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Spectacle Island People

Listed below are two categories of people. Firstly, those who had "on site" management responsibility for Spectacle Island during its life as an explosives depot to 1999. They are listed in chronological order. Secondly, those who worked or lived on the Island in its earlier days (listed alphabetically).

Foremen of the Colonial Powder Magazine

Royal Navy Gunners-in charge

William Horn, Chief Gunner, RN, 1883 - 1885

Horn was appointed as Officer-in-charge of Ordnance Stores, Sydney in 1880. He was appointed to Spectacle Island when the establishment was taken over by the Royal Navy in 1883. He was promoted to Chief Gunner on 17 November 1883 and remained in charge at Spectacle Island until 1885.

Thomas Larking, Gunner RN, 1885 - 1890 (Date of birth 8 March 1839; seniority as Gunner 7 July 1868)

Larking was appointed as Officer-in-charge of Spectacle Island in 1885, serving until 1890. Thereafter, he served as Chief Gunner of HMS Orlando. He is shown in the Navy List for April 1913 as having been pensioned on 24 September 1891.

Larking and his wife Mary had twin girls, Ivy and Lillian, born at Spectacle Island on 20 December 1888 (Sydney Morning Herald of 21 December 1888)(NSW BDM 261/1889; 262/1889)

Henry Bennett, Gunner RN, 1890 - 1894 (Date of birth 8 April 1849; seniority as Gunner 13 March 1878)

Bennet was appointed as Officer-in-charge of Spectacle Island in 1890. He served in this appointment until 1894.

The Australian Town and Country Journal of 22 October 1892 reported that:

"Mr. and Mrs. Bennett invited over 100 of their friends to their residence at Spectacle island on Saturday, October 8, when a most enjoyable time was spent. The large hall of the store had been converted into a very picturesque ballroom, being beautifully decorated with the ensigns of all nations. Dancing was indulged with great vigor all the afternoon, and several songs were well rendered. At 6.30 the visitors were invited to a repast, which was laid out at the end of the hall. Mr. Murray proposed the health of "Mr. and Mrs. Bennett," to which Mr. Bennett replied in a few well-chosen words, and then proposed the health of "The Ladies," on whose behalf Mr. Starr responded. ..."

Bennett's son Harry died in England on 2 January 1893, aged 19 years, whilst his father held the post at Spectacle Island. (Sydney Morning Herald of 9 January 1893)

An account of a visit to Spectacle Island during Bennett's tenure is available.

Henry Douglas Capper, Gunner RN, 1894-1900 (Date of birth 7 April 1855; seniority as Gunner 12 February 1881)

Henry Douglas Capper, Gunner RN, was appointed as Officer-In-Charge of the Naval Ordnance Depot, Spectacle Island in 1894, following on from Henry Bennett. He was to serve in the post until 1900. Capper was one of the more interesting people to have been associated with Spectacle Island.

Henry and his wife Louisa (nee Parode) had two children whilst living on the Island; another was born at sea on his journey home in 1900. Douglas Parode Capper was born on the Island on 9 July 1898. His sister Bertha was probably also born on the Island in 1896. (NSW BDM 188/1896; 18246/1898)

More information about Henry Capper, Gunner, RN

Samuel Helen, Gunner RN, 1900 - 1904 (Date of birth 12 March 1854; seniority as Gunner 19 July 1881)

Samuel was appointed as Officer-in-charge of Spectacle Island in 1900. He served in this capacity until 1904. Prior to his appointment he was gunner on HMS Curacoa in January 1895 (The Argus of 3 January 1895). The Sydney Morning Herald of 6 May 1905 records the departure of Lieutenant Samuel Helen, RN and Mrs Helen and family from Australia.

Lieutenant-Commander James Creber, Officer-in-Charge 1904 - 1908; 1912 - 1918 (Date of birth 2 August 1857)

From 1904 to 1918 Creber was in charge of Spectacle Island, except for the period 1908-1912 when the position of Officer-in-charge was held by a civilian officer. During this period Creber was the Inspector of Warlike Stores, and he was again in this position in 1920. During the years of World War 1 (1914 - 1918) the position of Inspector is shown as unfilled in the Navy List; possibly Creber performed both roles.

