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Fort Lytton Historical Association

Special Signals Display

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Role of Signals



The guns of Fort Lytton could not operate effectively without Signals to record fall of shot and source of incoming rounds.

The first military signallers were volunteers in the Corps of Engineers, which was raised in January 1876 and took on a more urgent role when a fort was recommended by Major General Jervois & Colonel P. Scratchley as to the need for colonial Queensland's defences.  Part of their recommendation involved the setting up of a submarine minefield near the entrance to the Brisbane River as mines had had such a devastating effect both in the Crimean War and the U.S. Civil War.

Queensland defence scheme 1891The advent of submarine mines brought a new item to the equation: someone had to learn how to splice the cables to the mine, as well as to the remote which triggered its explosion. This involved a sound working knowledge of electricity - the group already possessing that expertise were in the Electric Telegraph Department as operators of the civil telegraph system.

A new army Torpedo and Signalling Corps was set up with 23 members to install and test the mines and provide general communication. The Officer commanding was also the civil Superintendent of telegraph services so this new role was not so different from his daily Monday to Friday job.

This state of affairs lasted 12 months, then command handed to Engineers. Brisbane Engineers had 1 Field Company (#5) Submarine mining section from 1885 until 1898, when the Brisbane Company of Submarine Miners took over both roles (communications and mines).

Sigs with Spotlight, Fort LyttonIt had been realised that it had to be possible to light up the minefield at night, so a searchlight was mounted and this was maintained and operated by #5 Electric Section.

In 1903 the first military wireless messages were sent from a ship at Fort Lytton back to the naval Stores at Kangaroo Point, central Brisbane, and later there were successful contacts with Moreton Island in Moreton Bay.

When all the Australian colonies (now states) handed over their powers to the new Federal Government a military board was convened to organise and run the new Federal Army. Prior to this all colonies had done their own thing in their own way as regards signalling but found that they could not work together, so the new Military Board created the Australian Corps of Signallers on 23 December 1905 with 284 across all ranks.

The first test for the new members of the Corps was when a requirement was introduced for them to be able to ride a horse as well as supply a horse for hire if needed, the same as the light horse troops. Also most new members had to be existing militia members. The resultant exodus from the regiments caused by this requirement left most units with insufficient trained men to maintain even basic communications.

All was not well with the new signal corps as many officers wanted to control their own Regimental Signallers and not wait for an outsider to tell them what they would get and when. So in 1912 the Australian Signal Corps disbanded and new engineer units were created to handle the signals role, in the form of signal troops attached to each regiment. During World War I, signallers were called Sappers.

At Fort Lytton (1st Military District, i.e Queensland) the 23 Signal Company, part of the Corps of Engineers, took on all communications, mines and searchlight work, a situation that remained the same until 1925 when the Australian Corps of Signals was re-raised. This time the Corps was very successful and far more permanent.

Sigs Despatch RiderThe Signals question now being somewhat more settled, Fort Lytton began receiving a good signals service via telephone, telegraph, radio and the humble heliograph as well as a reliable signal dispatch service via motorcycle.

The Australian Corps of Signals served at Fort Lytton right up to 1963, when most of the land was sold to Ampol and Sigs. finally moved on.




Site last updated 16 March 2013

This site is dedicated to those soldiers who trained at Lytton and gave their lives for our freedom .

  2007 Fort Lytton Historical Association
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