Sixty-nine years ago on this night of 31 May- 1 June in 1942, the Second World War came to Sydney.
On the night of 31 May- 1 June, three Japanese midget submarines enterd Sydney Harbour with intention of sinking Allied warships.
The first, designated M27, became trapped in the boom net and was spotted at 8.15 pm by two Maritime Services Board watchman, James Cargill and William Nagle in a boom boat (as pictured at left, and displayed in the Garden Island Naval Museum). The authorities were then alerted.
The crew of the submarine, Lieutenant Kenshi Chuman and Petty Officer Taeshi Omori, apparently having spent two hours attempting to free their vessel, exploded demolition charges scuttling the submarine and ending their lives.
The second submarine, M22, first attempted to to enter the Harbour at the southern end of the Boom at 10.54pm but was sighted and depth charged by the patrol boat HMAS Yandra. It surfaced at 3.50am at Neutral Bay where it was fired on by HMS Kaminbla. At 5am it was spotted in Taylors Bay and again heavily depth charged the three patrol boats, HMAS Steady Hour, Sea Mist and Yarroma. At some point the crew, Lieutenant Keiu Matsuo and Petty Officer Masao Tsuzuku, too had committed suicide.
The third submarine, M24, fired at torpedo at the USS Chicago at around 12.05 am, but it missed striking the HMAS Kuttabul, a converted harbour ferry being used as an accommodation ship. Nineteen Australian and two British sailors were killed.
Two of the submarines , M22 and M27 were subsequently salvaged and a composite was constructed using the bow section of one and the stern of the other. This is now famously on display at the Australian War Memorial in Canberra.
What is less well known perhaps is that the conning tower of M22 is on display at the Garden Island Naval Museum in Sydney (photos below). This made the stories of the War coming to Sydney real for me as I conjectured as to what would have gone on that night.
The bodies of the Japanese submariners were recovered too and their ashes repatriated back home to Japan.
Divers discovered the wreck of M24 off Sydney's northern beaches in November 2006 thus completing the story of a fateful night many years ago.
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