Lcdr James Creber Newspaper notice

From the Sydney Morning Herald, 21 June 1912

Postacrd sent to Mrs Creber in 1909

Postcard sent to Mrs Creber in 1909 - a reminder that for most of its life as an explosives magazine the Island was inhabited by families

More information about James Creber.

Royal Navy Ordnance Store Officer (civilian)

John Gledhill, Esq., 1908 - 1912

Gledhill was the first civilian Officer-in-charge of Spectacle Island, with the rank of Deputy Ordnance Store Officer. He held this position until 1912.

Gledhill was appointed as a Store Clerk in the Naval Ordnance Store Department at Woolwich in January 1892. He was promoted to Examiner in February 1898 and as Assistant Ordnance Store Officer in October 1902. He was awarded an Order of the British Empire in 1918 for wartime services whilst Naval Ordnance Store Officer, Crombie.

Royal Australian Navy Officers-in-charge

Lieutenant Commander John Hayes, RAN 1919-1928

On 9 June 1919 Hayes was appointed as the Naval Ordnance Officer, Spectacle Island, at a salary of £450 per annum, plus £50 per annum in lieu of quarters. There is an indication on his service record that he visited the UK for training in preparation for this posting. He was promoted Lieutenant Commander on the Retired List, with effect from 1 May 1924.

Read more about Hayes' time at HMAS Cerberus.

Lieutenant-Commander John Hayes obituary

From the Sydney Morning Herald, 25 September 1940

More information about John Hayes.

Armament Supply Officers (Civilian)

William Montague (Monty) Hine 1928 - 1951

In August 1921 Hine was appointed as Assistant Armament Supply Officer at Spectacle Island. This position had been created due to the additional work involved in taking over the Newington Magazine. However in October 1922 he was withdrawn for permanent duty at Navy Office, Melbourne.

In 1928, he was appointed as the Armament Supply Officer, Sydney.

"RETIREMENTS On Wednesday, 20th June, 1951, the Canteen at Spectacle Island was crowded to capacity on the occasion of the farewell of Mr. W.M. Hine, Superintending Armament Supply Officer and Mr. W.R. Cox, Armament Supply Officer, on the eve of their retirement from the Department. Presentation gifts subscribed for by members of all sections of the R.A.N. Armament Depots, Sydney, and by branches at Navy Office and Maribyrnong, comprised a Wireless Set and a set of Hair Brushes for Mr. Hine and an Easy Chair for Mr. Cox.

In presenting these gifts, Mr. R.A. Ball, Deputy Director of Armament Supply, referred to the long association - combined years of service of these officers amounting to nearly a century - of these officers with the Department, and the loss of their valuable experience and knowledge would be a severe blow to the Armament Supply Department. Mr. Ball also referred to the close association of the Department with that of the Fleet, and gave an inspiring message to the members of the staff, in respect of their position in the service, each one being a representative and active partner of the Navy. Mr. Ball apologised for the unavoidable absence of Mr. T. J. Hawkins, Secretary, Department of the Navy, and on behalf of the Directors and Staff of the various branches at Navy Office, and all members of the R.A.N. Armament Depots, conveyed to Messrs. Hine and Cox very sincere wishes for a long and enjoyable retirement.

In responding, Mr. Hine and Mr. Cox expressed their appreciation and sincere thanks for the gifts, also tendered thanks to all who had been associated with them during their period of service in which the Armament Supply Department had expanded. Each officer expressed the hope that the loyalty given them by all members of the department, would be accordingly extended to their successors.

In the evening a dinner was held at Sargents, Market Street, Sydney, at which Captain Bryce Morris, Deputy Superintendent, Garden Island, presided. All sections of the depot and various branches of the H.M.A. Naval Establishments, Sydney, were represented. In proposing the toast of the retiring officers, Captain Bryce Morris spoke of the efficient manner in which Mr. Hine and Mr. Cox had carried out the duties of their responsible positions. Mr. T.J. Hawkins, Secretary, Department of the Navy, and Mr. R.A. Ball, Deputy Director of Armament Supply, in supporting the toast also referred to the high standard and qualities of the retiring officers.

