Monday August 24, 2009

Attack on Sydney, 31 May 1942

Children inspecting a Japanese midget submarine, 1942

School children and service personnel inspect the mid-section of a Japanese midget submarine on display in the exhibition gardens. This submarine took part in the unsuccessful attack on Sydney harbour on 31 May 1942. Australian War Memorial collection, on Flickr

A website dedicated to the Japanese Midget Submarine that attacked Sydney Harbour has been launched by the NSW Government, uncovering its secrets.

The site has been developed by the Heritage Branch, NSW Department of Planning and showcases the history and mystery of the 1942 submarine attack on Sydney Harbour with feature interviews, underwater footage and unique 3D animation of the submarine. It will be a valuable way of ensuring that the heritage significance of the midget submarine attack is preserved, together with the physical remains of the M24 wreck site.

It was not until November 2006, that a group of weekend divers called ‘No Frills Divers’ located the still intact Japanese midget submarine M24 off Bungan Head, Newport. The submarine was entangled in nets 54 metres below on the seabed

Like all shipwrecks the M24 has a fascinating story to tell — of the events in Sydney Harbour on the night of 31 May and the early morning of 1 June 1942; the role of the Japanese midget submarines, and the Japanese submarine campaign along Australia’s eastern seaboard during World War II.

Visit the M24 midget submarine exhibition online.

Local memories

Here are some local memories of the night the midget subs entered Sydney Harbour.

The peace of Clanalpine Street was shattered on the night of 31 May 1942 when we were awakened by thudding noises and the sound of ornaments moving on mantelpiece and shelves. “It’s an earthquake,” said my mother, who was a New Zealander, but in fact of course it was the unsuccessful Japanese submarine attack on Sydney Harbour.

Ngaire Souter, ‘A marvellous place for childhood ‘Mosman Memories of Your Street

We lived there when the Japanese midget submarines came into the Sydney Harbour on 1 June 1942, that night was very frightening with the explosions as we didn’t know until the next day what had happened.

Helen Ekin nee Black, Living in ‘Duncraggan’Mosman Memories of Your Street

We used the shelter once, and that was when the Japanese submarines were coming into the harbour. In the middle of night about 2am I think, the air raid sirens went off, and I and Jessie, who was our nice ‘help’ then, got the three children out of bed and put on warm things, and rushed downstairs, and went into the air raid shelter and crouched there terrified until the ‘all clear’ came.

Margaret Joan HolmesMosman Voices

I remember when the submarines came into the harbour and they shelled Rose Bay and broke windows, and a few more came in, and it was announced. The house next door to ours – my family home was in Raglan Street. and the home next door built a bomb shelter big enough for the neighbours either side to go in. When we heard this explosion, we were told to fill the baths with water and go under the table, or wherever you could. Well we went in next door. When I went in with my mother, my brother was away at the war, and I said: ‘I don’t think I turned the tap off, I’ll go in and do it’. I had done it.

Patricia BeaumontMosman Voices

Were you in Mosman on the night of the attack? Please share your story at

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