Fort Bribie
and Fort Bribie History
    

Fort Bribie was built on Bribie Island, Queensland, Australia, during WW2 as part of the Moreton Bay harbour defences.
Photos and research by Dr. Richard Walding (copyright).

If you worked there or have any feedback please email me:

Dr Richard Walding  
Research Fellow - School of Science
Griffith University
Brisbane, Australia
Email: waldingr49@yahoo.com.au
Note: GPS co-ordinates are based on WGD84 datum. To convert from WGD84 to GDA94 add 180 m to the Northings and 120 m to the Eastings (or subtract 6 s to latitude and 4 s to longitude).


LINKS TO  RELATED PAGES:
  • Fort Bribie RAN2 Controlled Mining Station.
  • Royal Australian Navy Indicator Loop Station (RAN No. 4) 


  •  

    Fort Bribie lies at the northern tip of Bribie Island, about 25 km along the beach from Woorim. Details of how to get there are at the end of this article.

    It was constructed at the outbreak of World War 2 as a part of the defence of Moreton Bay. Originally it was fairly primitive but as Japanese aggression increased the fort was upgraded to become the major defence installation in the Brisbane - Moreton Bay area.

    The map opposite shows the location of the most important elements of the fort. The accommodation area extended from the Battery Observation Post down to the Signals Operation Room, on the Eastern side of the defence installations.

    The Fort is of great historical value as it provides material evidence of the preparations for the defence of the country in World War 2.  They also provide an historical record of the technology of defensive arrangements at the time of WW2. Land based defences such as these gun batteries have become outdated in the defence of Australia. Those remaining provide a vital link to the past.

    They also provide a site that has been untouched since it was abandoned in 1945 and apart from the effects of natural forces they remain largely as they would have appeared after the army left the site.

    This web page documents a brief history of the establishment of the fort and the methods used in its construction.  The photos and commentary detail the state of the remains of the fort today.

     


    A BRIEF HISTORY
    As the tide of events in Europe and Asia in the 1930s moved the world towards war, batteries were improved or established in the key areas of Sydney, Darwin and  Fremantle. The defence of Moreton Bay had been concentrated on the mouth of the Brisbane River at Fort Lytton.  With the push for rearmament of Australia's coastal defence and with the improvements in weapons technologies, attempts were made to enhance the defence of Brisbane and the greater Moreton Bay region. An artillery battery was established at Cowan Cowan Point on Moreton Island between the wars and took over the role of examination battery in the bay.

    A ship in the main channel of Moreton Bay has just turned south after approaching Caloundra headland.

    In February 1939, some six months prior to the start of WW2, a review of the defences of Moreton Bay was undertaken before any more money was spent on Cowan Cowan.  Funds made available by the Military Board for Moreton Bay defence included ₤13100 about to be used for Cowan Cowan, ₤6000 for tracks and ₤1500 for water provision.  It is worth noting that 1000 in 1939 is worth about $60000 today (2004). The report suggested that the main defence should come from 2 x 6" Mark XI guns at north Bribie with the soldiers barracks at Caloundra. It was proposed that the examination battery stay at Cowan Cowan (with 1 x 6" gun); and river defences remain at Fort Lytton (1 x 4.7" QF gun).

    The Commandant of the First District Base at Brisbane, Lt Col Sir D C Cameron expressed his opinion to the Military Board in Victoria that the defences of Moreton Bay were inadequate. Unfortunately, there was a breach of security and word of his concerns leaked out to the Minister for Defence who wanted to know who was responsible for this propaganda. The Military Board were outraged and wanted to know how it was that "correspondence has been divulged".  After much blood letting, the incident blew over. Nevertheless, the claim was clear - Moreton Bay was inadequately defended.

    Soon after  Australia declared war on Germany in September 1939, Army personnel were moved to Bribie Island and a second six inch battery in Moreton Bay was commenced. It was only intended to be temporary and meagre resources were used in the most efficient way possible.  The fort was primitive in 1940 - the guns were mounted on temporary cruciform mountings, inadequately positioned with the formation of the sand dunes, with a projector and lamp mounted on a 10 m high tower operating as a searchlight powered by a Ford V8 engine.  The Observation Post had not been built and the magazines did not have floors. It was little value from a defence point of view and was recommended to be upgraded. In the words of the Major General Robert E Jackson, Officer in Charge of Northern Command (in July 1940), Fort Bribie was "no value from a defence point of view" and that it should be fixed.

