Sydney's Fortifications


The arrival of a French expedition to Botany Bay almost simultaneous to the arrival of the first fleet in January 1788 was a timely reminder that the colony of New South Wales, being the most isolated outpost of the British Empire, was always going to be vulnerable to any military action which might be taken against it. In a world where the countries of Europe were jostling for superiority and control of world trade, Britain had no friends as such, least of all the French with whom the relation was at best unfriendly. Even as the colony was settling in at Sydney Cove, Gov. Phillip was formulating a plan which included fortifications around the entrance to Sydney Cove and the establishment of a system of lookouts near the entrance to Port Jackson (Sydney Harbour). His actions were hardly surprising since he was a military man and the settlement on Sydney Cove was little more than a military outpost which employed convicts to do the dirty work. None of Phillip's original fortifications remain - the oldest fort is at Bradleys Head, which was completed in 1801. This battery was commissioned by Governor King during the Napoleonic Wars in 1800. This remarkable structure was hewn by convicts from the local sandstone and is a reminder of how fearful the fledgling colony was of invasion  particularly from France.

On 29th November 1839, the unheralded arrival of a squadron of US Navy ships caused a furor. They entered the harbour under cover of darkness and no one knew of their arrival until morning, when the population rose to see them at anchor in the harbour. Fear of the repercussions had the new arrivals been unfriendly was enough to push the military authorities into re-assessing Sydney's defence strategies immediately. Their review resulted in Governor Gipps commencing work on what would become Fort Denison without waiting for British Government approval. In 1848 Lieutenant-Colonel James Gordon developed a definitive plan for the defence of Sydney town which involved 30 heavy guns located at Inner South Head and Middle Head, 9 heavy guns at Sow and Pigs Reef, 2 heavy guns at Pinchgut, work at Bradley's Head and changes to the Dawes Point Battery. The plan was only instigated in part.

The 1850s were heady days for Australia, the goldrushes of inland New South Wales and Victoria bringing unbelievable wealth to both individuals and the country itself. This influx of wealth, coupled with the knowledge that Australia's coastal towns were still vulnerable to attack by sea, led the authorities to fear that raids by foreign ships to plunder the colony's gold reserves were a distinct possibility. Rumours began to circulate that such an attack by American pirates was imminent, and with the outbreak of the American Civil War, there were additional fears that the North may declare war on England and her colonies for aiding the Southern States.

In 1853 a Government Committee on the Defence of Port Jackson recommended harbour defenses be upgraded immediately in view of the threat of an European war with Russia which escalated into the Crimean War (1854-56). Governor FitzRoy appointed Col. Barney to improve harbour defenses. He based his plans on Gordon's recommendations of 1848 which included the arming of the outer harbour utilising fortifications at North, Middle and South Heads. The project was to be short lived. Governor Denison, who arrived in the middle of the building program, abandoned it, shifting the emphasis back on the inner harbour by reinforcing existing works as well as an upgrade of Fort Denison.

In the early 1870s, it was noted that a seemingly never ending stream of Russian naval vessels on long distance "training expeditions" were visiting Australian ports. They seemed to be taking more than a passing interest in Australia, and whilst there was no evidence that an invasion was in the wind, the visits were enough to make the local authorities re-think their defence strategies again. As a result of what became known as the Russian scare, more strategic harbourside land was set aside for military use and a series of fortifications built on them.

These defence upgrades reflect the scares that largely controlled the colonial reaction to events involving England. When a crisis or war scare occurred in England, the colony also felt threatened, and in a knee-jerk reaction, a lot of work was done - more often than not poorly - upgrading the city's defences until the threat of war dissipated or the Government ran out of money - or both. Either way, the job was more or less left unfinished until the next scare.

The Cardwell territorial reforms of 1870 within the British Army resulted in the withdrawal of British garrison troops from Australia. The British Colonial Office insisted that wealthier colonies such as New South Wales and Victoria should pay more of their own defence costs and thus begin to take full responsibility for their own defence. The negotiations and stances taken by both parties in the second half of the 19th century were somewhat convoluted, but nevertheless resulted in Britain giving the Australian states a helping hand in getting themselves started. A fallout from this was the construction of numerous new defence fortifications. In 1871 the first fortifications designed to defend the outer harbour were constructed. These were at Outer and Inner Middle Head, Georges Head, South Head, Steel Point and Bradleys Head. They remained operational but totally ineffective - fortunately they were never required to be put to the test to prove this - until well after World War I.

