On 10 July 1911, then British monarch, King George V, granted the title of “Royal Australian Navy” (RAN) to our then Commonwealth Naval Forces service, founding the RAN we know and respect today.
The Commonwealth Naval Forces were formed on 1 March 1901 – two months after Federation – upon the amalgamation of the naval forces of our previous six separate colonies. In the interim ten years, the role of the fleet was not clearly defined. After much debate, in 1908-09, a compromise was reached between the British and Australian governments to have the force used primarily for local defence (of our shores and region) but capable of joining imperial naval strategies as required.
The RAN was just three years old when it became engaged in WWI, firstly in our region – capturing Germany’s South Pacific colonies and securing east-Asian shipping lanes from German interference – but then in the multiple seas around Europe and the Ottoman Empire.
In WWII, the RAN served in European waters and in the Middle East. Upon the outbreak of the Pacific War, the RAN began operating more independently, with a much greater focus in our region with the US Navy. At the height of WWII, the RAN was the fourth largest navy in the world (337 vessels, of which 34 were lost).
Today, the RAN has 47 commissioned vessels (each with the prefix of His/Her Majesty’s Australian Ship or HMAS), including one destroyer, 10 frigates, 13 patrol boats and six submarines. A number of projects (either home-builds or acquisitions) are underway to upgrade the RAN’s capabilities, including nine new frigates (Adelaide), 12 future submarines (Adelaide), 12 new patrol boats/vessels and 3 new destroyers (USA). The RAN also maintains a Fleet Air Arm capability with four active squadrons.
The RAN has two primary bases for its fleet – Fleet Base East in Sydney (HMAS Kuttabul) and Fleet Base West in Perth (HMAS Stirling), with three smaller bases in Darwin (HMAS Coonawarra), Cairns (HMAS Cairns) and another in Sydney (HMAS Waterhen).
Celebrate our RAN's 10 July anniversary by:
- If you are in or near Sydney, planning a visit to the Australia National Maritime Museum at Darling Harbour or a tour of the Naval Historical Society of Australia and RAN Heritage Centre at Garden Island
- If you are in or near Canberra, visiting the Australian War Memorial and checking out the displays involving our RAN and other defence forces over the last century
- keeping an eye out for open days at our various naval bases or just finding out some more about our esteemed RAN
- having a meal and/or a drink down at your local Returned and Services League of Australia and paying respects to the men and women who have served our country and are doing so now
- enjoying a film celebrating the drama of military life at sea, such as Operation Pacific, Midway, Das Boot, Crimson Tide, U571, Pearl Harbour or The Hunt for Red October - or check out the US television series Seal Team.
- following the Royal Australian Navy on Facebook to show your support for our sea defences, and/or
- sharing this Action Plan post on social media with family, friends, veterans and those appreciative of the vital role our forces play in keeping our borders, national interests, culture and way of life secure.