In responding, Mr. Hine and Mr. Cox expressed thanks to all for the kindness extended to them that day and for the co-operation given them by all branches and sections of the Department of the Navy, at all times." (RAN Armament Depot Sydney Newsletter August 1951)

More information about William Hine.

W. E. S. Trigg (Admiralty) 21 June 1951 - ?

More information about W. E. S Trigg

William (Willy) M. Thompson, Superintending Armament Supply Officer, 15 November 1951 - 1959

More information about William Thompson

Herbert J. Gardner, Superintending Armament Supply Officer, 4 March 1959 - 1962

More information about Herbert Gardner

Tom A. Dalgleish, Superintending Armament Supply Officer, 24 April 1962 - 1976

More information about Tom Dalgleish

John Miller Blunt, Superintending Armament Supply Officer, 1976 - 1981

More information about John Blunt

Alan S. J. Lane, Supply Manager (Armament) 1981 - ?

Other People


The Sydney Morning Herald of 31 August 1870 contains a list of some exhibits at the Sydney Intercolonial Exhibition. Included is an exhibit comprising "a model of a siege gun, made from spar cut from the rock of Gibraltar, by an artilleryman named Bowen, who has himself served on the Rock, but is now in charge of Spectacle Island."

Brady Family

The Australian Town and Country Journal of 28 November 1874 recorded the birth, on 21 November, of a daughter to Mrs Brady at her residence on Spectacle Island. Unfortunately, this child, Blanche Marie Wynne Brady, died on the Island on 30 June 1876. The death notice in the Sydney Morning Herald records her parents names as Thomas and Maria, whilst the NSW BDM index names them as Thomas James and Marie (NSW BDM 2896/1874).

An article "Sketches in Balmain" in the Australian Town and Country Journal of 15 May 1880 refers to Spectacle Island as being under the supervision of T.J. Brady, so Thomas was presumably the foreman in charge.

The Australian Town and Country Journal of 10 April 1880, under the by-line "Ladies Court" noted "Mrs. Thomas James Brady, Spectacle Island, Parramatta River, pair handworked window curtains - 4th". The Ladies Court was a craft display associated with the Sydney International Exhibition at the Garden Palace.

Albert William Brailey

Brailey was a Royal Navy marine, attached to HMS Penguin, but temporarily attached to the guard at Spectacle Island, who drowned when a naval skiff capsized off the Island on the night of 1/2 June 1911. (Sydney Morning Herald 2 June 1911; 17 June 1911)

Owen Connelly

The Sydney Morning Herald of 22 October 1870, reported the death of Owen Connelly at Spectacle Island:

"On Thursday last died a man named Owen Carroll, aged 35 years, one of the guardsmen at Spectacle island, Parramatta River. He had been ailing for some time past, and was under Dr. O.S. Evans, the visiting surgeon's care. Dr Symes, of the Galatea, visited the deceased, and saw him immediately after death. Deceased had, notwithstanding, been able to attend to his duties up to the time of his death. Dr. Evans stated, in a note to the police, that he last saw the deceased about a month ago, and that he was then suffering from pulmonary disease, as well as disease of the heart. The Coroner, under the circumstances of the case, deeming an inquest unnecessary, gave an order for the burial of the body."

(Death registration NSW BDM 1173/1870)

(Note: The surname "Carroll" as printed in this report is incorrect. The correct name is "Connelly".)

Lieutenant Henry P. Cayley, Inspector of Warlike Stores, 1913

"In 1909 Cayley, now a lieutenant, was posted to the Australian Station as the Royal Navy's inspector of warlike stores. To take advantage of better career opportunities, he resigned in mid-1912 and joined the newly established Royal Australian Navy, retaining the position of inspector of warlike stores; in due course he was appointed lieutenant-commander." (Australian Dictionary of Biography Online Edition - accessed 18 March 2011)

A short biography of Cayley is available in the Australian Dictionary of Biography.

More information about Henry Cayley

William Robert Crane

Crane was a Foreman at Spectacle Island in 1905, according to a report in the Sydney Morning Herald of 14 July 1905. The report concerned the committal of Alfred Brickall on a charge of stealing 54 revolvers from the Island.

The Sydney Morning Herald of 20 August 1918 contained a death notice for Crane. This records that he died at his residence, Leaholme, Ferry-road Drummoyne on 18 August 1918. The notice also states that he had 45 years' service in H.M. Navy.

