Royal Australian Navy and Japanese Consulate representatives attended a commemorative service at Garden Island, Sydney, to mark the 74th anniversary of the sinking of HMAS Kuttabul.
The accommodation ferry was struck by a midget submarine torpedo.
Past President of the Naval Historical Society of Australia, Captain Paul Martin (Rtd), said the 27 sailors who lost their lives will forever be remembered for their courage and sacrifice in service of their country.
“We remember those brave sailors who lost their lives in Sydney Harbour, when the Second World War came to the heart of Australia’s biggest city,” Captain Martin said.
Nineteen Australian, two British and six Japanese sailors died and 10 were injured during the daring night-time raid on 31 May 1942.
“The average age of a sailor in Kuttabul that night was only 20, and, for some, it was their first taste of war. Others had survived the sinking of the battlecruiser HMS Repulse and the heavy cruiser HMS Cornwall only to die here in the relative safety of Sydney Harbour,” Captain Martin said.
The memorial marked the loss of life, but also the reconciliation between Japan and Australia as both nations continued to work together promoting important maritime issues.
“The loss of the ferry Kuttabul, and the men accommodated onboard, was a smaller tragedy in scale of the great battles of the Second World War. Nevertheless, the loss remains a poignant episode, because it is our loss and our story,” Captain Martin said.
“The challenge for us all is to continue to remember and commemorate those men, their story and their sacrifice.”