Bradley's Head holds historical highlights

This article has photo gallery Published on LSIS Helen Frank (author and photographer)

Location(s): Sydney

Topic(s): HMAS Penguin, Historic

Commanding Officer HMAS Canberra, Captain Chris Smith and several Canberra officers and sailors visited Bradleys Head with Mr Bob Auston where they saw the tree dedicated to previous ships bearing the Canberra name and other naval memorials at the site. (photo: LSIS Helen Frank)
Commanding Officer HMAS Canberra, Captain Chris Smith and several Canberra officers and sailors visited Bradleys Head with Mr Bob Auston where they saw the tree dedicated to previous ships bearing the Canberra name and other naval memorials at the site.

Many officers and sailors from navies all over the world have come to attention as their ships sailed past Bradley's Head on Sydney Harbour, but how many of them knew of the significance of the headland?

Five members of the ship's company of amphibious giant, HMAS Canberra, including Commanding Officer Captain Chris Smith, visited the site to learn about one of the most important naval memorials in Australia.

Naval historian Bob Auston was on hand to broaden their education.

Bradley's Head was named after William Bradley, a Royal Navy Lieutenant who arrived in Sydney on HMS Sirius with the First Fleet.

The headland is now home to a number of Royal Australian Navy memorials, the most prominent of which is the mast of HMAS Sydney (I).

Sydney (I) was one of the first warships in the Royal Australian Navy and her mast stands as a memorial to all the Australian officers, sailors and ships lost at sea and in combat.

The mast is the only naval monument in Australia to which ceremonial honours must be rendered by all passing naval ships.

Mr Auston has dedicated his time to reinvigorating Bradley's Head and keeping alive its naval history.

"The Royal Australian Navy Heritage Centre initially identified 26 warships that were sunk in wars. The Royal Australian Navy Historical Society culled this number to 22 warships and there are now 22 memorial trees and plaques on the site which are dedicated to these lost warships and sailors," said Mr Auston, a past president of the HMAS Sydney Association and former sailor.

Bradley's Head has many layers of history, from hundreds of years ago to more recent times.

"To one side of the headland is Sirius Cove where the Navy stored the 'Mothball Fleet' after the Second World War," Mr Auston said.

"To the other side is Taylor's Bay where the Royal Australian Navy sank a Japanese Midget Submarine. The headland is where one midget submarine fired two torpedoes at USS Chicago; running too deep, they passed underneath. One hit the shore, and the other sank HMAS Kuttabul (I)."

In 2000, a polystyrene house was built on Bradley's Head for Mission Impossible 2, the movie starring Tom Cruise. The house was dismantled on completion of filming.

Bradley's Head is managed by the National Parks and Wildlife Service.

"National Parks own the site and they maintain the area; however, the Navy are very welcome anytime for ceremonies," Mr Auston said.

"A maintenance committee has been formed with two serving members of the Navy, two members of the National Parks and four ex-Navy civilians, and limited funding has been raised in a trust fund."

"HMAS Kuttabul helps with maintenance, and HMAS Penguin attends the flags."

"I feel very proud that the Royal Australian Navy, National Parks and Ship Associations came together to make this the premier naval site in Australia."

"From the original estimate of $100,000, a total of over $2,000,000 was raised and spent upgrading in a team effort."

"So when a Royal Australian Navy ship passes and the 'still' is piped, it is a mark of respect to all warships and sailors lost in all wars," Mr Austin said.

Lest we forget.