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RAN Armament Depot Kingswood - Chronology

1942

An area of 1100 acres was requisitioned under National Security Regulations in October 1942 for a US Army Ordnance Depot, managed by the US Army Services of Supply (U.S.A.S.O.S.). The depot was used for the storage of chemical weapons (persistent gas-filled artillery projectiles). The explosives area was on the eastern side of Bringelly Road (now The Northern Road), and the camp area on the western side.

1945

The depot was evacuated by the US Army on 28 May 1945. This is the date for administrative purposes; actual evacuation had probably occurred progressively over the preceding months.

It seems likely that the US Army hirings were either immediately transferred to the Navy and RAAF or new requisitions covering the same parcels of land were issued. There are indications that, in Navy's case, this was primarily to accommodate ammunition for the British Pacific Fleet, and was initially regarded as a temporary arrangement.

1946

Kingswood camp buildings on the western side of Bringelly Road were disposed of by auction on the site on 30 October 1946 (except for the garage and police office).

1947

By September 1947, the depot had been emptied, but then refilled with Group VII (mass-detonating, e.g. depth charges) stores from Newington. (RANAD Sydney Newsletter, May 1948).

1948

As at August 1948, Defence were in possession of the following lands under the National Security Regulations:

(Dept of Interior, Property and Survey Branch NSW letter PC 43/468 of 25 August 1948)

On 17 September 1948 the Admiral Superintendent Sydney wrote to the Secretary, Naval Board recommending, in respect of the camp area:

... that the whole of the area in question be now dehired, and that the quarters of the police guard and the petrol bowser which are now located on this area be moved across the road to a site to be determined in the vicinity of the Depot Office in the main depot area. The other remaining building, (garage shed) to be disposed of to Mr. Fowler or as otherwise may be thought fit.

This recommendation would result in one compact area, in lieu of two areas separated by Bringelly Road ...

On 13 December 1948 the Secretary, Naval Board wrote to the Secretary, Department of Air, intimating that Navy wished to take over the RAAF hirings when they were relinquished.

1949

On 20 June 1949 the Secretary, Naval Board wrote to the Secretary, Department of Air proposing to utilise a cottage on the RAAF section as a residence for the Officer-in-charge of the "Naval Section of the Armament Depot".

Changes were afoot to the existing storage safety distances:

"Far-reaching changes appear in the new tables of Safety Distances issued last year by the United Kingdom Committee, following the large scale test explosions conducted in Germany and elsewhere since the war ended. We are now examining our own storages and tonnages to see what the effect would be if the new distances were applied to existing explosives area, and the results to date clearly indicate that we need more room." (Naval Ordnance Branch Newsletter, May 1949)

1950

On 23 May 1950, Secretary, Dept of Air wrote to Secretary, Department of Navy (171/93/1999) pointing out that both Departments had been paying compensation for the incorrect portions of the depot at Kingswood. This letter says "The area coloured yellow was taken over in 1945, by arrangement with your Department, for the storage of R.A.A.F. explosives." (this yellow area was J.G. McLaughlin's 441 acres 2 roods.)

As at 30 June 1950, the depot was storing Depth Charges Mk 7, Bombs 500lb MC Mk 7, Warheads torpedo 21-inch, Squid projectiles and Shell HE SAP 3-inch aircraft rocket. A total of 50 explosives storehouses were in use, although some were empty due to the poor state of road access to them; storehouses were either fibro igloos, Sidney Williams sheds or Masonite prefabricated huts. The storehouses were untraversed.

Admiral Superintendent minute to Flag Officer in Charge, NSW, dated 16 November 1950, confirms that the police quarters had still not been moved across Bringelly Road, due to uncertainty about the future of the depot.

1951

In connection with a request by Dept of Supply for release of Navy magazines at St Marys, Superintending Armament Supply Officer wrote on 23 April 1951 (Superintending Armament Supply Officer to Admiral Superintendent, 1779) that whilst there was 46,000 square feet of storage at Navy's depot at Kingswood, 25,600 square feet of this was in fibro igloos which, because of their small size, shape and low height, had a much smaller capacity than indicated by the floor area.

At some time in 1951 the Secretary, Naval Board, wrote to the Flag Officer-in-charge NSW (3163/114/1) saying "The Naval Board recognises the necessity for reducing stocks at Newington to ready-use requirements, say five thousand tons, and have asked the Department of the Interior to find a site for a new Armament Depot to accommodate main ammunition holdings in the Sydney area." This was later defined as a depot with a capacity of 14,000 tons

Roads and cleanways were laid to the laboratories.

1952

Secretary Naval Board letter to the Captain Superintendent, Sydney (3163/14/36 of 14 January 1952) refers to works being undertaken including provision of traverses for all storehouses at Kingswood. It also affirms that it is policy to develop a new armament depot in New South Wales to permit the reduction of stocks at RANAD Newington and "a requirement to clear Kingswood as soon as possible."

1953

On 5 March 1953 the Secretary, Dept of Navy wrote to the Director of Works, Dept of Works NSW requesting a contour survey of lands "Following a decision to establish a combined R.A.N. - R.A.A.F Explosives Depot at Kingswood ..."

Secretary, Dept of Navy letter to Director General, Dept of Works (3163/14/95 of 12 June 1953) advises of Navy's in principle decision to establish a Naval Armament Depot at Kingswood and itemises in some detail the facilities required. Included is a rail spur line from the main Western railway line, with sidings within the depot. THis line was never constructed, although preliminary route planning was conducted.

1954

Secretary, Dept of Air writes to Director General, Dept of Works (171/89/203 of 25 March 1954) concurring (with minor exceptions) with layout plans NA 9504 and NA 9549 for the explosives and camp areas of the joint RAN/RAAF armament depot and stating that Navy concurs.

