Monday, June 25, 2012

Sydney's Defences in World War Two - North Fort

View from North Head looking down Sydney Harbour - June 2012
On Sunday afternoon, we went on a most interesting tour of North Head Sanctuary on the northern headland of the entrance to Sydney Harbour.

The tour was sponsored was the Historic Houses Trust of New South Wales and was conducted by two volunteers from the Sydney Harbour Federation Trust which now has responsibility for this section of the Headland.

The present day history of this area began in the 1930's with its fortification as part of the Australian coastal defence network established in the build-up to World War Two.

North Fort was built with a battery of two 9.2 inch Coastal guns and four 3.7 inch heavy artillery anti-aircraft guns. There was a extensive network of underground tunnels; a plotting room to interpret any intelligence received; a Shell Store and Engine Room - all concreted some 6 metres underground. It was one of the most heavily fortified sites in Australia in World War Two.

The following photos are from the gun battery complex:

No 2  Gun Placement- North Head June 2012

Cross Section of the Gun Complex

Site of the Gun Placement

Shell Store - could hold  250 shells when fully stocked

Underground tunnel - North Fort June 2012
Above ground again, we came upon:

The Close Defence Battery Observation Post which was manned generally at night or for close defence actions and could be used in conjunction with searchlights mounted in the cliff face on North Head.
Close Defence Battery Observation Post

The Avenue of Honour - a cobblestone avenue created in 1928 as a memorial to local soldiers killed in the First World War. It was originally lined with Norfolk pines and today straddles a stone perimeter fence built in the Great Depression.

Avenue of Honour
The second major pre-war establishment on the North Head site was the Army Base for the gunners serving at North Fort. It consisted of a huge barracks, a Sergeants' Mess and other auxilliary buildings, an oval and a parade ground. The Art Deco style entrance to the Barracks is shown in the photo below. 
Main Entrance to the Barracks Building
At the end of the War, the Army Barracks complex became the School of Artillery which remained there till 1998 when it was moved to Pukapunyal in Victoria.

The old North Fort today houses the National Artillery Museum which was established in 1990.

As a postscript to the day, we saw the Chilean Navy tall ship Esmeralda sailing out of Sydney Harbour on a training voyage.

Esmeralda sailing out of Sydney Harbour - 24 June 2012

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