A pair of military defence advisers were sent out from England in 1877 to co-ordinate the defensive efforts of the colonies. They were Lieutenant Colonel Peter Scratchley and Lieutenant General Sir William Francis Drummond Jervois, both being Royal Engineers with expertise in defence fortifications. Both men advised the Queensland and Tasmanian Government on defence matters. Jervois, who had built military fortiftications in Canada, India, South Afrrica and the Malay peninsula, took responsibility for the creation of defence solutions for Port Phillip. Lt. Scratchley was appointed the Commissioner for Defences in New South Wales. After completion of his duties, Jervois stayed in Australia to become the Governor of South Australia from 2nd October, 1877 to 9th January, 1883, followed by a term as Governor of New Zealand.

During his term of office, Scratchley recommended a series of additional fortifications for Sydney, all of which were outdated even before they were finished. These included additional batteries which built in the 1890s in the Eastern Suburbs to prevent shelling of the residential areas to the east of Sydney and a self-contained fort designed by Scratchley for Bare Island to defend Botany Bay, it being supported by two disappearing guns at Henry Head.

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Dawes Point


Governor Arthur Phillip's first step was to fortify the entrance to Sydney Cove in 1788, as much to provide defence should there be a convict uprising as to engage any enemy ships that might came in close to the town in a hostile manner. He gave the task to Lieutenant William Dawes, an Officer of Engineers and Artillery in the staff of Major Robert Ross of the detachment of Marines. Dawes had impressed Phillip on the journey out with his positive, outgoing attitude, knowledge of astronomy and abilities in cartography. Entrusted with a telescope by the Astronomer Royal, Dr Maskeleyne, for the observing a comet that would appear towards the end of 1788 but only in the southern hemisphere, Dawes was given permission to set up his observatory on the tip of the rocky point to the west of Sydney Cove which was named in honour of Dr Maskeleyne. Upon completion of the task he was instructed to build a simple mud redoubt for the storage of explosives near his observatory, which he did. A similoar fort was erected on Cattle Point (Bennelong Point).

In October 1788, HMS Supply was dispatched to the Cape of Good Hope to purchase much needed supplies. To make as much room as possible for the purchases which it was hoped it would bring back, eight guns from the Sirius were taken ashore and mounted at the Dawes Point fort, which was extended to accommodate the additional firepower. In the 1830s, a more permanent structure was built with five mortars, thirteen 42 pounder cannon, a magazine and quarters for a garrison of soldiers and their commanding officer. This fort remained intact until 1929 when the section above ground was demolished to make way for the Sydney Harbour Bridge.

The recent partial restoration and interpretation of the archaeological remains of the fort, including its powder magazine, gun battery and Officers' Quarters gives an impression of the fort's former grandeur and importance in the strategic defence of Sydney. Central to the revitalisation are low stone walls, which create an impression of the fort as it stood after being upgraded and re-designed by colonial architect Francis Greenway. Nearby, the footings of the fort's adjoining Officer's Quarters have been exposed, creating a virtual floor plan. One of the fort's five cannon has also been refurbished and reinstated to its original position. The fort's sandstone powder magazine (above) is now fully restored.

Georges Head


In 1801, Sydney was visited by the French ships Naturaliste and Geographe, which were part of a French expedition of scientific discovery that had just completed a survey of the south coast of mainland Australia. It was the time of the Napoleon Wars, and though the expedition leader Thomas Nicolas Baudin and his offsiders Louis de Freycinet and Francois Peron were treated with every courtesy to which a cordial response was returned, their visit left the colonists feeling somewhat vulnerable should France decide to extend its interest in Australia beyond scientific discovery.

Before Baudin s ships had sailed over the horizon on their way to check out the coast of Tasmania, Governor King started work on a single rock-cut battery at Georges Head above Obelisk Beach facing the entrance to Port Jackson and another on Bradleys Head, just in case something happened. At this time there were still substantial Aboriginal communities living in the area, in fact it was land beyond the Georges Head fortifications which was given to an aboriginal family by Gov. Macquarie as an experiment to introduce them to the farming methods of the white man. The Aboriginal settlement was abandoned in 1822.

