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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. 


Aerial view of Fort Scratchley in the foreground


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?

I received the following story on the above tunnel plus another one in an e-mail from Paul Fuller in July 2017:-

"In about 1976 or 1977, I was a member of 21 Flight Air training Corp based at Newcastle Boys High School. We were invited to appear in a film made at Fort Scratchley. Afterwards, a man took us on a tour of the tunnels. We went all the way down toward the Harbour but got to a point where we could go no further because of water. The man (I can't remember his name) explained that when the harbour was deepened, the bottom of the harbour came within 2 metres of the tunnel and water was now seeping in. There was a strong smell of salt water. He told us that the tunnel went all the way to Fort Wallace at Stockton."

"Heading back, he asked us where we were going and we all said home, to the suburbs around New Lambton, Kotara etc. so he took us under Newcastle. We finally exited the tunnels at King Edward Park, coming out at a now demolished pillbox at the top of the park, not far from the Shepherds Hill gun emplacement. The actual entrance to the tunnels there was a set of stairs (now also demolished), the entrance to which had been bricked up. One brick was missing and you could see out into the park. To exit we had to go back down the stairs and climb a ladder into the pillbox. The observation slit had been bricked up, but the bricks were missing, so we were all able to climb out there. Imagine the reaction of locals when half a dozen ATC cadets wearing the old style battle dress crawled out of a WWII pillbox."

"The total distance from Fort Wallace to King Edward Park is about 5.9km with Fort Scratchley being about 4.4km from Fort Wallace. The tunnels are certainly not straight though, nor are they all on one level, so the walked distance is much further."

Were you one of the abovementioned ATC cadets? I'd like to hear from you.


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



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 Paul Fuller, Fred Morley, John Groves, Ken Ward and Ian Pinch for their assistance with this home page.



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


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 Peter Dunn OAM 2020


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This page first produced 2 November 2000

This page last updated 22 February 2020