The importance of Sydney Harbour has been recognized since early European exploration. This is due to the harbour’s distance to Europe, position at the beginning of the Gulf of St. Lawrence, proximity to primary trading routes, and local coal deposits.
In June 1917, Sydney was selected as a convoy assembly port in response to Germany initiating submarine warfare during World War 1, and proceeding to sink 169 British merchant ships.
By June 1918, the federal government established the Royal Canadian Naval Air Service to escort convoys traveling from North America to Europe.
Plans to construct a naval base in North Sydney (Kelly’s Beach) began shortly after, but were unnecessary by November of the same year, as World War 1 had ended before the base could be implemented.
In August 1939, The Royal Canadian Navy established a facility on the Sydney waterfront, and the following year the facility was commissioned as the HMCS Protector.
Sydney’s main responsibility served as a gathering point for war supplies for the SC (Slow Convoy); while Halifax served as the primary port.
Sydney harbour was capable of stationing over 100 vessels at any given time, it served as a main convoy point during the travelling overseas, and stationed armed escorts accompanying convoys.
The harbour also was provided with a major naval base which various ally forces would station thorough out the war, and other various defense points were also installed in the Sydney area beginning in 1939.
During May 1940, the naval staff in Sydney numbered 120, including military personnel, and civilians. In October of the same year, it was decided to establish a base at Point Edward, across Sydney Harbour.The Point Edward base was capable of vessel repairs, operating defenses, communications, stores, and training of personnel.
By the end of the war, the base occupants numbered from 120 to 2,327, and from the period of June to November 1941, a total of 1,764 allied vessels departed from Sydney Harbour for resupply missions.
Fort Oxford Battery
Fort Oxford was the second of a long-distance bombardment coastal gun battery, located 6.5 kilometers from the entrance of Sydney Harbour. Built in 1943, it was the largest single army construction project in Sydney during World War 2.
Originally to be positioned at Oxford Point, but it was decided to be constructed in a more defensive to the west, between Meritt Point and Bonar Head.
It was home to three 9.2-inch MK XV guns that were capable of firing up towards to 26.5km, however the third gun was never placed before construction stopped in 1948. Also, the battery also housed a 20mm Hispano anti-aircraft, and a four-storey reinforced observation tower located ¼ mile line, stationed behind the batteries.
Fort Oxford artillery never saw action during WW2, and remained an active location until it disabled in 1953.
Chapel Point Battery
Chapel Point has experienced 3 different periods of activity beginning during the 1860s, World War 1, and most recent during World War 2.
The WW2 battery was constructed in 1940, and was stationed on a rocky cliff overlooking the entrance to Sydney Harbour.
The Chapel Point battery stationed two concrete reinforced emplacements that held 4.7-inch MK7 quick-firing guns, a four storey concrete control station, three separate searchlight shelters, and several underground shelters.
The site last remained active up until 1948 with the end of World War 2, and the Battle of the Atlantic.