    Over the next year there was much to-ing and fro-ing about the best place for the major defence base - Bribie or Caloundra.  On 17th June 1940, the Major General of Northern Command recommended Bribie Battery. On 16th August 1940, Colonel Gwyn P.W. "Horsey" Meredith, Director of Artillery, recommended that no more work should be done on Bribie and that the guns should be transferred to Caloundra. The main reason was that it would be ₤64000 cheaper at Caloundra (that's $3.5 million in today's dollars), but this included ₤54000 for a bridge. Colonel J S Whitelaw arrived at Bribie on 14th October 1940 as OC Coast Defences, Northern Command. He designed the layout of the fort and recommended its completion. By the beginning of 1942, it had finally been decided that Fort Bribie should go ahead, mainly on strategic grounds (closer to the shipping channel). Construction of the permanent gun emplacements began and by April were almost complete.

    The frontal dunes at Fort Bribie as they are today The shipping channel in front of Fort Bribie

    The concrete structures at Fort Bribie took some months to complete and was operational by early 1942. Construction cost was ₤55,000 (about $2 million in today's dollars). When completed, Fort Bribie assumed Examination Battery status within the Moreton Bay Region.  Fort Headquarters were located at Caloundra, just over the Caloundra Bar at the northern tip of the island.


    HOW FORT BRIBIE WORKED
    The Fort Observation Post (FOP) was located in a large house (Buena Vista) near the coast at Caloundra. From here the batteries of Moreton Bay were commanded. The positions of the targets were deduced from the range finding apparatus (Depression Range Finder, DRF) and Barr & Stroud telescope. This information was then telephoned to the Fort Plotting Room (not shown on the above map) where the path of the target would be traced. Calculations were made for the required bearing and elevation of each gun to hit the target. Instructions were then passed to the gun crews for aiming the guns. Communications with FOP at Caloundra would be maintained until the command to fire was given.

    The beach in front of Fort Bribie - looking North to the Caloundra Port War Signal Station (arrowed).

    Low tide - looking South at Fort Bribie. Skirmish Battery and the RAN4 Indicator Loop Station are 18 km South.


    ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS
    My thanks to Marcus Richardson (Cultural Heritage Planner, Queensland Department of Environment & Heritage), Peter Marquis-Kyle (Conservation Architect), Scott Rogers (EPA, Bribie Island) and Ron Donald (Author, Fort Bribie) for their assistance in compiling this report.  Useful sources are: Bribie Island Fortifications Conservation Study (Queensland Department of Environment and Heritage, 1993) prepared by conservation architects Allom Lovell Marquis-Kyle Pty Ltd; and Fort Bribie Camp Layout - NAA File  BP378/1.
    A useful book on Sydney's Anti-Ship Defences 1939-1945 is "We Stood and Waited" by R. K. Fullford (Royal Australian Artillery Historical Society Inc., 1994). Wartime comments come personally from soldiers who were stationed there: the late Captain John McKenna - RAA Bribie Battery 1943, Graeme Jenkinson RAE and Cpl. Peter Pechy. My thanks to John Groves from Caloundra for providing the War Diary of Bribie Heavy Battery and help locating the Command Post.

    Note: GPS co-ordinates are based on WGD 84 datum.


    GUN EMPLACEMENTS

    The southern gun emplacement at full moon.
    Lighting by Dave Wicks. Photo by Richard Walding.


    The two gun emplacements are relatively sophisticated structures. They are 15 m square and the roof is about 7.5 m above ground level. The roof of the Northern emplacement can just be seen from the beach.  These emplacements were built as two stories, with a raised concrete platform and buttressed supports, upon which the gun was centrally located facing the ocean, with five rooms below (see Figure 1 below) used for storage of shells and cartridges and accommodation for the duty officer. The buildings are open to the east and curved to allow for a wide range of sight. Steel doors were originally installed along this arc to protect the position. External stairs to the west at the rear of the emplacement give access to the gun level from the ground. Details about the guns and gun histories can be found on the Guns of Fort Bribie page.



