HMAS Watson

HMAS Watson is a Royal Australian Navy (RAN) base on Sydney Harbour at South Head, near Watsons Bay in Sydney, Australia. Commissioned in 1945 (after three years operating as HMAS Radar), the base served as the RAN's radar training school. In 1956, torpedo and anti-submarine warfare training were relocated to the base, and by 2011, Watson was the main maritime warfare training base, as well as providing post-entry education for maritime warfare officers, training for combat system and electronic warfare sailors, and command training.

HMAS Watson
Part of Fleet Base East
South Head / Watsons Bay, New South Wales in Australia
HMAS Watson, as seen from inside Sydney Harbour
HMAS Watson
Location in Greater Sydney
Coordinates33°50′13″S 151°16′48″E
TypeNaval training base
Site information
OwnerDepartment of Defence
Operator Royal Australian Navy (1942  1967);
 Royal Australian Navy (1967  present)
Site history
Built1942 (1942)
In use1942  present
Garrison information
Captain Jay Bannister, RAN


The base's name is derived from its location at Watsons Bay, which in turn was named after Robert Watson, the quartermaster of HMS Sirius, a ship of the First Fleet.[1]:125 In 1801, Governor Philip King granted Watson land at South Head, where he settled. Watson later becoming boatswain, senior harbour pilot and harbourmaster of the new colony.[2] In 1818, Governor Lachlan Macquarie commissioned the "Macquarie Lighthouse" appointing Watson as the first superintendent of the lighthouse. Today, the Macquarie Lighthouse is depicted in the centre of the crest of HMS Watson.[3]

South Head was recognised as an important site for the young colony and, as early as the first year of settlement, a signal gun from HMS Sirius was installed at South Head in order to indicate the arrival of any ships.[2]

The first permanent military presence on South Head commenced in 1871 with the development of Coastal artillery emplacements to defend the Port of Sydney. The first barracks, occupied by members of the NSW Artillery, were completed 19 March 1877. Extensions were added in 1880 to accommodate additional personnel. Many of the early barracks constructions are still standing.[3]

The RAN first established training facilities at South Head in 1942, when the navy's radar school was shifted there from HMAS Rushcutter.[1]:126 The facility initially operated under the name HMAS Radar, but was commissioned as HMAS Watson on 14 March 1945.[1]:126[4] Torpedo and anti-submarine warfare training were relocated to Watson in 1956.[1]:126

Facilities and operational units

Watson's main role is for the training of RAN personnel in maritime warfare.[1]:125 In addition, the base provides post-entry training for maritime warfare officers in areas of navigation, ship handling, tactics, weapons, and sensors; training for combat system operator and electronic warfare category sailors; and command training for recently promoted commanding and executive officers.[1]:125 It is also the parent base for RAN personnel studying at Sydney universities.[4]:584

The facility has a ship's company of 300.[1]:126

See also


  1. Oldham, Charles, ed. (2011). "Bases and establishments". 100 Years of the Royal Australian Navy. Bondi Junction, NSW: Faircount Media Group. OCLC 741711418. Retrieved 20 June 2011.
  2. "HMAS Watson History". Royal Australian Navy. Retrieved 3 August 2017.
  3. HMAS Watson
  4. Dennis, Peter; Grey, Jeffrey; Morris, Ewan; Prior, Robin (2008). The Oxford Companion to Australian Military History (2nd ed.). South Melbourne, VIC: Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-551784-2. OCLC 271822831.
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