Monday, August 24, 2009

Fort Lytton

In the days before Federation, each Australian colony was responsible for its own defence initiatives. Queensland's defence force started with volunteers in 1860, and by the 1880s also had a small force of permanent soldiers and a militia. Invasion by foreign forces was at front of mind, so Fort Lytton was built near the mouth of the river for the dual purposes of defence against maritime invaders and also as a quarantine station. It operated as a signal station too, sending information about traffic into the port by telegraph to the Observatory (the old windmill) at Spring Hill, and from there it was relayed visually by the use of flags to the port in Brisbane River. Fort Lytton was used as an army training base, and remained in use from those early times right through both World wars. Shown below is a photograph of a group of Queensland Defence Force soldiers at the fort, taken around 1893.

(Photo: State Library of Queensland and John Oxley Library; #60097)

All of the men pictured probably slept in the tent behind them - they were 15-man tents, I learned on a recent trip to Fort Lytton. It is now a Heritage Park under the auspices of the State Government, and staffed by a group of volunteer guides who escort visitors around the park and explain the various fortifications and armaments. The museum on the grounds shows what life was like for the soldiers encamped there, as seen in my picture below.
(Photo: © 2009 the foto fanatic)

Here's another group of soldiers, this time in the heavy wool uniform of the time, buttoned to the neck. Great for the heat and humidity in Queensland - not!

(Photo: State Library of Queensland and John Oxley Library; #196519)

The defence of Brisbane was rather primitive by today's standards. The river was protected by mines and a crude boom to prevent ships from sailing up the river to the settlement. The river is deepest near the fort, so ships had to sail quite close to the shore, putting them within range of the fort's guns (below).
((Photo: © 2009 the foto fanatic))

The fort was abandoned after WWII, and the site became overgrown and, suffering from neglect, was subjected to vandalism until acquired by Ampol in 1963 as part of a parcel of land on which they were to build an oil refinery. The following image is from 1967, showing the various brick buildings used as fortifications and for the storage of munitions.
(Photo: D Finlay, State Library of Queensland and John Oxley Library; #lbp00220)

In 1988, Ampol (now Caltex) transferred the site to the State government for development as a historic site. Since then, the Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service has maintained the site and with the help of the volunteers, improved the facilities to make the fort a suitable venue for visitors.

(Photo: © 2009 the foto fanatic)

My guide on the day I visited was Graham Kilver from the Australian Army Reserve, and the tour was extremely interesting and informative. I recommend it.

Click here for a Google Map.


Next: Canny Scot

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