    The gun floor slab is very thick at 255 mm and has top and bottom reinforcement in good condition. The load capacity is at least 11.5 kPa. The roof is 130 mm thick and sits on strong seasoned hardwood about 50 cm thick. These were 155 mm (6") naval guns with 26 foot long barrels (taken from HMAS Melbourne) and fired 100 pound (45 kg) projectiles at between 4 to 8 per minute at low trajectory and high velocity to a distance of about 18000 yards.

    Southern Gun Emplacement
    The Southern (No. 1) Gun Emplacement is still relatively intact and the duty roster can be still seen on the Gun Floor Shelter (Room C). Shells were stored in the Room F (Shell Store) and passed up to the gun floor by a hand-operated hoist.   The Magazine (Room E) contained the cartridges which were made up of sticks of cordite bound into cylindrical-shaped cloth bags and stored in metal tubes. They were passed through into the hoist room (Room D) via a flash-proof door and were then hand-hoisted up to the gun floor. The roof of large timber logs, concrete and concrete filled hessian bags remains virtually intact.

    In the photo below, the termite eaten timber beams and spalling concrete can be seen.

    Canopy of Southern (No. 1 Gun) Emplacement Buttresses at the NW corner.

    Gun mount at the Southern Gun Emplacement - looking east towards Moreton Bay. Note that it is on a concrete plinth which was used to allow a greater elevation of the gun The BL (breech loading) cartridge was hoisted up from the magazine below through the opening on the left. The Shell Tube is on the right of this photo. Shells were hoisted up through this opening from the Shell Store (Room F) on the ground floor.

    The Gun canopy as seen from gun mount position (looking towards the ocean). The gun floor roof looking west. Note the bags of concrete used as infill, and the decaying wooden roof.

    The entrance to the Cartridge Magazine has a metal door frame sheathed in copper (see below). Entrance to the Gun Floor shelter (duty room) has a wooden door frame.
    Flash-proof cartridge tube (measuring 42" high and 16" diameter) shown from the cartridge magazine side (Room E). Cartridge tube: a cartridge is inserted into the tube which is then rotated so that the opening faces the hoist room (D) where it is then removed. It is then passed up to the cement stand on the left of the photo and hoisted up to the gun floor by hand. Rusted steel door frame to the cartridge magazine (about 5 cm wide). Note the copper sheathing in the middle between the concrete and the metal. This was an anti-sparking covering which has since been stripped off.

    Northern Gun Emplacement
    - is 117 metres to the North of the Southern Gun Emplacement. It is also called the No. 2 Gun. The roof collapsed in the 1990s thanks to a Caloundra helicopter school which used to do practice landings on the roof (so it is said).
     

    Northern Gun emplacement - view from the front  Northern Gun emplacement - from the NW corner


    A metal gate was added in 1994 to keep sightseers out of danger.  Duty Roster in the Gun Floor Shelter is still readable. Across the top the headings read: Duty Watch, Alarm, Manning (No. 2), Reserve, Watch. Men would sit, sleep, relax, listen to the radio, drink tea and coffee here while on duty. The room was lit with a red bulb to keep the soldiers' eyes dark-adapted. A lookout would always man the gun floor.



    Six-inch gun being used at Cowan Cowan battery similar to that used at Fort Bribie.


     

    The Artillery Store (Building 48) was about 50m to the west of the Signals Operation Room. Here, the concrete stumps can easily be seen. It contained spares, tools, cleaning and lubricating supplies needed to keep the guns in good condition and to make good any damage incurred in action to the extent possible in the circumstances.

    The Auxiliary Magazine - slab behind No. 1 gun


     

    Northern (No. 2) gun after the storms of May 2009.

    It is clear the effect the storm surges had on the foredunes.


