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Creswell, Colin Fraser (1894–1917)

from Advertiser (Adelaide)

The record of service of Lieutenant Colin Fraser Creswell, Royal Navy, notice of whose death in action has been received by his father, Rear-Admiral Sir A. Creswell, is one of which his school—Melbourne Grammar—and indeed his country may well be proud. He was born in Adelaide, and was a grandson of the late Mr. Justice Stow. He passed the qualifying examination for naval cadet in Melbourne and left for England in March, 1907, for the Naval College at the age of 12. When he joined the Royal Naval College at Osborne (Isle of Wight), in his term numbering 69 cadets, he was rated fifty-eighth. Each succeeding term, by steady perseverance, he gained places, until at the end of the four years' training—two years at Osborne and two at Dartmouth—he reached the high place of third in his term in the final examination, passing to the active list of the Royal Navy with four months' additional seniority, the highest award to cadets. During his third term at Osborne and his final term at Dartmouth—the Naval College for Senior Cadets—he was made a cadet captain. At that time he was small for his age, or would probably have gained this promotion sooner. But it was not in studies and work alone that he came to the front. He was equally good in all sports and athletics. In swimming he carried off the Lowther Challenge Cup, the champion event. He won the 100 yards, and quarter mile for his class (under 5 ft. 4 in.), and in the open high jump established a new record at Dartmouth, as he had previously done at Osborne. In rowing he stroked the winning double sculls, coxswained by H.R.H. the Prince of Wales, who was in the same term. It was in Colin Creswell's last term, at both Osborne and Dartmouth, that Prince Albert, his Majesty's second son, joined the college, and it is an indication of the official estimate of young Creswell that he was the selected cadet captain under whose charge Prince Albert was placed both at Osborne and Dartmouth. On completing the usual training cruise in H.M.S. Cornwall in 1911, Lieutenant Creswell, with seniority as midshipman of January 15, 1912, was appointed midshipman of the Minotaur, flagship of Admiral Sir G. Jerram on the China station. Later he was appointed to the Encounter, on the Australian station, to await the arrival of the Australia, flagship of Admiral Sir G. Patey, joining the Australia on her arrival in Sydney in October, 1913. Shortly afterwards he passed for lieutenant, and was granted his commission as sub-lieutenant dated May 15, 1914. On the outbreak of war he was placed on the Admiral's staff for intelligence duty, and only returned to his regular work in charge of a turret when the Australia joined up with the Grand Fleet. On June 15, 1916, he was promoted to lieutenant. Until 1916 he shared all the hardships of a battle cruiser's existence in the North Sea, when early in that year volunteers were called for to officer the new submarines. Sub-Lieutenant Creswell immediately responded, and was accepted by the Admiralty for the submarine service. After a short training he was appointed second in command of a submarine, and not long afterwards accompanied his commanding officer on appointment to a new and much larger vessel. He had been serving for some months in this vessel under war conditions of the most hazardous nature, and engaged in desperate enterprises which cannot be divulged now. Suffice it to say that it was work of first naval importance, and that those engaged in it daily looked death in the face. It is worthy of note that his private letters complain only of the delays occasioned by repairs or refits that keep them in port. But that is the spirit of all. How he met his death is not yet known. One small incident in Lieutenant Creswell's war career may be recorded. While his submarine was on one occasion resting in a base port, Lieutenant Creswell, at a moment's notice, was summoned from his vessel to deliver personally an important dispatch to Field-Marshal Sir Douglas Haig in France. Travelling by one of the fastest destroyers he was met on arrival in France by a powerful motor car, and reached general headquarters on an historic occasion. The Commander-in-Chief, on Lieutenant Creswell being shown to him, said, "You will be interested to know that the great attack began two hours ago, and that we are doing very well." It was the first day of the battle of the Somme.

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Citation details

'Creswell, Colin Fraser (1894–1917)', Obituaries Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://oa.anu.edu.au/obituary/creswell-colin-fraser-14712/text25861, accessed 21 November 2017.

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