Garden Island Naval Chapel

The Garden Island Naval Chapel is a heritage-listed non-denominational Christian chapel located in the heritage-listed Garden Island Naval Precinct that comprises a naval base and dockyard in the inner eastern Sydney suburb of Garden Island in the City of Sydney local government area of New South Wales, Australia. Housed in a building designed by James Barnet and built between built 1886 and 1887, the chapel was established in 1902 after conversion from the former sail loft and is the oldest Christian chapel of the Royal Australian Navy (RAN)[1] and has stained glass windows and plaques from that era to the present. The chapel was added to the Commonwealth Heritage List on 22 June 2004[2][3] and the New South Wales State Heritage Register on 12 November 2004.[1]

The building is the oldest on Garden Island, two-storey, built of stuccoed brick with stone sills, arches and columns. The original loft floor of timber remains, caulked with oakum and bitumen.

Garden Island Naval Chapel
Naval Chapel GI1
The Naval Chapel at Garden Island
Garden Island Naval Chapel is located in Sydney
Garden Island Naval Chapel
Garden Island Naval Chapel
Location in Sydney
33°51′44.5″S 151°13′40.8″E / 33.862361°S 151.228000°ECoordinates: 33°51′44.5″S 151°13′40.8″E / 33.862361°S 151.228000°E
LocationCowper Wharf Roadway, Garden Island, City of Sydney, New South Wales
Functional statusChapel
Architect(s)James Barnet
Architectural typeVictorian Italianate
Years built
  • 1886–1887 (building)
  • 1902 (converted to a chapel)


Garden Island is on the southern shore of Port Jackson, the proper name for the harbour at Sydney, Australia. It is second promontory east of the Sydney Harbour Bridge.

The Royal Navy used the island from February 1788, just a month after Australia's colonisation by the First Fleet, as a garden for provisioning first HMS Sirius and later the fleet based in the port. During the nineteenth century, the island became the support base for the fleet and various buildings were established including houses for senior staff.

The stone and brick Rigging building was built in 1887, on the shoreside shelf at the northern end of the island, in which the chapel was later established. The building bears the dedication "VRI 1887", alluding to its construction during the reign of Queen Victoria of the United Kingdom ("Victoria Regina Imperatrix"). The building now sits at the north-eastern end of the Captain Cook Dry Dock, which was constructed in the channel between the island and the mainland and connected the island to the mainland shore at Potts Point. The building has been restored, including the wrought iron swing cranes adjacent to each major upper doorway which were formerly used to get rigging to and from the upper floor. These doorways in the Chapel are now stained glass windows. The main entrance is from the northern side.



The entrance from street level leads to the winding wooden staircase to the main Chapel (right), and Chapel of Remembrance (left).

At the entrance are three stained glass windows representing:

On the wall opposite the entrance doors, midway on the stairs, is a map showing the places where RAN Honours have been won, with at each side the current and former White Ensigns of the RAN.

Main Chapel

Naval Chapel GI view2
Naval Chapel at Garden Island, looking to the altar. Boat shaped pulpit at front-left.

The main chapel is on the upper level of the building, accessed by a winding staircase from the main entrance. The layout was formerly with two equal lines of pews, until the modernisation when the Chapel of Remembrance was constructed. At that time the original stairs were removed and a staircase was erected from the new entrance. The Chapel of Remembrance could also be incorporated into the overall design of the space.

The pulpit is shaped like the bow of a boat.


The Chapel houses the laid up or decommissioned Fleet monarch's Colours (Standards) received by the RAN since its formation in 1911, from:

The current Fleet Colour is held at Fleet Headquarters, HMAS KUTTABUL, whilst the location of the Colour presented during the reign of King George VI is unknown.

RAN GvR colour
RAN Colour of George V
RAN EiiR colour1
RAN Colour (first) of Elizabeth II
RAN EiiR colour2
RAN Colour (second) of Elizabeth II


Naval Chapel GI Mel-Syd
Memorial windows for the aircraft carrierHMAS Melbourne and the first three warships named HMAS Sydney. Between them is the commemorative plaque for Rear Admiral Sir David Martin KCMG AO RAN, Governor of New South Wales.
Bathurst class corvette window
Bathurst class corvette]] window; Alpha and Omega symbols; names of the ships.

The main chapel has various stained glass windows, some naturally lit and others in cases with back-lights. This list circles the chapel to the right from the altar.

