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Georges Head Battery and Chowder Bay Mining Depot

Georges Head Battery

Georges Head Battery is located on the northern shore of Port Jackson (Sydney Harbour), between Obelisk and Chowder Bays.

According to Peter Oppenheim, about 1919:

"The 6-pounder guns which had been mounted in the Armoured Casemate at George's Head in 1906 were removed and the large magazines and casemated emplacements were then used for storage of army material until the 1950s/1960s."

(Peter Oppenheim, The Fragile Forts: The Fixed Defences of Sydney Harbour 1788-1963, 2004, P. 203)

The magazine of the Georges Head battery was used from about 1919 onwards for storage of the overflow of naval explosives from Spectacle Island and, later, Newington.

The stores originally sent there were the property of the Imperial (i.e. British) government and comprised the outfits returned post-war by Defensively Armed Merchant Ships and HMS Suva. Also stored there were surplus explosive stores which were part of the original reserves for HM Fleet.

The 3-compartment magazine was situated on the eastern slope of Georges Head and was semi-underground, i.e. constructed in an excavation and roofed with a concrete slab. A caretaker's cottage adjoined.

In 1935, the only ammunition recorded as being there were Cartridges, Q.F. with igniters.

Photo of Georges Head Battery

Photo of Georges Head Battery (Found in the Armament Supply Officer's Papers)

The magazine was still in use in 1936 but its use appears to have been discontinued by the outbreak of war in 1939. The Armament Supply Officer is known to have been unhappy about the safety and security of the Battery, surrounded as it was by highly inflammable bushland, and in an isolated and relatively unguarded area.

Map of Georges Head

Map Showing Location of Georges Head Battery (Found in the Armament Supply Officer's Papers)

Chowder Bay Mining Depot

In 1923 portion of the Submarine Mining Establishment at Chowder Bay, which is adjacent to the Georges Head Battery, was made available by the Army for the storage of naval explosives.

The buildings comprised the mine stores, dry guncotton store, miscellaneous stores, boat house, cable tanks and jetty.

The Director of Ordnance, Torpedoes and Mines (Commander Alick Stokes) was less than enthusiastic about the offer which was apparently related to the acquisition of the "H" mines in 1920. Stokes considered the site unsuitable as it did not conform to the outside safety distance regulations and was too cramped to permit the efficient operation of a mine depot. He accordingly recommended to the 1st Naval Member that the storage be used for stores which could be removed in case of emergency to permit its use for the storage of "Ready for Issue" mines which had been prepared at Swan Island. It was also considered useful as a storage for "L" mines (a controlled mine) in the event that these were obtained for the local defence of Sydney.

It seems unlikely that the site was used for naval mines, although it was used to at least 1935 for the storage of smoke floats. (SC227/1/330 1923; SC227/1/330 of 2/7/1923 DOTM to 1stNM)

For further information about storage of naval mines, visit the Swan Island Mine Depot page.

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Robert Curran
borclaud @ tpg.com.au