Fortress named a heritage icon

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Title: Fortress named a heritage icon
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Authors: Kent Acott (create)
Source: The West Australian
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License: Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International (CC BY-SA 4.0)
Related people: Lilian Jessie Rae Hussey (née Wilson) · Bertram Frank Hussey
Related places: Fremantle
Keywords: newspaper clippings (create)
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The Fremantle Fortress, the big guns and infrastructure built on Rottnest in the 1930s to protect WA's main port from seaborne invasion, has been recognised as a national engineering heritage icon.

In doing so, it achieves the same status as the Perth to Kalgoorlie pipeline, Fremantle Harbour and the Narrows Bridge.

The main component of the defence system were two 9.2-inch gun batteries and two six-inch guns built at Rottnest. But it also included facilities on Garden Island, Swanbourne, Leighton, Fremantle and Point Peron.

Six other similar gun batteries were built around Australia but the Rottnest batteries are the only ones to survive.

The new status of the fortress is part of Engineers Australia's heritage recognition program.

Engineers Australia's heritage committee chairman Don Young said the Fremantle Fortress project was undoubtedly of national significance, built by hand by army and civilian workers.

"The Fremantle Fortress played a critical role in World War II because the Fremantle Port was considered important to national security, often harbouring vessels from the Australian, British and Dutch navies," Mr Young said.

The project was considered so important that civil engineer Capt. Frank Hussey was seconded from the army to head the construction team. His widow, 100-year-old Rae Hussey, said her husband would "not be displeased" with the latest accolade. She said he took a military approach to the project and would have been determined to "get the job done".

Though they were not married at the time, Mrs Hussey said her husband told many stories about his time on Rottnest.

Some of them were serious, such as the importance of finding fresh water, and some were amusing, such as the time the hostel owner thought a man who had died in bed was just a heavy sleeper.

"Frank was a civil engineer and they knew he was the right man for this project," Mrs Hussey said.

"He was not the kind of man to seek praise but he would appreciate this recognition of the efforts of so many of his workmates."

Capt. Hussey, who later became a brigadier, was the son of Toodyay farmers.

He attended Guildford Grammar School before training at Duntroon Military College.

His work on Rottnest has been acknowledged by the Rottnest Island Authority, which named the train that takes tourists to the gun on Oliver Hill after him.

The deputy commander of the 13th Brigade Australian Army, Colonel Michael Page, said the design, construction and installation of high-precision equipment by army staff and private contractors had been a significant achievement.