Japanese submarine in Sydney Harbour

Look at this scrap of paper among things my father left:


It’s 1942, the year before I was born. I am told that a month before my brother, grandmother and grandfather had taken the ferry for a day at Manly, that being 29 May 1942. My father was in the RAAF at Richmond at the time. That’s where he received that note from the brass. On the morning of 29 May a Japanese floatplane was sussing out Sydney Harbour. Wikipedia takes up the story:

Multiple observers spotted the floatplane but assumed it was a US Navy Curtiss Seagull. No alarm was raised until 05:07, when it was realised that the only ship in the area carrying Seagulls was the U.S. cruiser Chicago, and all four of her aircraft were on board. Richmond Air Force Base launched RAAF Wirraway fighters, which failed to locate I-21 or the floatplane. Therefore, the reconnaissance flight did not result in the authorities in Sydney taking any special defence measures…

Japanese mini-submarines penetrated the harbour from 8pm onwards. (My brother, grandmother and grandfather were by then I assume safely back in Sutherland.)  I do commend the detailed account in Wikipedia. Oh, and Sutherland was nearer the action than you might think: “As per the operation plan, the five mother submarines waited off Port Hacking on the nights of 1 and 2 June for the midget submarines to return.” It wasn’t all over either:

On the morning of 8 June, I-24 and I-21 briefly bombarded Sydney and Newcastle. Just after midnight, I-24 surfaced 9 mi (14 km) south-south-east of Macquarie Lighthouse. The submarine’s commander ordered the gun crew to target the Sydney Harbour Bridge. They fired 10 shells over a four-minute period; nine landed in the Eastern Suburbs and one landed in water. I-24 then crash dived to prevent successful retaliation by coastal artillery batteries. Only one shell detonated, and the only injuries inflicted were cuts and fractures from falling bricks or broken glass when the unexploded shells hit buildings. A United States Army Air Forces pilot, 1st Lieutenant George Cantello, based at Bankstown Airport was ordered into the air to retaliate, but was killed when engine failure caused his Airacobra to crash in a paddock at Hammondville.


A house in Sydney’s Eastern Suburbs damaged by a Japanese shell

But time has moved on. Yesterday Sydney Harbour commuters saw this:


As the Japan Times reports:

A Maritime Self-Defense Force submarine arrived in Sydney Friday — the first time a Japanese sub has entered the harbor since World War II — to participate in bilateral exercises with its former foe.

The Soryu-class submarine Hakuryu was dispatched with the destroyers Umigiri and Asayuki for the latest round of Exercise Nichi Gou Trident, which kicked off the same day.

“This exercise, which has been conducted between Australia and Japan since 2009, is an opportunity to develop and enhance the bilateral naval relationship by practising maritime skills and improving levels of interoperability between our two navies. This is the first opportunity to conduct the exercise off Sydney,” the Australian Defence Department said in a statement.

The drills are expected to focus on anti-submarine warfare.

The exercises will also provide the Australian military with an up-close look at the Soryu-class submarine ahead of a 50 billion Australian dollar decision on a contract to build 12 new subs to replace its aging Collins-class vessels….

See the ABC’s take at Soryu submarine arrives in Sydney Harbour; first Japanese sub to visit since WWII:

With very little fanfare, JS Hakuryu sailed through the heads about 11:00am, accompanied by two Japanese Maritime Self Defence Force warships and led by HMAS Ballarat.

The Soryu class Hakuryu is the first Japanese submarine to enter Sydney Harbour in three quarters of a century, and will take part in Exercise Nichi Gou Trident with the Royal Australian Air Force and Royal Australian Navy…

Japanese officials were also using the opportunity to show off the capability of their high-tech Soryu class submarine that Tokyo hopes would be selected as the preferred model for Australia’s future submarine fleet.

Japan is locked in a Competitive Evaluation Process with France and Germany to decide who will be selected for the lucrative $50 billion defence contract…

Sam Roggeveen at the Lowy Interpreter asks:

Various functions will be held over coming days to mark the visit of the submarine and other Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Force ships, but it is interesting that the Government and the Royal Australian Navy seem to have made little of the arrival today. Could it have anything to do with the fact that the PM is in Beijing?

And to illustrate again the whirligig of time, go back almost 101 years to our First Division heading off to Egypt and then Gallipoli. Look at the lead escort ship:


See the AWM’s description:

HIJMS Ibuki with HMAS Melbourne escorting the first Australian and New Zealand convoy in the Indian Ocean 1914. When HMAS Sydney was detached from the convoy to join battle with an enemy ship near the Cocos Islands, HMAS Melbourne was in charge of the convoy. On the 9 November, the Sydney reported having sighted an enemy cruiser, which proved to be the SMS Emden. The Melbourne immediately took station on the convoy’s exposed starboard flank and signalled the Japanese cruiser Ibuki to join her there for added protection….