Only Bluffing

I recently went for a walk with a friend to Kangaroo Bluff battery on the Eastern shore, Hobart. It was built in 1880 following fears of intrusion by Russian warships into the Derwent River in 1873.

The battery was carved out of solid rock and was surrounded by a wet moat – the moat was eventually fenced off after a young kid drowned there. The cannons were never fired in anger and the battery was decommissioned in 1925. The big guns were buried but were eventually excavated and re-installed and it is now a fascinating tourist destination.

Here’s a 1878 report on the proposal for the battery by Major General William Jervois:

Hobart Town, the capital of the Colony, contains a population of about 20,000.

As before remarked, it would be out of the question to provide local defences to prevent the occupation by an enemy of the numerous harbours upon the coast of Tasmania. It is, however, practicable to protect Hobart Town against the attack of an unarmored vessel of war, which, eluding our naval squadron, and in the absence of sufficient defences, might, under threat of bombardment, or after actually firing into the place, levy a heavy contribution upon the Colony.

The width of the Derwent, below Hobart Town, being from 4,000 to 5,000 yards, the depth of water being sufficient for vessels of any size, and the passage perfectly clear, it would be out of the question, by means of land batteries, to prevent an enemy’s vessel steaming rapidly up the river and occupying a position whence she might throw, shells into the City. If, however, batteries be established which would bring an effective fire to bear upon her when she lay opposite the town, and if a line of obstructions be placed in such a manner as to prevent her running up the river beyond the town and out of fire from the batteries, she could neither remain in such a position, nor get to any other point whence she could effect a Bombardment. She would then be obliged to retire. It is on this principle that the defence of Hobart Town should be based.

Batteries have already been constructed, or commenced, as follows :

Queen’s Battery, just outside the town to the north-east, and bearing down and across the river. It mounts, en barbette, two M.L.R. 70 prs., three S.B. 8-inch shell guns, and two S.B. 32 prs.

Prince of Wales’s Battery, and Albert Battery, situated to the eastward of the town, about 1,200 yards lower down the river than Queen’s Battery, and mounting four S.B. 8-inch shell guns, and seven S.B. 32 prs. Four of these guns fire through embrazures, and the remainder en barbitte.

……a battery should be placed on the eastern shore of the river, at Kangaroo Bluff, a point about 4,000 yards’ from One Tree Point, and nearly 3,000 yards from Queen’s Battery.

The capital cost of the scheme would be, approximately, as follows :

  1. Batteries at One Tree Point, Kangaroo Bluff, and Launceston, with armaments and ammunition. £15,000
  2. Torpedo stores £3,000
  3. Rifles and ammunition (Sniders) £2,000
  4. Contingencies £1,000
  5. Total £21,000

The following is an estimate of the annual expenditure involved :

  • 20 Permanent Artillery £2,000
  • 600 Volunteers and Staff £3,000
  • Annual supply of ammunition, Camp of Instruction, repairs, contingencies £2,400
  • TOTAL £8,000

WM. F. Drummond Jervois. Adelaide, 5th February, 1878.

Two drone photo’s courtesy of ‘Drone Vision’:

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