Right of altar:

Right wall:

Back wall & door:

Left side:

Behind the pulpit:

  • Chaplain Vivian Ward Thompson BA, died 9 January 1943
  • Australian Naval Reserve, WWI : RAN Reserve & RAN Volunteer Reserve – "Australia's first losses in the Great War were RANR personnel at Kaba Kaul, New Britain, 11 Sep 1914"

Left of altar


Plaques adorn the main Chapel in great number. Several poignant plaques are:

  • 1987 plaque by four sons remembering their fathers:
    • Fathers:
    • Sons:
      • Commodore P.G.V Dechaineux, AM, RAN
      • Rear Admiral P.G.V. Kennedy, AO, RAN
      • Rear Admiral D.J. Martin, AO, RAN
      • Commodore M.B. Rayment, AM, RAN
  • Reverend Thomas H.D. Morgan BA
  • Captain Engineer J.W.N Bull, RAN
    • d. 12 December 1956 while serving as general manager, Garden Island Dockyard
  • Captain R.G. Parker, OBE, RAN (d. 6 July 1985)
  • Tablet, erected by members of the NSW Naval Forces:
    • Surgeon Lieutenant J. Steel
    • Able Seamen E. Rose, A.J. Bennet, J. Hamilton
    • Privates T.J. Rogers, C.W. Smart
      • late of the NSW Contingent, lost their lives on active service in China 1900–1901 (Boxer Rebellion)
  • Captain Francis Dixson, RN
    • Founded the NSW Naval Brigade in 1863, which he commanded until 1901
    • Raised and commanded the Naval Forces which served in China 1900
  • chief petty officerRodney K. Jackson (24 November 1950 – 3 August 1979)
  • William J. Danahay (24 March 1902 – 24 August 1976)
    • Born on Garden Island

Side chapels

Two side chapels lead off the main chapel, at the right, one each for Protestant and Catholic worship. Both have access only from the main Chapel; the Catholic chapel is at the rear, the Protestant near the front. A door connects the two, and also gives access to a small robing room that is shared with the main chapel. Each chapel has seating for about 20 people with an altar and lectern.

Chapel of Remembrance

Chapel Remembrance GI
Chapel of Remembrance

The Chapel of Remembrance is accessed from the main entrance and then by several steps down, and occupies a portion of the area under the main chapel. It was officially opened on 25 August 1996 by Rear Admiral David Campbell, AM RAN, Flag Officer Naval Support Command, and dedicated by Principal Chaplains Michael Holtz AM RANR and Gareth Clayton RAN and Chaplain J.F.B. Connelly RAN.

The front wall is faceted to allow plaques to be placed on the wooden screens. Two rough-hewn posts stand in the body of the chapel. The altar is a simple wooden block of a sandstone plinth, standing on a raised area at the front wall.


GI Chapel WWII Destroyers
Australian Destroyers, World War II, including the Scrap Iron Flotilla.

Three windows are on the left wall:

See also


  1. ^ a b "Sydney Harbour Naval Precinct". New South Wales State Heritage Register. Office of Environment and Heritage. H01705. Retrieved 14 October 2018.
  2. ^ "Rigging Shed and Chapel, Riggers La, Garden Island, NSW, Australia (Place ID 105288)". Australian Heritage Database. Department of the Environment. Retrieved 29 October 2018.
  3. ^ "Rigging Shed and Chapel, Riggers La, Garden Island, NSW, Australia (Place ID 2173)". Australian Heritage Database. Department of the Environment. Retrieved 29 October 2018.


  • Martin, Eric J. (1980). H.M.A. Naval Dockyard, Garden Island: a building conservation study of the historic buildings (Master of Built Environment, thesis). Kensington (Sydney), NSW: University of New South Wales.
  • Rivett, Norman (2010). From church to chapel : a historical tour of the Naval Chapel, Garden Island. Naval Historical Society of Australia.
  • Royal Australian Navy (1989). H.M.A. Naval Dockyard (Garden Island, NSW) – Naval Chapel. Sydney.
Battle between HMAS Sydney and German auxiliary cruiser Kormoran

The battle between the Australian light cruiser HMAS Sydney and the German auxiliary cruiser Kormoran was a single ship action that occurred on 19 November 1941, off the coast of Western Australia. Sydney, with Captain Joseph Burnett commanding, and Kormoran, under Fregattenkapitän (Commander) Theodor Detmers, encountered each other approximately 106 nautical miles (196 km; 122 mi) off Dirk Hartog Island. Both ships were destroyed in the half-hour engagement.

From 24 November, after Sydney failed to return to port, air and sea searches were conducted. Boats and rafts carrying survivors from Kormoran were recovered at sea, while others made landfall north of Carnarvon: 318 of the 399 personnel on Kormoran survived. While debris from Sydney was found, there were no survivors from the 645-strong complement. It was the largest loss of life in the history of the Royal Australian Navy, the largest Allied warship lost with all hands during World War II, and a major blow to Australian wartime morale. Australian authorities learned of Sydney's fate from the surviving Kormoran personnel, who were held in prisoner of war camps until the end of the war. The exact location of the two wrecks remained unverified until 2008.

