The Military History of Tomaree Headland

In March 1942, General Douglas MacArthur was appointed the supreme commander of the South West Pacific sector, “with authority over all allied naval, land and air forces in the theatre”.
This appointment effectively meant that General MacArthur had control of the Australian forces.

At this time, Port Stephens, including Tomaree Head, was developed as a World War Two military base by a joint Australian Army – United States Navy defence venture.

Port Stephens was a vital part of the Australian coastal defence system during the

Second World War and became the focus of first Australian – United States combined

training operations for the South – West Pacific sector.

This included Camp Gan Gan (located around 4km from Nelson Bay), Fort Tomaree (and the associated camps at Tomaree Head) and HMAS Assault on St Nazaire’s Road, also known as the Joint Overseas Operational Training School (JOOTS), which became Nelson’s Bay

Migrant Hostel in the post – war period.

The Gun placements on Tomaree Head today.

Plans for two camps on Tomaree Head, to service the Fort Tomaree defence installations as part of the military occupation at Port Stephens, were prepared in 1941 by the New South Wales Government Architect / Department of Public Works.

It is likely that these buildings were constructed by the New South Wales Department of Public Works on behalf of the Commonwealth Government, which was standard practice at this time due to labour shortages caused by the war.

These 1941 plans of Tomaree Head show that most of the buildings dating from this time on the Tomaree Lodge site have been retained in-situ.

Hotchkiss Mark 1 Gun

The surf battery at Tomaree Head, consisting of two Quick Firing 3 pounder Hotchkiss Mark 1 guns, was intended for close defence of the entrance to Port Stephens and the approaches to Shoal Bay:

The Torpedo Tubes on Tomaree Head Today.

After investigation, it was later decided to install land based torpedo tubes on the north west side of Tomaree Head. A special launching platform was constructed on the shoreline some 50m to the west of No. 2 Gun (3 pounder) of Surf Section. Support facilities including accommodation were provided for the naval personnel.”

Two years after the end of the Second World War, in 1947, the Commonwealth

Defence Department transferred the former military camp at Tomaree Head to the

Department of Public Health, for use as a convalescent hospital for patients from

State hospitals.

An undated contour plan of the Tomaree Convalescent Home (c. 1947-50) shows two groups of buildings on Tomaree Head at this time.

The site of Tomaree Lodge is referred to on this plan as Lower Tomaree. At this time, it contained sixteen buildings numbered 34 to 52. It appears that these buildings had been used as the Garrison Camp for the C Company of the 20 Australian Garrison (Army) from 1942 until the close of the Second World War.

This plan also shows that Upper Tomaree, located further to the south around Tomaree Head, was the site of the former Battery Camp and RAAF Camp during the war. The buildings at Upper Tomaree were demolished, and the site is now within the Tomaree National Park.

When the former Military Camp had been acquired by the New South Wales Government,
it reportedly had been “an abandoned army camp, which seemed to be suitable for a convalescent hostel, but which had few amenities and little satisfactory accommodation.

The first six patients arrived in June 1947.

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