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Thursday, 21 March 2002
Page: 2001


Mr SAWFORD (12:33 PM) —On Sunday, 17 March, I was given the honour of commissioning a world first. The Fort Glanville Historical Association, located in my electorate of Port Adelaide, is based in a restored fort originally built in the late 1800s when a threat from the Russian Imperial Navy was perceived. The actual commissioning was of the restored mechanical loading system for the fort's 10-inch guns. The restoration was made possible by many dedicated local history enthusiasts and a Commonwealth Centenary of Federation grant. Special mention should be made of the work of the members of the Fort Glanville Historical Association. I would particularly like to acknowledge Frank Garie, the late Neil Francis, Mike Lockley, Russell Sheldrick and Derek Bakker. Frank Garie was responsible for the research, plan drafting and manufacture of the timber components, together with the installation at the fort. The mechanical components were mainly manufactured or obtained and installed, with Frank, by Neil Francis. The pair worked closely together for two years on the project. Tragically, Neil passed away suddenly at the end of February, just as the project was nearing completion. Fort Glanville and the people of South Australia owe much to volunteers like Frank Garie and Neil Francis, because without them Fort Glanville would certainly not enjoy the world leadership status it has today.

Many aspects of the history of the fort and of the loading system are typical of South Australia of the late 1800s—that is, ahead of the pack. For example, South Australia was, in 1880, the first government to purchase a new Armstrong protected barbette system. This involved raising the height of the wall at the front of the gun to protect the crew from enemy fire, and constructing the undercover mechanical loading system. The purchase was largely due to South Australia's new governor, world famous defence adviser and engineer Sir William Jervois, a colonel in the Royal Engineers, who had seen the system while in England. The experts tell me that the system essentially comprises a rammer driven by a cable system and a controlled loading beam that raises the powder in the shell to align with the muzzle of the gun, with the gun barrel in the depressed loading position. The rammer is then activated to load the gun. On the third try, we got it to go with a 7.5 kilogram charge. I think I understood the actual operation but, on a practical basis, I saw it first-hand and it worked.

The system was constructed mainly of timber and was thus cheap to purchase, which made it attractive to the British colonies. South Australia's was a pilot system for later improved versions built in forts in Sydney, Brisbane and Hobart. Fort Glanville's system was adapted to enable it to fit to an already built emplacement, thus making it unique. However, like others elsewhere in the world—and this is the tale we all know so well today—it became obsolete very quickly in the 1890s due to advances in technology. Possibly because it was a prototype, Fort Glanville's system was never really successful, and was removed in the 1890s.

No plans existed to enable reconstruction, and a vast amount of research has been necessary for the project. It is a great detective story. A small sketch was discovered in a UK patent office, under another examination of papers. This was scaled up and compared with the few remaining fixtures still at the fort. Working drawings were then drafted, and the restoration proceeded from there. The reconstruction and restoration of the mechanical loading system is a world first for such a system. It is a great achievement for the association, and something very special for the Port Adelaide area. It is also something very special for Frank Garie, a dedicated local historian, and, as I said, for the late Neil Francis, a dedicated helper. My congratulations go to everyone involved in the project, and my very best wishes for the future for all members of the Fort Glanville Historical Association.