75 Years Service to the Nation – The Captain Cook Graving Dock


This story of the Captain Cook Graving Dock commemorates the 75th anniversary of its opening on 24 March 1945 by the then Governor General of Australia, His Royal Highness the Duke of Gloucester.  In addition to details of construction, this book provides detail about the opening ceremony, the Civil Constructional Corps members who laboured on the project, the war artists who captured the mood of the time and dock operations since 1945.

This book leaves readers in awe of those who conceived, designed and built the Dock during World War 2.  When conceived in 1940 the militant Japanese Empire was expanding throughout Asia.  The only other dock capable of taking capital ships was under threat in Singapore.  Designed to accommodate the largest warship afloat the Captain Cook Dock was to become the largest civil engineering project ever undertaken in Australia to that time.

The Dock remains a significant National asset expected to continue serving the Royal Australian Navy and Australia for decades to come.

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A major feature of this illustrated history are the visuals which virtually tell the story themselves. The quality and quantity of photographs taken during construction and since, combined with reproductions the war artists’ works are of the highest order. One photographic section depicts the four thousand strong work force. These images of different tradesman with their plant and machinery provides a sense of conditions at the bottom of the harbour. This was reality. The site of the dock was literally a section of Sydney Harbour, cordoned off, drained and reclaimed after the massive concrete dock was built.

Colour reproductions of works by war artists, William Dobell and Herbert McClintock in another section provides an important record of construction. These works are strong, dramatic and depict construction from the workers’ perspective, evoking an emotional response that casts a new light on the formality of the statistics. Dobell’s focuses on the little recognised members of the Civil Constructional Corps while McClintock addresses the grandeur of the structure.