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Navy in South Australia: Torpedo station

The site on the North Arm of the Port River was considered to have some strategic significance and a naval store was established there sometime during the early 1870s. This was used by the naval reserve and also as a store for emergency equipment for sea rescue, such as rocket gear. During the 1880s a temporary torpedo station was erected at the North Arm of the Port River.  This was later replaced with a more substantial building of galvanised iron 110 feet long. Built by the naval reservists the building consisted of three sections: store, lecture room and a residence for the torpedo officer. A jetty ran out from the station into deeper water and had a tramway to ease the landing or despatch of stores. A road ran behind the station towards the False Arm and could be connected to the mainland with a light bridge. In later years all access was by the river only.

The torpedo station was extended in 1890 and again in 1891 by the crew of HMCS Protector.  All of her crew at this time received instruction in torpedo work in a course lasting six weeks.

It was intended that the torpedo station would protect Port Adelaide in the event of hostilities by placing a boom of heavy chains across the river: this could be protected by a gun battery. The station could also mine the Port River if needed and to this end the government acquired a number of mines, costing 6,000 pounds. These however were never used and eventually became obsolete. The station finally acquired a torpedo boat in 1905, long after the station's establishment. A boathouse and slipway were built to house it. In a report of August 1911 the torpedo station consisted of a jetty with tramway, a small house for storing submarine mining cable; an oil store; a galvanised iron building containing the gunners' store, air compressing room, torpedo room and engineers workshop; a main building, also of galvanised iron containing the lecture room and caretaker's accommodation of three rooms; the magazine built of sand brick containing powder and ammunition; the gun cotton store built of stone; and the slipway and shed for the torpedo boat. This was described as being in good condition and useful for examination service work.

The torpedo station was closed and dismantled during 1917. Some of the equipment was transferred to the new Naval Depot at Birkenhead which had been established in 1915, replacing the Largs Bay site. By 1931 there was little sign left of the torpedo station.

Further reading:

South Australian Register 10 July 1886, page 7c 'The torpedo station'

South Australian register 28 February 1891 page 7a 'The torpedo station'

Wimmer, Martin Andrew Archaeology of the Russian scare : the Port Adelaide torpedo station [Bedford Park, S. Aust.]: Department of Archaeology, Flinders University, 2008


The Manning index of South Australian history: Defence of the colony: A history of South Australia's Colonial navy 

Torpedo station
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