Fort Tomaree History

MT. Tomaree History

Fort Tomaree headland

During 1940 Australia was engage in the European and middle east battles in what become know as the second world war.

During the war years steal become a valuable commodity being used in the construction of tanks, bullets, all sorts of vehicles, planes and many other weaponry.

With Japan entering the war in December 7 1941 it became part of the Australian governments defensive plan to protect the coal rich arch from Port Kembla in the south and Newcastle/Port Stephens in the North.

Why?

Because of the steal making facilities found in those regions could become targets for any invading country to target for destruction or capture.

Port Stephens it self was seen as an ideal landing location should such an enemy come ashore. The still natural waterways and harbor offered the invader a wide selection of places to come ashore.

The entrance of the harbor with its narrow passage and high protruding mountains on either side offered a rally point where the Army could pin down and blockade our enemy aggressor.

As 1942 loomed this become the crisis year for Australia as Japan swept through SE Asia pushing aside any opposition in its path and landed on Papua by July of 1942. Invasion seemed imminent for Australia.

Fort Tomaree pre-paired it’s self for invasion by establishing two large 152mm Guns, two 3 pounder guns, torpedo tubes, mortars, machine gun pits, rifle pits, search lights, command posts, observation posts, barbed wire entanglements and troop accommodation.

500 Troops from C Company of the 20th Australian Garrison Battalion defended this headland, while the Navy provide personal for the torpedo’s and the RAAF based at Williamtown manned the radar tower on the summit monitoring aircraft movements at Williamtown and advancing enemy aircraft.

These large 152 breach loading guns, breach loading meaning a projectile is loaded in to the rear of the firing weapon, had a effective firing range of 12.8 Km. These guns fired an armor piercing shell with enough energy to penetrate the armor plating of the warships of that era. These shells where solid in nature and did not have shrapnel inside them due to the purpose of bringing down armored ships and not advancing infantry where the later would be more effective.

What about fast moving ships/vessels?

The QF (quick firing) 3 pounder hotchkiss surf guns provided this cover firing high explosive shells up to 3 Km in range to take down any light fast moving vessel. These guns didn’t have any range finder fitted to them so it was up to the operator to estimate the range of the weapons.

Aerial attacks where to be dealt with by the Anti Aircraft .303 Lewis light automatic gun. There were some 20 of these dotted all over the mountain to protect from low-level air attacks, dive bombing and strafing from enemy aircraft such as the formidable Japanese Zero. This guns where left over relics from the First World War and where prone to jamming and over heating.

The torpedo tube emplacement where an air powered gun and positioned down on the shore line and interestingly enough these particular tubes where remove from here in 1943 after the threat of the Japanese died down with victories at Kokoda, Oivi, Buna, Gona, Sanananda and Milne bay and relocated to Sydney harbor.

This area housed bunkrooms; ammunition bunkers, food and tools to enable the men to be self sufficient should a battle take place.

This entire mountain was manned from 1942 until 1944 when the treat of a Japanese invasion subsided as they where being pushed back in the pacific war until their surrender in 1945.

The material in these rooms was unfortunately recycled in to the building of Tomaree lodge and nothing now remains behind the closed steel doors.

 

Extract from a letter to Prime Minister Menzies from the House of Representatives, Canberra dated 8th November, 1940.

“The then Minister for the Navy, presumably as a considered reply, said that he would not like to attempt to take a ship into Port Stephens as the batteries at Stockton would make the entrance untenable. I find on measuring up the various positions on the map that the distance of these guns from the entrance exceeds the range of the weapons by some 6km.

As you know the munitions and war effort of the Commonwealth largely depends upon the heavy industries situated round the shore of Port Hunter. In addition at Williamtown, some 16km to the north of Newcastle, the Commonwealth has recently built a very large aerodrome. I am aware of the fact that it is for training purposes but nevertheless it is the only aerodrome in the Newcastle District capable of landing machines of the Douglas and Lockheed type. As was demonstrated recently when the party of American journalists visited that city in a Douglas plane. As well there is situated adjacent to it the auxiliary supply of the Hunter River Water Board. From the sand beds here, I understand, the Board proposes to draw 63,000,000 litres of water per day, an amount equal to the Chichester supply, and essential for the industries located at Port Hunter. While at Hexham the supply pipe from Chichester is above ground and could easily be destroyed with a few charges of gun cotton. The whole of this most important area is very vulnerable to any mechanised raiding force landed in Port Stephens. And yet there is nothing to prevent them so landing and nothing to hinder them for many hours in any advance which they might make to destroy the B.H.P. and other works as well as the Aerodrome and waterworks.”