During the First World War, the Department of Defence decided to build a rifle range at Chatswood West to train recruits in marksmanship before they left for overseas to join the AIF in France. At that time Chatswood West was sparsely populated and the area selected for the range was the valley between Millwood Avenue and Greville Street.
This valley was mostly bush apart from two dairies, Homer’s and Cootes’. Both of these dairies were located on the eastern side of Greville Street between Wood Street and Kooba Avenue. The eastern boundary of the range ran along the rear fences of these dairies, the western boundary was Millwood Avenue.
Range Street at the corner of Fullers Road and Millwood Avenue was constructed to provide access to the range, and from this point the range ran for 1000 yards in a north western direction to a large hill beyond Blue Gum Creek.
At the base of this hill stood the target butts. A deep concrete trench provided cover for the men marking the targets. The targets sat on metal frames. After a shot was fired, the target was pulled down into the trench and a coloured disk placed in the hole to indicate the position of the hit. Different coloured disks were used to mark the spot where the bullet had hit in relation to the bullseye. The marksmen fired from earthen platforms at distances ranging from 50 to 600 yards from the target. The platforms were stepped up so that each was above the one before it, enabling the men to shoot over the platforms in front.
After the First World War ended the range was handed over to the Chatswood Rifle Club. The members were required to use .303 army issue rifles. The sport was encouraged by the government because it ensured a core of trained marksmen avail-able to train new recruits should there be further conflict. The club was run in a professional manner, all shooting was controlled and carried out correctly and safely. Rifles were carried to and from the club in leather cases and all bullets used had to be accounted for.
At the outbreak of the Second World War the army assumed control of the range and used it for training troops with both rifle and machine guns. After the war ended, the range was returned to the Rifle Club. By this time many homes had been built in Millwood Avenue, and East Roseville was slowly encroaching onto the boundaries of the range.
In 1953 National Servicemen were training on the range with rifle and machine guns on Sundays. The range was used by the club on Saturdays and noise was constant all weekend. This led to both Roseville and Riverdale Progress Associations approaching Willoughby Council to close the range. The Defence Department agreed with the Council and, in 1955, the range closed and members transferred to Hornsby Rifle Club.
The above article was first included in the Willoughby District Historical Society Newsletter in August 2000. Written by Tony Travers (WDHS)