Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Middle Head Fortifications

The Middle Head Fortification is located at the end of Old Fort Road, Middle Head, Mosman New South Wales. The fortifications at Middle Head formed part of Sydney Harbour's defences.


The site on which the fortifications are built includes all of the fortifications that were built between 1870 and 1911. The site contains the works of several periods and technologies that still exist to this date. Historically it dates from a time when defence was first moved away from Sydney Cove and towards The Heads.

There were three sets of fortifications built in Mosman, New South Wales and Middle Head in the 1870s, these were upgraded in the 1880s on the advice of British experts. These fortifications still exist and are now heritage listed, they are, the Lower Georges Heights Commanding Position‎, the Georges Head Battery and a smaller fort located on Bradleys Head, known as the Bradleys Head Fortification Complex.

1.6middle head tunnel pano

The first battery on Middle Head was built in 1871 and was designed by James Barnet, a colonial architect. The fort was built on a strategic location and received many additions until 1911. It formed part of a network of 'outer harbour' defences. They were designed to fire at enemy ships as they entempted entry through the Sydney Heads. The whole area is linked by an extensive network of underground tunnels, ancillary rooms, gunpowder magazine and a disappearing gun emplacement. The site also has its own underground power room that is supported by iron columns. The gunners Barracks were built from sandstone quarried on site and still exist to this day, they are located on Middle Head concealed in bushland. Underground tunnels and rooms were used to train some of Australia's first troops that were sent to Vietnam in 'Code of Conduct' courses (lessons in how to withstand torture and interrogation) by simulating prisoner of war conditions.

In 1974 the Middle Head fortifications featured in the movie Stone.

In 1979 most of the area became national park and the military has moved on to more strategic locations. The army base on site which included the transport group and 30 Terminal Squadron, left Georges Height's in 1997. The Headquarters Training Command section relocated to the Victoria Barracks in 2002.

The Officers Quarters

The Officers quarters is a Victorian Regency style building that was built on a rough stone base. It was designed by Colonial Architect James Barnet and is considered to be one of the most significant buildings at Middle Head. The site incorporates a defensive ditch or moat and includes a fortification wall. The house looking in the direction of Middle Harbour meant that it could be used for surveillance purposes as well.

One former resident was Major General Sir William Throsby Bridges KCB CMG, the first commander of the Australian Imperial Force and the commander of Australian forces at Gallipoli. Throsby Bridges was killed by a sniper whilst leading the forces at Gallipoli. His warhorse Sandy was brought back to Australia, seeing out its days in Victoria.

Primarily used as a residence this building originally housed two officers separately, a senior and junior officer.

During World War II this building served as a Red Cross Hospital and later as accommodation for the Australian Women’s Army Service. The house continues to be used as a residence.

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