Col Geoff Browne (retired) Special Speaker on 10 Terminal history at Middle Head

Col Geoff Browne (retired) Special Speaker on 10 Terminal history at Middle Head

Introduction by Julie Goodsir: Geoff Browne has been associated with Middle Head from when he was a young boy, he served 31 years and has a long association with 10 Terminal. Following his time in the Army Geoff then became Head of Education at ASOPA right next door to 10 Terminal. He has great qualifications to speak to us tonight.

Caption featured image above: Col Geoff Brown as a bugle boy (far left) and his father.

Col Geoff Browne: Good evening ladies and gentleman.

When I was six years of age, here’s where I stood. Right outside 10 Terminal regiment, and [then] it was a corrugated iron hut, and I was there at six [years of age], so that’s about 82 years ago.

10 Terminal Building Middle Head

My father was the Sergeant Major of the 1st Anti-Aircraft Battery at Georges Heights. But we trained down there [at Middle Head]. And for 40 cents, four shillings, we lived there for four days, all on rations. I was with the Army Cadets, and I was there as the bugler. I was eight years of age.

1788 till 2014, my math’s not good but I think that’s 226 years of military heritage at Middle Head and Georges Heights. And let me add, it is still continuing, because HMS Penguin is currently operating. So there’s no lack of military inheritance in that area.

The Middle Head area was of much interest to Captain Phillip. Now, you might know there was a very able Corsican who got Captain Phillip interested. You all know who the Corsican was, don’t you? His name was Napoleon. He was born in Corsica, and he was in the middle of the Napoleonic wars, and many countries over Europe were worried. Britain was worried that he might have an invasion force to go into Britain, but they knew the Royal Navy would murder any attempt to cross, just like we know in about 1944.

Captain Phillip sent a group of marines, Royal Marines, to Cobblers beach, three days after he landed at Sydney Cove. So that’s 1788, that’s when it started. Now the entire area of Middle Head, Chowder Bay, and Georges Heights was historically significant as an important location of major defence-works for the defence of Sydney Harbour and Port Jackson. During the 19th and 20th century. When I was that little boy, I had to [help] safeguard, Sydney Airways. My father put me on an outpost on the parade ground, I was eight, and because I knew the aircraft, I had great knowledge of aircraft, I was on the observation post on the parade ground with field glasses and a notebook tracking every plane that came across. Now I wasn’t there on the big night, you know the invasion night [31 May 1942], but my father was there firing guns.

Some of the military units that served in that area were the Royal Marines, the Royal Navy, the Royal Australian Navy, the submarine miners, coastal artillery, the 1802 battery at Georges Heights and Middle Head, 1802… that’s not bad for a battery. Muzzle loaders of course, stuck it in the front end and got out of the road, the 1870 batteries at Middle Head and Georges Heights, because as you know, the British Army, British Navy and so on, left Australia to look after itself in that period.

The Army Maritime School at Chowder Bay, Army Signals Unit. And when I was a little boy my father said, you can’t go near that army signal depot, because everything is secret. So I walked around the road, never went near it, I was a good boy. The AWAS, Australian Women’s Army Service, the school of military engineering, which went into the 10 Terminal building, which wasn’t built until 1941, and the first people to occupy it were the school of military engineering. Generally, movement and transport and so on.

The army intelligence centre was in the barrack area beside, and then 10 Terminal regiment went to the red big building that is of interest. Now there’s some argument, on the building notice, I went down yesterday, I go down every week by the way, but I went down yesterday and saw on the notes that it [said that it] was built in 1958. It was [actually] built in 1941. 10 terminal regiment, which is RAASC [Royal Australian Army Service Corps] and I was a Colonel in that Corps or [when it] became, the Royal Australian Corps of Transport later on, and the Royal Australian Electrical Mechanical Engineers who ran the workshops.

So you can see that it [Middle Head] has a long inheritance of military history, and I’d like think that it’ll stay nice and open as it is now. Thank you. [applause]

Col Geoff brown then continued to provide commentary to the slides, some of which are included here:


That is my father right there (above right), the battery Sergeant Major, left for dead at the Battle of Fromelles [July 1916]. In a shell hole with a wounded Bavarian. He was there, left for dead with a sign around his neck, pinned on, which I have at home, dying, still on it, they left him there, with the wounded Bavarian. And three days later, British stretcher bearers picked him up, and he was a long time in hospital, and the first person first to see him naked was King George V. Naked in the bath because he was the first soldier to have the saline solution put through. And I have a photograph of King George looking over, and there was my dad, [inaudible].


That’s the cadets, there (above), and they won the Australian Gold Championship in 1935, 1936.

Oh, by the way, that’s the 10 Terminal, that’s the building where 10 Terminal regiment is today, and that’s where for four shillings, 40 cents, we lived in that building.

My father, who was a battery Sergeant Major, reenlisted and served in World War II, and after he consulted with the commanding officer they put his age down 15 years. And he served until 1946.


There he is, and me as the bugler and I could play every tune except the last post.


The 10 Terminal regiment, the red building, built in 1941. Special tiles, and special bricks, Marseille tiles and so on, it’s a special building, even with the wartime restrictions. That’s the front and the side of the building, shows the Sergeants Mess, and part of the Officer’s Mess further down. They are still there.


This is in the [10 Terminal] officer’s mess, I looked in yesterday, all there. We used to sit by the nice fireplace here.


The army intelligence operated for the Vietnam war, and I think the Korean war. Army Intelligence, Dispatch Writer, that’s down at Middle Head.


And then I was the guy in charge of the education in the ’60s for the ASOPA I sent a lot of time in New Guinea.


There’s the buildings for ASOPA, and the intelligence centre, and barracks generally, and then the Italians prisoners of war [interned??] who liked it there.


The Hallstrom [Library at ASOPA], maybe you’ve heard of [Edward] Hallstrom [the businessman and entrepreneur who developed the kerosene refrigerator and was a benefactor of both ASOPA and Taronga Zoo].


Now, Office Code of Conduct Training. For the Vietnam war, RAAF officers went through training at Middle Head in the dungeons. Very hard training, terrible training.


That’s one of our classes, we operated lots of classes for officers in logistics at Chowder Bay and at Middle Head. They went on for years and years until the terminal regiment went and foregoed it. I was an instructor then – in the front row.


In 1997, the 10 Terminal Regiment marched down military road, down by the Beuna Vista Hotel, and got the Feedom of Mosman. I was there, but I was on the sideline.


Above: 10 Terminal 1997 showing the Officer’s Mess on the southern end of the building complex.

I was there [at 10 Terminal] yesterday, I stopped in here, looked in the windows, into the officer’s mess, where I spent a lot of time. Lovely spot, and looks out on a lovely room, and it look over a lovely lawn and it looks out over Sydney Harbour.

I think that’s all I have to say. Thank you.

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