HMAS Penguin history:
Before itwas naval base it was a golf course – and before that a sewerage works – but it was the rising tide of militarism in Asia in the 1930s that led to the establishment of HMAS Penguin.
In June 1940 the Defence Department resumed the 24.3ha that was being leased by Mosman Golf Club on Middle Head, for which the club received £2000 compensation.
The army wanted some of the land and the navy wanted 16ha for a permanent depot, comprising accommodation for 700 men, a hospital, messes, administrative offices and recreational facilities.
The golf club vacated its premises in July 1940 and the military moved in to begin construction.
From the time HMAS Penguin at Middle Head was commissioned, it has served a multitude of purposes.
Initially it was used as a naval depot and the base for the motor launches that patrolled Sydney Harbour and as home of the Balmoral naval hospital, the navy’s principal medical facility.
HMAS Penguin also became the navy’s submarine and underwater medicine unit and to a recompression chamber facility.
From 1948 to 1967, HMAS Penguin was home to the Royal Navy’s Fourth Submarine Squadron, despite initial opposition from Mosman Council.
The council’s concerns centred on fears of oil spilling from submarines into Hunters Bay but the fears were unfounded and as Mosman historian Gavin Souter said of the big T-class submarines: “Their silent comings and goings invested the bay with an air of clandestine adventure”.
During the first period of national service in the 1950s, HMAS Penguin housed the navy’s national service recruit school.
In the early 1960s, the navy’s Hydrographic School was established at HMAS Penguin, Clearance Diving Team 2 was formed there in 1968 and from 1979 to 2000, the RAN Staff College was based there before being shifted to Canberra.
It is now home to the Maritime Operational Health Unit, the Submarine and Underwater Medicine Unit, the Recompression Chamber Facility, 1 Commando Company, the ADF Centre for Mental Health and Penguin Health Centre.