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RAN Armament Depot Newington in 1937

A site plan of Newington dated 22 November 1937 delineates the extent of the depot at that time. (National Archives of Australia SP394/1; NL24/1710).

All of the original buildings constructed in 1897-1898 were still in use with the exception of the guncotton magazine which had been replaced by a Group VI QF cartridge store (8). In the same vicinity was a Group XIII explosive store for ammunition containing corrosive substances (7). Building 8 was serviced by the rail spur line running south-westward from the wharf; building 7 appears to have been connected to rail later by an extension from building 8. The powder magazine was now a Group VI QF cartridge store (20). South of the powder magazine, a new building (21) was used as a Group XII explosive store.

At the wharf were an office, a return store (15) at the eastern end, and a smoke float store (13) at the western end. An articles in use hut stood between the wharf and the cooperage or gatehouse. To the east of the wharf, and close to the river was a detonator store (16). This store and building 7 were the only explosives buildings not connected by rail.

The laboratory precinct nearest the wharf (later known as Laboratory "A") included the original laboratory (140) and examining room (142). The western side of the cooperage (143) was being used as a QF cartridge assembly room and senior examiner's office, whilst the eastern side was used as a shell extracting room. The original guardhouse (139) was a foreman's office, shifting room and bath room. A laboratory tool shed stood opposite the laboratory to the east.

Near the present "five ways", building 24 served as a Group VI explosive store for boxed shell, whilst building 30, to the east of the "five ways" was a Group V explosive store for loose shell. Between the two shell stores had been erected what was later known as Laboratory "D", comprising a paint store, a shell marking room (129), a shell scraping room (128) and a warhead examining room (127). Beyond building 30 a spur line entered the present forest area where a Group XI explosive store (later the isolation magazine, building 31), was located.

Further east was the later Laboratory "B", then comprising 3 examining rooms. Beyond Laboratory "B" the rail line divided, with one line heading north and one south. On the north spur, and well into the wetlands was a Group VIII bomb store (33). On the south spur were successively a Group IV magazine for chemical ammunition(36), a Group II magazine for wet guncotton (37), a Group I magazine for gunpowder (38) and a Group VII store for warheads (39).

Domestic buildings additional to those constructed in 1897-1898 comprised a mess room with depot bell (5), police office (1), depot garage, stable, transformer station, empty package store and Works Department shed. The empty package store would be relocated c. 1939 from its position opposite the Warrant Officer's quarters to a new site near the "five ways" where it is now building 22, the Armory theatre.

The connection of the depot to the external road system did not occur until about this year (not earlier than April 1937), although a "track" had existed for some time through the lands of the adjacent Hospital. (National Archives of Australia SP394/1; NL24/1710)

The site plan also locates some proposed buildings that comprised conversion of the bomb store (33) to a fuze store, a small arms ammunition (SAA) magazine and tube store north of the bomb store and a pyrotechnics store further north again. The pyrotechnics store was later constructed (34) however the SAA magazine and tube store, when later constructed as building 35, was situated near where the two spur lines diverged. Also proposed was an isolation store (never constructed) and additions to Laboratory "B".

An undated site plan from about the same period shows an intention, never carried out, to construct a rail line direct from the wharf across the wetland to the vicinity of the Bomb store. Along the line there was to be "No. 1 BL Magazine" (i.e. cordite magazine) and half-way across a Laboratory with 4 examining rooms and a shifting room. Present building 18 may be the only part of this concept to have been constructed. Magazines for cordite were subsequently constructed on a new spur line cut into the southward slope of the forest area (42-45), together with a new Laboratory "C" just south of Laboratory "D". (National Archives of Australia SP394/1; NL24/1710)

All building numbers shown above are present numbers. For information on subsequent development of the depot, visit The Experience of War at Sydney - 1939 to 1945 page.

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Robert Curran
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