FORT SCRATCHLEY, NEWCASTLE, NSW
DURING WW2

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visits since 2 November 2000

Fort Scratchley in Newcastle in New South Wales was one of the few gun installations in eastern Australia that had an opportunity to fire at the Japanese during World War 2 and exercised that opportunity.

Fort Scratchley is on Flagstaff Hill overlooking the city and the mouth of the Hunter River. It had two mounted 6" guns. 

Looking south at Fort Scratchley, Newcastle (9 Dec 2003)

The guns were taken out of service in the late 1960's. There were also two 9.2" mounted guns at Fort Wallace at Stockton to cover harbour and beaches in the Newcastle area.

Fort Scratchley was opened in 1882 after fears of Russian attacks. Soldiers barracks and officers residents were later established in 1886. The guns, installed in 1882 have only been fired a number of times. Today, the guns of Fort Scratchley, and the officers barracks are the Newcastle Region Museum and admission is free.

Fort Scratchley in about 1975

 

Entrance to Fort Scratchley 9 Dec 2003

 

Fort Scratchley 9 Dec 2003

 

Dry moat

 

Torpedo at Fort Scratchley 9 Dec 2003

 

Looking towards the Store at Fort Scratchley 9 Dec 2003

 

Looking down towards the entrance to Fort Scratchley

 

The Battery Observation Post (B.O.P.) was the nerve centre for the Battery at Fort Scratchley.

 

The Battery Commander would control the firing of the two guns from the BOP.

A Depression Range Finder (D.R.F.) was mounted on the upper level of the Battery Observation Post to cover the seaward approaches to Newcastle. The DRF would provide range and bearing information for the sighting of the two guns.

 

 

 

 

At about 2.15 am on 8 June 1942, Japanese submarine I-21 under the command of Captain Kanji Matsumura, shelled Newcastle. I-21 had travelled across Stockton Bight and positioned itself about 9 kms north east of Newcastle. I-21 travelled eastwards firing almost directly across the stern of the submarine. Their orders were to shell the Newcastle shipyards.

The Japanese gun crew broke out 20 shells from the ready locker. They also brought up another 14 rounds from the armoury below decks. 8 of the shells were "illuminators" or "star shells". All 34 shells were fired at Newcastle. After 13 minutes of firing, the guns at Fort Scratchley returned fire with 4 rounds. I-21 continued firing for another 3 minutes until all 34 shells had been fired. The shelling caused minimal damage and no casualties in Newcastle.

During the shelling of Newcastle, 4 shots were fired by the guns at Fort Scratchley at the Japanese submarine a few miles out at sea. During WW2, Fort Scratchley operated in close co-operation with the nearby shore based Naval Depot HMAS Maitland.

Plaque at Fort Scratchley

 

Extracts from Fort Scratchley War Diary
Time Line: June 8th 1942

12:45am Air-raid warning - red
1.19am Air- raid warning - yellow
1:21am Air-Raid warning - white (all clear)
2.17am Sounds of gun fire - alarms sound
2.19am Fort battery on alarm station. White flares and gunfire spotted.
2:20am No visible target in search light beam.
2:26am Fort battery opens fire on enemy vessel; not visible in any beam, but located by gun flashes at bearing 067 degrees and approx 5000yds. Four rounds fired from battery. After fourth round fired, no answering fire from enemy. During action rounds fall left of battery into harbour - others appeared to pass overhead.
2:31am No. 2 gun out of action - LBM (lever breech mechanism) damaged.
3.07am Guards posted over unexploded shell (which) also smashed electricity
wire in street (Parnell Place)
5.42am Port closed to outward shipping till daylight June 9th. Port is open to inward shipping - advise Nobby's (lighthouse).

When World War Two broke out, Novacastrians (Newcastle & Hunter Valley Residents) were told that it was a good idea to keep fragile windows open or replace them since the guns of Fort Scratchley were so strong the every window in the city's east end could be shattered. Most ignored this advice and when the guns were fired in the early hours of that morning most windows in the city cracked or smashed.

Sergeant Ken Ward was stationed at Fort Wallace and Fort Scratchley in 1943 with 33rd Fortress Engineers. Ken eventually received his commission there as a Lieutenant. Ken served in the Fortress Engineers from Hobart (Fort Direction), Port Kembla, Cape Banks (Botany Bay), South Head and North Head also at Fort Cowan Cowan and Fort Lytton. He finished as Chief Engineer 11th Aust. Small Ships Coy. (Army Water Transport, Borneo and Celebes). Ken said that the generators for the searchlights were 4 cylinder diesel and the searchlight on the end of the breakwater was an American searchlight powered by a petrol motor generator. Ken mentioned the Fort Redhead and Fort Tomaree. Ken said that he missed the Japanese shelling of Newcastle but saw the Zara St Power House minus a few bricks on the top of the wall caused by misdirected Anti-aircraft gunfire.

Ian Pinch claims that there is a tunnel going from Stockton Army Barracks under the river to Fort Scratchley. He has no idea when it was built and he indicated that there used to be tours held once a year for people to walk from one side of the harbour entrance to the other side, a total distance of about 5 kms. Can anyone substantiate this claim?


Photo:- Fred Morley

After firing Round No. 2 at Fort Scratchley on 8 April 2006

 


Photo:- Fred Morley

After firing Round No. 3 on 8 April 2006

 


Photo:- Fred Morley

Re-enactment of HMAS Newcastle 23 May 2007

 


Photo:- Fred Morley

Re-enactment of HMAS Newcastle 23 May 2007

 


Photo:- Fred Morley

Re-enactment of HMAS Newcastle 23 May 2007

 

 

Fort Scratchley Official Web Site

 

Can anyone tell me more about Fort Scratchley

 

Japanese submarine activities off the Australian coastline during WW2

 

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

I'd like to thank Mark Scully for his assistance with this home page. Mark has training film for 9.2" guns and video (converted from 8mm film) of 6" guns being fired in the 1960's).

I'd also like to thank Fred Morley, John Groves, Ken Ward and Ian Pinch for their assistance with this home page.

 

REFERENCE

Jenkins, David, "Battle Surface - Japan's Submarine War against Australia 1942 - 44", Random House Australia, 1992

 

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Copyright

 Peter Dunn 2003

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This page first produced 2 November 2000

This page last updated 03 May 2009