Middle Heads Submarine Mine ExplosionPrint Page Print this page

Memorial erected over grave commemorates Lieutenant T. Hammand, Lieut. R. Bedford, Corpl. J. McKee and Bugler C. Bennett, killed in April 1891 by the premature explosion of a submarine mine during the Middle Head Easter encampment.

In 1888 Georges Head was chosen as the best place to observe and fire underwater mines, the latest in harbour defences. Each underwater mine was attached to an electric cable that ran up the cliff to a firing post. From there, miners watched for ships entering the harbour. The miners' job was to explode the mine closest to an approaching enemy ship. Minefields were laid across the main shipping channels of Port Jackson from 1876 to 1922 and a base was built at Chowder Bay for the submarine miners.The work of the submarine miner was secretive, technical and dangerous. During a demonstration in 1891, a crowd of several thousand watched as a terrible accident killed four miners and injured another eight. Sapper Boland who was severely injured was awarded the Albert Medal for bravery when he rescued two other sappers who could not swim.

The memorial which has been erected at the entrance to the Waverley Cemetery to perpetuate the memory of the officers who lost their lives by the accidental explosion of a submarine mine off Middle Head on the 3rd April, 1891, was unveiled by Major General Hutton on Sunday afternoon, in the presence of a gathering which was representative of all branches of the military force, and at the same time embraced many thousands of civilians. The memorial was draped with a Royal Standard and union jack and after these had been removed was found to be of a very imposing kind. The base is formed of three tiers of bluestone, on each face of the uppermost of which have been cut in relief the name"Hammand"  "Bedford,"  "McKee," and "Bennett". The upper portion of the memorial is of marble. Resting on the upper tier of bluestone is a marble base 4ft. 6in. by 4ft. 6in. The several faces of the marble base bear trophies of crossed swords, with helmet and crossed sculis, the accoutrements, &c., having been executed in bronze. On the upper portion of the marble base there is a pleasing arrangement of cable. Rising from the base is a die having four tablets, facing the north, east, south, and west respectively. The die is enriched with laurel, and facing each point of the compass there is a cherub. Above these again is a dome supporting a grenade. The memorial rests upon a foundation of concrete laid to a depth of 7ft., occupies 9 square ft. of ground, and rises to a height of 23ft. The total weight of the structure is 21 tons, there being 11 tons of marble.

The monument was designed by Lieut. McRae, of the Volunteer Artillery (the City Architect), and was executed by Messrs. Ross and Bowman, of Waverley. The work in copper with which it was furnished was executed by Mr. Bush. The cost of the monument, with ornamental railing which it is intended to erect, was about £230.
The Sydney Mail and New South Wales Advertiser (NSW),  12 May 1894.


Address:St Thomas & Trafalgar Streets, Waverley Cemetery, Bronte, 2024
GPS Coordinates:Lat: -33.907222
Long: 151.264167
Note: GPS Coordinates are approximate.
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Monument Type:Grave
Monument Theme:Disaster
Actual Event STart Date:03-April-1891
Actual Event End Date:03-April-1891
Monument Designer:Lieutenant McCrae


Actual Monument Dedication Date:Sunday 6th May, 1894
Front Inscription

In Memory Of
Who Gave Their Lives
In The Performance
    Of Their Duty
      By The
Explosion Of
A Submarine Mine
       At The
Easter Encampment,
Middle Head,
  3rd April 1891.


Left Side Inscription
Back Inscription
This Monument
Is Erected By
Their Comrades
The Military Forces
Of New South Wales

Right Side Inscription
Corpl. J.A.McKee R.E. 
Aged 25 Years

Bugler C. Bennett
Aged 23 Years

Source: MA
Monument details supplied by Monument Australia - www.monumentaustralia.org.au
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