    COASTAL ARTILLERY SEARCHLIGHTS (CASL)

    The Coastal Artillery Searchlights were located at either end of the Fort. They are two stories high, rectangular in plan, with an enclosed lower level to house a generator, and an open-fronted upper level to house the searchlight. There are window openings on each of the northern, southern and eastern sides, and a large doorway on the current ground level of the southern side. In the time of its operation (1942-1945), stairs led from the existing ground up to this doorway. There is a large flat concrete roof 6" thick. The structure is dangerous because of cracks and spalling and there is a serious risk of concrete failure and collapse.


    The Southern Searchlight  from the ocean side (left) and from the rear.  It is behind the dunes and now just visible from the beach. Until 2001 it was not visible but storms and wind have lowered the frontal dune. The concrete structure is fairly complete, although it is leaning 5 to the south. GPS co-ordinates (WGD84): S2651.986'  E15307.806'.


    The Northern Searchlight  was about 1.2 km north of its companion. In 1944 it was about 50 m from the beach but shifting sand, (awash at high tide), wave and wind action have eroded this section of the island and it now makes long-term preservation difficult. It will continue to deteriorate and the local Council can do no more than protect the public from dangers.  It marks the northern-most point for four-wheel drive access. GPS co-ordinates (WGD84): S2651.247'  E15307.768'.The remaining 5 km to the northern tip of Bribie Island is on foot only. The third photo was taken at full moon. Lighting by Dave Wicks. Photo Richard Walding.
     
     
    90 cm Coastal Artillery Searchlight - Moreton Bay 1943


     


    BATTERY OBSERVATION POST (BOP)

    As with all counter-bombardment batteries, the Battery Observation Posts used in Australian Coastal Defence in WW2 was displaced from the guns. This was to remove it from the flash, blast, vibration and noise of the guns firing as well as gaining height for the depression range finder (DRF). Like all BOPs, it was housed in a concrete blockhouse with a cantilevered flat roof giving an observation window opening which allowed an unobstructed 200 degree arc for range-finding and observing instruments.

    Its task was to provide target bearing and range data (by depression position finder) to the Battery Plotting Room; to provide course and speed data (by the Inclination Officer) to the BPR (Battery Plotting Room); to observe fall-of-shot and to order spotting corrections to the BPR (done by the Battery Commander); to be the communications centre of the battery. When in counter-bombardment mode, the Duty Battery Commander was stationed at the BOP.

    The staff of the BOP was four: the Battery Commander (who would wear a head and breast set for communication with the BPR), the Battery Commander's assistant who would record orders and fall-of-shot; Fire Command telephonist, Inclination Officer who would also wear head and breast set for communication with the BPR.

    The following were housed in the BOP: depression range finder, indicator (time of flight), decoder (fall-of-shot), stereoscopic telescopes (2 pairs), four desk/stools (one for each operator). They also had various manuals: tide tables, ship and aircraft recognition codes; message log; log of sightings; Fire Commander's Standing Orders; silhouettes of own and enemy warships and aircraft; International Code of Signals; Jane's Fighting Ships; Coastal Artillery Training Volume 3.

    The photos below shows a Rangefinder and DRF in use. Note: good photos can also be found in AWM archives: photos 63471 and 63470.


    Left: A Barr and Stroud Rangefinder. Right: An observation detail in the BOP at Fort MacArthur, Los Angeles in 1944. An M1910 azimuth telescope Rangefinder is being used on the left and a Model 1907 Depression Position Finder (DPF) - also called a Depression Range Finder (DRF) - is on the right.

    FLANK BATTERY OBSERVATION POST
    Located about 25 metres to the north of the Mine Control Huts.

     
       

    COMMAND POST

    Left: CP before being camouflaged - October 1943 (Copyright AWM).
    Right: CP after camouflaging by 14th Australian Camouflage Unit - possibly 1946 (Copyright AWM).


    SIGNALS OPERATION ROOM (SOR)
    The reinforced Signals Operation Room is about 30 metres South of the Southern Gun Emplacement and was originally underground with a stairway leading down from the northern side. Location: 26 51.688', E 153 07.800'.

      
    SOR - view of the NW corner. At the top corner is the top of the steps (see below).

    Hole in the blast-proof western wall to let water out.

    Steps leading down to entrance. Photo was taken just inside the hole.


