Deserters in Melbourne from the Great White Fleet

Dear Lieut.Comm.Gregory,

My mother sent me an email regarding your up and coming historical presentation in Port Melbourne commemorating the arrival of the Great White Fleet.

I don't know if it is of interest to you but some years ago I was looking into the family rumor that my great grandfather had made his to way to Australia by jumping ship as a naval man with the fleet ( a rumor that he himself had begun ). It turned out to be false and I located his actual arrival in Melbourne a week before in July 1908, he had obviously fancied himself as an American in uniform! Anyway, in order to locate the truth behind this rumor at the time, I went in search of an official list of stragglers names from the fleet and after a long search I found the official list sent to the Victorian Commissioner of Police by the American Consular Service. There are about 154 men listed and the ships from which they absconded. I don't know if you already have possession of such a list but if not I wondered if it might be of interest to you? I have also contacted the Australian Maritime Museum and I will hand a copy to them as well.I would be happy to send you a copy if  you would like.

yours sincerely
Rebecca Spalding


I do not have a list of those from the GWF that deserted in Melbourne, but would love a copy please.

We will add it to our presentation on AHOY.

It was certainly an historic Naval visit that changed the political landscape in Australia, but in general, is not widely known  or recognized here.

I am grateful for your interest in getting in touch with me, and would love to be able to trace the ancestors of some who  stayed behind in 1908.

Kindest regards,
Mac. Gregory.


By the way just, out of interest, I have just been re-reading through my newspaper (1908) photocopies of the Great White Fleet arrival and was reminded of the deaths of two of the men from the ships who were both killed in separate horrific train accidents,one at Flinders St and one at Williamstown , only a day apart.Their surnames were Decker and Michaelson. Decker had unfortunately fallen asleep (drunk?) on the tracks and Michaelson tried to leap on a train at Flinders St.and fell under it instead.Terrible tragedies really.
You may know of these incidents already but I find it quite fascinating that these two American men are buried here at the Melbourne cemetery so far from their homes and families and probably very few people if any are aware of them being here.

All the very,very best
Rebecca Spalding


More interesting detail about the GWF visit to Melbourne 100 years ago that I was unaware of.

What a shame and tragedy for those two US Sailors, on a visit to Melbourne, that was later rated the "Best liberty port over the whole world tour " they both get killed by train accidents, and as you point out are then buried on foreign soil so far from home.

Grateful for your interest.

Best wishes, 

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