Richard Joseph Baldwin (Service No. 3146)
(1896 - 1962)

Richard Joseph Baldwin was born on 7 January 1896 to parents Patrick Baldwin and Ellen Baldwin nee Cantwell at Laverton. Richard was the youngest four Baldwin children who were living in the Laverton area from the early 1900s. Young Richard was also a member of the Laverton Football Club that commenced around 1913 playing within the Werribee League and may also have been working as a guard at the Government explosives reserve[1], Laverton.

Richard joined the Royal Australian Navy on 16 June 1913 at the rank of Ordinary Seaman II and his initial training took place at HMAS Cerberus at Williamstown from June until 16 August 1913. At this stage he was assigned to HMAS Parramatta, a ‘River’ Class Torpedo Boat Destroyer that had been built in Scotland for the Royal Australian Navy between 1906 and 1916 and arrived in Australia at the end of 1910.

On 4 October 1913 with Ordinary Seaman Baldwin on board, the HMAS Parramatta took part in a formal fleet entry into Sydney Harbour, to welcome the arrival of the new battlecruiser HMAS Australia. Richard spent three months aboard HMAS Parramatta and at sea before he returned to Williamstown and the Cerberus base where he undertook further training. On 7 January 1914, his 18th birthday, Richard was promoted to the rank of ordinary seaman.

After three months further training, also at Cerberus base, Richard went to sea for a second time on the HMAS Melbourne departing port on 27 April 1914. HMAS Melbourne was a light cruiser that was in service between 1913 and 1928. HMAS Melbourne was also part of the Australian Fleet that formally entered Sydney Harbour on 4 October 1913. On board HMAS Melbourne with Richard was Stoker Frederick Cations from Werribee.

On 28 July 1914 World War 1 was declared, and the HMAS Melbourne was initially engaged in operations against German colonies in the Pacific. From October 1914 the Melbourne was part of the naval escort for the first convoy that took Australian troops to the Middle East. The convoy departed from Albany, Western Australia on 1 November 1914, and as the ships passed Colombo the Melbourne was ordered to leave the convoy and to proceed to the Atlantic Ocean.

Whilst there, HMAS Melbourne was based at Bermuda, along with her sister ship HMAS Sydney, where they patrolled the islands of the West Indies as well as the east coast of North America. In September 1916, Melbourne sailed to Scarpa Flow (off the Orkney Islands in Scotland) to become a unit of the 2nd Light Cruiser Squadron and remained in the North Sea until engine problems forced her to withdraw to England. After repairs were carried out, HMAS Melbourne returned to the North Sea and continued patrols there until the end of the war. It was during his tenure on the Melbourne that Richard was promoted to the rank of Able Seaman.

On 7 March 1919 HMAS Melbourne departed from Devonport in England and sailed to Sydney where she arrived on 21 May 1919. Able Seaman Baldwin was then able to take leave, on home soil, and he took time to visit his family at Laverton. During his visit he was welcomed home at a ceremony held in the Werribee Mechanics Hall on 25 June 1919. He was one of many local men who were presented with a Werribee Shire Gold Medal. His citation stated that he had served on HMAS Melbourne in the West Indies and in the North Sea.

The HMAS Melbourne was ‘paid off’ in Sydney on 5 August 1919 and remained there ‘inactive’. In need of a new ship, Able Seaman Baldwin was then transferred to HMAS Australia and remained aboard her until 9 April 1920. Due to post war budget cuts, HMAS Australia was used as a training ship before being placed in reserve. On 14 April 1920 HMAS Melbourne was recommissioned but just prior to this taking place, Able Seaman Baldwin was transferred back to the Melbourne, and remained with her for two months until he was discharged from the Navy on 15 June 1920 at Williamstown, having completed his seven-year term of engagement.

Richard Baldwin returned to the district and was working as a labourer on the Metropolitan Farm at Werribee where he remained until about 1935, when he moved to Blyth Street in Altona. It appears that at this time he commenced working at the explosives reserve, Laverton. At the age of 43, Richard Joseph Baldwin married Elma Lilleen Lane in 1939 and they moved into their home at Mount Street Altona. They resided there for the remainder of Richard’s life, with Richard working locally as a labourer at the Government explosive reserve.

Richard Baldwin died at Altona in 1962 (aged 66 years) and was buried in the Williamstown Cemetery on 12 October 1962.

[1] The Government explosive reserve is now known as Truganina Explosive Reserve

References:

  1. ancestry.com.au
  2. https://recordsearch.naa.gov.au/SearchNRetrieve/Interface/ViewImage.aspx?B=4393746
  3. Werribee Shire Banner, 3 June 1915, p.3.
  4. Werribee Shire Banner, 11 September 1913, p.3.
  5. Werribee Shire Banner, 29 April 1915, p.2.
  6. Werribee Shire Banner, 26 June 1919, p.3.
  7. Werribee Shire Banner, 29 July 1915, p.1.

Research by: Graeme Reilly (ALHS)