    NE corner inside. Outline of equipment (and black moths) can be seen. Water level on wall and sand on floor is obvious sign of flooding. Western internal wall with hole made to let the water out clearly visible past entrance door. Note hook in ceiling. The door frame is made of beautiful silky oak and is still there. In 1943, the Australian Womens' Army Service (AWAS) began to provide staff for the signals room.

    The heavy seas of May 2009 have eroded away the frontal dune and now the SOR sits on the beach.

    The insides are filled with sand.



    BATTERY PLOTTING ROOM (BPR)
    The Battery Plotting Room was located 80 m to the North of the Northern Gun Emplacement, or about 30 m south of the mine control huts. It was partly protected by the scrub ridge of dunes and information about the position of target ships given from readings at the BOP were plotted on a large plotting table. Of all structures, it was the closest to the beach and was demolished at the end of the war. Since the heavy seas of May 2009, erosion of the frontal dune has uncovered the foundations of the BPR. Location: S26 51.534', E 153 07.793'. In 2010 is was again covered by sand and is now no longer visible.

    Construction of the BPR began in July 1941 by men co-opted by the Civil Constructional Corps from Brisbane builders Suburban Constructions under the supervision of foreman Ern Paget. It was placed just to the north of the existing northern shell store (no longer there). Originally the BPR was planned to be a timber framed structure with fibrous cement walls and a concrete floor but on 21 July 1941 approval was given to use armour plate on internal walls and roof of the BPR (as well as the BOP/CP). The roof was made from " B1 nickel-chrome boiler plate and the walls of " plate supplied by the Commonwealth Steel Co. Ltd. at 65 per ton.  Gravel for the slab (and all concrete structures at the Fort) was supplied by W. M. Collins and Sons at 31/- per cubic yard to Caloundra by truck; and nails came from E. Sachs & Co., Brookes Street, Fortitude Valley.  A total of 1 cwt of nails were used at the Fort. The  total cost of the BPR structure was 1100 ( $72000 in 2008 dollars).

     

    Battery Plotting Room at Fort Cowan - similar to Fort Bribie.

      Richard Walding measures the steel support - June 2009. It measures 1240mm high by 930mm wide.


    The corner steel support and concrete slab are clearly visible since the May 2009 storms. The slab is 14m (40') long and records show it to be 3.3m (11') wide.

     Door hinge on the steel corner support. The rest of the steel was oxy-torched away after the war. Note the blobs of metal along the top from the cutting. Hard to tell if this was a door.

     

    The steel supports meets the slab. The concrete footings are at least 450mm deep and the slab itself is 100mm (4") thick.

    A 4" wide raised concrete lip is on the slab; and the remains of a steel bottom plate are obvious. The slab is of polished concrete as is in excellent condition.


    WATER SUPPLY - WELLS
     

    The Northern Well is about 40' to the south of the kitchen. It is still there and still full of water although DEH has placed a galvanised mesh guard over the opening (this is visible near the top of the photo). The concrete tank is 16' (4.8 meters) in diameter and is now only some 25 m west of the frontal dune.  It is very difficult to find as it is usually covered in leaves. I scraped some off to show the top. Location: S26 51.822, E 153 07.778'. The Central Well - identical to the northern one but not discovered by the DEH, hence the opening is uncovered. Diameter is 16' (4.8 meters). Galvanised pipes (2" diameter) carried the water around the camp. Location: 26 51.915', E 153 07.786'.

    The Southern Well has become visible on the beach since the storms of May 2009. Until then, it's location (and existence) was unknown. Location: S 26 52.097', E 153 07.802'. The May 2009 erosion has removed much of the frontal dune. The tank is visible on the left. The southern well is 1.5 km south of the southern searchlight.

    The opening of the southern well is uncovered as DEH workers knew nothing of it's existence. It is about 4 m in diameter. The southern well is almost empty. The water surface (shown here) is about 3 metres below the top.


     


    LIVING QUARTERS

     
    Concrete stumps of the Orderly Room (Building 47) - about 80 m west of the Signal Operations Room. Each stump measures 15" x 15" and is 28" long with an underground footing is 3' x 3' and 6" thick. These stumps are at 7' 2" centres.  The nearby accommodation huts were 18' wide by 60' long.

