New South Wales

Botany Bay Part 4

LINKS to other pages in the New South Wales website and the Colin Day Travelling Days series:

NSW Home Page
1 : Cook's Landing
2 : First Fleet and Sir Joseph Banks
3 : Daniel Solander and Cook Museum
4 : Bare Island and Cape Banks


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The information that follows was obtained from the Wikipedia free encyclopaedia website, the Fairfax Australian Travel Guide, The City of Botany Bay website :

The La Perouse peninsula is the northern headland of Botany Bay. It is notable for its old military outpost at Bare Island and the Botany Bay National Park (Cape Banks). La Perouse is one of few Sydney suburbs with a French title, another being Sans Souci. Kurnell is located opposite, on the southern headland of Botany Bay. The view of the Cook landing site (above) was taken from La Perouse.

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The small island, just inside the heads was described by Captain James Cook as ‘a small bare island’. Bare Island was fortified in 1885 according to a design by colonial architect, James Barnet (1827-1904). In 1912 Bare Island became a retirement home for war veterans, which continued to operate until 1963 when it was handed over to the New South Wales Parks and Wildlife Service for use as a museum and tourist attraction.

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Apart from Bare Island there are two other forts located in La Perouse, one of them is Fort Banks, located on Cape Banks. This facility was part of the Eastern Command Fixed Defences unit and was constructed for the purpose of defending the approaches to Botany Bay during the World War II peroid. The other fortification located in La Perouse is the Henry Head Battery and was also re-utilized during the Second World War.

In 1870, the Cardwell reforms of the British Army meant that British garrison troops withdrew from Australia. The British Colonial Office insisted that wealthier colonies such as New South Wales and Victoria should pay more of their own defence costs.

In 1871 a number of new defences for the outer harbour were built. They were immediately out of date, especially as the development of armaments continued into the 1880s. Two military advisers, Scratchley and Jervois, were sent out in the mid-1870s to coordinate the defence of the colonies. Their aim was to make sure that colonial defences had an imperial focus, rather than serving local interests. Among other things, Scratchley and Jervois designed a fort at Bare Island to defend the southern approaches to Botany Bay which served until after World War I, with some modification and upgrading. .

In the 1920s the development of the fortress system reached its peak. Around Sydney there were two 9.2-inch gun batteries of two guns each at North Head and Cape Banks. These batteries were supported by smaller guns along the coast. There was also an interlocking system of observation posts and communication and command structures. Together, these meant that the entire coast from Broken Bay to Royal National Park was protected. The defence works developed during this period are well-engineered, solidly constructed, and well-sited. They contrast with the fortifications thrown up during the course of the Second World War.

After the declaration of war in 1939, some defences were constructed. When Japan entered the war in late 1941 temporary gun emplacements were set up along the coast. In Sydney Harbour, garrison companies were recruited to guard strategic installations including the forts, anti-aircraft guns and searchlights.

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Fort Banks (right) is the old bunker and fortification complex that was used to protect the approaches to Botany Bay Fortifications built during World War II were put up quickly, and have deteriorated quickly. It is estimated that of about one hundred anti-aircraft positions and searchlight positions, less than half a dozen remain. Almost nothing of the hundreds of kilometres of barbed wire laid during the war survives. Some of the fortifications have been used as film sets – most recently Bare Island in Mission Impossible II.

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