hline.gif (2424 bytes)


bribie01.jpg (31497 bytes)

Part of Fort Bribie


Fort Bribie was one of the primary defences for Brisbane during World War 2. The other primary defence fortifications for Brisbane were on Moreton Island at Fort Cowan and Fort Rous. The fortifications at Fort Lytton were considered a secondary defence for Brisbane. Work on building Fort Bribie started in 1940. It became fully operational in 1941.


moretonbay.jpg (217999 bytes)

Click on picture to enlarge


One of the military personnel based at Fort Bribie during WW2 was Bruce Gow of Wellers Hill in Brisbane. Bruce was a sergeant with the searchlight unit attached to the 32nd Fortress Engineers. One day Bruce can remember sitting down for a cup of tea and he felt the shock of a large explosion. He looked out to sea and saw that a ship had been blown up. He then felt and saw another ship being blown up. He figured that a Japanese submarine had attacked a convoy of allied ships. For many days after the explosions, soldiers patrolled the beach looking for washed up bodies. No mention of the sinkings appeared in the local newspapers.

Owen Brown of Caloundra was part of the Fortress Signals Unit at Fort Bribie in January 1942.


bribie02.jpg (35318 bytes)

The barrel of a 6 inch gun from HMAS Sydney (ex WW1) on Reg Sallaway's International truck headed for Fort Bribie in about 1940


Ray Tilney of Caloundra helped to transport the big guns to the fort on Bribie Island. Initially the gun installation offered no protection to the gun crews from strafing aircraft. Tesch Brothers of Caloundra and Witta were engaged to build "Lids" above the guns using massive hardwood logs to protect the gun crews from enemy aircraft fire.

There was a mine field installed between Bribie Island and Moreton Island. It was connected to a firing button in the detonation room at Caloundra. There was a direct underwater line from the Bribie Forts to the Caloundra Telephone exchange. Elva Wendt was one of the operators on the telephone exchange.

Fresh water was obtained at the Forts via a pipeline to Bulcock Beach, where a windmill was used to pump the water.

The Caloundra Lions Club has erected a plaque at Lighthouse Park, Caloundra to commemorate the activities in the area during WW2. The plaque was unveiled on 8 June 1991 by the American Consul.

The following photos taken on 5 July 2001, were provided by Mike Cosgrove:-


Water tank
No. 1 Gun?
Looking towards No. 1 Gun from the dune
Looking towards No. 1 Gun from the north
Looking out from No. 1 Gun
No. 1 Gun supply?
Looking towards No. 2 Gun from the dune
Looking towards No. 2 Gun from the north
Water Tank

There is supposed to be an underground Hospital on Bribie Island, possibly at Fort Bribie. The entrance is apparently covered with sand and some type of vine. The entrance was barred by a steel framed grate and written on the gate was "Trespassers will be prosecuted". The internal wall, roof and floor of the hospital was cement. Dave Bagley told me that he used to camp in the underground hospital at Fort Bribie from about 1958 onwards when he was young. He said it was of concrete construction. There were 8 - 10 steps going down and then a passage way with some more steps off to the left. There was a blackboard on the wall with white lines painted on it and a number of iron beds.

David Bagley remembers that the underground room was approximately about 12 metres by 6 metres and had six 9" ventilators in the roof. David went to to tell me the following:-

"At about age 12 a couple of mates and I would row over to Bribie and camp for the weekend. We camped mainly in the forts or the rear lighthouse. The days were spent exploring. We also camped in what we called the underground hospital .It was I think situated above the second large fort about 50 metres behind the sand hills. It was accessed from the western side down approx 15 concrete steps. there were round vents in the roof and a number of rusty wire beds. This was a good place to camp if there was no wind. When windy sand would blow everywhere. On one visit sand had built up at the entrance and the room was half full of water. Although it has been fifty years I recon I could still locate it."

"I remember on one trip the a bushfire had been through an we walked up the centre of the island on a gravel road. There was the remnants of ablution blocks with concrete urinals still standing, also a concrete cricket pitch. Behind most of the forts were concrete paths heading to other buildings. these buildings had been removed but some of the foundations were still there. From memory there were three smaller forts and then the no 1 & 2 you mention. There was another underground building about 200 metres from the lighthouse on the front. This was always half full of water."


Initially known as Fort Bribie, then became Bribie Battery

Fort "xxxx" was the terminology used for coast defence facilities pre WWII, and they were manned by numbered Heavy Batteries. In the case of Brisbane, 8 Heavy Battery was the permanent army unit and 122 Heavy Battery was the militia unit. A mixed crew from these units were to man Fort Lytton and Fort Cowan. Construction started on Fort Bribie in early 1940. Also at each site were land defences which were manned by men from "C" Coy of 1 Garrison Battalion. Fort Cowan and Fort Bribie were convenient labels to apply to the whole complex. In October 1940, the coast artillery was reorganized so the regulars and militiamen at Cowan were merged to become Cowan Battery and when the guns at Bribie were finally operational, the manning unit, and the guns became Bribie Battery. The later batteries (Rous & Skirmish) were formed after this change so were never called Forts officially, but the name was sometimes used.


Can you tell me more about Fort Bribie?

Do you have any photographs during WW2 at Fort Bribie?

Can anyone help me with any more information on the underground hospital?


Seaward Defences for Moreton Bay

Fort Rous

Fort Cowan Cowan

RAN4 - The Bribie Island Indicator Loop Hut
Part of the Royal Navy's anti-submarine harbour defence for "Fortress Brisbane"

HMAS Tambar hit by "Friendly Fire" from Cowan Cowan, Moreton Island

Was American Submarine USS Triton
accidentally sunk in Moreton Bay by friendly fire?



"Sunshine Coast Heritage"
by Stan Tutt

"Fort Bribie"
by Ron Donald
The book is available from the Bribie Island RSL, Toorbul St., Bribie Island, QLD 4507 for $7 (postage Included)

"Fortress Brisbane"
By D.W. Spethman and R.G. Miller



I'd like to thank Graham McKenzie-Smith, Mike Cosgrove and Dave Bagley for their assistance with this home page.


Can anyone help me with more information?


"Australia @ War" WWII Research Products

I need your help


 Peter Dunn OAM 2020


Please e-mail me
any information or photographs

"Australia @ War"
8GB USB Memory Stick

This page first produced 1 August 2000

This page last updated 24 March 2020