    Left: Steps to the northern side of the Kitchen (Building 30). The kitchen was wooden framed with fibrolite walls and a corrugated steel roof. It measured 70' x 28'. Right: A 4" earthenware sewer connection under the Canteen (Building 24). The slab measures 4' x 2'.

    The Mens' Mess Hall (Building 31) was a wooden framed building with fibro walls and a corrugated steel roof. It was just a few meters south of the Kitchen. The foundations measure 18' x 80'. The Officers' Mess (Building 14) is at the south west end of the site. It measures 18' x 60'.

     

    Left: The Northern Well is about 40' to the south of the kitchen. It is still there and still full of water although DEH have placed a galvanised mesh guard over the opening (this is visible near the top of the photo). The concrete tank is 16' (4.8 meters) in diameter and is now only some 25 m west of the frontal dune. Galvanised pipes (2" diameter) carried the water around the camp. It is very difficult to find as it is usually covered in leaves. I scraped some off to show the top. Right: The Southern Well - identical to the other one but not discovered by the DEH, hence the opening is uncovered.
     


    Left: The Men's Latrine (Building 19) has a concrete slab measuring 58' x 18'. The photo above (left) shows the urinal on the eastern side. It is 4' high. Right: There were 8 pedestals in the Men's Latrine - the remains of which can be seen in the photo above. A wood-framed fibro partition separated the two rows. The urinals are a few metres to the left and right.


    Left: Mens' Shower and Latrine - facing North. The Inspection Opening for the drainage system is at the front. Before the waste water system was installed, men used to take waste water away in rubbish bins and dump it in the sea three times a day. Centre: Sergeant's Latrine slab (Building 18). It measures 20' x 20'. Right: Officer's Latrine and Shower (10' x 20'). For all latrines - water was supplied via 1" galvanised pipes and waste taken away via 4" earthenware pipe to the Pump Hose (Building 20) and thence via 4" fibro pipe to the Septic Tank some 600' to the North. The overflow from the Septic Tank travelled the 1230' West to the Pumicestone Passage via 3" galvanised iron pipe.


     
    Incinerator - located next to the Officers' Shower and Latrine block.  
     

    Septic tanks - behind No. 1 gun.  (11 Sept 2004).

    Septic tank outlet pipe.  (11 Sept 2004).


    Septic pipe stands head for Pumicestone Passage about 800 m away.  (11 Sept 2004).

    Powerhouse slab. Steel bolts used to hold generator down protrude from right corner.  (11 Sept 2004).


    Power pole beside Powerhouse.  (11 Sept 2004). Is this a water well or "The Jug" (underground watch-house) for naughty boys.  (11 Sept 2004).
     
    The Machine-gun position defending the west of the camp. The mound was supported by a corrugated iron shield.  (11 Sept 2004). The moat around the machine gun position.  (11 Sept 2004).


    Corner of the Control Post (CP) slab (note the steel plate). (11 Sept 2004). Concrete structure near Control Post - about 10 m away. S2651.812', E15307.760'  (1 Aug 2004)


     
    "Cork's Crew Cabin" is hard to picture with all of the bush growing in it. The "Cabin" was a hole in the ground about 8' deep and about 15' across  with a ti-tree roof and a cloth door to keep light from escaping. It was located about 20' behind the No. 1 gun. The gun crew on duty could rest in this make-shift cabin. It was called "Cork's Crew" after one of its builders - Allan Cork - the softdrink manufacturer in Brisbane (Cork Bros.).  (11 Sept 2004). The EPA constructed a mesh cover for the sullage tank in 1994. Waste from the kitchen would enter the tank before being pumped out into the passage.  Soldiers would have to enter by steps on the right (also covered) and scrape the solidified fat off the walls which would be then burnt.  (11 Sept 2004).

