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Victoria's 600-nautical mile seaboard was, and is, largely inaccessible to shipping, except at Port Phillip Bay,
Westernport, and a small scattering of harbours.
Forward defence was a constant theme in planning for the defences of Victoria. It was believed unlikely
that any attacking force would try to land anywhere on Victoria's coast. To do so would risk disaster
from the terrain and the local volunteer forces. Simple forts were recommended in 1877 for Portland,
Port Fairy and Warrnambool. These would replace vulnerable open gun emplacements.

  Part of the Port Fairy Fort, Victoria  The traversing 80-pr RML gun. Photos by Joan McDonald.


Click on external link below:
Portland 1889 Battery

The first shot of World War 1 by any allied army is supposed to have been fired from Point Nepean fort at Port Phillip Heads. The date was 5 August 1914, and the war was just one day
old. The target was the German steamer Pfalz which was attempting to leave the port. When
she left Melbourne, news that Britain had declared war had not yet reached Australia. But
that news had come through by the time Pfalz had reached the Heads. A shot fired ahead
of the ship prompted wrestling over the engine-room telegraph control between the ship's Master and Melbourne Pilot Captain M. Robinson of Williamstown, followed by a quick reversal of course. The ship returned to anchor off Williamstown. More than five hours passed after the incident before the crew realised why the vessel had been fired upon and detained.

Point Nepean Fort -- gun crew (WW1)

Captain M D Williams
CSMs E Wheeler, C Carter
Cpls R Britnell, J Jack
Bdrs W Young, W Carlin, L Hope, J Purdue, J Edwards
Gnrs A Murray, J Gregory, J Ryan, A Brown, W Quirk, J Russell, F Mealy]
Sources: Nepean Historical Society and Gordon R Burrowes


 Photo of SS Pfalz 
SS Pfalz. Detail from a
Melbourne Harbour Trust
Photograph. Reproduced
here with the permission
of the Keeper of Public
Records. Click here for
full citation.


Pfalz was fitted out as a troop transport, and renamed  H.M.A.T.  A42 Boorara. Boorara is a former gold mining area south east of South Kalgoorlie in West Australia. She took part in the 2nd Australian convoy and later carried Turkish prisoners from the Dardanelles. While in the Aegean Sea, in July 1915, she was unintentionally rammed by the French Cruiser Kleber, but was beached and patched up at Mudros, then repaired at Naples.

Pfalz as HMT Boorara This photo of SS Pfalz (later HMAT Boorara) kindly provided by Bob Pounds, who obtained the image from a German source.

A UK visitor to this page, Max Turner, kindly has donated 15 images of A42 Boorara to the Defending Victoria website. These photographs, Max believes, belonged to a crew member of Boorara. Taking up the story, Max feels that Mr Fred Miles may have been that crewman. Miles 'lived with a very elderly aunt of ours and has sadly passed away, and that is how I came in possession of these pictures'. Fred Miles died in 1983 in his early eighties with few possessions. 'But these photographs were quite precious to him according to Auntie who died last year'. Fred Miles originally hailed from the Brentwood area of Essex.

Defending Victoria Website (Max Turner having agreed) will donate these historically valuable images to the Australian War Memorial in Canberra as a gift to the Nation in due course. Some are sepia toned, and others in need of restoration and conservation after nearly a century.

 Frederick Miles?    HMAT A42 Boorara

 Boorara beached on Mudros
after being unintenionally rammed by French Cruiser Kleber. There was extensive damage to the hull...

   ... well below the waterline.

 'The Hole' from inside the ship...    Patched up.

     A tug prepares to tow Boorara off Mudros Island. 

  In dry dock at Naples. 

  This catastrophic damage, fully revealed at Naples, should have sunk the ship on the spot when she was rammed. A ladder and workman (bottom left) give some scale to the devastation.

  In the rest of the small collection of photographs sent to Fred Miles, there were three portraits. One was of a pretty young lady with dog, another was of two women - and this one, possibly of three shipmates (perhaps stewards on the Boorara). The surnames of the men, written on the back in pencil, are almost indecipherable - from left to right 'Tar (or Far), Dow, Sparkes (or Shanks)'.

Boorara later was twice torpedoed in the English Channel. On the first occasion, on 20 March 1918, off Beachy Head. She managed to reach Southampton and was made seaworthy for a tow to Newcastle for extensive repairs. However, she was torpedoed again off Whitby on 23 July 1918. Despite her engine room being wrecked twice, the sturdy vessel was repaired in time to help repatriate Australian troops in 1919.

The first shot of the Second World War is believed to have been fired from the same spot--Point Nepean--at a passing German ship--ss Stassfurt--which refused to stop and escaped. Despite continuing research, this cannot as yet be verified. Other versions of this incident exist, including mistaken identification of a Tasmanian vessel. Can anyone cast light on the subject?

 Australian artillery related books (Take a peek without leaving this site) 

Do you have photos, letters or documents?


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(Full citation for SS Pfalz photo): Public Record Office Victoria:  VA 2799: Melbourne Harbour Trust Commission: VPRS 8357.P3: Drawer 2: Photo No. 29A

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