Due to its isolation and the fact that a French attack did not happen, the Georges Head fort was not actively garrisoned after its first year of operation and fell into disrepair when the Napoleonic Wars ended. The battery was enlarged considerably in 1781, when fears of a Russian invasion got the people of Sydney thinking about defence again. Though no records exist as to when the various fortifications now visible at Georges Head were built, it is believed that they are all from the 1781 and 1890s periods of construction and that none of the original 1801 fort survives.

The Georges Head Battery we see today consists of the original battery and barracks located at the end of Suakin Drive, Georges Heights, two later batteries located adjacent to the corner of Middle Head Road and Best Avenue, Georges Heights, and the Beehive (or Lower) Casemate adjacent to the Armoured (or Upper) Casemate in Chowder Bay Road. The Georges Head battery is one of three forts in the area that were built for the purpose of defending the outer harbour. The other two forts are located at Middle Head and Bradleys Head, Mosman. The fort became a command post in the 1890s for the coordination of all of Sydney s harbour defences.

1870s: Georges Head battery was built in 1871 after the removal of the British forces from Australia in 1870. Their departure put the onus on wealthy colonies like New South Wales and Victoria to assist in, and organize its own defences. Georges Head Battery was an outer line harbour defence fortification designed especially to attack and prevent enemy ships from infiltrating the inner harbour. The fort held a prominent position and was located high above sea level with strategic views to the entrance (Sydney Heads) of Port Jackson. Other batteries were located on Middle Head, South Head, Shark Point and Bradleys Head, but none were ever used for combative purposes.


Georges Head Casemate

Georges Head was armed with four 80 pounder rifled muzzle loading guns and two 68 pounder muzzle-loading guns. It took three months and 250 soldiers to roll the gun barrels all the way from North Sydney to the batteries. They came along a rough track which later became Military Road. The guns had been positioned so poorly that this created the risk of one gun firing upon another. Also, the guns and soldiers were visible from the harbour. In 1877 large mounds of earth were placed between the pits to make sure the guns could not fire upon each other and to help protect the gun crew from enemy fire. When construction of the fort was complete, there were a total of 41 gun emplacements positioned around the harbour.

Defence tactics were planned using telescopes and plotters mounted in the middle of the second gun pit. From the telephone exchange, the Port Jackson District Commandant could communicate with all military installations on the harbour. Telephone cables ran through the tunnels, down the cliff and under the harbour to batteries on the other side.

1880s: An ingenious and advanced designed Casemate is a key part of the fortifications at Middle Head that were built to the design of Colonel Scratchley between 1882 and 1886, following recommendations given by Sir William Jervois in 1877. It originally housed three 18 ton 10-inch rifled-muzzle-loading guns, two transferred from Georges Heights and one from Middle Head in 1886. These guns were housed in three giant chambers built of mass concrete with walls and roof about 1.8 metres thick. Each chamber was provided with a magazine and shell store and opened at the rear to a covered roadway. The original guns were replaced in 1892 by two types of guns, two 6-inch breech loading Mark 5 guns and one 6-inch Quick-firing gun, which were mounted onto the existing carriages after modification.The guns that had been installed in 1892 were removed eleven years later, after which time the casemate was used for storage until after World War II.

In 1888 Georges Head was chosen as the best place to observe and fire underwater mines, the latest in harbour defences. Each underwater mine was attached to an electric cable that ran up the cliff to a firing post. From there, miners watched for ships entering the harbour. The miners  job was to explode the mine closest to an approaching enemy ship. Minefields were laid across the main shipping channels of Port Jackson from 1876 to 1922 and a base was built at Chowder Bay for the submarine miners. The work of the submarine miner was secretive, technical and dangerous. During a demonstration in 1891, a crowd of several thousand watched as a terrible accident killed four miners and injured another eight.

World War II: In 1942, during the Second World War, the Sydney Harbour anti-submarine boom net  was installed. The boom net spanned the entire width of Sydney Harbour from Green (Laings) Point, Watsons Bay to Georges Heights in Mosman. The command post remained until the 1930s. The area then became home to various defence bases until 2002 when the Army left after 130 years at Georges Head. The area in which the fortifications are situated is now open to the public and the Harbour Trust has restored the historic fortifications, creating a new type of lookout.

