Fort Lytton National Park

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Discover the Birthplace of Queensland’s Military History: Fort Lytton National Park

Fort Lytton National Park is a must-see destination for history buffs, military enthusiasts, or anyone looking for a unique and educational experience. This 19th century fort in Brisbane, Queensland, is the birthplace of the state’s military history and a testament to its rich heritage.

Map of Town of Lytton
Gordon and Gotch published this small map of the town of Lytton in 1880. It tells two stories from the late 1800s. The first is the construction of an artillery battery – the Fort Lytton battery was constructed in the event of a foreign power’s naval attack on Brisbane.
The second activity depicted on this map is the establishment of the Lytton Land-Based Reformatory School for Boys.

Fort Lytton National Park: A Journey Through Time

Fort Lytton, built in 1881 to defend Brisbane, is a classic example of 19th century military architecture. Heavy armaments are cleverly concealed behind grassy ramparts and linked by underground passages in this pentagonal fortress. A water-filled moat surrounds the fort, adding to its defences.

However, Fort Lytton was more than just a fortress; it was also a centre for military training. Regular military training camps were a highlight of Queensland’s political and social calendar, with military manoeuvres and ceremonial displays drawing crowds from across the state. Almost every Queenslander who served in the First Australian Imperial Force during WWI had some connection to Fort Lytton.

Photograph in black and white of soldiers and historic buildings at Fort Lytton in Brisbane.
The role of Fort Lytton in the Second World War was very different from previous times. It had become a component of a much larger defence system. Four more coastal forts were built to defend Moreton Bay between 1937 and 1943. These forts served as the outer defence, preventing enemy vessels from reaching the Brisbane River’s mouth, while Fort Lytton served as the inner defence.
Fort Bribie and Fort Skirmish were on Bribie Island, and Fort Cowan Cowan and Fort Rous were on Moreton Island. Each of these forts was outfitted with two six-inch guns, allowing them to cover the majority of Moreton Bay. In addition, the navy used indicator loops and remote-controlled minefields in Moreton Bay’s deep water channels, giving them the ability to detect and destroy enemy vessels, including submerged submarines.

When WWII broke out, Fort Lytton was upgraded to a secondary defence position. To reflect the changing nature of warfare and defence tactics, modern batteries were established on nearby Mulgumpin (Moreton Island) and Bribie Island. The fort was abandoned after the war, and its defensive role was terminated. Ampol, however, took over the site in 1963 to build an oil refinery, preserving its history and heritage.

Photograph in black and white of a military camp at Fort Lytton in Brisbane.
Fort Lytton served as a major training facility for many years. Fort Lytton trained thousands of soldiers for the Boer War, World War I, and World War II. For the first forty years, the fort also served as the primary training facility for Queensland’s reserve soldiers. Up to 5000 reservists trained at Fort Lytton’s “Easter Encampment” each year.
Fort Lytton continued to play an important role in Australian defence even after it was decommissioned as a military outpost. Between 1950 and 1953, over 17,000 Australians served in the Korean War. The signal station at Fort Lytton was critical for communication between Australia and its forces in Korea. At this point, the signal station had been significantly upgraded, including upgrades to radio equipment, masts, and aerials (antennas).

In 1988, Fort Lytton was designated as a national park dedicated to displaying and preserving Queensland’s military history. Visitors can now step back in time and experience the fort through guided tours, cannon firing demonstrations, and one-of-a-kind re-enactments. In addition to school holiday activities and special events, such as the “History Alive” re-enactment and a promenade theatre performance at night, the park provides a historical experience.

Fort Lytton National Park is not only a must-see for history and military buffs, but it is also a unique and educational experience for families and those who value Australia’s heritage. The park allows visitors to experience what life was like for soldiers stationed at the fort, learn about military technological advancements, and comprehend the role of Fort Lytton in shaping Queensland’s military history.

The park’s location on the Brisbane River offers breathtaking views and a lovely setting for picnics, walks, and nature exploration. Fort Lytton National Park is a must-see destination for anyone interested in learning, experiencing, and appreciating Australia’s rich history.

So, if you’re in Brisbane, make a point of visiting Fort Lytton National Park. This park has something for everyone, whether you’re interested in military history, Queensland heritage, or just want to enjoy a beautiful day out.