The Australian Boer War Memorial
Anzac Parade Canberra

 
 
Captain (Army; later Commander, Navy) Reginald Creer and his Twin brother Herbert

Reginald Charles Ferrers (1881–1958) and Herbert Victor Creer (1881-1969). Twins in the RAN and the Boer War.

Reginald Charles (Ferrers) Creer (1881-1958), and Herbert Victor Creer (1881-1969), naval officers, were born on 21 September 1881 at Watsons Bay, Sydney, twin sons of Joseph Creer, a Manx mariner, and his second wife Sarah Needham, née Ferrers, a South Australian. They were educated at Sydney Boys' High School and in 1898 became cadets in the New South Wales Naval Brigade.

In August 1900 as a sub-lieutenant Reginald Creer sailed with the New South Wales naval contingent to the China Field Force on the SS Salamis. He returned on the SS Chingtu in May 1901

In January 1902 he went to the South African War as a captain with the 3rd Battalion Australian Commonwealth Horse as the OC of one of the NSW squadrons. He was awarded the Queens South African Medal with the clasp South Africa 1901. 3ACH saw no action although were involved in internal security duties supervising the demobilisation of Boer forces. His unit returned to Australia in July. His transfer to the Commonwealth Naval Forces was back-dated to 1 January 1901 partly as a result of his service with 3ACH.

Between 1907 and 1911 the Creers obtained their mates' and masters' certificates for foreign-going steamships. Late in 1911 as sub-lieutenants they were among the first to join the Royal Australian Navy and a year later were made lieutenants.

The twins had remarkable parallel careers as naval officers, beginning in the very first ships delivered to the RAN in 1911, and including simultaneous command of Australian warships. For a period of 11 weeks in 1921, they had command of sister ships of the RAN’s destroyer flotilla (Success and Swordsman), a record equaled by only one other set of brothers

In January 1914 Reginald joined the light cruiser HMAS Pioneer. After patrolling the north-west coast of Australia, he sailed for East Africa via the Cocos Islands, where he acquired the beached Emden's crest and her captain's bridge table. He led a landing party in the capture of Bombamyo on 15 August 1916. The wardroom of the Royal Australian Navy's (RAN) establishment, HMAS Cerberus, is home to many fine treasures artifacts. Perhaps the most curious of these is a dark blue enamelled iron postbox emblazoned in gold with the words Post-Briefkasten. This artefact was presented to the wardroom in 1916 by Lieutenant Commander R. C. Creer, RAN and has its origins in Bagomoyo, German East Africa. The story of how this originated lies in the account of Creers ship, HMAS Pioneer, and the operations in which it was involved during the blockade of German East Africa in World War I. It was during the raid on Bagomoyo that the German letterbox that now graces the wardroom of HMAS Cerberus was taken as a trophy by Pioneer's officers, including Lieutenant R.C. Creer.

From October 1916 to June 1917 he served in the Brisbane in the Mediterranean and the Indian Ocean. In July he transferred to the Una, and patrolled German colonial waters north of Australia. From December 1918 he was stationed at Penguin, the Sydney depot.

Both brothers were promoted lieutenant-commander late in 1920. Reginald's first command was the destroyer Swordsman, from 21 July 1921. The twins had remarkable parallel careers as naval officers, beginning in the very first ships delivered to the RAN in 1911, and including simultaneous command of Australian warships. For a period of 11 weeks in 1921, they had command of sister ships of the RAN’s destroyer flotilla (Success and Swordsman), a record equaled by only one other set of brothers.

Reginald held five commands including the Parramatta (coinciding with Herbert's command of the Yarra for nearly four months) and the boys' training ship Tingira from December 1922 until November 1925. The twins retired as commanders in 1926.

Reginald was master of merchant ships off the China coast. In February 1938 he was commanding the Asian when she was captured by the Japanese and held for eleven days. Given that his brother appears to have been involved heavily with British intelligence before World War 2 the events surrounding Reginald’s career in Asia at this time also look suspiciously like undercover intelligence operations.

In 1940 he joined the Royal Navy and was appointed Commander (Emergency) in the RN. Reginald in 1940-41 was senior officer in command of the gunboat flotilla, China Station, Hong Kong and commanded successively the river gunboats HMS Tarantula and HMS Moth. These were sunk in the Japanese attack in December 1941. He was a prisoner of war from 21 January 1942 in Hong Kong Camp 'N' at Sham Shui Po until 19 September 1945, when he returned to Sydney.

Reginald died on 29 June 1958 at the War Veterans' Home, Narrabeen, Sydney.

In 1899 Herbert Creer had sailed as cadet in the sailing ship Balmore. He claimed to have served in the South African War in 1900-02. No records exist of this service but it does not appear to have been disputed. The logical solution to this is that he left the Balmore without permission and therefore not wishing to draw attention to himself, enlisted under an assumed name in a South African Irregular unit.

Between May 1902 and August 1905 he made three voyages in the square-rigged Mount Stewart.

Between 1907 and 1911 the Creers obtained their mates' and masters' certificates for foreign-going steamships. Late in 1911 as sub-lieutenants they were among the first to join the Royal Australian Navy and a year later were made lieutenants.

Herbert served in the Melbourne from August 1914 until April 1918 on patrol and convoy duty in the Indian and Atlantic oceans, and from 1916 with the Grand Fleet in the North Sea. In mid-1918 he joined the Brisbane. He was appointed to the first of his six commands, in the Success, on 19 July 1920. Herbert commanded the Anzac from December 1922 until January 1925. Junior officers remembered him as a superb ship-handler and a fine commanding officer.

In 1938-39 he was master of the Gemlock, chartered to a Japanese company, and passed intelligence to the Royal Navy until he beached his ship in a blizzard; the officers reached the Manchurian coast in an open boat and were found by police; the British ambassador secured their release. On the outbreak of war Herbert joined the Royal Navy as a Commander (Emergency). Herbert was senior naval officer at Shanghai and commanded a gunboat flotilla, first in HMS Cricket then HMS Peterel. He became naval officer-in-charge at Singapore, and supervised the embarkation of the Australian nurses in the ill-fated Vyner Brooke. Until his discharge on 31 March 1946 Herbert held several posts: naval officer-in-charge Addu Atoll in 1942, and in Ceylon as commandant, Duty Naval Camp, Diyatalawa, in 1942-44, resident naval officer at Jaffna in 1944-45 and officer-in-charge Ketti Camp in 1945-46. He returned to Sydney in HMS Indefatigable in June 1946.

In October 1951 Herbert became master of the Vila Star. He died on 5 August 1969 at the War Veterans' Home, Narrabeen.

As junior officers with identical looks and mannerisms, the Creer twins often stood in for each other at social functions, where their charm and gentlemanly manners made them very popular with the ladies. They were excellent seamen, good 'ship handlers' and highly regarded by their senior officers.

Jean P. Fielding in the Australian Dictionary of Biography, with editing and additions by David Deasey


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