Sydney Harbour Defenses

Posted on: Mon, 10/27/2014 - 15:15 By: Mike

Spotlight emplacement.

Sydney, Nova Scotia, served a vital role in the Allied war effort of World War II. It was a rally point for supply ships and their escorts providing war materiel, and it was a base for the ships and aircraft that helped to secure the routes those convoys would set out on. To that end, the harbour had to be protected against enemy ships or the submarines that were known to prowl the waters in search of targets or military intelligence.

We were returning from a great two-week vacation in Newfoundland. As the ferry was entering the harbour, I noticed the various observation posts and gun-emplacements that dotted the approach. Since we were arriving fairly early in the afternoon, I thought perhaps we could squeeze in an opportunity to have a look at some of them. Because of this last-moment approach, there would be two things to note. First, I had no idea the exact placement of each of them and would have to hunt a little bit to find them. Second, with no time to do research in advance, I'd have no idea what I was actually looking at, or what it had been called. Despite that, as soon as we were checked into the hotel, we set off to see what we could find.

Looking out from an emplacement.

As we cruised up the coast-line, the first place we found was the Stubbert's Point Battery. Constructed in 1939, the battery was originally equipped with two 6-pounder Hotchkiss guns, but was later equipped with a 6-poinder duplex quick-firing gun. In addition, three search lights were constructed here to help guard the anti-submarine net that stretched across the harbour. It was largely dismantled in 1946, no longer being required after the war. We looked over what little remained, but became keenly aware of the late hour.

Observation post looking over the harbour.

We continued along and found a remarkable looking structure that turned out to be the fire control tower of the Chapel Point Battery. The stairs inside the fire control tower had been destroyed, so access to the upper levels was impossible. Graffiti was everywhere, yet did nothing to really detract from the feel of the place, and its commanding view of the busy waters it once guarded. In later research, I discovered that this structure had been camouflaged as a summer cottage to the casual observer.

As we continued our exploration, we found a set of stairs leading underground. We descended with our lights and saw that it went deep; deeper than we had encountered at any previous such bunker. While warm outside, we felt the temperature drop dramatically as we passed a specific depth on the second stairwell downward. A significant amount of water barred further exploration, but it appeared not to go much further than we were able to see.

Stairs down into an underground bunker.

Having returned to the surface and the diminishing daylight of the setting sun, we examined the gun batteries and various shelters scattered around the site. Knowing there was still one more place we wanted to reach before nightfall, we moved along.

Crossing a narrow, treacherous passage.

The Cranberry Point Battery was constructed in 1917 and consisted of two 4.7" quick-fire guns. An additional 4.7" gun was moved here from the Chapel Point Battery in May, 1917. The guns were removed after the war. In World War II, a concrete observation post was added to this site along with two searchlights.

There was a lengthy path through an open, grassy field leading toward the point. I followed it along, seeing the sun dropping ever-closer to the horizon. I reached a place, however that was completely eroded on both sides. There was a very narrow path, and a very long drop down to the beach. There was a rope there to help, or so I thought until I realized that the other end was not connected. There would never be another time or chance for me to see this place, and I knew that before long, this erosion would end anyone's ability to come here. Throwing further concerns to the wind, I moved quickly across the narrow path to the safety of the other side.

View from the bunker at sunset.

My look around was quick as I had no desire to go back across that gap in the dark.