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 Site Content Last Updated: 8 September 2017
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Royal Australian Navy Armament Depots

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Fire-ball, (fr. bombe): a bomb-shell, or grenade, with fire issuing from a hole in the top. (Parker's Heraldry) - used in some RANAD badges. The "fouled anchor" denotes the Navy.

Introduction

This website contains historical information about Royal Australian Navy (RAN) Armament Depots and the Armament Supply Branch of which they were part.

To provide an historical context, it also contains information about:

Of the Armament Depots listed below, only two now perform their original function; much of their distinctive technology and workplace culture has now disappeared. This website has been compiled to record some of their history before it passes beyond memory.


The term "Armament Supply Branch" is used in the broadest sense to refer to those organisations that, during the 20th century, were responsible for the provision of ammunition and weapons to the ships of the RAN. It includes Navy Office organisations such as the Naval Ordnance Branch and its successors plus the various field organisations such as Ordnance Depots, Armament Depots, Weapon Equipment Depots, Mine Depots and Torpedo Depots.

The page on the RAN Armament Depot Sydney provides an historical overview of depots located in New South Wales.


Dedication

"These pages are dedicated to all those assistants (armament), storehousemen and women, laboratorymen and women, horse drivers, motor vehicle drivers, lightermen, deckhands, coxswains, examiners, artisans, armourers, artificers and tradesmen and women whose labour, often under primitive working conditions, supplied and maintained the ammunition and weapons of the Royal Australian Navy during most of the 20th century. Their names rarely appear in the historical record, but they were a foundation on which the achievements of the Armament Supply Branch rest. "


The Depots

Dot point  Brisbane, Queensland (Armament Depot)


Dot point  Byford, Western Australia (Mine Depot/Armament Depot)


Dot point  Darwin, Northern Territory (Torpedo Depot)


Dot point  Darwin (Frances Bay and Snake Creek), Northern Territory (Armament Depot)


Dot point  Fyansford, Victoria (Mine Depot)


Dot point  Garden Island, Western Australia (Armament & Weapon Equipment Depot)


Dot point  Garden Island, New South Wales (Weapon Equipment Depot)


Dot point  Garden Island, New South Wales (Gunmounting & Torpedo Depot)


Dot point  Jervis Bay, New South Wales (Armament Depot - planned, but not constructed)


Dot point  Kingswood, New South Wales (Armament Depot)


Dot point  Kingswood, New South Wales (Missile Maintenance Establishment)


Dot point  Maribyrnong & Somerton, Victoria (Armament Depot)


Dot point  Newington, New South Wales (Armament Depot)


Dot point  North Sydney (Neutral Bay), New South Wales (Torpedo Depot)


Dot point  North Sydney (Neutral Bay), New South Wales (Torpedo Establishment)


Dot point  Pinkenba, Queensland (Torpedo Depot)


Dot point  Preston Point, Western Australia (Torpedo Depot)


Dot point  Spectacle Island, New South Wales (Armament Depot)


Dot point  Sydney, New South Wales (Armament Depot)


Dot point  Swan Island, Victoria (Mine Depot)


Arisings

Dot point  Take a photographic tour through the RAN Armament Depots of the mid-20th Century.

RAN Armament Depot Photo Album circa 1949-1953

Dot point  Allowing for some special pleading (it was, after all, just 5 days since the Japanese surrender), and the writing style of the time, Ball's paper comprehensively described exactly what a Naval Armament Depot of the mid-20th century did.

What Did the Naval Armament Depots Do?

Dot point  All RAN Armament Depots included workshops for repairing, maintaining and assembling ammunition. Until comparatively recently, these were known as "laboratories".

Ammunition Repair and Maintenance

Dot point  The term "Sydney Ammunition Pipeline" came into use during the 1980s as a convenient way of denoting the complex of storage and maintenance depots and transport routes that terminated at naval ships moored at the Man of War anchorage ammunitioning buoys in Sydney Harbour.

The Sydney Ammunition Pipeline


In January 1853, Henry David Thoreau was in the vicinity when a gunpowder mill near Concord, Massachusetts, blew up. On the ground shortly after, he described the scene in his Journal, concluding with the observation "Put the different buildings 30 rods apart and then but one will blow up at a time."

Armament Depot Layout, Quantity Distances and Explosives Classification


Dot point  An SOS was sent from the ship, to which HMAS Quickmatch and HMS Cavendish responded; Quickmatch recovering the survivors and Cavendish attempting to fight the fire. By the time Woomera sank a head count had shown that two ratings were missing.

HMAS Woomera Sinking - 1960


Dot point  When Clark first arrived at Newington, the storehouses were still under construction and much ammunition was field stored under tarpaulins or corrugated iron sheets.

The US Navy Magazine at Newington


Dot point  "On April 22nd 1947, at a General Meeting of Depot employees it was resolved to inaugurate a fund, by voluntary subscription, to be known as a "Food for Britain Fund" for the purchase and despatch of Food Parcels to Armament Depots in England."

Affiliations with the Royal Navy and Admiralty


Dot point  According to a report of a NSW Supreme Court case published in the Sydney Morning Herald of 30 April 1946, an area of 1100 acres at Kingswood was requisitioned by the Minister for the Army under National Security Regulations in October 1942 for a US Army chemical weapons depot.

US Army Ordnance Depot, Kingswood


Dot point  Wadmiltilt - a strong woollen cloth covering used to shield gunpowder barrels during transport, or the floor of a laboratory whilst handling loose gunpowder.

Armament Depot Jargon


Dot point  "Because of the war demands of the Royal Australian Navy, a tremendous expansion has taken place at the naval armament depots in Sydney. This expansion is proceeding rapidly. More than 100,000 has been spent in the construction of magazines and ammunition storehouses ... ."

Preparing for War


Dot point  Some pioneers of the Armament Supply Branch, who arrived early and stayed late:


Dot point  With the RN Eastern Fleet base in Ceylon under threat, the Admiralty decided to relocate the gun and ammunition reserves for the Fleet to Australia, and these were soon on the water.

The Experience of War at Sydney - 1939 to 1945


Dot point  The Australian Navy's armament supply organisation was largely civilian-manned from its inception. Immediately after World War 2 proposals were put forward for the future training of executive officers of the RAN Armament Supply Department.

A Course of Instruction in Armament Supply


Dot point  The transfer of Spectacle Island from the Royal Navy to the Royal Australian Navy in 1913 coincided with the creation of the RAN's Naval Dockyard Police branch. From that time until the island ceased to be involved in ammunition logistics during the 1990s, security was provided by a Naval Dockyard Police complement.

Guarding the Explosives


Station Monograms

What is this?


Colonial Gunpowder Magazines of Sydney

The information about the colonial gunpowder magazines of Sydney has now been transferred to a separate section of this website.


Acknowledgements

Permission given by MAPCO : Map And Plan Collection to reproduce portion of an 1836 Plan Of Sydney With Pyrmont is gratefully acknowledged, as is the use of material derived from the National Library of Australia's Trove database, and the National Archives of Australia. Thanks also to Peter Dean, for services rendered. Other individual acknowledgements are given on the page where the material appears.


Archiving

This website has been selected by the Australian War Memorial to be archived in perpetuity in the National Library of Australia's Pandora archive. It is also archived by the Internet Archive (use the Wayback Machine to search for URL http://users.tpg.com.au/borclaud/index.html).


Feedback

If you can contribute photographs, information or personal stories to these pages - or to be notified when new content is added to the website - please email the author, who is a former member of the Armament Supply Branch. Email borclaud @ tpg.com.au



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Robert Curran
borclaud @ tpg.com.au