1955

Secretary, Dept of Navy letter to Director General, Dept of Works (5073/14/5 dated approximately 12 September 1955) advises that financial restrictions require that initial construction be limited to 2 explosives storehouses for Category Z explosives. Requisition DNW 236/55-56 for £42,600 issued.

1956

On 10 January 1956, during repair of broken filling in a Depth Charge Mk7 by application of heated Composition RD1061, smoke and flame issued momentarily from the filling hole. Consequently, the Naval Board directed that the "improvised huts used as laboratories" were only to be used for visual examination, gauging and venting pending construction of a permanent laboratory. The lack of supervision was also an issue. Subsequently the Superintending Armament Supply Officer sought the establishment of a position of Deputy Armament Supply Officer to provide continuous supervision of the Kingswood depot. This was refused by the Flag Officer in Charge, who commented: "not more supervision, but better supervision in future."

1957

Contract let on 22 October 1957 to A.W. Edwards Pty Ltd of Glebe for the construction of 4 Explosives Storehouses for Category Z explosives. Requisition DNW 151/57-58 refers.

1958

Contract let to W. McNamara Pty Ltd of Riverstone for construction of 1 Painting Room and 4 Laboratory Examination Rooms. Requisition DNW 321/57-58 refers.

1959

Jan-Mar: 4 Category Z storehouses and 5 laboratory buildings were taken over during the qaurter, these being the first permanent buildings at the depot.

Superintending Armament Supply Officer reports on 6 November 1959 that the 4 Storehouses (DNW 151/57-58) are complete except for electrical connection, and that the Laboratory buildings (DNW 321/57-58) will be completed by the end of the month.


1960

Seacat Missile facility completed.

RAN Armament Depot, Sydney - Staffing December 1960

Location Storehouses Road transport Laboratories Foremen
Kingswood 14 4 12 2

1962

441 acres resumed by the Commonwealth for a joint RAN/RAAF demolition range.

1963

2 Detonator Storehouses, and a Magazine Storehouse were completed during the quarter ending 30 June 1963.

1964

A Mess Room was completed during December 1964.

1965

The RANAD Kingswood Flag Pole was erected, and a "Compactus" Guided Missile Storehouse completed during the quarter ending 30 March 1965.

During quarter ending 31 December 1965 a Laboratory Soldering and Vacuum Packing Room and the OIC Residence were completed.

1966

During the quarter ending 30 June 1966, a Heavy Traversed Laboratory, Light Traversed Seacat Weatherproofing Room and a second Residence were completed.

On 17 August 1966 occurred the infamous "Emu" incident, when the RANAD pet emu strayed into the RAAF Domestic Area and was shot - either by the RAAF Commanding Officer, or at his direction.

On 28 September 1966 the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works approved Stages 1 and 2 of the Kingswood expansion. Stage 1 comprised 3 explosives storehouses and various non-explosive facilities; stage 2 comprised 2 explosives storehouses and various non-explosive facilities, including extensions to buildings N12, N13 and a new Mess Room, N59.

On 28 November 1966, E.E. Hambley, General Dynamics engineer commenced Tartar Installation Set to Work.

December: Committee appointed, to be chaired by CAPT B.J. Castles, RAN, "to examine the procedure for the maintenance, overhaul and repair of torpedoes and associated equipments ashore and to recommend to the Naval Board the the future policy to be followed to ensure the greatest efficiency in the supply of these weapons and equipment to the Fleet."

1967

Tartar Facility handed over by Dept of Works during quarter ending 31 March 1967.

Security lighting in Guided Missile Unit completed during quarter ending 30 June 1967

1968

The Castle Committee's deliberations seem to have been remarkably protracted; their initial recommendation in July 1968 was essentially "business as usual". However, reading between the lines, Navy Office politics resulted in a major reworking of the Committee's recommendations, which by October 1968 included (Navy Office letter 2-204-68 of 15 October 1968):

In the event, some of these recommendations were deferred. Navy Office letter of 21 November 1968 advised FOICEAA that:

Buildings N28, N49, N50, N51, N52, N53, N54 and N55 handed over on 16 April 1968.

On 8 July 1968, Assistant Navy Stores Officer, Kevin Campbell died in a vehicle accident on Bringelly Road whilst on his way to work. An RAAF member waiting for the bus was also severely injured.

Mess Room N59 at Kingswood handed over 10 December 1968 (part of stage 2 development).

1969

Explosives Storehouses N56, 57 & 58, extensions to N12, N17 handed over on 7 February 1969 (part of stage 2 development).


1972

21-in Mk 8 torpedo warhead fell from truck inside Kingswood depot and was rendered unserviceable on 4 January 1972

Position of Superintendent Missile and Torpedo Maintenance established - Guided Missile Unit transferred from Superintending Armament Supply Officer on 1 May 1972

1973

New Non-explosives Storehouse N67 occupied on 7 November 1973

New Otto Fuel Store N65 occupied on 16 November 1973

1974

New Administration Building N66 occupied on 23 September 1974

1975

Explosives Storehouses N72 - 74 at Kingswood taken over on 25 November 1975

1988

Bulk stocks of Depth Charges and Mine Disposal Weapons moved from Kingswood to Somerton as a result of storage limitations resulting from the application of new NATO Safety Principles.

COMSARM (COmputer System for ARMaments) implementation completed during the quarter ending 31 December 1988.

2001

24 August 2001: RANAD Kingswood closed; functions were either contracted out, or transferred to new Joint Service units. The site remained in operation as an explosive ordnance storage and maintenance facility.


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Robert Curran
borclaud @ tpg.com.au