Image The 'Britannic' leaving Sydney, 1901

TLF ID R3007

This is a black-and-white photograph, measuring 9.5 cm x 12 cm, of the scenes surrounding the ship 'Britannic' as it departs Circular Quay, Sydney, with Imperial troops on board. Hundreds of people have gathered to watch, with some standing on their horse-drawn vehicles to gain a better view.

Educational details

Educational value
  • This asset features the 'Britannic', a ship requisitioned from the White Star Line by the British government to transport troops to and from the Boer War in South Africa between November 1899 and October 1902; two of its ten voyages as a troop ship were between South Africa and Australia and New Zealand.
  • It shows the 'Britannic' as she was when representing Great Britain in a review (a formal military inspection) in Sydney Harbour, one of the events that marked the inauguration of the Commonwealth of Australia - her passengers included an honour guard (a military group performing drill exhibitions on ceremonial occasions) made up of 1,000 representatives of six British regiments that participated in the Federation procession through Sydney on 1 January 1901.
  • It is described in the National Library of Australia's catalogue as possibly showing the departure of Boer War troops - while this is almost certainly untrue, the 'Britannic' is known to have carried troops of the 6th Queensland Imperial Bushmen and re-enlisting NSW troops to South Africa, and the 4th South Australian Imperial Bushmen home from South Africa during a later voyage in 1901.
  • It suggests that only invited guests or ticketed spectators were allowed to get close to the departing vessel as there are two crowds of people watching the 'Britannic' depart, with the largest number gathered along the shoreline and a second line of people apparently separated from the grassed foreshore by an unseen barrier.
  • It shows various horse-drawn vehicles - a coach driver waits for his passengers near the P and O building; other than a jinker or gig (in the centre) and a phaeton (the four-wheeled vehicle on the left), the other horse-drawn vehicles in the foreground are mainly two-wheeled drays, commonly used for both transport and haulage.
  • It illustrates a range of men's and women's clothing typical of the Victorian era, when hats were an essential accessory for both sexes - suits were popular daywear for men; one man standing on a dray displays a pair of braces used to hold up his trousers; the women are all wearing long skirts and blouses or long dresses, which were often actually a separate bodice and skirt, with some wearing the fashionable 'leg-of-mutton' sleeves (with very large puffs covering the upper arm).
  • It shows part of Circular Quay, near Bennelong Point as it was in 1901 - the brick building with a sign reading 'P and O' (the Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company) was one of many along Circular Quay housing shipping companies; the Quay was most developed at its centre, with many brick buildings of three or more storeys; the rough corrugated iron clad shed and undeveloped grassy land indicates that the photo was taken near the end of Circular Quay where it was less developed.
  • It depicts a tall gas lamp-pole (centre, in front of a funnel) - individual gaslights were first introduced to Sydney in the 1820s; electric street lights did not commence operation in Sydney until the night of 8 July 1904.

Other details

  • Contributor
  • Name: National Library of Australia
  • Organization: National Library of Australia
  • Description: Content provider
  • URL:
  • Name: Education Services Australia
  • Organization: Education Services Australia
  • Description: Data manager
  • Copyright Holder
  • Name: National Library of Australia
  • Organization: National Library of Australia
  • Publisher
  • Name: Education Services Australia Ltd
  • Organization: Education Services Australia Ltd
  • Description: Publisher
  • Address: VIC, AUSTRALIA
  • URL:
  • Resource metadata contributed by
  • Name: Education Services Australia Ltd
  • Organisation: Education Services Australia Ltd
  • Address: AUSTRALIA
  • URL:
Access profile
  • Colour independence
  • Device independence
  • Hearing independence
Learning Resource Type
  • Image
  • © Education Services Australia Ltd and National Library of Australia, 2013, except where indicated under Acknowledgements