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Protector at Rabaul

November 1, 2015 @ 10:00 am - 5:00 pm

One hundred years ago Australia suffered its first casualties of World War 1. Not on a remote Turkish peninsula, but much closer to home in what was then called German New Guinea.
Australia’s naval commanders were deeply worried by German cruisers north of Australia, but the capture of German wireless telegraph stations remained a priority for the British Admiralty. Australia responded, recruiting 500 naval reservists and 1000 volunteer infantry to form the Australian Naval and Military Expeditionary Force (ANMEF).

At dawn on 11 September 1914, small parties of naval reservists landed at Rabaul, New Britain to seize one of the stations. It was Australia’s first land operation of World War I. Two men were killed during the action— the first Australian casualties of what became a very long and bloody war.

This exhibit explores the role of South Australia’s former Colonial Naval Ship Protector in this first phase of World War 1. Protector escorted the submarines AE1 and AE2 to Rabaul and guarded the harbour. It captured a German steamship Madang and a contingent of Germans on land. Objects on display include German possessions souvenired by Australians at Rabaul and the diary of Protector’s wireless operator recording the dramatic sequence of events and the mysterious loss of AE1. A cutting edge installation developed with the Centre for Visual Technologies (University of Adelaide) uses historic photographs to create interactive 3D models of the ship.

Protector at Rabaul is the first phase of a major exhibition to be installed in 2015 exploring the ship’s role in World War1 and the experience of South Australians in the naval theatre of war. We would love to hear from any South Australians with ancestors who served on Protector or were involved with Navy during this time.


November 1, 2015
10:00 am - 5:00 pm


SA Maritime Museum
119 Lipson Street
Port Adelaide, 5015 Australia
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