Fort Lytton Inner Examination Battery
Fort Lytton National Park
- Greater Brisbane
South Street, Lytton 4178
Constructed in 1880-81 to defend Brisbane’s port facilities, the fortifications at Lytton remained a defence facility until the early 1960s. The armaments of the fort were periodically upgraded to meet changing technologies. The fort was manned during the Russian war scare of 1885, and during WW1, at which time its heavy guns provided the rivers only defensive position.
In 1938 the role of Fort Lytton changed and the remaining heavy armaments consisting of 6-inch 'disappearing' guns were fired for the last time and were removed. The Fort becoming an Inner Examination Battery on the Brisbane River while fortifications on Bribie Island and at Cowan Cowan formed the Outer Examination Battery. The outbreak of the European war in 1939 did not see significant changes to Lytton’s role. It was not until Japan declared war and the subsequent establishment of bases in Brisbane for the United States forces that Lytton became a close defence fortification. The Lytton Heavy Battery moved to the fort in December 1941, at which time it came under the command of Brisbane Fixed Defences.
Anti-submarine nets were installed across the river from Bulwer Island, linked by the Boom Defence Vessel HMAS Kinchela (Z96) permanently moored mid-river, to the southern bank’s RAN Station No. 8 Lytton, a shore winch station. Kinchela and No. 8 Station were manned by RAN personnel. The boom net was secured to two concrete posts, 100 feet apart that were installed on the north bank and were then connected to two parallel sets of five timber dolphins in the river. These wooden dolphins had been driven into the riverbed and secured in place with concrete. The centre of the boom net was secured to the Boom Defence Vessel HMAS Kinchela that was moored to two pylons in the middle of the river. The boom net comprised 3 foot steel squares and it was secured to the river bed by concrete bases while the net’s top floated on the river with the aid of buoys.
Kinchela (370 tons) was built in 1914 as a lighter. The RAN requisitioned her as an Auxiliary Boom Defence Vessel (ABDV) on 3 March 1942 and she was allotted the fleet number Z06. She was slow at 9 knots and was lightly armed with 0.5 inch machine guns and searchlights placed on her bridge. She was commissioned on 28 August 1942, being redesignated as Z96. She was purchased by the RAN on 16 May 1946 and paid-off on 18 December 1946.
The boom gate was across from the south bank in the Quarantine Flats Reach of the river. When opened, it was swung towards the south bank and ending approximately 200 feet from the shore. Controlled by a winch house at Fort Lytton, the gate was attached to a swing dolphin in the river located about 480 feet out from Kinchela.
When a ship entered the river, Kinchela lowered the net to the floor of the river. At the same time, Fort Lytton’s coastal guns were manned, as was a .303 Vickers machine gun post at Bulwer Island. It took approximately 20 minutes to open the boom to allow ships to enter the Brisbane River.
The fortifications were modified in early 1942 to allow the installation of a 4.7-inch naval gun in one of the old gun emplacements to cover the approaches to the boom-gate, the construction work being undertaken by the Main Roads Commission. Two searchlights were also installed at the fort. In August 1943 in response to concerns that the upstream US submarine base might be subject to river attack, an emplacement for a twin 6-pounder 10cwt quick-firing gun and an elevated fire control post were commenced on the front face of the fort. Work on this gun was not completed until May 1944.
Covering the Boom Defence Gate was the priority. Gun crews stood time at the opening of the gate day or night. No.2 Gun Pit’s floor was concreted to allow gun crews slept by their weapons.
The 1st Heavy Training Battery moved to Lytton in May 1943, to train men who would be posted to Heavy Batteries armed with the US 155mm M1917/M1918 field guns. Personnel from the Volunteer Defence Corps began training on the twin 6-pounders and the 155mm guns from September 1944. As the war moved further from Australia and the danger receded, the number of men at the site was reduced, and the VDC gradually assumed responsibility for manning the fortifications.
Spethman, DW and Miller RG, 'Fortress Brisbane: a guide to the historic fixed defence sites of Brisbane and the Moreton Bay Islands', Brisbane, nd.