Curran Family

James Peter Curran is recorded in family documents as living in 1873 on Goat Island, where he was a magazine labourer. In 1880 he was living on Spectacle Island and employed as a warder. The responsibilities of a warder were set down in the Regulations Under the "Gunpowder and Explosive Consolidation Act, 1876:

16. The warder shall patrol the magazine buildings, and see that the instructions given in Regulation 5 are strictly attended to. He must every half-hour strike the bell (giving four blows) during his guard; and every omission of such duty must be noted, and reported by the foreman to the Ordnance Storekeeper. The warder must not allow any person to come within the precincts without authority - must me that no boats anchor or remain within the proclaimed precincts of the magazine, except those duly authorized, in which case they shall be under his supervision - must hail at night all boats or individuals approaching the magazine - report arrival and departures to the Foreman - must we that no spirituous liquors are improperly introduced within the precincts by residents or visitors, - and must see that all lights are put out by 11 p.m. except those in the guard-room, the Foreman's quarters, and in the dwellings of such employees as have obtained permission to have lights on account of sickness.

James had arrived in Australia in 1864 from Enniskillen in County Fermanagh. He married Annie McMahon, a native of Edinburgh, Scotland at Woollahra on 8 September, 1868. They had three children between 1873 and 1883, when Spectacle Island was transferred to the Royal Navy: Elizabeth Mary (1873), Joseph Charles (1876) and Annie Gertrude (1881). Joseph was born on Goat Island; later, as a school child he rowed each day from Spectacle Island to Birchgrove.

Thanks to Charles Curran, AC, for information on the Curran family.

John Galvin

Galvin, a bricklayer's labourer, was severely injured at Spectacle Island in February 1878 when, after setting down a hod full of bricks, he stumbled backwards and fell onto a heap of hardwood joists. Galvin sustained head injuries, but was treated by a Dr. Smith, medical officer of the RM steamer Zealandia and by Dr. Evans, the "visiting surgeon of the Island" and recovered sufficiently to be sent home 2 days later. (Sydney Morning Herald, 19 February 1878).

Lieutenant Commander John Henry Gill, RAN

Gill was born at Port Adelaide, South Australia on 29 October 1880. His RAN service record suggests that he commenced naval service on 19 July 1904 with the Royal Navy; another possibility is that it was with the Commonwealth Naval Forces. He joined the RAN on 1 January 1913 as a Petty Officer and was promoted as Gunner on 17 October 1914, Mate on 1 April 1920, Lieutenant on 1 April 1921 and Lieutenant Commander (Retired List) on 1 April 1929. Most likely died 7 January 1971 (NSW BDM 42891/1971) although this requires confirmation.

More information about John Gill

John Gwynneth

John Gwynneth was the lead contractor for the construction of the colonial powder magazine in 1863.

George Halse

Halse was fatally injured in an accidental explosion on the Island in 1900.

Chief Armourer Harvey

The Western Mail of 27 June 1913 reported the transfer of Harvey from the District Naval Officer's staff in Western Australia, to Spectacle Island.

James Gorman, V.C., Foreman, 1881-1882

James Gorman VC, a hero of the Crimean War, took up the position as the foreman of the magazines on Spectacle Island in 1881. Read more about James Gorman and his remarkable life, by courtesy of author Harry Willey, whose 20 year's of research into James Gorman's life enabled the true story to be told.

James Gorman, V.C.

Lieutenant Edward Harvey, R.N., Inspector of Warlike Stores (Date of birth 4 July 1858; seniority as Lieutenant 30 June 1882)

Harvey was Inspector of Warlike Stores for a period ending in 1897.

Thomas Peirce

Thomas Peirce was resident on Spectacle Island when his daughter Harriet married B. Colley of Balmain on 14 August 1880. (Sydney Morning Herald of 28 August 1880)

Charlotte Rochford

Charlotte Rochford was named as the victim of an alleged rape by Thomas Lee at Spectacle Island in 1864, although the charge was later dismissed. At least one other source refers to women living in tents on the Island during its construction.

