A plaque is to be placed near Darwin’s Casuarina Cliffs to commemorate the sinking of a Japanese submarine during the Second World War.
Submarine I-124 was sunk by the Australian Bathurst class corvette HMAS Deloraine on 20 January 1942.
A reception was held on 17 February at Darwin’s Parliament House, where a replica of the plaque was unveiled by the Japanese Ambassador to Australia, His Excellency Sumio Kusaka, the Minister for Indigenous Affairs, Senator the Honourable Nigel Scullion, the Chief Minister of the Northern Territory, the Honourable Michael Gunner, and the President of the Australian-Japanese Association of the Northern Territory, Ms Kathleen Bresnehan.
One of the main instigators of the commemoration military historian, Dr Tom Lewis, author of some 14 books including Darwin’s Submarine I-124.
He said the submarine was one of four boats of the Imperial Japanese Navy’s Sixth Submarine Squadron that was attempting to close down the Darwin port in early 1942 by laying mines and mounting torpedo attacks on shipping and infrastructure.
“Deloraine was among the ships attacked by the Japanese submarine force, narrowly escaping a torpedo attack before re-engaging and sinking I-124 and her crew of 80," he said.
“Although Australia and Japan were at war in 1942, the unveiling of this plaque is an important sign of respect of the friendship that has evolved in the decades since the Second World War,” Dr Lewis said.
The attempt by four Japanese submarines to shut down Darwin port led directly to another critical turning point in the war – the Bombing of Darwin, which commenced on 19 February that year.
The sinking of I-124 is a relatively unknown but crucial part of the Australian Navy’s role and was a major victory for Deloraine, marking the first sinking of a submarine by the Australian Navy in the war.
The Deputy Commander of Headquarters Northern Command Captain Bryan Parker, has a unique connection to the Imperial Japanese war effort on the Australian mainland.
He was previously the Commanding Officer of Sydney base HMAS Kuttabul, and now in his current role as Senior Officer for Darwin’s Larrakeyah Barracks, he has commanded the two bases that came under direct attack during the war.
“I was also the Executive Officer of HMAS Huon when we conducted a sonar survey of the I-124," he said.
“The unveiling ceremony was a special occasion that allowed officials of Australia and Japan to join together to pay respects to the 80 men for which the wreck is a grave, and to recognise the strong friendship that has developed between our nations over the decades since the war.
“The event reminds us that we can reconcile and forgive, but we must never forget the personal and national price of war,” Captain Parker said.
Under the command of sea-going Naval reservist Lieutenant Commander Desmond Menlove and a crew of 85, Deloraine was one of 60 corvettes built during the war.
At the time of the encounter with the Imperial Japanese submarines, Deloraine had been commissioned less than four months, and her victory was testimony to the dedication and effort of the crew of Naval reservists.