Saturday, 10 February 2018

Japanese submarines off Sydney

A previous post on the shelling of Rose Bay covered some of the story of the prescence of Japanese submarines in the vicinity of Sydney in June 1942.

A number of books have been written about this period of Australian history. Some I mentioned in a post in another blog on books written about Sydney during World War II.

Two books, in particular, Battle Surface! by David Jenkins and The Battle for Australia by Bob Wurth have used Japanese records as well as Royal Australian Navy records to describe what was happening at the time.

Japanese midget submarines entering Sydney Harbour on the night of 31 May - 1 June 1942 is the story that people remember. Three Japanese submarines were stationed outside the harbour entrance. Being midwinter it was dark early although there was a full moon. Earlier the Japanese had flown a small plane to check shipping in the harbour. During the evening three midget submarines left the mother submarines, I-22, I-24 and I-27, and entered the harbour. Technically there was a black out in Sydney but some lights were still on. Although parts of the harbour were netted, the city was not really expecting an attack by submarine.

The first midget submarine entered the harbour around 8 o'clock but its propellers encountered the anti-submarine nets and became entangled. The two men in the submarine destroyed the submarine before crew of Australian craft could investigate.

The crew of the second midget submarine unsuccessfully attacked Chicago, a ship in the harbour.  One shell remained unexploded on Garden Island while a second torpedo sank the former ferry, Kuttabul, killing 21 men. The submarine diappeared and was not found until 2006 when divers discovered the wreckage in the harbour.

The third midget submarine entered the harbour several hours later. Patrol boats detected it and the submarine was sunk. When the vessel was retrieved by RAN divers it was discovered that the crew had shot themselves.

The war had come to Sydney.

The bodies of the four Japanese discovered after the incursion into the harbour were given a funeral with military honours.

The mother submarine, I-24, remained in the area for several days after the attack before firing shells across the peninsula of land near Rose Bay on the night of 8 June.

After this week of activity the Japanese submarines returned to their prime task of disrupting shipping along the coast.

A summary of the Japanese attack on Sydney Harbour can be read on the Australian Navy website

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