The hospital was carved out of solid rock during the construction of the tunnel system in 1872, and was originally designed to provide a storage room for the black powder charge used when firing the 68-pounder and 80-pounder guns of the battery. The floor was originally covered in a bituminous substance, the walls were tiled with ceramic tiles not unlike those seen on the wall pictured, and the tunnel ceiling leading to the room was lined with cork. The purpose of these measures was to reduce the possibility of sparks and the potential for a powder explosion. The zigzag tunnel at the far end of the room was designed to act as a blast wall to contain any blast within the immediate area. The room has been modified since 1872 and was used as a casualty clearing station in 1932/33 when the battery was re-gunned with the 6 inch breech loaded MK7 guns. Designed for emergencies only, it fortunately saw no casualties of war.
Bennelong Point


Though Governor Macquarie was a military man, there is little evidence to suggest he made any major contribution towards the defence of Sydney other than upgrading the fort on Dawes Point and building Fort Macquarie on Bennelong Point which replaced a small fort established by First Fleeter William Dawes in 1788. Francis Greenway, Macquarie s buddy in arms when it came to the erection of public buildings in Sydney, designed the fort which came into use in January 1821, just a short while before Macquarie s departure from NSW.

Fort Macquarie was a large, impressive structure built of stone hewn from an outcrop of rock near the construction site. So much stone was required for the project, a sheer vertical rock face was left at the quarry site on completion. The rock face became known as the Tarpeian Rock, a classical allusion to the precipitous Capitoline Hill in Rome from which, in the time of the Caesars, criminals were hurled to their deaths.

By the turn of the 20th century, Fort Macquarie had outlived its usefulness. In 1902, it was replaced by the Fort Macquarie Tram Depot, a terminus and workshops for the Belmore to Circular Quay electric tram service which came down Castlereagh and Bligh Streets.
Fort Phillip


Constructed at the peak of Observatory Hill in 1804, Fort Phillip was ill-conceived, was never completed and never had the potential to be used as anything but a barracks or, as happened, a signal station. Captain John Hunter, who authorised its construction, was a naval man with little knowledge of land-based fortifications. Its armoury of guns were never mounted properly - Gov. Bligh reported finding them in a state of disrepair and on carriages that had been eaten away by termites - and had they been fired, they would in all probability have hit houses and the hospital in The Rocks, which were located in the guns  line of fire on the slopes between the fort and Sydney Cove. It must be said, however, that a convict uprising at Castle Hill in the previous year was the incident which precipitated the fort s construction, so its ability or inability to protect the town from hostile ships may not have been a major factor in the fort s location.

It must be said, however, that a convict uprising at Castle Hill in the previous year was the incident which precipitated the fort s construction, so its ability or inability to protect the town from hostile ships may not have been a major factor in the fort s location.

Two of its stone perimeter walls were converted into a signal station in 1825. From here, signals were sent to ships in the harbour and to the South Head Signal Station using flags. The walls, now part of the Sydney Observatory perimeter walls, are all that remain of the fort.
Garden Island


Garden Island has had connections with the Navy since the early days of the colony. As well as a garden, it housed a gun emplacement which guarded the passageway between Farm Cove and Pinchgut (now known as Fort Denison) until the construction of Fort Macquarie on Bennelong Point. The gun pit on Garden Island (right) survives.

A similar gun pit was built on Gov. Macquarie s Point, but this was removed after Fort Macquarie was built and no trace of it remains today. In 1811 Gov. Macquarie declared Garden Island a civilian establishment and thus it stayed until 1856 when it was returned to the Royal Navy for use as a base. The base grew in a ramshackle manner with new buildings and facilities being added progressively over the next century. Today it is a restricted area and houses the Fleet Base of the Royal Australian Navy and the Garden Island Dockyard.

The Royal Australian Navy had a tunnel system under its Garden Island Naval Base, extending under Potts Point as far as the Kings Cross area. They contained a power station, offices, air raid shelters and a command centre. Some of the tunnels under the Garden Island Naval Depot were built to be able move guns from one side of the island to the other and to transport ammunition. Under and around the Captain Cook Dock there are tunnels associated with the dock itself. There is also a pit (now sealed) that was dug in the 1800's as a store for provisions should the island ever come under siege.
Fort Denison


Once a rocky outcrop in the middle of Sydney Harbour, seven decades saw it change from a jagged rocky outcrop jutting into the island fortress we see today. Used by the early colonial governors as a place of solitary confinement for particularly unruly convicts, it became part of Sydney's defences when in 1855 it was razed to sea level and its gun batteries, a barracks and a Martello tower were built directly in response to the Crimean War.