    The 13th Garrison Battalion were here in July 1942. There is a boomerang signed by all members and is held in the RSL at Bongaree. They are: Capt L A Culpitt, Lt E Wasei, Lt Stanley Jack  Grace (N105821), Lt J Gaskill, S J MacDonald, F Moore, L/Cpl A McKinnon, Sgt H N Patteson, CSM L Askew, G Burns, A H Burton, H A Savell (N104295), J A Savell (N277990), W Willis, G Battick, H Sutton, A South, A O Napper (N277924), B J Coust, P L Scobie, W J Irving, J Chantrill (N277998), H G Arnull (NX152746 (N278065) ), P L Pearson (N277939), D A Pope (N104304), A G Baxter (N350768), T A Kimber (V91018), T R C Swann (N104371), G C Goodchild (Q201279), E F Butt (N391384), L R Ford (V361766), J Hornsbrook, R Hart.
     


    UNDERGROUND HOSPITAL
    Many claims have been made over the years about the existence of an underground hospital at Fort Bribie.  This deserves a separate web page.
    Go to: Fort Bribie Underground Hospital


    AWAS - Women at Fort Bribie
    By 1941, as increasing numbers of men were needed for overseas service in PNG and the Middle East, women were accepted into the army from July (1941). In October of that year, the army formed the Australian Women's Army Service (AWAS). The women had to be single and between the ages of 18-45. They were paid two-thirds the rate of men.  The limit was set at 1600 women but was lifted to 6000 and then 18000 as the war with Japan expanded.  Some 24000 women served in the war, including 3618 with the Royal Australian Artillery, manning searchlights and radar at fixed defences and 3600 with the Corps of Signals (mostly as drivers, signallers, clerks, storemen and mechanics. 

    Many of these women served in the defence of Moreton Bay - at Caloundra and Bribie Island.  Those stationed at Bribie were stationed at Skirmish Battery (as switchboard operators in the Ocean Beach Guest House and lived in the Bribie Hotel) and with various duties at Fort Bribie.  In 1945, AWAS recruits were allowed to serve overseas. The AWAS was disbanded on 30th June 1947 - often regarded as a folly. On 13th July 1950, the AWAC was created.

    Evidence of the AWAS encampment at Fort Bribie has all but disappeared. They had 5 sleeping huts, a shower block and a earth closet toilet about 60 m south of the Officers' quarters. The photo opposite is of a toilet stump.  There was 1 officer and 53 ORs at Fort Bribie.

     


    NAVAL MINE CONTROL HUTS (RAN 2)
    Southern Mine Control Hut Northern

    Two reinforced Mine Control Huts were located at Fort Bribie. In planning they were known as "Operation Duncan - Control Station No. 67". They were operated by the Royal Australian Navy and became known as RAN No. 2 Station. For more information, please go to the Fort Bribie RAN2 Controlled Mining page.


    SKIRMISH BATTERY

    Twenty kilometres to the south of Fort Bribie was Skirmish Battery which included in its vicinity the Royal Australian Navy's "Indicator Loop Control Station" RAN 4.  The northern Fort Observation Post (FOP) shown below is the only surviving element of Skirmish Battery (apart from a concrete foundation  post on the beach 8 km south belonging to the southern BOP of Skirmish Battery, and some electricity cable in the garden of a house at Fourth Avenue). The original Skirmish Battery was first set up in March 1942 about 2 miles south of Woorim for the purposes of maintaining signals contact with Fort Cowan Cowan on Moreton Island.



    For more information go to Fort Skirmish Battery, Woorim, Bribie Island.


    HOW TO GET THERE

    There are two ways to get to the Fort Bribie site - by boat and by 4WD.

    1. By boat across Pumicestone Passage.  From the Caloundra side, go down to Military Jetty along Golden Beach (see photo below), hire a boat and manoeuver it south around the yellow beacon and then head north towards Caloundra.  You'll eventually reach the western side of Bribie Island about 900 metres away. I wouldn't try that until you know what you're doing. Soldiers going "AWOL" (absent without leave) would often swim it. There is a gravel path marking the old jetty (now completely disappeared). Walk through the bush for about 150 metres and you'll reach the surf side (GPS co-ordinates: S2650.484'  E15307.728'. Then walk about 2 km south along the beach until you hit the searchlight tower on the beach (see photo below). Head south  a further 500 metres (550 m to be exact) and walk up over the dunes and on the other side of the dune (about 20 metres in) you should find a massive gun emplacement. Success!

