Green Hill Fort and Wireless Station
- Radar/signal station
- North and Cape York
Chester Street, Thursday Island 4875
Throughout World War II Thursday Island served as the headquarters for text-transform:uppercase
allied military operations in Torres Strait and Green Hill Fort was used as a signals and wireless station and ammunition store for Australian and US forces. The fort served no further military purpose after World War II. About 1954 a weather station was established within the fort, as part of a national weather reporting system. After the closure of the weather station in 1993, Green Hill Fort was presented to the Torres Shire Council as a public park and tourist attraction. The three six-inch breech-loading guns remain in position, overlooking the approaches to Thursday Island.
These late-nineteenth century fortifications stand in isolation at the top of Green Hill which forms a dramatic backdrop to Thursday i sland-known to the Kaurareg people as Waibene. The first government resident, Henry Chester, left Somerset on Cape York in 1877 to take up residence on Thursday Island which was then declared a port of entry. However, it was John Douglas, who replaced Chester in 1885, who was responsible for opening the port as a centre for regional commerce. Within a decade Port Kennedy, as the early settlement was known, was the hub of the trepang and pearl-shell fisheries in the Strait and a busy centre servicing passenger and trade vessels passing through.
The fort with its three six-inch breech-loading guns, offers a panoramic view over the harbour and Horn Island to the south-east, the boat channel and Prince of Wales Island to the south-west, Friday and Goods Island to the west, and north over the Aplin Passage and Hammond Island. The gun emplacements are sunk behind protective earth abutment walls. Beneath the fort are the centrally located underground magazines, storage rooms and passages constructed of concrete.
Colonial security became an issue after Queensland’s annexation of New Guinea in 1883 and the subsequent claiming of New Guinea territory by Germany and Britain. This was followed in 1885 by an Afghanistan border dispute between Britain and Russia, prompting recognition that securing the coaling stations at King George’s Sound in Western Australia and at Thursday Island was fundamental to the defence of Australia. In 1890 the colonies agreed to fund construction of the necessary fortifications and to accept Britain’s offer to arm the forts. Clearing and excavating of the site on Green Hill began in August 1891 and the battery, named Fort Victoria, was ready to receive guns by October 1892. Substantial timber barracks for the artillery garrison were completed to the east of the fort by January 1893 and all the guns had been mounted by May that year. Unfortunately, rapid changes in European military and naval technology made the fort obsolete from its inception.
Following Federation in 1901, Green Hill Fort was transferred to the Commonwealth. At the outbreak of World w ar I in August 1914 Thursday Island was placed on full alert. As the German threat in the Indian and Pacific Oceans subsided after 1915, the Thursday Island garrison was removed to active service and Green Hill Fort served as a training ground for Queensland militia until 1918. By 1926 the focus of Australia’s northern defence had shifted to Port Darwin and most of the garrison was withdrawn, leaving only a maintenance team. In 1932 the Thursday Island defences were dismantled and the six-inch guns were deactivated. Buildings associated with the fortifications and barracks were removed.
Pearce, Howard (contributing author).
Green Hill Fort Complex, Queensland Heritage Register place ID: 601096, Brisbane.
Howard Pearce (Ed.). Heritage Trails of the Tropical North: A heritage tour guide to far north Queensland, Environmental Protection Agency, Brisbane, 2001.
Howard Pearce. WWII: NQ: A cultural heritage overview of significant places in the defence of north Queensland during World War II. Environmental Protection Agency, Brisbane, 2009.