In December 1835 Captain George Barney had arrived in Sydney as Commander Royal Engineers. By June 1836 at Governor FitzRoy's request, Barney had examined the existing defences of the harbour and assessed that the existing defence facilities for Sydney were inadequate. Barney produced a sketch map of the existing situation and suggested defensive works for a tower on the Sow and Pigs Shoal and a battery on Pinchgut. During 1840, and without approval from England, Barney established prisoners on Pinchgut and employed them on preparing the ground. Once the island was cut down, Barney then proceeded to excavate a level terreplain or gun platform, sunk into, and surrounded by a protective rock parapet.

Lieutenant Colonel James Gordon took over from Barney as Commanding Royal Engineer on 12th January 1843. Barney retained his post as Colonial Engineer until the end of 1843 when, as a result of the economy of the colony, he was retrenched. By 1848 Gordon had developed his definitive plan for Sydney's defences. It involved 30 heavy guns located at Inner South Head and Middle Head, 9 heavy guns at Sow and Pigs Reef, 2 heavy guns at Pinchgut, work at Bradley's Head and the alteration of Dawes Point Battery. Approval was given for the works at Middle Head, Inner South Head and Sow and Pigs reef but the fort on Pinchgut was put on hold.



In 1853 a Select Committee on the Defence of Port Jackson recommended harbour defences be upgraded immediately. In January 1855, the new Governor General, Sir William Denison, arrived in Sydney. As the Crimean War was in progress, he became acutely aware of Sydney's vulnerability and instigated a strong work force on Pinchgut to complete the fortifications commenced by Barney 15 years previous. By mid 1856 when the fort was nearly two-thirds completed under his direction, George Barney recommended it be named in honour of the new Governor General. The fort's armoury included two 10-inch guns and ten 8-inch 32 pounders, three of which had been mounted in the tower by December 1858 before it was finished. The top of the tower was in fact built around these guns and it would have to be dismantled first should any attempt be made to remove them.

A few years would pass before the fort was manned by the Royal Artillery which remained in occupation at least until December 1869. The maximum quartered there was 25. During the 1870's the Naval Brigade under Captain Hixson practised from the Fort, firing at a target moored on Rose Bay. From that time it became operational until the present day a gun has been fired at 1pm each day to which mariners may set their ship's chronometers. Though never involved in a military conflict, the fort was hit by a naval shell fired from the US cruiser Chicago during a raid on Sydney Harbour by Japanese mini-submarines during World War II.

During the 1890's Fort Denison functioned as a light and tide station for the Marine Board. In 1901 the Sydney Harbour Trust took over Fort Denison and in 1936 it was transferred to the Maritime Services Board of NSW. It is currently under the control of the NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service.
Kirribilli


Because of its strategic location opposite the entrance to Sydney Cove, the Government of 1856 decided to take temporary control of a house built in 1842 by Sir George Gipps to take advantage of the sweeping views of Sydney Harbour. Cannons were mounted in the grounds though they were never used. For some time, the house was used as the official residence of the resident Admiral commanding the British Naval Squadron stationed in Sydney and it became known as Admiralty House. It has remained Commonwealth Government property ever since and is now the Sydney residence of the Governor General.
South Head


There are a number of tunnels and bunkers located beneath HMAS Watson on South Head at Watsons Bay. In 1848 Lieutenant-Colonel James Gordon developed a definitive plan for the defence of Sydney town which involved 30 heavy guns located at Inner South Head and Middle Head, 9 heavy guns at Sow and Pigs Reef, 2 heavy guns at Pinchgut, work at Bradley s Head and changes to the Dawes Point Battery. In 1853 a Government Committee on the Defence of Port Jackson recommended harbour defenses be upgraded immediately in view of the threat of an European war with Russia. Governor FitzRoy appointed Colonel Barney to improve harbour defenses based his plans on Gordon s recommendations of 1848. The original Outer Battery, which is the earliest of the fortifications on South head near the Hornby light and old lighthouse keepers residences, were built in 1859. The purpose of the station was to relay news of incoming shipping by the raising of a flag. They are the only fortifications erected on South Head as per Gordon s recommendations at that time and included a tunnel lined with brick, later covered with concrete.

