Also know as the Cliff Road Battery
1. When was the fort build?
The New South Wales Parliament approved the construction of the Smith's Hill Fort in March 1892 and voted two thousand pounds for its construction. The drawings were completed in August of that year and construction commenced in September and took twelve months to complete.
The two 80 pounder guns were mounted and test fired in October 1893. The Smith's Hill Fort was manned by the local voluntary artillery (known today as the Army Reserve) during the 1890s.
2. Why was it built?
The defences around Wollongong Harbour were built as part of various schemes of defence for New South Wales especially after the withdrawal of British troops in 1870. The guns in Wollongong were designed to protect the harbour (then an important coal port) against seaborne raids during wartime from possibly Russian naval units seeking replenishment of supplies of coal.
3. How many of the original guns are still located in their original positions?
The guns are two 80 pounder rifled muzzle loaders (RMLs) and one 1.75 pounder, 1.5 inch calibre Nordenfelt quick firing (QF) gun.
The two 80 pounders are on their original mountings and in their original positions.
In the late 1980's they were sent down to the Bendigo Ordinance Factory for refurbishment and were returned for the 1988 Bicentenary celebrations.
4. Were the guns ever used?
The guns were never fired against an enemy. They were manned by nine gunners each under the command of a Sergeant. The control of the guns was carried out at the northern end of Battery Park.
5. Why was the site chosen for a fort?
The Smith's Hill guns controlled the approaches to Wollongong Harbour and could fire across the path of a ship approaching the port, therefore making a successful hit easier. The Smith's Hill Fort was only a part of the general plan for defences of the area. There were also a six inch breech loading gun on a disappearing type mounting located on Flagstaff Hill. A close defence battery of three old 68 pounder smooth bore guns covering the harbour itself as well as machine gun positions to cover the beach area south of Flagstaff Hill. The 68 pounder guns had no emplacements or magazines and were sited near Wollongong Lighthouse.
A plan to erect another battery in the area was cancelled and today, only the Smith's Hill Fort survives intact.
6. Firing the guns
The gunners did not live at the battery but marched up each day from the old court house near the harbour. The underground component of the battery comprised of rooms which contained the gun powder charges for the 80 pounder guns and ammunition for the Nordenfelt gun. When the guns were being fired the gunners not required, sought shelter in the casemate. The shells for the 80 pounder guns were stored in recesses along the battery wall.
7. Other interesting facts
The battery was operational between 1893 and 1900 when it was decommissioned due to it being obsolete. Over the years the site became overgrown and derelict and in 1946 Wollongong Council had the battery filled in with power station boiler ash thus creating Battery Park.
In the 1980s a group of military enthusiasts successfully applied for a Bicentennial Grant to uncover the battery and restore it for the 1988 celebrations and later that year a re-enactment ceremony and gun firing was carried out.
Since then the Rotary Club of Wollongong Central and more recently the Rotary Club of Illawarra Sunrise, have taken over the battery as a service project and maintain the site with volunteer working bees and "work for the dole" schemes.
On Australia Day 2009 the Rotary Club of Illawarra Sunrise held its first period re-enactment as part of the Australia Day celebrations and this has become an annual event.
The long term aim is to fully restore the battery and to open it regularly for visitors and school groups as well as holding approved firings and regular re-enactments.
Go to Fort Website : www.Wollongongfort.org.au