|The Flying Squadron 1869-70
Sydney Morning Herald
14th December 1869
The most glorious sight ever witnessed in Port Jackson was the passage of the Flying Squadron from their temporary anchorage at the Heads to their moorings at Farm Cove (perhaps better known as Man-of-War Bay), which took place yesterday. Admiral Hornby intended bringing his ships up the harbour under canvas, but owing to the southerly wind setting in, the idea had to be abandoned, and steam was substituted. At any time, or in any part of the world, the movements of one or more of H.M. ships is always viewed with interest, but when a squadron, comprising six of the finest vessels in the service, is seen for the first time, it produces an indescribable sensation in the spectator, more especially when witnessed under fortuitous circumstances. The spectacle of yesterday will not readily be forgotten by those who were fortunate enough to be present; and, in after years, the particulars of this interesting event in the annals of our colony, will be repeated to eager listeners, when all that were present have passed away.
It may not perhaps be arrogating too much to say that we possess one of the finest harbours in the world for displays of this kind, and judging from the thousands that were present, (massed as they were on every available jutting point and headland,) all wrought up to a state of enthusiasm seldom seen as the noble ships, in the full panoply of war, steamed around Bradleys head and came into view, we think the idea will be fully endorsed. The beautiful appearance of the ships as regards their hulls and spars, the correct order and seamanlike manner in which they held their various positions and were handled, and the total absence of bustle or confusion was as gratifying to the spectators as it must have been pleasing to the gallant Admiral who has the honour to command so fine a squadron.
3 p.m. was the time appointed for the ships to come up, by which time there could not have been less than 30,000 persons on Lady Macquarie’s Point and along the Domain Road, all anxious to catch the first glance of the new arrivals; but we will give in detail the programme of the day. Arriving at the Heads at 1 p.m. yesterday, we found the squadron still at anchor, with steam up, but with one exception, (the Endymion, who having disarranged some of her screw-gear was unable to use her propeller.) They had royal and topgallant yards across, squared to perfection; Phoebe being the weathermost ship, the wind being south, Liverpool and Scylla, the most leeward. At 1.30 p.m. the first indication of their being about to weigh was the shortening of the cables, and soon after Liffey tripped and steamed ahead of Endymion, dropping down stern first on her, and taking on board towing warps, a manoeuvre that was carried out beautifully.
The wind had by this time freshened considerably, and a long roll from seaward was coming in. At 2.50 p.m. the Liverpool tripped, and came steaming up for the west channel, in charge of pilot Cork. She was followed by Scylla, then Phoebe, pilot Coots, and Barossa, the rear being brought up by Liffey, pilot Jenkins, with Endymion, pilot Christison, in tow. The ships were separated by about three cables length, but when they had cleared the bar, signal was made by the Admiral to form close order, Liverpool going off at full speed. The vessels all kept the proper line, and preserved the regulation distance. After rounding Bradleys Head Liverpool and Scylla ported their helms and passed north of Fort Dennison, Phoebe and Barossa keeping to the south side of the harbour. Scylla, after rounding Fort Dennison steamed past the Liverpool, and ran well into farm Cove, Liverpool following and taking up her mooring inside Challenger, Barossa at the same time passing Phoebe and anchoring under the stern of Scylla, Phoebe mooring out in the stream. Liffey still having Endymion in tow, passed across Phoebe’s bows, dropped Endymion in her proper position to the westward, and then keeping on her course steamed up the harbour as far as abreast of the cove; here she cleverly slowed – and coming back again took up her proper moorings. On the Liverpool being sighted at Bradleys, the flag was saluted by the Challenger, and promptly returned from the Admiral’s ship.
The French Consul boarded the Liverpool shortly after she brought up, and was received with the customary honours. The process of mooring the squadron was finished by 3.50 p.m., each vessel coming to with wonderful precision; sails were then unbent, and at sundown topgallant and royal yards sent down, but until dark the crowds assembled still lingered, unwilling, apparently, to leave so picturesque a scene. In addition to the yacht squadrons, no less than ten steamers, including the City of Brisbane, Black Swan, Collaroy, Agnes Irving and Breadelbane, well freighted with passengers proceeded to the Heads, and after steaming round the squadron accompanied them up the harbour.
The Government steamer, Thetis, Lieutenant Gawland, with the harbour Superintendent, Captain Hixson, on board, proceeded to the Heads early in the day, to be in readiness in case of any unforeseen accident with such heavy ships crossing the bar.
Amongst he special features of the day was the display made by the yacht clubs. Commodore Dangar’s fine cutter the Mistral, bearing the pennant of the Royal Sydney Yacht Squadron, was the first underway, and reached the Cove shortly after noon. Commodore Hanke, of the Prince Alfred followed soon after, and signaled from the Psyche for his club to rendezvous in Watson’s Bay where ten smart little clippers were soon to be seen at anchor. The Mistral, Xarifa, Peri, Nereid and six others of their squadron, stood down the harbour, met the men-of-war off Middle Head, and, hauling their wind on the starboard tack, crossed the flagship’s bows. After making a stretch towards the east shore they tacked and stood up harbour, in a line following the Commodore. As soon as the Liverpool was abreast of Lang’s point the signal of "Follow me in line" made by the Psyche, brought the Prince Alfred into position, and they left Watson’s Bay with a free sheet, but soon hauled their wind and stood up harbour abreast of the senior club, both being handles so admirably that the two seemed as if belonging to one club, obeying orders to form two lines.
The Mistral went about off point Piper, crossed the head of the Prince Alfred’s line, and as the larger yachts of the R.S.Y.S. followed in her wake, their coming up through the lee of Commodore Hank’s fleet, compelled them also to tack instead of keeping in line abreast of the Flying Squadron. All the yachts stood down for Shank Point, and from thence came up in line astern along the southern shore. The Royals passed right up through the Squadron, and saluted the flagship, while the Prince Alfreds rounded Fort Dennison, and passing under the stern of Phoebe, stood on for the Liverpool, which they saluted, and then working in and out pressed under the sterns of the other ships, and paid them a similar compliment. Meantime the R.S.Y.S. went a short distance down the harbour, and formed into two lines abreast, and in this order ran up past Dawes’ battery, when they again formed in line astern of Commodore Dangar’s yacht. The yachts belonging to the two clubs were not by any means the larger portion of those underway. The harbour seemed studded with white wings, flitting hither and thither, freighted with holiday-makers, enjoying the novel spectacle afforded them by Admiral Hornby’s visit. Some of the small steamers caused a little inconvenience to the yachtsmen by getting in amongst them; and one of the Parramatta river boats not only destroyed the line but compelled some of the yachts to go about just as they were reaching past the stern of the Liverpool. It is remarkable that amid all the excitement and confusion not a single accident occurred to mar the day’s proceedings.
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