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Newcastle remembers Battle for Australia


August 10, 2019 by admin

YOUNG and old will gather in Civic Park today to mark the Battle for Australia and particularly the role played by Fort Scratchley in the defence of Newcastle during World War II.

A commemoration service will be held at the cenotaph at 11am and the special guest will be Carl Christie, the last army officer to command the fort. He left the position in the early 1970s.

Battle for Australia Newcastle commemoration committee president Bob Kear said each year the service had a different theme. An earlier one was the role of women in war.

Fort Scratchley was chosen to mark the 70th anniversary of the battle.

“Newcastle was the only coal port the Brits [British] had in the Pacific in the days when most ships ran on coal and all the railways ran on coal,” Mr Kear said.

“This year’s service will acknowledge the critical role and contribution made by Fort Scratchley in the direct defence of Newcastle on the night of June 7, 1942.”

Mr Kear said on that night a Japanese submarine fired about 24 shells into Newcastle.

“In response Fort Scratchley returned that fire, as a result becoming the only fort in Australia to have fired its guns in anger,” he said.

The term “Battle for Australia” was coined in 1942 by Labor prime minister John Curtin .

“It is now we work or fight as we have never worked or fought before,” Mr Curtin said at the time.

Mr Kear said it was important that the events of those years were never forgotten, although each year fewer people had a direct connection to the battle.

“Everyone was involved, whether they wanted to be or not,” Mr Kear said.

Maud O’Brien and Grace Jones, former members of the Australian Women’s Army Service, will also be guests at today’s ceremony.

Mrs Jones served at the fort, although not during the crisis.

Mr Kear said Merewether High students would acknowledge, in speeches they had researched themselves, the service of Australia’s allies during the fighting, which threatened Australia from 1942 until the war ended in 1945.

The Hunter School of Performing Arts senior brass ensemble will perform.

ANNIVERSARY: Fort Scratchley has been chosen to mark the 70th anniversary of the battle.

COMMEMORATION: A service will be held at the cenotaph at 11am.


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