Fortress Newcastle: Life Under Threat, the latest film in the Stories of Our Town Series, is now free to view from Remembrance Day, Thursday 11 November 2021.
What was “Fortress Newcastle”?
The “Newcastle Fortress” is the official term used to describe the Australian Government’s defence installations, established to protect Newcastle from enemy attack during the second World War. Records are held at the National Archives of Australia.
A defensive complex comprising of 4 forts, 5 Army bases, 2 Naval Bases, 2 RAAF bases and 7 anti-aircraft guns, located strategically across the Hunter Region, protected Newcastle’s industries.
The Fortress Newcastle story has been one of Australia’s lost stories, and never been told before, until now.
This town of less than 100,000 people at the time, had tens of thousands of troops protecting it, including 40,000 US and UK troops stationed at Port Stephens alone.
Why was Newcastle so important?
Newcastle was the nation’s industrial heartland, central to the Australian war effort, producing weaponry and ammunition and everything we independently required to defend Australians and Australia during war.
Our Steel Works produced over 10 million tons of iron and steel, used in shipbuilding and everything imaginable; every ship involved in the conflict ran on coal, we made the ships, we repaired ships, we made the armaments and munitions, the machine guns, uniforms, helmets, aircraft parts…you name it, we made it.
Fortress Newcastle the film
Fortress Newcastle: Life Under Threat is by far our most ambitious documentary to date, and at 54 min in length, our longest film.
We’ve also engaged animators to bring the story to life, and shot hours of drone footage to elevate the documentary to new heights.
A Community Effort
It has been a real community effort built on:
- background research of 10 local historical societies that worked with dozens of volunteers to provide unfettered access to their archives.
- deep dive into the treasures of Greg and Sylvia Ray’s Time Tunnel Photo Archive locating around 150 genuine photos of Newcastle during this period.
- great archival material held at the University of Newcastle with the help of our friends at the Auchmuty Library’s Special Collections GLAMx Lab.
- wealth of knowledge and expertise from members of Facebook groups like Lost Newcastle and Rediscover Newcastle.
- sourcing dozens more photos from the personal archives of veterans, and individuals who lived and served during this tumultuous period.
The “Real” Stars of the Film
The real stars of the film are the people we interviewed. We filmed dozens of hours of interviews with local historians and many surviving veterans who lived through this period.
Ten of the people we talked to were in their late 80’s and 90’s and even one who was 100 years old!
The final product was then fact checked by over 20 key people. We can’t tell you what a privilege it was to part of that process.
You can understand our urgency and importance of recording the memories of these people, as two of our interviewees; Dr Vera Deacon OAM and Richard Udy have since passed away since production of the film began earlier this year.
Their stories will make you laugh and cry. They bring to life the ever present fear of enemy attack that gripped the people of Newcastle during this time.
The Contribution of Bob Cook, OAM
The lynch pin for all this has been Bob Cook OAM. He brought the idea of Fortress Newcastle to our attention, and unified the historical societies to help research it. With the assistance of Peter Hobbins, he drove the funding applications. He helped identify and to locate the interviewees, and was a crucial part of the filming both on, and off screen. He even designed the missing piece of the logo.
Fortress Newcastle Exhibition 2022
The Fortress Newcastle exhibition, which is currently in production, will be launched in 2022.
Invitation to World Premiere
Please join us for the World Premiere and watch it on the big screen.
There be a Q&A afterwards plus tea and bikkies.
Seats are limited. https://www.trybooking.com/events/landing?eid=831455
This film was made using interviews with surviving veterans recorded by Glenn Dormand and Tony Whittaker.
The film makers are currently working with the University’s Special Collections/Hunter Living Histories team as well as the Fortress Newcastle community groups on the Stories of Our Town Project.
Photos from the Newcastle Premiere
A Vote of Thanks
We greatly appreciate the generous assistance provided by the Commonwealth Department of Veterans’ Affairs ‘Saluting Their Service’ grant and New South Wales Government’s Newcastle Port Community Contribution Fund (NPCC).
My film making partner Tony Whittaker and I couldn’t be prouder of this film. All our films are a gift to the people and free to view here: Stories of Our Town – YouTube. We want everyone to know and “own” this story.
This has been a wonderful opportunity to create something special. Surrounded by so many passionate and driven people.
We wish to convey our sincere respect and gratitude to the veterans and their families, and hope Fortress Newcastle: Life Under Threat will bring their stories to a wider audience.
Future generations will hopefully better understand Newcastle’s special role during World War 2.
Chit Chat von Loopin Stab aka Glenn from Waratah
For More Information:
Media: “Fortress Newcastle: film celebrates city’s past” by Rebecca Riddle. Newcastle Weekly 11/11/21
Media: “Local Film Director Glenn Dormand on his new film Fortress Newcastle: Life Under Threat” Glenn speaks with Richard and Shanna on Radio Station 2HD.
Media: “Fortress Newcastle – A Stories of Our Town documentary – released on Remembrance Day” By Damon Cronshaw. Newcastle Herald 11/11/2021.
Media: “Newcastle Efforts Documented in New World War II Short Film” By Charlotte Llyod. 2NUFM Hunter News.
Media: Gionni Di Gravio, OAM Interview with ABC Breakfast Radio’s Dan and Jenny 11/11/2021