Controversy has often surrounded the battle, especially in the years before the two wrecks were located in 2008. How and why a purpose-built warship like Sydney was defeated by a modified merchant vessel like Kormoran was the subject of speculation, with numerous books on the subject, as well as two official reports by government inquiries (published in 1999 and 2009 respectively). According to German accounts—which were assessed as truthful and generally accurate by Australian interrogators during the war, as well as most subsequent analyses—Sydney approached so close to Kormoran that the Australian cruiser lost the advantages of heavier armour and superior gun range. Nevertheless, several post-war publications have alleged that Sydney's loss had been the subject of an extensive cover-up, that the Germans had not followed the laws of war, that Australian survivors were massacred following the battle, or that the Empire of Japan had been secretly involved in the action (before officially declaring war in December). No evidence has been found to support any of these theories.

HMAS Canberra (D33)

HMAS Canberra (I33/D33), named after the Australian capital city of Canberra, was a Royal Australian Navy (RAN) heavy cruiser of the Kent sub-class of County-class cruisers. Constructed in Scotland during the mid-1920s, the ship was commissioned in 1928, and spent the first part of her career primarily operating in Australian waters, with some deployments to the China Station.

At the start of World War II, Canberra was initially used for patrols and convoy escort around Australia. In July 1940, she was reassigned as a convoy escort between Western Australia, Sri Lanka, and South Africa. During this deployment, which ended in mid-1941, Canberra was involved in the hunt for several German auxiliary cruisers. The cruiser resumed operations in Australian waters, but when Japan entered the war, she was quickly reassigned to convoy duties around New Guinea, interspersed with operations in Malaysian and Javanese waters. Canberra later joined Task Force 44, and was involved in the Guadalcanal Campaign and the Tulagi landings.

On 9 August 1942, Canberra was struck by the opening Japanese shots of the Battle of Savo Island, and was quickly damaged. Unable to propel herself, the cruiser was evacuated and sunk in Ironbottom Sound by two American destroyers. The United States Navy Baltimore-class cruiser USS Canberra was named in honour of the Australian ship, and is the only American warship named for either a foreign warship or a foreign capital city.

HMAS Melbourne (R21)

HMAS Melbourne (R21) was a Majestic-class light aircraft carrier of the Royal Australian Navy (RAN). Operating from 1955 until 1982, she was the third and final conventional aircraft carrier to serve in the RAN. Melbourne was the only Commonwealth naval vessel to sink two friendly warships in peacetime collisions.The ship was laid down for the Royal Navy as the lead ship of the Majestic class in April 1943, and was launched as HMS Majestic (R77) in February 1945. At the end of World War II, work on the ship was suspended until she was purchased by the RAN in 1947. At the time of purchase, it was decided to incorporate new aircraft carrier technologies into the design, making Melbourne the third ship to be constructed with an angled flight deck. Delays in construction and integrating the enhancements meant that the carrier was not commissioned until 1955.

Melbourne never fired a shot in anger during her career, having only peripheral, non-combat roles in relation to the Indonesia-Malaysia confrontation and the Vietnam War. She was, however, involved in two major collisions with allied vessels; though Melbourne was found not to be the primary cause of either incident. The first occurred on the evening of 10 February 1964, in which Melbourne rammed and sank the RAN destroyer HMAS Voyager, when the latter altered course across her bow. Eighty-two of Voyager's personnel were killed, and two Royal Commissions were held to investigate the incident. The second collision occurred in the early morning of 3 June 1969, when Melbourne also rammed the United States Navy (USN) destroyer USS Frank E. Evans in similar circumstances. Seventy-four American personnel died, and a joint USN–RAN Board of Inquiry was held. These incidents, along with several minor collisions, shipboard accidents, and aircraft losses, led to the reputation that Melbourne was jinxed.Melbourne was paid off from RAN service in 1982. A proposal to convert her for use as a floating casino failed, and a 1984 sale was cancelled, before she was sold for scrap in 1985 and towed to China for breaking. The scrapping was delayed so Melbourne could be studied by the People's Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) as part of a secret project to develop a Chinese aircraft carrier and used to train PLAN aviators in carrier flight operations.

HMAS Sydney (D48)

HMAS Sydney, named after the Australian city of Sydney, was one of three modified Leander-class light cruisers operated by the Royal Australian Navy (RAN). Ordered for the Royal Navy as HMS Phaeton, the cruiser was purchased by the Australian government and renamed prior to her 1934 launch.

