Albany, located 418km south-east of Perth, is the oldest colonial settlement in Western Australia. Established in 1826 it was originally settled as a military outpost for the colony of New South Wales as part of their plan to halt French ambitions in the region. In 1893 the first Federal fort, the Princess Royal Fortress, was built on Mt Adelaide and the town was the last port of call for Australian troops departing for service in the First World War. During the Second World War it was home to an auxiliary submarine base for the US Navy’s 7th Fleet in the event that the primary base at Fremantle was lost to the Japanese. So, with a long weekend giving me some spare time, I decided to take a drive down to Albany to check out the Princess Royal Fortress and the National ANZAC Centre.
Albany Barracks Museum at the Princess Royal Fortress
Albany overlooks King George Sound, one of the world’s finest natural harbours and during the 19th century the Australian states realised that the loss of this strategic port could be disastrous not only to Western Australia but to all the colonies. As a result, all the states agreed to pay for the construction of a fort and the British Government would supply the guns. The Princess Royal Fortress was dug into the hillside of Mount Adelaide with two gun batteries – Fort Princess Royal (2 x 6 inch guns) and Fort Plantagenet (1 x 6 inch gun) at nearby Point King. Neither battery fired a shot in anger and in 1956 the Princess Royal Fortress was decommissioned; the buildings initially being used as a hostel and holiday camp before being redeveloped in the late 1980’s as a heritage site. The fortress is now home to a number of interesting military sites including the Albany Barracks and Princess Royal Battery, the National ANZAC Centre, HMAS Perth Museum Interpretive Centre, Navy Heritage trail, the South East Asia Memorial, US Submariners Memorial and the Merchant Navy Memorial.
6 inch gun at the Princess Royal Fort
Artillery uniforms, circa 1890’s
Cap and jacket detail of an artillery officer of the Fortress Princess Royal battery circa 1890’s
Albany Barracks Museum
6 inch gun at the Princess Royal Fort
Princess Royal Fortress Command Centre built in 1942.
HMAS Perth Museum & Interpretive Centre
HMAS Perth Museum
Royal Australian Navy (DPCU) uniform worn by CMDR Michael Manfield who had previously commanded the submarine HMAS Waller. HMAS Waller was the third Collins Class submarine to enter service. It was named after Captain Hector “Hec” Waller, DSO and Bar of the HMAS Perth I which was lost during WW2. HMAS Waller’s patch, seen on the right shoulder, features the Stuart rose which references Captain Waller’s service on HMAS Stuart whilst the Oak Leaves represent Captain Waller’s three Mention In Despatches during his career. The field of black and blue signifies the night battles at sea during WW2 in which his flotilla was engaged. I am not sure why the curators decided to add the Chief Petty Officer’s rank slides to the uniform.
Bofors anti-aircraft gun and other artillery pieces on the Navy Discovery trail
USN Submariners Memorial commemorating the WW2 submariners who remain on eternal patrol
Entry to all the museums and sites, with the exception of the National ANZAC Centre is free and are definitely worth a visit presenting some interesting pieces of memorabilia at the various buildings and displays.
The National ANZAC Centre was opened on the 1st of November 2014, a century after the first convoy of Australian and New Zealand troops departed from King George Sound, bound for the Great War. Visitors assume the identity of one of 32 servicemen who served in the war and follow their experience of the conflict from recruitment through active service to their return (for some). Their stories unfold through interactive displays, artefacts, photos, film and audio recordings. The content, curated from the Australian War Memorial and the Western Australian Museum, is interesting and engaging. A visit to the centre is definitely worth the Au$25 entry fee.
The National ANZAC Centre with the USN Submariners Memorial in the foreground.
National ANZAC Centre
New Zealand and Australian uniforms at the National ANZAC Centre
Ottoman identity disc, 1915. Official historian Charles Bean recovered three examples of these identity discs in the Lone Pine trench system in 1919. This example has been cut into a heart shape, possibly by its owner. Unfortunately the low light made it difficult to get a really clear image with my iphone.
Foreign service helmet, Pattern 1902. Often referred to as the Wolsley or sun helmet, this example was worn on Gallipoli by Ballarat farmer Sergeant Cuthbert Stanley-Lowe of the 9th Light Horse. Stanley-Lowe was hospitalised on 15 June 1915 with ‘rheumatism and headaches’ caused by ‘exposure and strain in the trenches.’ He was evacuated to Lemnos and Egypt before being returned to Australia as medically unfit in early 1916.
This British 1916 Mk 1 helmet was worn by Major General (later Lieutenant General) Sir Joseph Talbot Hobbs throughout his service on the Western Front. He has fixed an Australian rising sun badge to the front of his helmet. Major General Hobbs, commander of the 5th Australian Division, is best known for orchestrating the night attack on Villers-Bretonneaux on 24-25 April 1918, which recaptured the town.
German helmet, gas-mask, wire cutters and pistol on display at the National ANZAC Centre
Australian trench raiders clubs and revolver at the National ANZAC Centre
Interactive display relating the stories of individual participants in the Great War at the National ANZAC Centre
Princess Royal Fortress
Forts Road, Albany, Western Australia 6330, Australia
Ph: +61 8 9841 9369
Open 0900 – 1700 every day except Christmas Day.
Admission is free to all areas and buildings except the National ANZAC Centre which costs Au$25 for adults, Au$21 concession, Au$11 for first child (5- 15 years old) and $Au6 for every child thereafter.
National ANZAC Centre:
Ph: +61 8 6820 3500
Photos of the Princess Royal Fortress during WW2
Albany visitor sites: