|09- Defence Tunnels|
|The army has its own network of tunnels
under gun emplacements at Cape Banks and at I North, South, and Middle
Heads. Some of them were built in the 1870s and modified for .,, use during
the Second World War to store ammunition for the huge guns then in use. At
North Head a lone pillbox midway down the ninety-metre cliff is a reminder
of the Second World War. During this time, it was reached by a tunnel cut
through the sandstone. Huge guns able to hit targets as far away as the
mouth of the Hawkesbury River
were positioned in the scrub ready to repulse invaders.
The army's presence in peacetime has helped preserve the Head almost as a wilderness area. An area of marshland near the barren cliff edge is home for scores of wild ducks and other-birdlife. It is also the refuge for hundreds of rabbits. The area has been so little used in the past that in 1978 the army discovered a shallow cave in the hillside containing the skeleton of a man who died there some 30 years before. Remnants of the man's few $1 possessions, including a rusting typewriter, provided no clues to his identity. His name as well as his reason for being in the cave, are likely to remain a mystery. '
The fortifications around the Middle Head are much older. The first fortifications in Mosman were built at Bradleys Head as a result of an "American invasion" during 1839. A squadron of American warships sailed unobserved into Port Jackson and dropped anchor amongst ships moored there. The Commander of the squadron made it plain that every ship in the harbour could have been sunk and Sydney razed to the ground before an enemy sailed out unscathed. The result of this was the building of a gun pit and a wall at Bradleys Head.
During 1870 this fortification was improved largely as a result of a fear of Russian invasion. It was after the Crimean War that the Russians commenced sending naval vessels on long distance training voyages. Visits to Sydney in 1863 were greeted with some show of fear as evidenced by a letter to the Sydney Morning Herald entitled "Look Out!" wherein it was claimed that Russian warships were taking more than a usual interest by surveying our coasts and inlets. It was in 1801 that a concept of a battery at Georges Head was relayed by Governor Kine to the Duke of Cumberland. The initial work was carried out by convict labour and the battery was completed by 1803, but it was not until the "Russian scare" that further work was carried out on the batteries which had become neglected in the intervening years. Later, during 1872, the present Casement battery using the cliff face as armour plating was constructed. As well as the Casement battery on the shoreline, further stone
barracks and fortifications were built on the top of Georges Head. These are connected by tunnel to the lower batteries on the shoreline.
The construction was instigated by the State Government during the premiership of Sir James Martin. The resulting roads built to serve these fortifications were to help in the development of the Mosman district.
A further system of tunnels was set up in the 1870s on Middle Head and these were added to until the end of the Second World War. The original gun emplacements were designed to overlook Middle Harbour and prevent an attack from the rear. The tunnels
Carved out of the solid sandstone were for storing ammunition and also for protection from enemy guns. Recent uses of these tunnels were made during the Korean and Vietnam 1 I
Guns once protruded from the cliffs at Georges Head to fire at enemy ships at about the water line. The guns are gone, only the holes and the tunnels dug in the cliff behind survive wars to train intelligence operators in what they could expect if they were captured by the Communist forces. The volunteers for the course were taken to the tunnels where they were kept in the dark for three days solitary confinement before being "questioned".
The guns were removed after the Second World War; but the emplacements with their network of tunnels are still there. Some will continue to remain inside Army boundaries. Thy best preserved are those located beside the WRAAC officers' mess. Others are on land which is part of Sydney Harbour National Park. The lower casement battery on the water line is also on national parkland. The holes in the cliff have been barred up. The larger upper Casement batteries are used as a storage area by the army and public access is prohibited.
South Head has a less elaborate system of gun emplacements. It was first fortified at the same time as Middle Head because of the American "invasion" of 1839. Tunnels were built under the gun emplacement facing Middle Head at the same time as the others were dug in the sandstone at Georges Head because of fear of the Russians. The tunnels under the gun emplacement beside the Army car park have the date 1871 carved over the sandstone entrance. Larger guns which were mounted there during the Second World War have since been removed. In 1980, most of the area was due to be handed over to HMAS Watson. Part of the land was also marked for eventual inclusion in the Sydney Harbour National Park. There are also some tunnels built for the gun emplacements in the cliff at HMAS Watson but these are now closed.
Victoria Barracks has its own underground in the for of Busby's Bore which runs directly underneath and can be reached by a shaft still op$-on the site. Rumours about a network of escape tunnels under the barracks are, however, groundless. They probably arose from the very efficient drainage system built underneath the old barracks.
During the Second World War an emergency Trunk Exchange was placed in the basement of the Post Office in Martin Place, in case the existing exchange was destroyed. The Post Office Clock had already been removed in case enemy bombing brought it crashing down on the exchange below.
However, the largest underground installation during this time was the secret Air Defence Control Centre at Bankstown. This huge building, the size of a three-storey hotel, was built in 1942 and remained hidden under a paddock near Bankstown Airport until 1971 when the Editor of the Bankstown Torch, Phil Engisch, revealed the defence forces' best kept secret. The command post was under a five-hectare property bound by Marion and Edgar Streets.