    Military Jetty - Golden Beach

    The Northern CASL (searchlight) tower.

    Bogged at 2nd Lagoon - 13 June 2009


      2. Drive up the beach from Woorim.  Your best bet is to go by 4WD from Bribie Island (but you'll need a beach driving permit). Permits are available for the following periods:

    •   full year  - cost $110
    •   weekly
    •   daily

    Permits are available from the Bongaree Caravan Park & General Store, Welsby Pde, Bongaree 4507 (Bribie Island), phone 3408 1054 (7 days a week 7.30am to 4.30pm), cash, eftpos or credit card ($2 surcharge). While you're down that end of Bribie, drop in to Stereographics (1 Toorbul Lane, Bongaree 4507, phone 3408 4225) and buy a laminated copy of the Fort Bribie layout (about $12) and a folded map of Bribie Island ($6.95) using the older AGD 1966 geodetic co-ordinates. However, this map has the southern searchlight wrongly labelled as the northern searchlight, and has the location of Fort Bribie wrongly placed by about 1.5 km (it labels the camping ground as the Fort).

    Then drive the 10 km to Woorim on the surf side of Bribie Island. At the Blue Pacific pub at the end, turn left into North Street. Keep going until you get to the big carpark at the end of North Street and find the start of the long sandy 4WD track (GPS co-ordinates: S2703.464'  E15311.370'. Set your odometer to zero. After 1.9 km you will hit the beach.  Some of the following odometer readings may not be exact as there is a tendency for wheels to slip in the sand and give inflated readings.  At 4.6 km you will notice a concrete Fort Observation Post (FOP) lying on it's side in the dunes. That was the northernmost part of the Skirmish Battery. At 18.1 km (GPS co-ordinates: S2654.441'  E15308.321') you'll pass Ocean Beach Camping Ground. Go to a total odometer reading of 24.0 km North along the beach and you'll meet up with a concrete bunker (searchlight) on the beach as shown above (actually only 22.6 km from the start as the crow flies).

    Now turn around and head south  500 metres (550 m to be exact) and park your car.  Walk up over the dunes and on the other side of the dune (about 20 metres in) you should find a massive gun emplacement. If you can't see it straight away slowly make your way south along the track behind the dune. You'll hit something sooner or later. Take a compass and some mosquito repellent (especially in summer). Wear shoes and long pants are good to stop the vines cutting you.

    Taking the northern CASL as zero northerly displacement, the southerly displacements of the fortifications are as follows:

    000m    Northern CASL (searchlight - on beach)
    384m    Battery Observation Post
    414m    Northern Mine Control Hut
    430m    Southern Mine Control Hut
    480m    Battery Plotting Room (BPR) - on beach since May 2009
    555m    No. 2 Gun Emplacement (visible from beach)
    684m    No. 1 Gun Emplacement (just visible from beach)
    750m    Signals Operation Room (SOR) - on beach since May 2009
    750m to 950m  Fort Area: barracks, latrines, kitchen etc (about 80 m behind dunes)
    950m    Mess Hut
    990m    Concrete tank/well
    1000m    Underground Hospital (allegedly)
    1005m    Control Post (dismantled - no longer in existence)
    1142m    Concrete tank/well (the AWAS huts are west of this tank)
    1220m    Southern CASL (searchlight - just visible from beach).
    4000m    Bribie Front Lighthouse (no remains visible except some timber in the swamp).

    Happy hunting!


    FORT BRIBIE WALK OPEN
    On March 29, 2007, the then Minister for Environment, Lindy Nelson-Carr opened the Fort Bribie walk that links the Ocean Beach camping ground with Fort Bribie. It is about 1.25km S of the Fort. You can also get to the carpark via the newly-opened inland road from White Patch (22km) but you'd still need a 4WD.
     

    Minister Nelson-Carr opens the walk assisted by State Member for Pumicestone Carryn Sullivan. Ocean Beach - beautiful as ever.

    The map introducing Fort Bribie. The start of the walk. Interpretative signs help you work out what's what.