From the time of European settlement in 1788 until the end of World War I, the military was an important part of the life of The Rocks. The British Military provided garrison duties for the colony and established fortifications to protect against invasion by other colonial powers. Dawes Point Battery, now under the Sydney Harbour Bridge, was the first permanent military fortification in the colony. The military primarily focused on putting down convict revolts, tracking escapees and interfering in the colonial government administration. During this time many soldiers and their families made their homes in The Rocks.
British Forces defended the colony until 1871. Local militias such as A Battery NSW Artillery replaced the Royal Artillery at Dawes Point. Although the first colonial forces were made up of former British and colonial soldiers, former British officers invariably led them.
The ‘Great Game’ of colonial enlargement in the quest for dominance in Africa and Asia, led to many international conflicts. Colonial forces heeded the ‘call to arms’ and rallied to defend the British Empire. Numerous overseas expeditions involving Australian colonial forces were undertaken during this period including:
- New Zealand wars – 1845-1872
- Sudan conflict – 1885
- Boer war – 1899-1902
The Australian military was finally established at Federation in 1901, headquartered at Victoria Barracks, Paddington. Dawes Point Battery became the official residence of the Commander of the Australian military for a few years. It was later used for the Repatriation of World War I servicemen, but eventually was abandoned, and demolished in 1925. The official role of The Rocks in Australia’s military life had come to an end.