Kuttabul remembers the night the war came to Sydney

This article has photo gallery Published on LEUT Anthony Martin (author), LSIS Leo Baumgartner (photographer)

Location(s): Garden Island, NSW

Topic(s): HMAS Kuttabul (I), Commemoration

Leading Seaman Musician Cameron McAllister sounds the Last Post during the HMAS Kuttabul Memorial ceremony held at Garden Island, Sydney. (photo: LSIS Leo Baumgartner)
Leading Seaman Musician Cameron McAllister sounds the Last Post during the HMAS Kuttabul Memorial ceremony held at Garden Island, Sydney.

Along the northern sea wall of Garden Island in Sydney, a small and solemn ceremony was conducted on Monday to remember those lost during the sinking of HMAS Kuttabul (I) in the early hours of 1 June 1942.

The Commanding Officer of HMAS Kuttabul, Captain Matthew Shand, lead the event that paid tribute to the 27 sailors from Australia, Great Britain and Japan who lost their lives that night.

“Many memorial events commemorate Australia’s military service in distant lands, but the Kuttabul Memorial is significant as it acknowledges the night that war came to Australia’s east coast 78 years ago,” he said.

On the night of the 31 May 1942 three Japanese midget submarines were sent to attack targets in Sydney Harbour.

One of the midget submarines - the M24 - was in position off Bradleys Head, and fired a torpedo aimed at the Cruiser USS Chicago, which was secured at the Man of War buoy near Garden Island.

The torpedo went directly underneath the Chicago and hit the sea wall at Garden Island and sank the Depot Ship HMAS Kuttabul (I) tied up at that location.

Sailors from Australia, New Zealand, Holland and Great Britain were on board the Depot Ship at the time.

Nineteen Australian and two British sailors lost their lives when Kuttabul was sunk.

The three midget submarines did not escape Sydney and six Japanese sailors were also lost.

During the commemorative service at the Memorial at Garden Island, staff from HMAS Kuttabul read the Roll of Honour of the 27 personnel from all nations that perished that night in 1942.

The Royal Australian Navy Fleet Commander, Rear Admiral Jonathan Mead joined the Consul General of Japan, Mr Kiya Masahiko, to lay a wreath honouring those fallen.

They were followed with wreath-laying by the Consul General of New Zealand, Mr Bill Dobbie, and the Consul General of the United States, Ms Sharon Hudson-Dean.

Captain Shand and Command Warrant Officer Mark Cooper, laid Wreaths on behalf of the Officers and ship’s company of HMAS Kuttabul.

The Fleet Commander said he was proud to be able to commemorate the event during the current time of social distancing. He noted there were parallels between those dark days in Sydney in 1942 and today when Australians drew strength from the experience and strived to overcome the difficulties encountered.

“In times of crisis, all Australians come together as one to step up and deal with the challenges they face,” Rear Admiral Mead said.

“It’s important to note that Australia and Japan honour the brave sailors from each nation and recognise the reconciliation and partnership we share today,” he added, paying tribute to the sacrifices of the sailors lost that night.

Imagery is available on the Navy Image Gallery: https://images.navy.gov.au/S20201871.