The Casement Battery at Georges Head was built in 1872 to protect Sydney from the Russians. Tunnels built to supply the guns still survive under lock and key.
A three-storey underground operation headquarters lay concealed beneath a paddock at the corner of Marion and Edgar Streets, Bankstown, from 1942, when it was built, until 1971, when it was handed over to War Service Homes.
The entrance was through a concrete passageway screened by a grass-covered embankment. A stairway led to a maze of corridors and in the centre of the building was a large operations room from which all RAAF wartime missions were directed. On one wall was a huge map of the South-West Pacific War Zone. A radio transmitting room was linked to a tower and transmitter near Johnstone Road, Bass Hill.
There were also well-equipped kitchens, dining rooms, showers and toilets and a large room containing an air conditioning unit, manufactured in 1942. The operations headquarters had reinforced concrete walls nearly two metres thick. There were large escape hatches in the walls of the rooms on the bottom storey of the building.
In 1971 the property was transferred to the Commonwealth War Services Homes Division. In 1973, the building was destroyed when vandals set fire to it and, in 1975, the Australian Housing Corporation let contracts for the erection of the Mattawan Heights Estate that now stands on the site.
The burnt-out remains of the wartime bunker still remain beneath the central park which is a feature of the estate.
A large map of Australia and the South-west Pacific dominated the main operations room from which all RAAF wartime missions were directed.
THE HUNGRY HOLE
An unusual hole at Ingleside received some publicity in the local paper The Manly Daily in 1978, after 150 tonnes of soil tipped into it seemed literally to vanish. The story of this mystery hole is placed in this section because it concerns gun powder, although it was not made by the Australian Army.
The saga of the strange shaft started when an intensive police search for a missing Avalon teenager, Trudie-Adams, was underway.
Police heard about an unusually deep hole deep in scrubland opposite the Baha'i Temple, off Mona Vale Road. They found there, at the base of the large hill, an opening. It
was perfectly square and measured two by two metres.
A police officer was lowered and, after about thirteen metres, he struck water. So a police skindiver was called in and, some twenty metres below the water, he struck timber.
Barring his way from an even greater unknown depth was a series of planks across a lower
shaft opening. Because of possible danger, the search was abandoned.
Police, Mines and Council officials decided the shaft was too dangerous to leave open, so local earthmoving contractors, Ron Davis and Sons, were signed up to fill it in. Mr Ray Davis of the company, explained, "We moved in a huge loader and, after several hours, we had dumped about 150 tonnes of rock and soil into the hole." A few days later the Mines Department sent a man along to inspect the work and, within a few minutes, he was on the phone to Ray Davis. "I just couldn't believe my eyes. About 150 tonnes of soil and rock had literally vanished."
The last word on Ingleside's mammoth mystery came from Ray Davis, "There's no way we'll fill it in again. You could push the whole of Tumbledown Dick hill in it but it wouldn't work. It will have to be sealed off, or maybe it could be used as Australia's national toilet . .. it's deep enough."
The next day follow-up to the story claimed that the Ingleside mystery hole was dug by a German businessman to smuggle high explosives back to Germany. One local man, who did not wish to be named, said his family had lived in the immediate area for 173 years, and he claimed that further down the shaft was a tunnel.
"It leads to Careel Bay and it was used by the old gunpowder works at Ingleside", he said. "Kegs of powder used to be dropped down the hole into the water, then, when the tide went out, the kegs were carried along the tunnel to Careel Bay, where they were loaded on to a boat.
"The tunnel would be about eight kilometres long. It was a tidal form of transport for the powder works."
The Ingleside mystery hole.
The man recalled that the owner of the works -a German -had been jailed in the 1880s for embezzling money invested in the company, in what was known as the Grass Powder Swindle.
Mr Douglas Couston completed the story; he owned the powder works manor house in Ineleside's Manor Road and lived there for twenty-five years, moving our in 1978. He had never heard of any hole on the site until contacted by The Manly Daily, but what he had heard and what he knew to be fact may have solved the mystery.
From written records of the powder company's history in his possession he was able to supply a number of background facts. According to him, a German called Karl von Bieron started the powder works in 1884. After about three years he fled after embezzling about $50 000 of the company's money, but was caught in England and brought back to Australia. He was sentenced to four years hard labour and Mr Couston believes he died in jail. But the most fascinating thing about all this was that, while von Bieron ran the works, there were plenty of stories going around that he had a secret laboratory on the property where he illegally manufactured explosives. These stories also suggested he was somehow smuggling high explosives out to Bungan Head, where they were collected by boats and shipped back to Germany.
Mr Couston maintained that this secret laboratory is still standing at the head of the valley today, on property now owned by an estate agent.
|This section is based on the excellent book by Brian and Barbara Kennedy. (Subterranean Sydney (The Real Underworld of Sydney Town), Reed, Sydney, 1982. ISBN 0 589 50312 X). Copyright Brian and Barbara Kennedy and Reed Publishing.|