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Frederick Tickell (1857–1919)

by Mark Briggs

This article was published:

Fredrick Tickell, n.d.

Fredrick Tickell, n.d.

photo from Royal Australian Navy

Frederick Tickell (1857-1919), naval officer, was born on 7 March 1857 at Amoy Harbour, China, son of Captain George Tickell, mariner and member of the Royal Naval Reserve, and his wife Charlotte, née Crabbe. The early part of Frederick's life was spent on his father's ship, but in 1869 the family settled in Melbourne. Educated at Scotch College in 1870-75, Tickell went to sea and later joined the Union Steamship Co. in New Zealand, gaining a master's certificate; in 1888 he became a sub-lieutenant with the Victorian Naval Brigade. He had married Mary Elizabeth Figg on 18 December 1886 with Presbyterian forms at Williamstown, Victoria.

Promoted lieutenant in 1889, Tickell spent six months in 1890 attached to the Royal Navy's Australian Squadron, serving aboard H.M.S. Rapid. In 1893 he was selected for instruction in England where he gained first-class certificates in gunnery and torpedo, and completed a course in ordnance at Woolwich Arsenal. During his time in England he served as a lieutenant in the protected cruiser H.M.S. Royal Arthur and joined in manoeuvres aboard H.M.S. Northampton and the battleship H.M.S. Majestic.

On his return to Australia in 1897 Tickell was promoted commander and in November became commandant of the Victorian Naval Forces, a position he was to hold until 1904. In 1900 the Victorian government offered assistance to Britain in putting down the Boxer rebellion in China. With her navy all but defunct after a decade of neglect, Victoria could provide no warships, merely a naval brigade. Under Tickell's command two hundred men left for Hong Kong aboard the requisitioned liner S.S. Salamis in August 1900. Sent initially to occupy the captured forts at Taku, the Victorians were employed as troops but saw little action. Tickell was mentioned in dispatches and was subsequently appointed C.M.G. for his services in China.

In December 1900 he was promoted captain and after Federation became third in seniority in the Commonwealth Naval Forces behind (Sir) William Creswell and Captain C. J. Clare. In the reorganization which followed the creation of the C.N.F. Tickell served as naval commandant in Queensland in 1904-07 before resuming his former position as naval commandant in Victoria. He was acting naval director while Creswell attended the 1909 Imperial Defence Conference in London. Together with his fellow officers in the C.N.F., Tickell was an advocate of a local naval force and a supporter of Creswell in his calls for a national Australian navy. In 1910 Tickell brought the recently completed destroyers Yarra and Parramatta from England.

Like other former colonial naval officers who did not have backgrounds in the Royal Navy, Tickell was transferred to an administrative position when the Royal Australian Navy was formed in 1911. He became director of naval reserves, subsequently renamed auxiliary forces, a post which he held for the rest of his life. In 1912 he was appointed an aide-de-camp to the governor-general. Promoted commodore in 1916, he was raised to rear admiral in March 1919 in recognition of his war work and length of service. Tickell died of a cerebro-vascular disease on 19 September 1919. Survived by his wife and three daughters (his son having been lost at sea in 1909), he was buried in Boroondara cemetery, Kew.

Select Bibliography

  • History of Scotch College, Melbourne, 1851-1925 (Melb, 1926)
  • H. J. Feakes, White EnsignSouthern Cross (Syd, 1951)
  • B. Nicholls, Bluejackets and Boxers (Syd, 1986)
  • Argus (Melbourne), 17 Mar, 22 Sept 1919
  • MP472/1/S19/2000 (National Archives of Australia).

Related Entries in NCB Sites

Citation details

Mark Briggs, 'Tickell, Frederick (1857–1919)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1990, accessed online 13 June 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 12, (Melbourne University Press), 1990

View the front pages for Volume 12

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

Fredrick Tickell, n.d.

Fredrick Tickell, n.d.

photo from Royal Australian Navy

Life Summary [details]


7 March, 1857
Amoy Harbour, China


19 September, 1919 (aged 62)
Victoria, Australia

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