The cobblestoned roadway near the top of the steps above Camp Cove is a remnant of the original road constructed in 1871 along which military hardware was transported to the various installation points on South Head. The Inner Battery was built in 1873 and consisted of a series of gunpits and numerous lookout points on the headland from Green Point and Lady Bay. Five guns were aimed across Watsons Bay. A new Outer Battery was erected beyond the Hornby light and facing the ocean and a series of tunnels to connect the inner and outer batteries were cut.



In 1914, the guns were briefly mobilised, but never fired in anger and more bunkers were erected. _ One has a hand painted 1915 with an upwards pointed arrow (the defence department symbol) above it. During World War 2, a new series of tunnels were built linking HMAS Watson to a wharf used to offload military supplies at Camp Cove. These tunnels are quite deep and rather labyrinthine, their entrances today are blocked by steel doors. At the same time, a series of new observation bunkers were cut deep into the cliff face. These include one which was particularly well placed for viewing the Lady Bay nudist beach. UBD Map 217 Ref Q 12
Signal Hill, Watsons Bay


Located close by near Macquarie Lighthouse in Christison Park, Vaucluse, these fortifications were built in 1893 with others at North Bondi, Clovelly, Henry Head and Bare Island (Botany Bay) as part of a coastal defence update. All the fortifications housed 22-tonne 9.2 inch breech loading disappearin Fg guns housed in below ground cavities with concrete walls ten metres in diameter. The barrels of each gun weighed 22 tonnes. The Signal Hill disappearing gun was housed in the centre of three gun pits. It was last fired in 1933 and removed in 1937 when it was replaced by two 6-inch Mk II guns placed in each of the outer pits. These were removed after World War II. The barrel of the disappearing gun is on display at the Artillery Museum at North Head.

Two levels of rooms were constructed under the gun emplacement in 1915. These were interconnected to bunkers and observation boxes by tunnels also built at the time. The lower level beneath the gun emplacement is reached via shaft and ladder at back of top level. A number of metal doors which are now sealed gave access to stairs leading down to the tunnels and the bunkers themsel *ves. UBD Map 238 ref C 3
North Bondi


The fortifications at North Bondi were installed in 1893 as part of Sydney's coastal defence system. A team of 35 horses took three weeks to drag the 22-tonne breach loading gun for the installation from the Victoria Barracks to the site. It was one of three pop-up guns erected along the coast at that time. The haster gunner and his family were housed in a weatherboard cottage built below the fort off Military Road which got its name because it was constructed to give the military access to the site. The gun was to be removed and sold for scap metal in the 1950s when the army vacated the site but a buyer could not be found. The gun was covered with sand and the site given over to parkland. It was rediscovered by Water Board engineers in the early 1990s when a new pipeline was being planned. The only visible remnants of the site today are a jumble of concrete blocks and a pair of railway lines jutting out over the cliff face.
Location: Military Road, North Bondi.
Clovelly


Installed in 1893 as part of Sydney's coastal defence system, the fortifications housed a 22-tonne breach loading gun which had to be dragged through the bush from the Victoria Barracks to the site by a team of horses. Location: Shark Point, Burrows Park, Clovelly.
Cape Baily


Built in 1942 in association with the military installation at Cape Banks, these fortifications included a gun emplacement for a large 9-inch gun and a small number of associated buildings. Decommissioned after the World War II, the fort was destroyed and the remains buried. The fort was located near the Cape Baily lighthouse. Location: Cape Baily Walking Track, Botany Bay National Park.
Middle Head


The point of Middle Head is riddled with a network of lookouts, gun placements, and ammunition stores, all interlinked by tunnels and passages. Most were constructed in 1871 and remained untouched until the second world war.

The first fort at Middle Head was built in 1801 and the last batteries were constructed in 1942. The majority of the fortifications were built between 1870 and 1911. The site contains the works of several periods and technologies, which remain in place for review today. Historically it dates from the time when defence was first moved away from Sydney Cove and towards The Heads.

There were three sets of fortifications built in Mosman and Middle Head in the 1870s, these were upgraded in the 1880s on the advice of British experts. These fortifications still exist and are now heritage listed, they are, the Lower Georges Heights Commanding Position, the Georges Head Battery and a smaller fort located on Bradleys Head, known as the Bradleys Head Fortification Complex.

