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American sailors come to town!



One of my favourite photos is this sepia image of as yet unidentified sailors from the U.S. navy. The photo was taken in Lismore, New South Wales on 31 July 1925 during the young men’s visit to the town. It was sent to my 15 year old great aunt Iris HARRIS from her 17 year old cousin Alma PRITCHARD.


In July 1925 the entire US Navy Battle Fleet sailed to Australia and then New Zealand, as part of a diplomatic and soft power exercise. Because of its deepwater harbour, Sydney hosted eight of the largest ships, including USS CALIFORNIA, USS COLORADO, USS TENNESSEE, USS MARYLAND, USS WEST VIRGINIA, USS NEW MEXICO, USS MISSISSIPPI and USS IDAHO. [1]. The balance of the fleet sailed to Melbourne.

To ease the accommodation shortage in Sydney men were sent to a number of regional centres. The group of men in the photo elected to spend part of their time in Lismore and the surrounding areas. Their arrival caused much excitement.

Several hundred people gathered in Molesworth Street yesterday to welcome the detachment of men from the American fleet visiting Sydney. The main street was decorated with Union Jacks and the Stars and Stripes, and the visitors were greeted with cheers. They travelled in one of the New England char a bancs from Grafton via Woodburn, and arrived in Lismore about 1 p.m. The people thronged around the car as it halted outside the offices of the motor company, and further cheers were heartily given. The men were taken to the various hotels which are providing them with accommodation and later were entertained at luncheon at the Elite Tea Rooms.

AMERICAN NAVAL VISITORS, Northern Star, Saturday 1 August 1925, page 4 [2]
U.S. sailors in Woodlark Street, Lismore, Australia – 31 July 1925.

You can imagine how Iris and Alma, both teenagers, felt when seeing these young, handsome Americans. The sailors were described in the local paper as being

college-bred boys, who have joined the navy to see the world.

OUR VISITORS, Northern Star, Saturday 1 August 1925, page 4 [3]

These young men must have seemed like movie stars compared to the boys that Iris and Alma had grown up with.

Alma Pritchard sent the photograph. This one was taken on 12 July 1925
Iris Edna Harris c.1928. Iris kept the photograph of the sailors until her death in 1998.

For more images of the U.S. fleet’s arrival in Sydney see the Samual Hood collection at the Australian National Maritime Museum on the Commons,


Although I have discovered the context and provenance of this photo that I, as the ‘family historian, inherited, it still holds a number of mysteries that I would love to solve.

  • What battleship/s did the sailors come from?
  • What are the names of these young men?
  • What did they think of their welcome to Lismore?
  • What is the name of the young boy in the photo?


Family history is certainly a collaborative effort. I posted my this effort last night (Australian time) and woke up this morning to find an email from Barb Lafara with the answers to some of my questions. By using Trove she was able to find a very similar photo to the one that I own. It would have been taken just before the official photo or moments afterwards.

Barb was also able to point my to a small piece of a much larger article that includes a list of the sailors’ names.

Finally Barb Lafara was able to help me find some wonderful information about the ball held in honour of the sailors’ visit . The article featured an extensive and detailed list of the womens’ gowns.

Many, many thanks Barb!


Senior Petty Officer R.A. Bolling; W.L. Thomas,; G.F. Jessop [USS Mississippi]; E.C. Childs; J.H. Reilly; C.F. Clapper; O. Klunder; J. Halliday; N.J. Bain [USS Mississippi]; G. L. Beardslee; P.A. Miller; W. Petersen [USS Colorado]; B. Platt; G. W. O’Neill; R.A. Gallian; H. W. Lalley; R.T. Oswald [USS Tennessee]; R.B. Gingenfield.


Northern Star, August 1 1925, p 4.


Barb Lafara was able to help me here too. An article about the ball featured a detailed list of the womens’ gowns . I was able to see from that list that Alma Pritchard wore ‘pink brocaded cashmere de soie with ostrich trimmings while Ivy NIEMANN nee Harris, my great grandfather’s sister, wore blue brocaded satin with fur trimmings.

i wonder what the sailors thought of the 17 year old Alma in her pink brocaded cashmere de soie with ostrich trimmings.


  1. The United States naval tour 1925, Australian National Maritime Museum on the Commons,, Accessed 11 January 2020.
  2. AMERICAN NAVAL VISITORS, Northern Star, Saturday 1 August 1925, page 4
  3. OUR VISITORS, Northern Star, Saturday 1 August 1925, page 4

4 thoughts on “American sailors come to town! Leave a comment

      • ‘New England’ was the name of a large bus company on the north coast of New South Wales. A char a banc, or charabanc, was an early motor coach used on sightseeing tours, especially one with open sides and no center aisle. I wonder what the sailors thought of that relatively long journey sitting on benches.


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