War at Sea

The Navy in WWI

Black and white image of numerous sailors and officers posing on board the submarine HMAS AE2

Photo: Australian submarine AE2 with crew on deck at Portsmouth, 1914. ANMM Collection Gift from Mrs D Smyth.

  • About


    Now on tour

    See the 'Tour dates' tab on this page to find a venue near you or to book a panel display version of the exhibition.

    About the exhibition

    The histories of Australian soldiers at Gallipoli and the Western Front are well documented but less is known about the involvement of the Navy during World War I.

    The exhibition features excerpts from several unpublished journals by:

    • John Brown, a wireless radio operator aboard HMAS Protector, Warrego, and Brisbane
    • Henry James Elly Kinder, Stoker Petty Officer aboard the AE2 submarine which breached the Turkish defences of the Dardanelles Strait
    • Frank Trevor Jones, an Able Seaman on HMAS Sydney when it fought the infamous German raider SMS Emden

    Rare artefacts

    Get up close to special keepsakes made by sailors for their loved ones during World War I and see the typical uniforms of the day. Find out about the Bridging Train and learn about the role of the submarine AE2 at Gallipoli.

    The exhibition features many rare World War l artefacts from the collections of the Australian National Maritime Museum, the National Film and Sound Archives and the Australian War Memorial.


    Watch several short films including dramatic scenes depicting Australia’s first naval battle between HMAS Sydney and the German raider SMSEmden.

    Take a sneak peek at one of the films on display in the exhibition. It's a compilation of footage from the National Film and Sound Archive of troops and transport ships of the first overseas convoy of Australian infantry, October and November 1914:

    War at Sea blog

    Follow the War at Sea blog to find out why warships were painted in striking patterns and colours during the era of ‘dazzle camouflage’, and read about the oft-forgotten troopships that transported over 400,000 troops and 139,000 horses.

    Visit a Vessel

    The museum's fleet includes three ex-Royal Australian Navy vessels open for visitors to explore.

    The destroyer Vampire is Australia's largest museum vessel and is the last of the country's big gun ships. These powerful, fast ships were designed principally for the machinery and weapons of war. One look at the cramped living spaces onboard and you will see that comfort came a poor second!

    At the museum’s wharves you will also find our submarine HMAS Onslow which was decommissioned in 1999, just weeks before coming to the museum. It's still close to operational condition. So, if you venture onboard, listen out for the diving alarm!

    And don’t forget to explore our patrol boat, HMAS Advance. Commissioned in 1968, this hardworking boat served out of Darwin until 1980. In that time it helped shadow a Russian fishing boat suspected of spying, expelled illegal foreign fishing boats, weathered Cyclone Tracy in 1974, helped with hydrographic surveys of Australia's north-west coast and became a TV star on the ABC.

    Twitter snapshots

    Follow @WarregoJohn for snapshots from the 100-year-old personal diary of John Brown, a wireless radio operator aboard HMAS Protector, Warrego, and Brisbane.

    “A very funny thing happened during the first watch that night. I had the lookout from 11 to 12. I saw what I thought was a ship’s masthead light on the horizon, so I reported to the officer of the watch 'light on the starboard bow sir'… He said “You are a damned idiot, that light is the evening star…” 8 Oct 1914

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    Presenting Partner

    RSL logo in colour

    Media Supporters

    Tripple M Sydney 104.9 logo in colour on white background

    History Channel Foxtel logo

    Government partners

    This project has been assisted by the Australian Government through the Australia Council, its arts funding and advisory body.

    Australian Government Coat of Arms with the Australia Council for the Arts logo  100 years of ANZAC The spirit lives 2014-2015

  • Tour Dates

    Tour Dates

    Book a panel display

    A graphic panel display based on the major touring exhibition War at Sea is available for bookings. The display has been shown in RSL Clubs, museums, libraries and visitor centres and is provided free of charge to your venue.

    It highlights the contribution the Royal Australian Navy (RAN) made in the ‘war to end all wars’, less widely known than those of the soldiers at Gallipoli and the Western Front.

