In 1913 the Royal Australian Navy's brand-new fleet sailed through the Heads and into Sydney Harbour. Since then the RAN has served on all the world's oceans in times of peace and war.
During the Second World War, the RAN reached its maximum strength. Approximately 37,000 men and women wore a RAN uniform. The war inflicted a heavy toll on ships and personnel. Thirty-eight cruisers, destroyers, sloops and smaller vessels were sunk and almost 2,200 sailors died on active service.
Since the end of the Second World War, the RAN’s fortunes have fluctuated dramatically between lavish acquisitions and slashed defence budgets.
The RAN has sent ships and service personnel to war in Korea, Vietnam and the Persian Gulf. The service has participated in peacekeeping and humanitarian operations all over the globe, at sea, on remote islands and in tri-service deployments. It has played a vital role in protecting our borders and interrupting the international drug trade.
Today the RAN is a highly technical force of state-of-the-art equipment staffed by skilled and dedicated people serving the white ensign in the best traditions of Francis Drake and Horatio Nelson.
To recognise the generations of Australians who have gone to war on great waters the Anzac Memorial will open a year-long exhibition on the Royal Australian Navy with an official launch on the anniversary of the Battle of Cape Matapan.
Explore the exhibition from through the virtual gallery below. Start your journey by clicking on the play button.
Navy book titles in our shop
Explore the range of Navy book titles available in the Anzac Memorial's online shop. All proceeds help fund new interpretative and education programs, heritage conservation and management of the Memorial's Collection.
The Scrap Iron Flotilla
When the Second World War broke out in September 1939, the British asked Australia for help. With some misgivings, the Australian government sent five destroyers to beef up the British Royal Navy in the Mediterranean.
HMAS Sydney (II) - in Peace and War
HMAS Sydney (II) – in Peace and War is the definitive history of Australia’s most famous warship. The story is told through official documents, as well as the diaries, letters and memoirs of the officers and men who served in the ship.
Learn more about the Royal Australian Navy's incredible history and the experiences of those serving the White Ensign through the collection of the Ursula Davidson Library at the Anzac Memorial. Located on the Lower Ground floor, the Library is run by the Royal United Services Institute for Defence and Security Studies NSW (RUSI NSW). Library staff have compiled two lists of recommended readings associated with the Navy's history and the exhibition.
The Library is open Monday to Friday, 9.30am to 3.30pm.