Navy Victoria Network
Proudly supported by the Melbourne Naval Committee

(ACN A0019554B)

Supporting our shipmates since 1945

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A Brief History of the Melbourne Naval Committee (MNC) Incorporated

In 1945, several senior members of the then Ex-Navalmens’ Association of Australia – Melbourne approached the then Lord Mayor of Melbourne, Sir Thomas Nettlefold, for permission to hold fund raising activities in the streets of the City of Melbourne. They were endeavouring to raise funds to establish a central meeting place for naval personnel who had served and were serving in His Majesty’s Navies.

Approval was granted by the Melbourne City Council and the fund was named ‘The Jack’s Day Appeal’. Following the successful fund raising activities, a committee was formed to deal with the funds raised and to act as Trustees. This committee was constituted as the Melbourne Naval Centre.

In 1947, the Melbourne Naval Centre used the funds collected to purchase property situated at 381/5 Flinders Lane, Melbourne, known as ‘Tavistock House’.

This building provided meeting rooms, offices (etc.) for ex-naval organisations. At the same time the Melbourne Naval Centre, in agreement with the Trustees of the Exhibition Building, established the White Ensign Club in the then northern annexe of the Exhibition Building.

The White Ensign Club tended the needs of the serving sailor in that it provided accommodation, meals and recreation for sailors ashore or on recreational leave in Melbourne, particularly trainees from HMAS Cerberus on weekend leave.

The rooms and offices in Tavistock House served the needs of ex-naval organisations.

In approximately 1970, the recruitment intake and the policy of recruitment of naval personnel in Victoria was changed. This fact, coupled with other matters, made it necessary for the Melbourne Naval Centre to close down the White Ensign Club. The number of naval personnel and visiting ships in Melbourne were insufficient for the facilities of the White Ensign Club to remain viable.

Successive Chairmen of the Melbourne Naval Centre up to this time had been Sir Thomas Nettlefold, Sir William Angliss and Sir Kenneth Luke. Sir Kenneth died in 1971 and was succeeded by Captain T.E. Nave.

In approximately 1984, the Melbourne Naval Centre was required to carry out extensive capital works for Tavistock House to comply with health and safety regulations as a place of assembly. After much investigation, reports and costings, it was found in 1986 that the cost of the work to be done was prohibitive. A decision was then made to sell the property and invest the proceeds.

The Melbourne Naval Centre then fostered (using the proceeds from its investments) meeting places in Melbourne for ex-naval groups to come together. It leased premises in Flinders Lane which were used by various groups but mainly the Melbourne sub-section of the Naval Association of Australia.

In 1988 an arrangement was reached with the Commanding Officer HMAS Lonsdale whereby the mainstream of the meetings and activities by Navy and ex-Navy personnel were held in Club Lonsdale at HMAS Lonsdale.

At that time, approximately 35 associations met there on a regular basis.

Following the decommissioning of HMAS Lonsdale in November 1992, the Melbourne Naval Centre briefly took up residence in the RAAF Sergeant’s Mess in Coventry Street, Southbank. It was not long before these premises were also closed and the Melbourne Naval Centre was on the lookout again for a suitable place to meet. After much searching it was agreed by the committee that the residence known as the ‘English Speaking Union’, 146 Toorak Road West, South Yarra was suitable. Although this venue suited the Melbourne Naval Centre and many of the Melbourne-based Naval Associations for many years, with the planned sale of the building in late 2016, a suitable alternative venue was once again sought; this time at the Mission to Seafarers at 717 Flinders Street, Docklands.

It was also at this time that the Committee of the Melbourne Naval Centre decided to replace the word “Centre” in its title with the word “Committee” to more accurately reflect the contemporary role of the organisation. Thus the MNC is now the Melbourne Naval Committee, Incorporated.