The development of the Queensland Marine Defence Force from 1885 to the formation of the Commonwealth Navy .
Gunboats and torpedoes
In 1882, in line with the defence scheme, the Queensland Government purchased two steam-powered Alpha class gunboats. The Gayundah and Paluma were constructed in England during 1884, and sailed to Brisbane. A torpedo boat, Mosquito, was also acquired. Unable to afford to keep both gunboats in service, the Queensland Government negotiated with the British Admiralty to have one gunboat assigned to the Royal Navy for coastal survey work, while the other was used by the Queensland Marine Defence Force (QMDF). The Paluma, with its Royal Navy crew, charted the north Queensland coastline from 1885 to 1894. Periodically it joined the Gayundah and other vessels and operated as a training platform for seamen of the QMDF.
The locally-built steamer Miner was acquired in May 1887. It was built specifically to lay explosive mines in defence of the Brisbane River, however it remained under the control of the land defence force rather than the marine.
The piquet boat Midge was also bought in 1887. Used in the training of naval brigade personnel, it was later equipped with Whitehead torpedo dropping gear.
Naval Brigade companies - essentially naval infantry - were established at the major ports of Brisbane, Rockhampton, Townsville, Maryborough, Cooktown, Bundaberg, Thursday Island and Mackay. Five steam hopper barges operated by the Government were built between 1886 and 1888. Fitted with a five-inch breech-loading gun in an emergency, they could act as floating gun batteries manned by the Naval Brigade.
A depot and wharves for the QMDF were constructed at Kangaroo Point, Brisbane in 1887. The site contained workshops, boatsheds and a gun deck on which the heavy ships guns were mounted for training purposes.
After Federation in 1901, the Queensland Marine Defence Force was absorbed into the Commonwealth Naval Force. During 1902-03 Queensland naval officers experimented with the new Marconi wireless transmitter and receiving sets. They successfully transmitted signals between the Gayundah in Moreton Bay and a station adjacent to the Naval Stores at Kangaroo Point. These were the first wireless signals transmitted by any naval vessel in Australia, and led to the introduction of wireless telegraphy on board Australian warships.