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Chapman James Clare (1853–1940)

by H. J. Zwillenberg

This article was published:

Chapman James Clare (1853-1940), by Hammer & Co., c1900

Chapman James Clare (1853-1940), by Hammer & Co., c1900

State Library of South Australia, SLSA: B 11110

Chapman James Clare (1853-1940), naval captain, was born on 23 June 1853 in the Bay of Biscay on the Matilda Wattenbach; his father was James Coughron Clare, master of the ship. Educated at Cheshunt and Edmonton in England, at 15 he began a merchant marine apprenticeship with Smith, Fleming & Co. of London, and worked on sailing ships until 1873 when he became a mate on a steamer of the Belgian Royal Mail Line.

In 1875-80 Clare served on the opium steamers of Apcar & Co., Calcutta, trading between Hong Kong and Calcutta. Resigning in 1880, he came to South Australia where on 15 June he joined the Marine Board. Four years later he was given command of the steamer Governor Musgrave which was used to service lighthouse installations and navigational aids along the coast. He married Ellen Minnie Cotgrave at Semaphore on 5 April 1885; they had two sons and a daughter.

After a period in the colony's naval reserve Clare was commissioned as a lieutenant-commander in the South Australian Naval Forces on 1 December 1886. He remained nominally in charge of the Governor Musgrave until 1900, although he was often involved with naval reserve training and other duties in the cruiser H.M.C.S. Protector. He was promoted commander in May 1900, was transferred to the Protector, and in July was appointed naval commandant in succession to Captain W. R. Creswell.

In December he was promoted captain and from 1901 was second in seniority in the Commonwealth Naval Forces. During the Boxer Rebellion the South Australian government offered the British government the Protector; it was accepted on condition that it be commanded by an officer of the Royal Navy. This problem was overcome by Clare's agreeing to serve as executive officer under the command of Creswell who had served in the Royal Navy. For his services during the rebellion Clare was appointed C.M.G. in 1902 and from then until 1910 commanded the Protector in home waters.

On the formation of the Royal Australian Navy in 1911 Clare became district naval officer in Western Australia. During World War I he was awarded the Japanese Order of the Rising Sun in recognition of his association with the Japanese Navy, then engaged in convoying Australian troops to Europe. He returned to South Australia in 1918 and was district naval officer until he retired in July 1919.

In retirement Clare lived at Glenelg, Adelaide. Survived by his wife and children, he died there on 28 September 1940 and was cremated. His estate was sworn for probate at £5217.

Select Bibliography

  • H. T. Burgess (ed), Cyclopedia of South Australia, vol 1 (Adel, 1907)
  • H. M. Cooper, A Naval History of South Australia and other Historical Notes (Adel, 1950)
  • R. H. Parsons, The Navy in South Australia (Lobethal, SA, 1974)
  • J. J. Atkinson, Australian Contingents to the China Field Force 1900-1901 (Syd, 1976)
  • Observer (Adelaide), 15 May, 28 July 1900, 5 July 1902
  • Advertiser (Adelaide), 30 Sept 1940
  • file 1047/136 (State Records of South Australia).

Related Entries in NCB Sites

Citation details

H. J. Zwillenberg, 'Clare, Chapman James (1853–1940)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1981, accessed online 24 June 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 8, (Melbourne University Press), 1981

View the front pages for Volume 8

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

Chapman James Clare (1853-1940), by Hammer & Co., c1900

Chapman James Clare (1853-1940), by Hammer & Co., c1900

State Library of South Australia, SLSA: B 11110

Life Summary [details]


23 June, 1853
at sea


28 September, 1940 (aged 87)
Glenelg, Adelaide, South Australia, Australia

Cultural Heritage

Includes subject's nationality; their parents' nationality; the countries in which they spent a significant part of their childhood, and their self-identity.