Fort Drummond | NSW Environment & Heritage

Culture and heritage


Fort Drummond

Item details

Name of item: Fort Drummond
Type of item: Built
Group/Collection: Defence
Category: Fortification
Primary address: 1 Television Avenue, Mt Drummond, Mount Saint Thomas, NSW 2500
Parish: Wollongong
County: Camden
Local govt. area: Wollongong City
All addresses
Street AddressSuburb/townLGAParishCountyType
1 Television Avenue, Mt DrummondMount Saint ThomasWollongong CityWollongongCamdenPrimary Address

Statement of significance:

Fort Drummond is a significant reminder of the threat to Australias security during WWII. It was an integral part of the network of coastal batteries constructed to protect NSW’s two major industrial areas, Newcastle and Port Kembla. As part of the Kembla Fortress, Fort Drummond was one of the three coastal batteries erected to protect the steel works lining the bay, all of which partially survive. The speed of construction of Fort Drummond indicates Australia’s rapid response to the threat of invasion in WWII. The long standing post war use as mushroom farm, established by a Dutch migrant, is also of significance as the only known example of the adaptive re-use of WWII gun emplacements for mushroom farming in the state. The use of the site for a TV station, reflects the clear view of Port Kembla and the good reception that could be gained from the hill.
Date significance updated: 26 Jun 14
Note: The State Heritage Inventory provides information about heritage items listed by local and State government agencies. The State Heritage Inventory is continually being updated by local and State agencies as new information becomes available. Read the OEH copyright and disclaimer.


Designer/Maker: The plans were prepared in Melbourne
Builder/Maker: NSW Public Works Department and NSW Department of Main Roads
Construction years: 1942-1942
Physical description: R Irving, 20th Century Architecture in Wollongong (p. 82): This coastal artillery complex, like the Breakwater Battery, was part of Australia's World War II defence strategy. It was constructed at a time when the growing use of air power had forced designers to plan underground facilities to protect the guns, ammunition and associated equipment and personnel. The two 9.2 inch (23cm) guns were protected by massive reinforced concrete casemates. Each stage of the construction was carried out by a long uninterrupted pour so as to ensure structural continuity and therefore great strength. The underground complex was self-contained when used in action and included its own power supply, gun crew accommodation, water and filtered air supply. In March 1943 the guns were first fired.

Fort Drummond was built into the hillside, involving substantial removal of rock to allow for the construction of the battery and its underground facilities. Substantial excavation achieved by blasting away the hillside was undertaken in order to construct the battery. The two gun emplacements, which form the battery, were roofed with re-enforced concrete arches and painted to camouflage their location. See Wollongong City Library Image Collection for series of photographs of fort under construction.

Majority of above ground facilities have been removed. The archival records indicate large igloo stores were erected. An asphalt area survives that may have been the site of the igloo. Small corrugated iron buildings also survive, which have been partially destroyed by fire. A larger hip roofed building also survives, probably the mess building.
Modifications and dates: Guns removed, in 1962 other equipment was also removed.
Current use: Mushroom Farm; TV Station
Former use: Fort


Historical notes: (Abridged from Meredith Hutton's 2001 Heritage Assessment report on Pt Kembla Battery Observation Post): The first World War II Fort built to defend Port Kembla was Breakwater Battery, completed in September 1939 as a close defence and observation battery. In 1940, a Battery Observation Post for the Breakwater Battery was built on Hill 60 to the south, above Red Point. Illowra Battery was built in 1942 so that guns and associated fort were protected and concealed from the air with two tunnels driven into the sandy headland to house the gun personnel, kitchen, gun store, magazine, shell store, fire control equipment, telephone exchange and offices. The Battery Observation Post built in 1940 on the top of the knoll at Hill 60 for Breakwater Battery was converted to a fortress Observation Post. The Illowra Battery Observation Post was built in 1942, at the same time as the Fort tunnels were excavated. The Battery Observation Post function for the Illowra Battery moved to Berkeley Hill, and the Observation Post for Breakwater moved to the Gallipoli Street, Port Kembla (aka Bowling Club) site. At the same time, Observation/Radar sites were built at Mt Nebo and Dunsten Hill. "Work also commenced on a counter bombardment battery at Fort Drummond on Mt St Thomas to the north west of Port Kembla. This battery required massive excavation for the gun foundations, magazines and underground rooms. Two 9.2-inch guns, Mark-X type, were installed using overhead gantry cranes. The guns were protected from air attack by bombproof concrete arches and camouflaged from the air by concrete aprons, which were grassed over. Tunnels were driven into the hillside to house the associated equipment needed to manouvre the guns, store ammunition as well as to accommodate the Fortress Plotting Room and personnel facilities. Above ground between the two gun emplacements is the Close Defence Battery Observation Post."

