One of Newcastle’s many hidden places, not open to the public, is a remnant of the Shepherds Hill defence group. A tunnel underneath Memorial Drive enabled power to be supplied to the WWII No 1 Searchlight which was situated on the face of the cliff below Strzelecki Lookout. [Carol Duncan ABC Radio 2013 with Newcastle City Council Heritage Strategist, Sarah Cameron.]
Military occupation of the Shepherds Hill site began in the 1890s, but by 1939 Newcastle was one of the major producers of munitions for NSW and an increasingly important industrial area.
BHP had been preparing for an outbreak of war since Essington Lewis had made a trip to Europe in 1934 so Newcastle was significant to the entire country for both steel production and security.
In order to protect production, defences around Newcastle were strengthened and two new close defence batteries were constructed at Shepherds Hill and Fort Scratchley.
New projects at Shepherds Hill during WWII included accommodation for troops and the construction of the Nos 1 and 2 Searchlights and engine rooms.
The tunnel from the No 1 Searchlight engine room runs about 150m underneath Memorial Drive to where the searchlight was placed underneath the cliff face of Strzelecki Lookout.
The tunnel is not open to the public and the engine room is located on private property, however the tunnel now hosts a colony of microbats!