Sunday, 23 March 2014


["The Missing Waratah", The Mercury (Hobart, Tas.), Monday 13 December 1909, page 5]


MELBOURNE, December 12.

'Captain Tickell, the Victoria naval commandant, whose son is a passenger on the missing steamer Waratah, said yesterday that, in spite of the fact that the Sabine had returned from an unsuccessful trip, and that the Waratah was to be posted as missing on December 15 if no news was to hand, he still had hopes that she was afloat.'

'The Sabine's search only covered a little more than half of the ocean to Australia, and from Amsterdam Land (Kerguelen Islands) to Australia remained unsearched.'

'The Sabine was out 90 days zigzagging across the track of shipping. She had a powerful search- light burning at night, which would have made, her conspicuous at least 20 miles on either side in clear weather, yet they had only news of her being sighted once during the 90 days, and that was when she came north.'

'By the report of the Sabine's search she could only go to Possession Island and the Crozets, being unable to get to the others owing to the fog. If she could not find islands that were marked accurately on the chart, she had a slender chance of sighting the Waratah, whose position she did not know.'

This highlights the difficulties with sea searches (even using modern technology as in the case of the missing Malaysian jet). Vast areas have to be covered with little hope of success, and in this case the Sabine, despite zig zagging across the sea lanes and using a powerful search light, was only sighted once by another vessel.

Captain Tickell lost his only son with the Waratah, and his frustration and despair must have been overwhelming.

Frederick Tickell was born on 7 March 1857 at Amoy Harbour, China, the son of Captain George Tickell, mariner and member of the Royal Naval Reserve, and his wife Charlotte, (née Crabbe). The early part of Frederick's life was spent on board his father's ship, but in 1869 the family settled in Melbourne. He was educated at Scotch College in 1870-75 and then went to sea as a merchant mariner. Tickell later joined the Union Steamship Company in New Zealand and gained his master's certificate.  He married Mary Elizabeth Figg on 18 December 1886 with Presbyterian forms at Williamstown, Victoria and in 1888 he became a Sub-Lieutenant in the Victorian Naval Brigade.
He was promoted to Lieutenant in 1889 and then spent six months, in 1890, attached to the Royal Navy's Australian Squadron, serving aboard the corvette HMS Rapid. In 1893 he was selected for instruction in England, where he gained first-class certificates in gunnery and torpedo, and also completed an ordnance course at Woolwich Arsenal. During his time in England he served as a Lieutenant in the protected cruiser HMS Royal Arthur, the training shipHMS Northampton and the battleship HMS Majestic.
On his return to Australia in 1897 Tickell was promoted to Commander and in November became commandant of the Victorian Naval Forces, a position he held until 1904. In 1900 the Victorian government offered assistance to Britain in putting down the Boxer Rebellion in China. With her navy all but defunct after a decade of neglect, Victoria could provide no warships, merely a naval brigade. Under Tickell's command two hundred men left for Hong Kong aboard the requisitioned liner SS Salamis in August 1900. The contingent was sent initially to occupy the captured forts at Taku and while the Victorians were employed as naval infantry they saw little action.
Tickell was Mentioned in Dispatches and was subsequently appointed as a Commander in the Most Distinguished Order of St. Michael and St George (CMG) for his services in China.  In December 1900 he was promoted to Captain and after Federation became third in seniority in the Commonwealth Naval Forces (CNF) behind then Captain William Creswell and Captain C. J. Clare. In the reorganisation which followed the creation of the CNF Tickell served as naval commandant in Queensland in 1904-07 before resuming his former position as naval commandant in Victoria. He was acting naval director while Creswell attended the 1909 Imperial Defence Conference in London.
Together with his fellow officers in the CNF, Tickell was a strong advocate of a local naval force and a supporter of Creswell in his calls for a national Australian navy. In 1910 Tickell brought the recently completed destroyers Parramatta and Yarra from England to Australia.  Like other former colonial naval officers who did not have backgrounds in the Royal Navy, Tickell was transferred to an administrative position when the Royal Australian Navy was formed in 1911.
He became Director of Naval Reserves, subsequently renamed the auxiliary forces, a post which he held for the rest of his life. In 1912 he was appointed an aide-de-camp to the Governor-General. Tickell was promoted to Commodore in 1916 and then raised to the rank of Rear Admiral in March 1919 in recognition of his war work and length of service.
Rear Admiral Frederick Tickell died of a cerebro-vascular disease on 19 September 1919. He was survived by his wife and three daughters.  His son, who had joined the merchant navy, was lost at sea in 1909 when the steamer SS Waratah disappeared off South Africa during a storm.
Navy - serving Australia with pride.,d.d2k

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