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RAN Armament Depot Maribyrnong - Chronology

1936

The Naval Armament Depot, Maribyrnong, came into being on 1st January, 1936, to provide liaison with the Department of Supply & Development (then the Department of Munitions) and to receive and issue stores etc. in connection with production of Navy stores in the various factories.

1948

"A furnace has been designed and erected at Somerton magazine area for disposal of small arm ammunition and like stores by burning. The furnace consists of an empty mine, the door for recovery of produce and lighting the fire being cut from the mine casing itself, thus ensuring a snug fit. The mine is fitted with a chimney to create a draught, and a feed pipe is led into the top of the mine at an angle of approximately 45 degrees, the operator being protected by an obsolete gun shield. The fire, once started, can thus be replenished by way of the feed pipe, and cartons of small arm ammunition and other stores suitable for burning, such as signal cartridges, etc., can be fed into the furnace with complete safety." (RANAD Maribyrnong Newsletter, August 1948).

1949

Decision to store Group VII (high explosive underwater weapons) at Somerton. A proposal was also developed for a heavy traversed laboratory room to be constructed rather than at Longlea as previously proposed. This was to be used for ammunition such as Squid projectiles.

"13. Advice has now been received from the Army that that Department will release some of the buildings it now occupies at the Somerton magazine area in June and that the policy is to vacate all buildings by the end of 1949. ... (Naval Ordnance Branch Newsletter, February 1949)

A 100-ton ammunition lighter was to be towed from Sydney to Swan Island to ease the problems being experienced in loading and unloading ammunition in the Melbourne area.

A proposal to convert one of the Army huts at Somerton into a residence was being developed.

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)

1951

In conjunction with the Officer-in-Charge and Staff of the R.A.N. Mine Depot, M.F.A. "Fort Langley" was loaded at Geelong with 1750 tons of non explosive and 1100 tons of explosive stores. Fortunately all non-explosive stores could be loaded alongside owing to the fact that the ship was not carrying explosives on arrival. A large fleet of motor transport from the Department of Supply was used for this operation which involved haulage from Swan Island, Bulk Store Geelong, and Maribyrnong. The explosives were loaded at an anchorage approximately 2 miles in a northerly direction from the city. Again motor vehicles were used to transport stores from Bendigo, Maribyrnong and Derrimut to Swan Island, where they were loaded into lighters and the towed by tugs to either the ship's side or Reserve Ships as required. The whole operation took 7 weeks including Saturday mornings and Sundays. The average daily tonnage handled per gang was 25 tons. This extremely slow rate ..." (RANAD Maribyrnong Newsletter, February 1951)
"As this was the first Summer Season that we have been in sole occupancy of the Somerton Magazine Area, opportunity was taken, as soon as the grass was sufficiently dry, to burn-off the whole of the Area. This was done in sections and completed over a period of about a week. As a result the danger to buildings in the Area from grass fires has been negligible during this particularly hot season." (RANAD Maribyrnong Newsletter, February 1951)

An additional 1,100 acres of land was being acquired; in this year Housing Commission plans to acquire property for housing in the vicinity were announced.

A restowage of the Somerton depot was undertaken, in part to reduce stocks at Longlea. As part of this project, the floors of the Sidney William storehouses were being concreted.

1952

The organisation for Gunnery Equipment was being changed:

"Following the recent appointment of a G.E.S.O. at Maribyrnong, Naval Armament Stores will be separated - administratively from Gunnery Equipment for the first time. Geographically, they will still be in the same Depot area. N.A.S.O. will continue to look after such things as pay, works, transport, local purchases, etc. for the Gunnery Equipment Depot." (Naval Ordnance Branch Newsletter,February 1952)

March: The Foreman's residence at Somerton Magazine was completed and occupied.

A 35-passenger bus was received for transporting staff to and from the Somerton Magazine.

1953

Operations at Longlea Magazine were terminated:

"Our staff at Longlea was withdrawn on 30th September. By then, all stores had been moved to Somerton, except some Group 3 which will be concentrated in one magazine." (RANAD Byford Newsletter, August 1953)

1954

The first section of roads at Somerton Magazine were sealed; a further two sections were to follow. Additional water tanks were also installed.

"Maribyrnong was one of the areas adversely affected by a severe rain storm on 3rd December and in this Depot the Gunwharf Store, Paint Store and Garage were flooded to a depth of up to eighteen inches. The main damage occurred in the Gunwharf Store where all items stowed within eighteen inches of the floor were submerged either wholly or partially. All affected items have now been cleaned off and re-preserved, but it kept all hands, including those borrowed from other sections fully occupied for several weeks." (RANAD Maribyrnong Newsletter, February 1955)

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Robert Curran
borclaud @ tpg.com.au