The site of the fort, Mount Drummond was part of an estate believed to have been owned by J Drummond. The 300 acres owned by Drummond extended to Tom Thumb's lagoon. The Illawarra Mercury reported in 1923 that "Mt Drummond, or South Wollongong or Coniston which of these names will settle permanently on this locality is not definite." One objection to the name Mount Drummond was that there was already a mountain of that name in the County of Hardinge near Armidale. Mount St Thomas was believed to have been named for miss Jemina Thomas, wife of Captain Charles Waldron of Spring Hill.

Elliot's farm on Mount St Thomas was subdivided by Giddings & Co as the Mount St. Thomas Garden Suburb during the mid 1930s.

With the entry of Japan into the war, defence preparations accelerated. On 256 December 1941 a secret telegram was sent ordering the installation of additional coastal defences in the Newcastle-Sydney-Port Kembla area. NSW Command was to select the sites. Occupation of land around Mt Drummond was underway by 11 February 1942. Land was taken over for weapon pits, defensive wiring and the erection of tents. Occupation would last about 5 weeks.

Mount Drummond consisted of two hills with a saddle between them. The BOP was established on the higher hill to the north. The southern hill about 250 feet high became the location of the battery. The site was densely vegetated on some sides. However the ridge to the south-west was clear of timber and was recognised as vital ground for defence. At the top of the hill, where the battery was built, there were only a few houses and a dairy farm. A defensive line around the whole perimeter was set up to defend the battery against ground attacks. A two-storey brick house, No 6 Robertson Street, was taken over officially on 10 February 1942 for use as the Company headquarters and billet for B company, 13 Garrison Battalion. Its kitchen was used to prepare food for up to 90 men. The army vacated the property on 11 August 1942.

A rapid decision was made to divert two 9.2" coastal guns intended for Darwin to the defence of Port Kembla on 13 March 1942. Mount Drummond was selected as the site for them in late March 1942 and a contour survey was under way to aid the siting of the guns. The guns were expected to arrive from Britain in early May and a party of 1 officer and 24 other ranks were assigned to Mount Drummond to prepare the ground. In Mid-April 1942, a sum of 60,000 pounds was set aside to install the guns (Requisition AHQ 458/41-42). O April 15 the Works Director of NSW reported that it would take 12 to 16 weeks to fully install the battery but that they could be ready for action within 4 weeks. Excavation could be commenced rapidly, and temporary protected platforms could be set up with temporary travelling gantry cranes to load shells and cartridges. A shell store was dispensed with initially since it was found that ammunition could be in recesses in the gun battery. Urgency was the overriding consideration. Concrete pours were delayed by the lack of plans and there was a furious exchange of telegrams, letters, correspondence in late April to expedite the production and dispatch of plans.

By August 1942, arrangements has been made to hire transporters from Yellow Express Carriers Ltd to shift the 9.2" guns from Melbourne to Port Kembla for the Mount Drummond battery. However the guns were so heavy that the transporters broke axles and universal joints on two occasions.

By mid-December 1942, the Mount Drummond battery had made extensive progress. The NSW Public Works Department has undertaken the excavation work over 24 hours and had pushed the work ahead. The concrete needed time to cure. both guns were mounted and in an emergency gun No. 1 could even be fired. Both guns were proof fire on 15 March 1943 with concrete work halted for a time beforehand to ensure that no green concrete was damaged. By 12 July 1943, work on the Drummond Battery was largely complete except for a few minor items.

By February 9 1943, the war situation had become less acute then previously thought so the garrison at Port Kembla was instructed to concentrate on anti-sabotage protection of fixed defences and to be positioned for mobilisation if the enemy commenced any action. The garrison consisted of the 2 Australian Garrison Battalion and 12 Battalion VDC.

A detailed map showing the defences of Fort Drummond including wire, weapon pits, machine guns and so on was drawn on 9 February 1943. On 6 May 1943, a specification was issued for two sets of two reinforced concrete buildings at the Win TV Station in Wollongong. This may have been for the Fort Drummond site.

