The Nepean Peninsula was important to the military defence of Port Phillip during the 19th and 20th centuries with the construction of fortifications at Point Nepean, Point Franklin, Queenscliff, Swan Island and the South Channel Fort.

First Colony

The military colony under Lt. Col. D. Collins was the first outpost stationed in Pt. Phillip Bay, when a battery was erected on the Western Sister and a magazine or bomb-proof shelter (as described by Collins himself in his letters) was constructed. However no relics of these remain.

1880s Point Nepean Forts – Victoria’s Gibraltar

A chain of defences at Port Phillip Heads was proceeding in 1882, based on plans previously submitted to Parliament. In 1885, at the height of the Russian War scare, the authorities repossessed land owned by John Watson at Point Franklin and a fort was erected there and was later demolished. In 1889 a new fort was built on the site.

Building the Fort

The Torpedo and Signals Corps was formed about 1869, being renamed the Militia Torpedo Corps in 1882, and with subsequent permutations exists to-day as the Royal Australian Engineers. This Corps operated three defence electric lights – one at Point Nepean, and two at Queenscliff. In places electro-magnetic mines were laid and batteries were located at the entrance to the Bay and on Swan Island.

By 1894 Portsea became a garrison town and barracks and forts were built. Franklin Barracks has now become the quarters for the Lord Mayor’s Children’s Holiday Camp.

The Guns

As technology developed the Forts were kept up to date with the armaments of the day.

The Fortifications

Begun in the early 1880’s and continually updated until the departure after WW II. The sandstone and limestone content of the cliffs became important as it enabled deep underground galleries, passages and magazines to be quarried into Point Nepean.

Defence in the 20th Century

In 1908 the Commonwealth reserved some 420 acres for defence purposes, from the Quarantine Station to the Point – land which included the cattle jetty built in 1879 of which only a few piles remain to-day.

(Extract from ‘The Peninsula Story’ Published by NHS 1992)