Princess Royal Fortress was the first coastal defense of Australia built in 1893 to protect the strategic harbour of King George Sound.
In 1887 plans were made to construct a coastal defense consisting of three mounted 6 inch guns, two magazines, a laboratory, artillery store, submarine mining store and office, together with a gun shed, two 9 pound field guns, quarters for married officers and NCOs and barracks for 28 men. Facilities included an underground 9000-gallon water tank, 5-acre paddock, flag staff and flag box and a 1.5-mile access road.
Construction began in May 1891 and was completed in 1893. The project employed 30 men and cost over 15,700 pounds with funding provided by all states of Australia and guns donated from England.
In 1959 all coastal defenses were decommissioned due to the advent of missile warfare.
The 6.5-ton armoured guns were mounted in wells blasted from granite rock and reinforced with 1500 cubic yards of concrete. The 5-foot thick magazine walls were covered with 10 feet of earth to make them bomb proof.
The guns commanded a 300-degree field from Middleton Beach, across the Sound and to the inner harbour. At 4000 yards, a shot would pierce 4-inch steel armour, thicker than any ship at the time had.
A local artillery force of 60 men manned the forts, with a further infantry of 300 men to be provided from Perth and surrounds.
In 1959, all coastal defenses were decommissioned due to the advent of missile warfare and the site fell into disrepair.
The Albany Council obtained the site in 1983 and began planning restoration. Through several stages, and the help of government funding, 'The Forts' opened in 1992 as a historic military precinct in time for its centenary year.
In 2014, to mark the centenary of ANZAC convoys leaving for Gallipoli, a $2.8m upgrade of the precinct was completed, adding the new National ANZAC Centre as the centrepiece.
Article updated 02/09/2015.