A layout plan of 5 July 1943 showed the Battery Observation Post for Mount Drummond, at the end of Norman Street, near the Reservoir. Similarly a layout plan of Mount Drummond showing the position of buildings, including the two batteries, command post, armament store, command post, mess buildings, igloos etc between Robertson Street and The Avenue was prepared on 13 July 1943. Photographs of the site taken in 1962 now held in Wollongong Library show a series of buildings above the northernmost gun emplacement. These buildings have been demolished.

On September 1943, it was minuted that AWC had advised that the works at Illowra were nearly complete. The work at Mount Drummond was also done but no Board of Survey inspection had been made. It was recommended that none be undertaken and this was accepted on 4 October 1943.

The Commonwealth did not formally acquire the site of the Fort Drummond Battery at Mount St Thomas until 6 July 1944 and 12 October 1944.

As threat receded the level of alert was downgraded. By 12 November 1944, mariners had been informed that Port Kembla was no longer a defended port.

A Dutch migrant Frank Smith Jnr who had previously worked at the AIS Steel plant (now BHP) established a mushroom farm at Fort Drummond in 1966. His farm operated until 1972. The Smith family arrived in Melbourne in 1952 and originally settled in Wauchope. By 1954 Frank Smith Jnr had moved to Port Kembla. The farm was known as Fort Drummond Mushrooms. Although no longer operated by Mr Smith, the fort continues to operate as a mushroom farm. Disused railway tunnels in the Blue Mountains, and the partially constructed tunnels of the city circles line in Sydney were used for mushroom farming during the 1920s and 1930s. This is the only known NSW example of a fort being used to farm mushrooms.

Part of the site of the Fort is occupied by WIN. This land was acquired in the early 1960s by Television Wollongong Transmission Ltd and their studios were constructed on part of the site of Fort Drummond. The station at the time was owned by Rupert Murdoch who later sold it to Bruce Gordon of Paramount International Television. Television Avenue, leading to the battery refects this phase of use of the site.

These facilities are still in use today.

Assessment of significance

SHR Criteria a)
[Historical significance]
Local - Associated with the coastal defences of NSW during World War II the speed on construction indicates Australia's rapid response to the threat of Japanese invasion. Known as the Kembla Fortress, Fort Drummond was one of the three coastal batteries erected to protect the steel works lining the bay, all of which survive.
SHR Criteria b)
[Associative significance]
Local - Associated with mushroom farming activities established by post war migrants from Holland.
SHR Criteria c)
[Aesthetic significance]
Local - The vista across the steel works and associated rail yard survives today
SHR Criteria d)
[Social significance]
SHR Criteria e)
[Research potential]
Local - Considerable research potential related to its use as a coastal battery during WWII. Extensive photographic evidence of the construction of the facility survives.
SHR Criteria f)
Local - A rare example of a gun enlacement within a residential suburb. This battery is one of the most accessible batteries in the Newcastle to Wollongong defences. No identical layouts have been discovered. The only known example of gun emplacements being re-used for mushroom farming in the state.
SHR Criteria g)
Local - Exhibit typical concrete construction used during WWII
Integrity/Intactness: The external configuration of the gun enplacements is substantially in tact
Assessment criteria: Items are assessed against the PDF State Heritage Register (SHR) Criteria to determine the level of significance. Refer to the Listings below for the level of statutory protection.

Recommended management:

Conserve remnant fabric in situ and interpret in coordination with the interpretation of other related WW2 sites in Illawarra.


Heritage ListingListing TitleListing NumberGazette DateGazette NumberGazette Page
Local Environmental Plan  07 Jan 00 1/200069
Local Environmental PlanWollongong LEP 2009640526 Feb 10 2010-76 
Heritage study     

Study details

TitleYearNumberAuthorInspected byGuidelines used
City of Wollongong Heritage Study1991B116-CMcDonald McPhee Rogers Conacher FullartonG.Neaves No
Review of heritage items in Wollongong LGA20136405Zoran PopovicZoran Popovic Yes

References, internet links & images


Note: internet links may be to web pages, documents or images.

rez rez rez rez
(Click on thumbnail for full size image and image details)

Data source

The information for this entry comes from the following source:
Name: Local Government
Database number: 2700709

Every effort has been made to ensure that information contained in the State Heritage Inventory is correct. If you find any errors or omissions please send your comments to the Database Manager.

All information and pictures on this page are the copyright of the Heritage Division or respective copyright owners.