During the early days of WWII, the Commonwealth Government embarked upon a major expansion to manufacture munitions. Four munitions facilities were constructed in and around Adelaide (South Australia), small arms factory at Hendon, a foundry and rolling mill at Finsbury, and explosive and filling factory at Salisbury and a magazine area at Smithfield.
The Smithfield magazine was built early in 1941 on a 530 hectare site, about 5 km north of the Salisbury Explosive and Filling Factory. It functioned as the storage area for the Salisbury factory’s munitions project, including Cordite, TNT and Nitrocellulose. The site was located on the corner of Curtis and Andrew’s road, MacDonald Park.
Approximately 95 buildings were constructed, thirty 50 ton magazines and three 100 ton magazines, each well separated and equidistant from each other to minimise the devastation that an explosion would cause (600 feet). They were surrounded by huge earth mounds and blast protection walls made of sandbags filled with sand and cement. The intention was to drive any explosion that might occur upwards rather than outwards which would affect other buildings. There were also 3 examination houses, a guard house and office accommodation. The magazine buildings are constructed of red brick with corrugated asbestos cement roofs and have wide eaves supported by timber brackets. Around 20 families would be moved from their farms as the construction began
The 100-ton magazines (124 ft by 23 ft) were originally used to store finished munitions products and are surrounded by five metre high blast mounds. The 50-ton magazines (63 ft by 23 ft) were used to store bulk explosives.
The bulk explosives were sent from Salisbury in wooden cases and transported to Smithfield by road, initially by horse-drawn vehicle and later by truck or trailer. They were delivered to the unloading sheds and then moved by battery powered electric tramways to the magazine buildings.