Memorial service marks Sydney sub attack

On the evening of May 31, 1942, a distant war was delivered to Sydney’s doorstep.

CAPTION: Able Seaman Musician Phillip Eden sounds the Last Post during a memorial service to mark the 81st anniversary of the sinking of HMAS Kuttabul at Garden Island, New South Wales. Story by Lieutenant Brendan Trembath. Photo by Leading Seaman Matthew Lyall.

Three Imperial Japanese Navy midget submarines entered Sydney Harbour to target allied warships.

One torpedo aimed at the American heavy cruiser USS Chicago missed its intended target and sank the converted Sydney ferry HMAS Kuttabul.

The attack resulted in the deaths of 19 Royal Australian Navy sailors and two Royal Navy sailors who were asleep on board Kuttabul.

Six Japanese officers and sailors on board the three midget submarines also perished.

To mark the 81st anniversary of the attack, a service was held at Garden Island on June 1.

Kuttabul Executive Officer Commander Simone Franklin said the aim of the service was not to glorify battle, but to remember a common past.

“As a result of the attack, the population of Sydney lived with the realisation that war was no longer something which happened far from their homes,” Commander Franklin said.

“We know that the legacy of these men, and our serving men and women since, provide a firm foundation for friendship, cooperation and mutual understanding we all now share.”

The men’s names and ranks were read out at the service by Kuttabul Leading Seaman Isabel Partington and Juri Nino from the Sydney Japanese International School.

Commander Australian Fleet Rear Admiral Chris Smith and Consul-General of Japan Tokuda Shuichi laid wreaths on behalf of Australia and Japan, and Acting British Consul General Jonathan Cook laid a wreath to honour the Royal Navy sailors.

The service was conducted in the Royal Australian Navy Heritage Centre, followed by a second wreath laying at the Kuttabul Memorial.

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CAPTION: Commander Australian Fleet Rear Admiral Chris Smith and Consul-General of Japan Tokuda Shuichi lay wreaths during the service. Photo by Leading Seaman Matthew Lyall.


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