Frequently Asked Questions


Has there ever been a battle here? Did the Fortís guns ever fire?

The HISTORY page discusses the shots fired from Fort Nepean, on order from Fort Queenscliff, at the beginning of both World Wars.

While the coastal artillery guns at Fort Queenscliff were frequently fired for practice, they did not fire at an enemy. However, on 29 May 1940 the fort's anti-aircraft battery fired three rounds at an unidentified aircraft.

In February 1942 the Japanese submarine 1-25 launched its seaplane in Bass Strait for a reconnaissance flight over Port Phillip. The aircraft over flew Fort Queenscliff and RAAF Base Point Cook to Melbourne and then returned over the Mornington Peninsula.

In the early morning of 1 September 1942 a sentry at the Crows Nest Battery at Queenscliff, Gunner Hulston, was discovered missing from his post. Marks on the ground indicated a heavy object had been dragged along the beach. During the search for Gunner Hulston, two soldiers were fired upon with one being wounded in the thigh. On 10 September Gunner Hulston's body was found in the sea off Queenscliff.

What happened at the Fort or near it during World War I & World War II?

In July 1917 the German commerce raider Wolf laid two minefields in Bass Strait. On 5 July 1917, the British freighter SS Cumberland hit one of these mines near Gabo Island and subsequently sank during salvage operations. Other ship disappearances in the 1920s may have been the result of mines laid by the Wolf. The Wolf revisited the area in her civilian livery as the SS Wachtfels, when she loaded wheat at Geelong in May 1921.

In early October 1940 the German commerce raid Pinguin (Penguin) captured the Norwegian tanker Storstad off the northwest coast of Western Australia. The Germans renamed her the Passat and used her as minelayer in Australian waters. In late October 19-both the Pinguin and the Passat laid mines in Bass Strait, leading to the sinking of two allied merchant ships: the British Cambridge nine kilometres off Wilson's Promontory on 7 November 1940; and the American City of Rayville about nine kilometres south of Cape Otway on 8 November. A party from the Passat may all have landed at Moonlight Head near Cape Otway as several. German articles were found soon afterwards.

Throughout 1942 and 1943 Japanese submarines operated in Bass Strait, and were attacked by the RAAF on several occasions. On 4 June 1942 the SS Barwon was attacked near Gabo Island and the SS Iron Crown was torpedoed and sunk the following day in the same area.

In late 1944 the German submarine U862 operated in the western approaches to Bass Strait.

How many soldiers manned the fort?

A fortress engineer company that operated the searchlights and the minefields and a garrison artillery battery that operated the guns manned Fort Queenscliff. The total war establishment strength of the garrison was about 200 personnel. Militia units based in Melbourne supplemented the garrisons of some of the other forts during wartime. This was a large garrison for a town whose population between 1882-1946 only averaged 2 200.

When was the fort built?

The first temporary earthworks were built in 1861. The first permanent battery position (the "Brick Battery") was built in 1863-69. The upper and lower batteries were built in 1879-85, the walls in 1882-83, the Keep in 1883-85 and the gorge in 1885-86.

What is the basis for the colour scheme used on the historic buildings?

The International Convention on Monuments and Statues (ICCMOS) lays down guidelines for the restoration of historic structures. The guidelines are that an historic building should be restored as closely as possible to the most important era for that building. The era chosen for the fort is the early 1880s when most of the fort was constructed. The colours are those used in the early 1880s.

Why is the fort's site known as Shortland Bluff?

The bluff (or headland) is named after Lieutenant Shortland of HMS Rattlesnake who first landed here when surveying Port Phillip in 1836.

What are the guns in the park at the front of the fort?

The gun on the right, as you face the fort, is a nine-inch rifled muzzle loader. These guns were emplaced at the fort from 1879 to 1891. It fired a 116 kilogram, or 256 pound, projectile to a maximum range of 6,030 metres, or 6,600 yards. The gun on the left is an eight-inch breech loader originally emplaced at the Crows Nest Battery. It fired an 82 kilogram, or 180 pound, projectile to a maximum range of 8,000 metres, or 8700 yards.


What is the name of the pink flowering trees throughout the fort?

They are Norfolk Island Hibiscus or Lagunaria patersonia.


For more information visit the HISTORY page