Geelong’s explosive wartime history lives on

December 1, 2021 BY

The two spherical mines are a key part of the memorial at the Torquay RSL. Photo: TORQUAY RSL

GEELONG’S history of sea mines recently floated to the surface with the sale of a mine found in an Ocean Grove backyard, but the public can see two of the former explosive devices for free in Torquay.

The carefully laid out memorial between Taylor Park and the Torquay RSL rooms at the western end of the Torquay Bowls Club is flanked by two refurbished and safe sea mines.

The World War II-era devices glisten black with once-shiny “detonating horns” protruding from their spherical shape.

The sea mines were donated to the Torquay RSL many years ago and stood at Point Danger before the memorials were finally put in place.

Although they had weathered well in the salty air, they looked like new after volunteers returned them to their 1940s glory, albeit without any explosive material inside.

The Geelong region has a long history related to sea mines.

They were manufactured in Geelong, transported to Swan Island for filling with explosive material and stored for use on the island. The mines were manufactured by the Ford Motor Company at Geelong, and 12,561 mines were produced between 1941 and 1944.

The mine casing was two steel hemispheres of 1016 mm diameter welded to a cylindrical “belt” 203 mm long.

Women welded the hemispheres to the belt, and most likely also made other components.

The main charge, normally 227 kg of TNT, was manufactured by the Commonwealth Explosives Factory at Maribyrnong and trucked to the RAN Mine Depot at Swan Island for insertion into the mine.

Women made up half the workforce at this explosives factory, and there was the same proportion at nearby munitions and ordnance factories.

HMAS Bungaree laid 8,696 Mark XIV moored mines – a mine anchored to the bottom of the water body and set to float just below the surface of the water – made in Australia during World War II.

The former civilian merchant freighter was Australia’s only minelayer during the war, and laid defensive belts of mines in both Australian and New Zealand waters.