The battery on Middle Head built in 1871 was designed by James Barnet, a colonial architect. The fort was built on a strategic location and received many additions until 1911. It formed part of a network of outer harbour  defences. They were designed to fire at enemy ships as they attempted entry through the Sydney Heads. The whole area is linked by an extensive network of underground tunnels, ancillary rooms, gunpowder magazine and a disappearing gun emplacement. The site has its own underground power room that is supported by iron columns. Rooms located below ground were used to train some of Australia s first troops who were sent to Vietnam in Code of Conduct  courses, which were lessons in how to withstand torture and interrogation, by simulating prisoner of war conditions.

Spurred on by Japanese midget submarine attack on Sydney Harbour, the Middle Head Fortifications were re-opened and upgraded during World War II. The fortifications feature Tiger Cages  where the military trained soldiers by simulating prisoner of war conditions in Vietnam. The nine guns mounted at Middle head were never fired in anger, but four men were killed in April 1891 in the accidental detonation of a mine.

In 1974 the Middle Head fortifications featured in the movie Stone. Four years later, most of the area became national park and the military has moved on to more strategic locations. The army base on site which included the transport group and 30 Terminal Squadron, left Georges Heights in 1997. The Headquarters Training Command section relocated to the Victoria Barracks in 2002.
Shark Point, Vaucluse


The land on Shark Point was resumed from its private owners and construction of the battery began in 1871 and was completed in 1874 with an additional barracks being added in 1880. The site was designed under the supervision of colonial architect James Barnet who was responsible for designing several other harbour fortifications during this period. In 1872 three 80-pounder rifled muzzle-loading guns were installed. The fort worked in conjunction with various other forts located on Sydney Harbour that were also built in or around 1871.

In its last form, the battery consisted of three sandstone gun emplacements or pits with embrasures for the guns to fire through. These pits were connected by open passages and covered passages that led into underground chambers that consisted of a gunpowder magazine, a shell and artillery store and two shell and lamp recesses built of stone. The site had its own living quarters that included amenities for the workers manning the fort. The fort was surrounded by a picket fence with a sandstone base and another barbed wire fence for security. The fort also had its own jetty with connecting roads.

Shark/Steel Point at present consists of a three-gun battery. The passageways, tunnels, magazine store and barrack room are now partially buried. The stone lintel cover of the entry to the rear emplacement was smashed and the tunnel filled with debris, allowing water to seep in causing damage to the interior. The stonework of the lower emplacements and connecting passages are in good condition and there is still one gun emplacement located above ground.

The land on which the fort is located was granted to the state of New South Wales in 1980 and later became the responsibility of the New South Wales National Parks and Wildlife. A small portion of the land on which the fort is located is used as a degaussing station by the Royal Australian Navy.
Bradleys Head


The fortifications at Bradleys Head are the best preserved of all those to be found around the shores of Sydney Harbour. Most of the older fortifications which located alongside the mast and crows nest of HMAS Sydney and consisting of a firing wall and a single cannon mount, were built in the 1840s by Gov. Gipps without British Government approval. The fortifications located up the hill towards the Taronga Zoo entrance were built in the 1870s. This installation, comprising a series of tunnels, a powder magazine, gun emplacements complete with three mounted cannon, and later a firing wall, were built under the supervision of James Barnet and played a major role in opening up the Mosman area for development. Its guns were offloaded from a ship at Neutral Bay and rolled through the bush to the fortifications site. Locals were paid ten shillings for each stump they removed as they made a path through the undergrowth along which the cannon would be rolled. The path became what we now know as Military Road.

Military Road follows a path beaten through the bush from North Sydney to Bradleys Head in the early 1870s. It was created by soldiers and local residents to give access to the new Bradleys Head military installations. These were being constructed in response to fears of an impending attack by Russia, an attack which never eventuated. Stumps along the route were dug out by locals who were paid ten shillings for each stump removed. It was along the path they cleared that the three guns for the fort were rolled through the bush from a jetty at Neutral Bay where they had been offloaded from a ship.
Bare Island, La Perouse


One of the earliest geographical features to be recorded by Europeans on the east coast of NSW, Bare Island was thus described and marked on his chart by Lt. James Cook in 1770. Banks visited the island and retrieved shells for his collections and study. It was never meant to be its name, but simply a description, but no one bothered to name it, and so it is still refered to as Bare Island.

