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Sir William Rooke Creswell (1852–1933)

The death occurred tonight of Vice Admiral Sir William Creswell formerly Director of the Commonwealth Naval Forces, and First Naval Member of the Commonwealth Naval Board. He retired 14 years ago, and had been in ill health for some time. He had a distinguished career in the British and Australian Navies.

Born on July 20, 1852, at Gibraltar, where his father, Mr. Edmund Creswell, was Deputy Postmaster-General, he entered the Royal Navy as a cadet in December, 1865, and learned the rudiments of his profession on H.M.S. Britannia. He served in the First Flying Squadron, commanded by the late Admiral Hornby, in H.M. frigate Phoebe. In 1871 he was promoted sub-lieutenant and appointed to the Thalia, on the China station. He was specially promoted for his services in suppressing piracy on the Laroot River, Penang, in 1873, and from 1872 was on the complement of H.M.S. London, engaged in the suppression of the slave trade, for his services in which connection he received the thanks of the Foreign Minister. He retired, after having been invalided, in 1878.

Subsequently he took service under the South Australian Government in 1885, was appointed commander in 1891, and post-captain in 1894. He was Naval Commandant of South Australia for several years, and took the State's gunboat, H.M.S. Protector, to the China war in 1900. In the last mentioned year he was appointed to Queensland to take command of the Marine Defence Forces in that State, and in February, 1904, he was temporarily appointed Naval Commandant of the Commonwealth Forces.

In 1909, in company with Col. J. F. G. Foxton, C.M.G., he attended the Imperial Conference which resulted in Australia's co-operation in sea defence, and was chiefly and actively instrumental in the creation of the Australian Navy. Sir William Creswell subsequently received the appointment of First Naval Member of the Commonwealth Naval Board of Administration, and of the Council of Defence. He was knighted in 1911.

Vice-Admiral Creswell was married in 1888 to Adelaide Elizabeth, daughter of the late Mr. Justice Stowe, of South Australia. Lady Creswell survives him. A married daughter lives in South Africa; one son, Mr. Edward Creswell, is shire engineer at Ararat; and a younger son, Mr. Peter Creswell, is on the land. Two other sons were killed in the Great War. A brother of Sir William Creswell is Lieut.-Col F. H. P. Creswell, leader of a section of the Labor Party in South Africa, and a former Minister for Defence and Labor.

Original publication

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Citation details

'Creswell, Sir William Rooke (1852–1933)', Obituaries Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, accessed 19 June 2024.

© Copyright Obituaries Australia, 2010-2024

William Creswell, c1918

William Creswell, c1918

State Library of South Australia, B 11220

Life Summary [details]


20 July, 1852
Gibraltar, England


20 April, 1933 (aged 80)
Armadale, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

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