"... CAPITAL OFFENCE. - At the Water Police Court, Sydney on Thursday, Thomas Lee, contractor, was charged with the commission of a rape upon Charlotte Rochford, a married woman, on the morning of the 6th instant, in a tent at Spectacle Island, Parramatta River. ..."(The Maitland Mercury & Hunter River General Advertiser, 26 January 1864)

Thomas Lee placed advertisements for quarrymen to work on the Island in December 1863. In February 1864 a similar advertisement was placed by John Gwynneth, the lead contractor.

William Thornton

John Gwynneth went bankrupt with the work only partially completed and despite a request from the Official Assignee that the contact not be re-tendered, this course of action was taken and a contract for completion was let to Mr. William Thornton on 21 November 1864 for the sum of £4,450.

Lieutenant Arthur Hearle Tremayne, RN (Date of birth 29 September 1868; seniority as Lieutenant 14 January 1890)

Tremayne was the Inspector of Warlike Stores in 1905.

Walne Family

William Henry Walne is known to have had a child born on Spectacle Island in 1891 (Archibald Frederick David Walne, born 1 April 1891 - NSW BDM 1213/1891).

Walne (the father) was born on 7 February 1849 at Pulham St Mary, Norfolk, UK and entered the naval service as a Boy 2nd Class 0n 29 October 1863; his initial posting was to HMS Caledonia, a training ship. He volunteered for 10 years continuous service, probably as a Seaman Gunner, on 7 February 1867.

Walne volunteered for 5 years service at Spectacle Island commencing 27 January 1887. He was then a Petty Officer Class 1 and Gun Captain, and already due for a pension. His service record is noted that the time served in Australia was not to count towards an increased pension. Although his record shows posting to ships such as HMS Nelson and HMS Orlando, this does not necessarily mean that he had sea time on them. It was the custom at that time for men posted to Sydney to be "borne" on the books of the flag ship for administrative purposes.

Image of William Walne's service record

Part of William Henry Walne's Service Record Covering Years Spent in Australia

The final entry on Walne's service record is dated August 1892, and shows him posted to "shore, no longer required". He had presumably returned to England by the time a daughter, Alice Ann Louisa, was born on 21 February 1894. He and his wife Annie Comber were married in Balmain in 1889. It's likely that they were resident on the Island at the time of his Australian children's birth. There were several residences at that time, in addition to that of the Officer-in-charge. (Read an account of a visit to the Island around the time of Archie's birth or the reminiscences of an Officer-in-charge of that era.)

The child Archibald (Archie) enlisted in the Royal Navy for 12 years on 1 April 1909. He served as a signalman on many ships, culminating in a posting to HMAS Anzac on 27 January 1920 (National Archives UK ADM/188/421). This posting seems to have been a "loan" posting to the Royal Australian Navy. He was discharged from the Royal Navy on 31 March 1921.

Archie's RAN Service Record shows service as a Leading Signalman on HMAS Anzac, HMAS Adelaide and at HMAS Cerberus. (NAA A6770 - WALNE A F D). He died by drowning at Glen Innes in 1924, whilst trying to swim across a river to attach a line. According to a newspaper account of his drowning (Brisbane Courier, 25 January 1924) he had served on HMS Shannon at the Battle of Jutland. This statement is consistent with his service record, which shows him posted to HMS Shannon between April 1914 and January 1918. HMS Shannon formed part of the 2nd Cruiser Squadron at Jutland.

William and Annie also had a second child, William Sydney James, born 1 December 1889 (NSW BDM 51/1890). This child presumably also spent time on Spectacle Island, and may also have been born there. He also engaged for 12 years service, on 1 December 1907, as a signalman in the Royal Navy; this was followed by a career after 1918 in the Royal Air Force and Royal Australian Air Force prior to and during World War 2. William Walne, then a Flying Officer (Observer) was one of 21 foundation officers of the RAAF when it was formed on 31 March 1921 (Douglas Gillison, Royal Australian Air Force 1939-1942, Australian War Memorial, 1962 p. 16 note 2). Willam Walne was discharged from the RAAF Staff School as a Squadron Leader on 24 Jul 1946.

Photo of William Walne

William Sydney James Walne whilst in Royal Navy service

Thanks to Kevin Comber for the photograph and information on the Walne family. National Archives UK - Catalogue References :ADM/188/16 and ADM/139/673 also refer.

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