In 1870, after the last British garrison troops left NSW, Botany Bay was seen as a potential landing ground but it only received the protection of a small gun battery position and Gov. Macquarie s tower for catching smugglers. It was not until 1877 when Scratchley and Jervois arrived in Sydney that Bare Island began to figure in Sydney s defence plans. Their recommendations included a fort on Bare Island as the sole defence for Botany Bay. Scratchley designed the Fort and the control of construction, which began in 1881, was in the hands of the Colonial Architect, James Barnet. James MacLeod, a Sydney builder, was contracted to carry out the work. An unusual feature of the design was the use of concrete  until then rarely used in such quantity and at the time a building material not well understood.

At the completion of the main works in 1889, faults began to be found in the fort and in another gun battery built by the same contractor. A Board of Enquiry, followed by a Royal Commission found that the work had been poorly supervised, was often inadequate and below acceptable standard, and that there was likely to have been corruption involved. Barnet resigned in disgrace, his fort on Bare Island a white elephant. Ironically it was its poor construction that has kept Bare Island preserved in its original condition, rather than having been upgraded as it would otherwise have been. Apart from the installation of one disappearing  gun and the eventual building of the Barracks, it is almost identical to when it was built.

Despite its reputation as a deathtrap, troops were garrisoned at the fort and operated its five guns from the time of its completion though at gradually reduced levels until 1912. It was then given over to the Veteran s Home Committee to house veterans who had fought in the various wars of the British Empire, including the Sudan, Maori and Indian Wars. The Veterans stayed on the island until 1963, though they did experience a brief period of eviction during World War II. In 1987, Bare Island, now a museum, was gazetted as a Historic Site.
Boora Pt, Long Bay


Built in 1942, the military installations at Long Bay (the suburb, not the bay at Cammeray), Cape Bailly and Cape Banks were two of a number of fortifications built on the coast as first line defence against naval attack by the Japanese. Construction was pre-emptied by Japanese submarine activity off the coast of Sydney in 1941 and 1942 which included a number of homes in the eastern suburbs being shelled and the entry of three minisubs into Sydney Harbour. The Long Bay installation, near Boora Point, consisted of two 9-inch guns which had a range of 26.4 kilometres, a battery of anti-aircraft guns, barracks and an electricity generating plant. Its pair of gun circles are joined by two tunnels. The guns were fed by shell loaders bringing their defensive cargo up from baffled rooms below. They were never fired in anger as no further naval activity by the Japanese off Sydney occurred. The forts were decommissioned after the war.



Located beyond the Anzac Rifle Range, the buildings of the Long Bay fort remain largely intact though in an advanced state of disintegration. A narrow gauge railway leads through a trench from the start of the Gun Circle tunnels, past a few storage buildings to the base of a three storey lookout tower, then on to emerge 400m west of where it started. The tower has lookouts on two levels, a storage room on the other. The mount for a machine gun still sits in the floor of one of the lookouts. A burnt out 1999 Jeep Cherokee sits in a trench, blocking the passage. A small lookout sits at the cliff edge on the flat area of Boora Point where the fight scenes in the movie Mission Impossible 2 were filmed.
Cape Banks


This fort was designed to protect the entrance to Botany Bay during World War II and superseded a smaller fort on Henry Head built in 1893 to supplement the firepower of the nearby Bare Island fort. The Henry Head battery included two 6-inch breech-loading disappearing guns aimed across the mouth of Botany Bay, searchlights and observation posts linked by tunnels. Ruins of the fort remain. Cape Banks armoury included two 9.2 inch disappearing guns as well as a battery of anti-aircraft guns, torpedo launching facilities, barracks, electricity generating plant, hospital and plotting rooms. The fort was de-commissioned after World War II. The remains of the installation are located on the cliffs behind the New South Wales Golf Course.
North Head


Located at North Head, Manly in the Sydney Harbour National Park, the fort was completed in 1938 and was manned continuously until the 1960's. It consisted of two 9.2-inch coastal guns in two emplacements connected by an underground tunnel. The guided guns could rotate 360 degrees and had a range of 27 kilometres. They were supported by two searchlight elements, and three 40 mm Bofors anti-aircraft guns. This battery is today the home of The Royal Australian Artillery National Museum. It contains the history of Australian Gunners and houses a variety of guns from the early colonial period, including medium and heavy field artillery, anti-tank mortars, air defences and coastal artillery. UBD Map 238 Ref C 16

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South Head gun placement

Firing was on Bradleys Head

Garden Island gun placement

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