Rear Admiral Frederick Tickell

As a sailor, I’m always delighted to find Tickles and Tickells with a maritime connection, even if they have no blood relationship to me. One such person is Frederick Tickell, who was a prominent figure in the fledgling Royal Australian Navy, rising to become Rear Admiral in 1919.

Early Life

Frederick had a portentous start to his life, being born on board a ship in Amoy Harbour (now Xiamen), China, on 7 March 1857. He was the third son of Captain George Tickell, a Master Mariner, and his wife Charlotte, née Crabbe. George Tickell captained sailing clippers for Greens Shipping Line, who ran regularly between England and Australia. Much of Frederick’s childhood was spent on his father’s ships.

Ashore, the family home was in London but, In 1869, George took his family to Williamstown, Melbourne, where Frederick attended Scotch College. At the age of 18, he went to sea as a merchant mariner, gaining his Master’s Certificate with the Union Steamship Company.

He married Mary Elizabeth Figg in Williamstown on 18 December 1886 and their son, George Herbert Allan Tickell, was born in 1888. They later had three daughters, Charlotte Mary b. 1892, Evelyn Lucy b.1896 , and Kathleen May b.1901.

Victorian Naval Brigade

in 1888, Frederick became a Sub Lieutenant in the Victorian Naval Brigade. The Naval Brigade was a voluntary, part-time brigade established in 1859 to supplement the small permanent navy. It included many ex-Royal Navy personnel, trained in infantry and artillery drill. He was promoted to Lieutenant a year later.

Attachment to the Royal Navy

HMS Rapid anchored at Farm Cove, Sydney c.1888

In 1890, Frederick spent six months serving aboard the corvette HMS Rapid, attached to the Royal Navy’s Australian Squadron. Then, from 1893 to 1897, he was selected for instruction in England, where he gained first-class certificates in gunnery and torpedo, and completed an ordnance course at Woolwich Arsenal. At the time, the Royal Navy was the world’s most powerful navy and played a key part in establishing the British Empire as the leading world power. They saw little serious action as there were no opponents strong enough to challenge their dominance, but their training would have been invaluable to the young officer.

During the years Frederick was attached to the Royal Navy, naval warfare underwent a major transformation. Steam propulsion, metal ship construction, and explosive munitions revolutionised the vessels and weaponry. Due to British leadership in the Industrial Revolution, the country enjoyed unparalleled shipbuilding capacity and financial resources. As a result, many new ships were built and commissioned.

Frederick served as a Lieutenant on several of HM ships, including the battleship HMS Majestic, which you can see below.

The battleship, HMS Majestic, commissioned in 1895

Promotions and Honours

On his return to Australia in 1897, Frederick was promoted to Commander. In 1900 he commanded the Victorian Naval Contingent sent to China in connection with the Boxer troubles. Frederick was mentioned in dispatches and, on 29 November 1900, he was appointed as a Companion of the Most Distinguished Order of St Michael and St George (CMG) for his services in China.

Royal Australian Navy (RAN)

On 1 January 1901, the six existing self-governing British colonies of New South Wales, Victoria, Queensland, Tasmania, South Australia and Western Australia, came together in union to create the Commonwealth of Australia. The various colonial navies, that had a varied collection of vessels, were amalgamated into the Commonwealth Naval Forces.

In the years that followed, it was debated in Australia and Britain whether Australia needed its own navy or should simply finance the stationing of Royal Navy vessels in Australian waters. Frederick Tickell was a strong advocate of a local naval force and supported calls for a national Australian Navy.

Finally, in 1909, a decision was taken to acquire new ships for an Australian Navy. Six River Class torpedo boat destroyers were built in England for the Royal Australian Navy during the period 1909-16. In the autumn of 1910, Frederick Tickell commanded the first of these, HMS Parramatta, and brought her and her sister ship, HMS Yarra, via the Suez Canal, to Australia, where the two warships passed to the control of the Australian Government, becoming HMAS Parramatta and HMAS Yarra.

Frederick Tickell and the crew of HMAS Parramatta in Fremantle, November 1910.

On 10 July 1911, the Royal Australian Navy (RAN) was officially formed.

Yarra anchored in Port Adelaide in December 1910, shortly after arriving in Australian waters


Rear Admiral Frederick Tickell died of cerebro-vascular disease on 19 September 1919. He was survived by his wife and three daughters.

Sadly, Frederick has no descendants bearing the Tickell name. His only son, George, joined the merchant navy like his father, but was tragically lost at sea, aged just 21. He was on board the steamer SS Waratah, a passenger and cargo steamship built in 1908 for the Blue Anchor Line to operate between Europe and Australia. In July 1909, on only her second voyage, the ship disappeared en route from Durban to Cape Town, with 211 passengers and crew aboard. No trace of the ship has ever been found. This must have been a devastating blow for his father and family.

Commonwealth War Graves Reference

TICKELL, FREDERICK Additional information: Son of George and Charlotte Tickell; husband of Mary Elizabeth Tickell, of Kew, Victoria.

Cemetery:BOROONDARA GENERAL CEMETERY Cemetery/memorial reference: C.E. C. 1379A. Country:Australia

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