    You may choose to screen the banner display for a weekend or for up to three months. ANMM will provide marketing materials, an education pack and copies of five films, which can be screened at your venue. It is easy to set up, and easy to take down. It includes eight 2 x1.5 metre banners.

    For bookings and enquiries, please contact Emily Jateff: ejateff@anmm.gov.au

    This display is sponsored by RSL Queensland.

    Touring Exhibition Dates and Venues (no longer available for booking)

    Newcastle Maritime Museum Society
    23 May - 16 August 2015

    Museum of the Riverina    
    29 August - 11 November 2015

    Western Australian Museum - Geraldton    
    6 Dec 2015 - 14 February 2016

    Western Australian Maritime Museum
    12 March - 29 May 2016

    Western Australian Museum - Albany
    11 June - 28 August 2016

    National Wool Museum
    10 September 2016 - 4 December 2017

    Maritime Museum of Tasmania    
    17 December 2016 - 12 March 2017

    Shrine of Remembrance Melbourne    
    25 March - 18 June 2017

    Western Plains Cultural Centre    
    1 June - 24 September 2017

    Queensland Maritime Museum    
    10 October - 1 December 2017

    Museum of Tropical Queensland    
    16 December 2017 - 11 March 2018

    Other touring exhibitions

    We've developed a diverse range of travelling exhibitions that range in scale from highly mobile, cost-effective and ready-to-hang picture shows through to smart, modular-designed and interactive 3D exhibitions developed primarily for family audiences.

    Visit our Touring Exhibitions page to see what else is on tour or how you can make a booking for your venue.

    Freight Supporter

    IAS logo

  • Photo Gallery

    Photo Gallery

    Lieutenant Geoffrey Haggard and Commander Henry G Stoker of AE2 in 1919Young male sailor in uniformShip wharfside58th Battalion soldiers waiting to board HMT Orsova, MelbourneFarewell to the troopship Barambah, MelbourneHM Zealandia in Sydney Harbour.Frederick William Woodland in Royal Australian Navy (RAN) uniform, 1914Detail from a diorama by Geoff Barnes of the 1st RANBT's work at Suvla Bay during the Gallipoli campaignDetail from a diorama by Geoff Barnes of the 1st RANBT's work at Suvla Bay during the Gallipoli campaignDetail from a diorama by Geoff Barnes of the 1st RANBT's work at Suvla Bay during the Gallipoli campaignDetail from a diorama by Geoff Barnes of the 1st RANBT's work at Suvla Bay during the Gallipoli campaignDetail from a diorama by Geoff Barnes of the 1st RANBT's work at Suvla Bay during the Gallipoli campaignDetail from a diorama by Geoff Barnes of the 1st RANBT's work at Suvla Bay during the Gallipoli campaignDetail from a diorama by Geoff Barnes of the 1st RANBT's work at Suvla Bay during the Gallipoli campaign
  • Testimonials


    What people are saying

    I loved the plentiful diary extracts of those who were at sea. What an intimate look at their lives.
    NA 21/12/14

    This exhibition is long but informative. I just wished I had more time to read, watch and listen to everything. Well done to anyone who worked on it, you have done a great job.
    D Troy 21/12/14

    As the daughter of a British naval officer who took part in the Second World War I found this exhibition absolutely fascinating. So much primary evidence to read, but so sad at so much loss of brave young men.
    E Showan 7/1/15

    This was a very thorough exhibition. Well done! My son loved it!
    NA ND

    Fabulous displays and information. Thank you!!
    Hank and Deb 13/3/15

    After all these years the memories can still convey the pain and the sacrifice. Incredibly moving. Thank you.
    Ria Epps 22/3/15

    Thank you for an interesting and at times what felt like a very personal connection with the sailors in WWI.
    R & K Faulkner 26/11/14

    My brothers about to join the navy. It was great being able to see all the history behind it. Wonderful exhibit!
    Melania 26/1/15

    Our father served in HMS New Zealand (sister ship to HMAS Australia) at the Battle of Jutland and was captain on a motor torpedo boat at Zeebrugge. An excellent exhibition particularly the drawers with the extracts of letters from those who were there.
    Peter Poland Sydney, Patrick Poland Cornwall UK ND.

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