as soon as he got paid. They had to get up at 5.30am in the morning, and the last one up the rigging used to get belted across the backside with a knotted rope. He was also forced to learn boxing, which he disliked owing to his small size. Neil had his photo taken with his two older brothers, Leo and Alfred on the 30th April 1914 in their Naval uniforms.
Neil Roberts was the youngest seaman (age 16 yrs) aboard the H.M.A.S. Sydney on 9th November 1914, when the ‘Sydney’ was escorting the first troop convoy from Australia to the Middle East. The German light cruiser Emden was detected shadowing the convoy. The Sydney was ordered to attack the Emden, and in the ensuing engagement the Emden was battered and finally beached on the Cocos Islands. It was the first naval engagement of the war.
Neil and others sailors were awarded a special medal for their participation in this victory. After the battle, young Neil souveniered a hat band off one of the Emden sailors hats, which he later gave to his brother Leo (my father) who also served on the Sydney in 1913. The Emden hat band is now a priced possession of Leo's daughter Margot, author of this article.
Does any one have any further information on the young boys on the 'Tingira' or on the 'Sydney' when it sunk the 'Emden'...???

Last edited by historian : 16-05-2011 at 09:34.
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Old 16-05-2011, 09:20
historian historian is offline
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Default Re: The History of HMAS Tingira

Of further re the 'Tingira' and my Uncle Neil Roberts -
A report from ''The Royal Aust. Navy'' by George Odgers stated that while a majority of the ‘Sydney’s’ crew were British serviceman lent to Australia by the Admiralty, quite a large proportion were Australian, including young men under training. Some sixty young men were from the training ship ‘Tingira’. To quote an official narrative “ the inexperienced crew speedily settled down. The hail of steel which beat upon them was increasing, but they paid little heed as if they had passed their lives under heavy fire instead of experiencing it for the first time”. Just after the fight an officer wrote: ''Our men behaved splendidly; this was especially noticeable in the case of the young boys, many of then only 16 yrs old and just out of training little slip of a boy did not turn a hair and worked splendidly (most likely this was Neil Roberts ) ..the other boy, a very sturdy youngster carried projectiles from the hoist to his gun through the action without as much as thinking of cover.
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Old 17-05-2011, 07:44
Bundall Bundall is offline
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Default Re: The History of HMAS Tingira

When I joined the Recruit School at Cerberus in Jan. 1955 there were at least two (as they were then) Senior Commissioned Warrant Officers in the School who were ex Tingira.
They were later recommissioned as Sub. Leut.s.
To us they were crusty old barnacles from the Victorian era but we respected their experience and were in awe of the physical mistreatment that they had endured as Tingira Boys.

Last edited by Bundall : 17-05-2011 at 08:24.
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Old 17-05-2011, 11:11
ALMACK ALMACK is offline
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Default Re: The History of HMAS Tingira

Fantastic bit of history.

Thanks for sharing

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Old 22-07-2011, 12:52
flinders46 flinders46 is offline
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Default Re: The History of HMAS Tingira

can some one shed light on where the old ships lion figurehead is - it was at HMAS Cerberus for many many years and possiblity up until 1990s
but where it went from there no one knows
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Old 09-10-2011, 09:45
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Alan D Alan D is offline
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Default Re: The History of HMAS Tingira

Possibly in the Naval Historical Collection at GI?
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Old 08-07-2012, 06:39
mash mash is offline
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Default Re: The History of HMAS Tingira

Hi all, dad was trained on the Tingira in 1926-27, I think he said that he was in the last group to go through the Tingira, I remember him talking about scrubbing decks and being fed on something called birgue [ thick porridge ] but I don't remember him saying anything about harsh treatment, although what we consider as harsh now was normal then, I don't remember the details but I think that he said that as part of their training they were sent ashore in groups on a local beach/rifle range with a rough old tent and some basic supplies to fend for them selfs for a stretch of time, I know he thought that was great fun, at the end of his navel life he was one of those instructors at HMAS Cerberus in the early 1950's. i have some photos that he took at the time that I will try to post. /Users/martincantwell/Pictures/MP Navigator EX/2012_05_29/IMG_0032.jpg/Users/martincantwell/Pictures/MP Navigator EX/2012_05/Users/martincantwell/Pictures/MP Navigator EX/2012_05_29/IMG_0039.jpg_29/IMG_0035.jpg/Users/martincantwell/Pictures/MP Navigator EX/2012_05_29/IMG_0037.jpg/Users/martincantwell/Pictures/MP Navigator EX/2012_05_29/IMG_0038.jpg/Users/martincantwell/Pictures/MP Navigator EX/2012_05_29/IMG_0042.jpg/Users/martincantwell/Pictures/MP Navigator EX/2012_05_29/IMG_0043.jpg/Users/martincantwell/Pictures/MP Navigator EX/2012_05_29/IMG_0044.jpg/Users/martincantwell/Pictures/MP Navigator EX/2012_05_29/IMG_0046.jpg/Users/martincantwell/Pictures/MP Navigator EX/2012_05_29/IMG_0049.jpg
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Old 08-07-2012, 06:41
mash mash is offline
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Default Re: The History of HMAS Tingira

Sorry all, looks like the photos didn't work, I'll have to do some more reading no how to.
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