Rail Section was established in late 1939 on the southern breakwater leading to Nobby's Head for the close defence of the coast guns at Newcastle. Rail Section was also known as Mole Section. Rail Section comprised two QF 3 pounder Nordenfeldt guns. Men from 5 Volunteer Defence Corps Battalion (5 VDC Bn) were trained on the guns from mid 1943 and became part of Rail Section from February 1944.

Rail Section was located on the breakwater under Nobbys Head. One gun was at the start of the breakwater and the other one was further along the breakwater about 100 yards from the first gun.

Frank Zammitt NX112631 was stationed at Rail Section during the shelling attack on Newcastle at about 2.15 am on 8 June 1942, by Japanese submarine I-21 under the command of Captain Kanji Matsumura.

Frank claimed that the Rail Section had two Hothkiss 2 pounders which differs from official records which state they were two QF 3 pounder Nordenfeldt guns. Frank believed they were captured from the Germans in the First World War. He said they were dated 1919 on the breech - which is after WWI. It is more likely the guns were two QF 3 pounder Nordenfeldt guns.

Frank said that the emplacements were still there a couple of years ago. Frank was on the gun furthest away from Nobby's Head. Their job was to guard the river. They were informed of the movement of the tides so that if they saw anything moving against the tide they had orders to shoot. About the following weekend after the Japanese shelling, Frank was on duty again and saw something moving up against the tide. He swung the gun around and fired.  The soldier on the other gun must have seen it as well and fired his gun also. The next thing a mine sweeper, possibly HMAS Cowra, came down the river dropping depth charges, then the VDC opened up with their Vickers machine gun and there were tracers flying in all directions. They never ever found out if it was a submarine or not.

Frank remembered that their quarters were on the shore below the first gun. Their food came from Fort Scratchley in a hot box. Washing facilities were either in the sea off the beach or up to the Fort. Frank thought the search light unit was between both guns. Frank had forgotten where the engine room was located. He knew it was driven by a Macdonald Imperial Diesel engine which run on kerosene. It had a 6 inch cylinder and was horizontal stroke. It had an 8 ft fly-wheel. They had a blow lamp which was lit and directed on the cylinder head till it got red hot, then they rocked the wheel back and forth until it kicked over.  Sometimes it would go the wrong way and they would have to stop it and start again. 

The Rail Section guns were replaced by a single QF 6 Pounder twin Mark 1 gun in July 1944 located below the Nobby's Head Lighthouse. The superseded Rail Section guns were put on care-and-maintenance in August 1944 and were stood down in November 1944.


VAOC Post Nobby's Head

Shepherd's Hill RAAF Radar

Searchlights at Nobby's Head

Australian Army Radar Nobby's Head

Twin 6 Pounder Emplacement Nobby's Head

RAN Station 301 Port War Signal Station Nobby's Head

RAN 302 Indicator Loop and Controlled Mining Station Newcastle



I'd like to thank Graham McKenzie-Smith for his assistance with this web page.

I'd like to thank Frank Zammitt NX112631, a "Gunner" at the Rail Section at the time of the Japanese raid for his assistance with this home page.


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"Australia @ War" WWII Research Products

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 Peter Dunn 2015


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This page first produced 23 October 2016

This page last updated 24 January 2020