There are some real gems there.
There's the Sydney-Emden medal, which commemorates the naval surface battle of 9 November 1914 during which HMAS Sydney (I) sank the German warship SMS Emden.This was a tremendously significant naval victory in a year which had seen precious few victories for the "allied" powers. It was also celebrated as the first naval victory by a Royal Australian Navy (RAN) ship, after the navy had been formed in 1911. Previously it had run as a colonial outpost of the Royal Navy. So there it was significant as one more step towards national maturity - having our own capable naval force. Cutting the colonial apron strings and all that. The online collection detail at the PHM perversely only shows the reverse of the medal, the obverse almost certainly looks like this one.
My friend Mac Gregory recently received a query about a similar medal too.
Sidebar: In the symbiosis between the City of Sydney and her namesake ships HMAS Sydney (I), HMAS Sydney (II) and HMAS Sydney (III), the City of Sydney was selected to be the recipient of one of the major prizes from the Emden, a 4-inch naval gun.
Turning our attention to the flagship of the RAN in World War One, HMAS Australia (I) there are a number of relics from the ship in the PHM collection, and a connection to one of the world's first arms limitation treaties - The Washington treaty of 1922 on the limitation of armament agreed between the United States of America, the British Empire (of which Australia was a part), France, Italy and Japan.
Flagship of the Royal Australian Navy, HMAS Australia, Sydney Harbour, between 1913-1924 / unknown photographer, originally uploaded by State Library of New South Wales collection.
The Washington Treaty dictated that certain countries would be permitted to have a limited number of warships, classified by displacement tonnage and armament; and additionally would agree to build only limited types of warships in the future.
HMAS Australia (I) was in excess of the treaty limits, so she had to be deliberately rendered unusable, as did her armament of 12-inch naval guns. The ship was scuttled 23 miles off Sydney Heads in 1924.
Before the ship was scuttled, much of of the usable material was salvaged such as copper piping, and significantly " £35,000 worth of fittings was removed and allocated to the Universities and Technical Colleges of the various states. At least some of these items remained in regular use as teaching aids for over fifty years." (ref. Sea Power Australia )
Sidebar: Documents at the National Archives of Australia detail much of the discussion about salvaging items from the HMAS Australia (I) and what was to be done with them, including the teak decking. The teak decking was used to make special frames for photographs of the ship which were subsequently distributed to 1061 local government, city and shire councils around our great nation. Some of these photographs must still be out there somewhere. I wonder if the holders know what they've got!
Many of these salvaged and souvenired items appear in the collection of the PHM, such as the muzzle end of a 12-inch gun barrel, part of a capstan bar, a raising block, engine room phone, a couple of breech openers, projectile hoist indicator, action stations klaxon, and steam engines here, here and here, and a swash plate engine. Mostly items of use in technical and engineering trade education of the day. They are the real nitty gritty of ship operations. Although now of little interest in themselves as museum pieces, but their very acquisition represents a time when governments of several countries were trying to limit the arms race during the economic hardships of the 1920s and making a failed attempt to prevent the next world war.
A reasonably good overview of the Washington Naval Treaty, although mainly from a US perspective is on wikipedia here.
My favourite naval history item in the collection though is the medal presented to Captain John Collins by the City of Sydney in 1941. And that's the topic of my next blog post in this series.