During the early part of her operational history, Sydney helped enforce sanctions during the Abyssinian crisis, and at the start of World War II was assigned to convoy escort and patrol duties in Australian waters. In May 1940, Sydney joined the British Mediterranean Fleet for an eight-month deployment, during which she sank two Italian warships, participated in multiple shore bombardments, and provided support to the Malta Convoys, while receiving minimal damage and no casualties. On her return to Australia in February 1941, Sydney resumed convoy escort and patrol duties in home waters.

On 19 November 1941, Sydney was involved in a mutually destructive engagement with the German auxiliary cruiser Kormoran, and was lost with all hands (645 aboard). The wrecks of both ships were lost until 2008; Sydney was found on 17 March, five days after her adversary. Sydney's defeat is commonly attributed to the proximity of the two ships during the engagement, and Kormoran's advantages of surprise and rapid, accurate fire. However, the cruiser's loss with all hands compared to the survival of most of the Germans has resulted in conspiracy theorists alleging that the German commander used illegal ruses to lure Sydney into range, that a Japanese submarine was involved, and that the true events of the battle are concealed behind a wide-ranging cover-up, despite the lack of evidence for these allegations.

HMAS Sydney (R17)

HMAS Sydney (R17/A214/P214/L134) was a Majestic-class light aircraft carrier operated by the Royal Australian Navy (RAN). She was built for the Royal Navy and was launched as HMS Terrible (93) in 1944, but was not completed before the end of World War II. The carrier was sold to Australia in 1947, completed, and commissioned into the RAN as Sydney in 1948.

Sydney was the first of three conventional aircraft carriers to serve in the RAN, and operated as the navy's flagship during the early part of her career. From late 1951 to early 1952, she operated off the coast of Korea during the Korean War, making her the first carrier owned by a Commonwealth Dominion, and the only carrier in the RAN, to see wartime service. Retasked as a training vessel following the 1955 arrival of her modernised sister ship, HMAS Melbourne, Sydney remained in service until 1958, when she was placed in reserve as surplus to requirements.

The need for a sealift capability saw the ship modified for service as a fast troop transport, and recommissioned in 1962. Sydney was initially used for training and a single supply run in support of Malaysia's defence policy against Indonesia, but in 1965, she sailed on the first voyage to Vũng Tàu, transporting soldiers and equipment to serve in the Vietnam War. 25 voyages to Vietnam were made between 1965 and 1972, earning the ship the nickname "Vung Tau Ferry".

Sydney was decommissioned in 1973, and was not replaced. Despite several plans to preserve all or part of the ship as a maritime museum, tourist attraction, or car park, the carrier was sold to a South Korean steel mill for scrapping in 1975.

Military history of Australia

The military history of Australia spans the nation's 230-year modern history, from the early Australian frontier wars between Aboriginals and Europeans to the ongoing conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan in the early 21st century. Although this history is short when compared to that of many other nations, Australia has been involved in numerous conflicts and wars, and war and military service have been significant influences on Australian society and national identity, including the Anzac spirit. The relationship between war and Australian society has also been shaped by the enduring themes of Australian strategic culture and its unique security dilemma.

As British offshoots, the Australian colonies participated in Britain's small wars of the 19th century, while later as a federated dominion, and then an independent nation, Australia fought in the First World War and Second World War, as well as in the wars in Korea, Malaya, Borneo and Vietnam during the Cold War. In the Post-Vietnam era Australian forces have been involved in numerous international peacekeeping missions, through the United Nations and other agencies, including in the Sinai, Persian Gulf, Rwanda, Somalia, East Timor and the Solomon Islands, as well as many overseas humanitarian relief operations, while more recently they have also fought as part of multi-lateral forces in Iraq and Afghanistan. In total, nearly 103,000 Australians died during the course of these conflicts.

Scrap Iron Flotilla

The Scrap Iron Flotilla was an Australian destroyer group that operated in the Mediterranean and Pacific during World War II. The name scrap iron flotilla was bestowed upon the group by Nazi Propaganda Minister Joseph Goebbels.The flotilla consisted of five Royal Australian Navy (RAN) destroyers. The five ships of the flotilla had been Royal Navy ships that had been built and served during the First World War and transferred to the RAN in the 1930s. HMAS Waterhen was sunk in the Mediterranean in 1941, HMAS Vampire was sunk in the Indian Ocean in 1942, and HMAS Voyager was sunk near Timor in 1942. HMAS Stuart and HMAS Vendetta survived the war.

The story of the ships in the flotilla, up to 1943, was recounted in the book "Scrap-Iron Flotilla" by John F. Moyes, who served as a Sub-Lieutenant RANVR on HMAS Voyager later in the war, and collected many stories from the crews. Sub-Lieutenant Moyes was on HMAS Voyager when she was sunk, but survived.


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