HMAS Melbourne commissioned at Birkenhead, England, on 18 January 1913 under the command of Captain Mortimer L’Estrange Silver, RN. The ship completed her delivery voyage from England when she arrived at Fremantle on 10 March 1913.

Following the outbreak of war in August 1914, Melbourne spent a brief period in Pacific waters as a unit of the Australian Squadron to prevent attacks by the German Pacific Squadron under Admiral Graf von Spee. She took part in the seizure of the German Pacific possessions, and on 9 September 1914 landed a naval party on Nauru Island to carry out the destruction of the wireless station. Her return to Sydney on 20 September 1914 ended this phase of operations. The cruiser covered 11,170 miles on Pacific patrols.



On the night of 21/22 January 1922 HMAS Melbourne was involved in the dramatic rescue of 18 people from the sinking US registered schooner Helen B Sterling. The Helen B Sterling had departed Newcastle in early January bound for San Francisco with a cargo of coal. The schooner encountered a storm north of New Zealand and began to sink. Fortunately the Helen B Sterling had a wireless on board and sent out a distress call which was received by Melbourne, then on a deployment to New Zealand waters.

Melbourne responded to the SOS and steamed at full speed through heavy seas and rising winds towards the position given by the schooner. At midnight on 21 January, when all hope appeared to be lost in finding the schooner, the stricken vessel was spotted using the cruisers search-lights. It was far too rough to get the cruiser alongside the schooner, so Melbourne launched its cutter with a 16 man volunteer crew to row across to the sinking vessel. Once they were close enough the cutters crew fired a line across to the schooner and then rigged a breeches buoy (basically a flying fox) which was used to bring the crew over to the cutter one by one. Amongst those rescued was the Master of the Helen B Sterling, his wife and 12 year old son, who was 

on his first trip to sea. Once on board the cutter the crew of the Sterling were rowed back to the Melbourne and then taken to Auckland, New Zealand where they were disembarked. Subsequently, the 16 men who manned Melbourne's cutter were each awarded a gold medal by the President of the United States for their skill and valour in effecting the rescue. The master's son, Leslie Harris, received various pieces of memorabilia following the rescue, among them an HMAS Melbourne tallyband which was eventually passed on to his grandson, Michael. Michael went on to join the RAN, and in 2009 Commander Michael Harris became the Commanding Officer of HMAS Melbourne (III).

HMAS Melbourne 

HMAS Melbourne (I) | Royal Australian Navy