- Editorial Staff
- History - WW2
- RAN Ships
- HMAS Kuttabul
- September 2013 edition of the Naval Historical Review (all rights reserved)
As the Naval Historical Society was recently represented at similar events on both sites of the harbour our members might be interested in their reports. Unfortunately restricted access to the Kuttabul site limits the number of guests.
The Southern Shore
The 71st anniversary memorial service commemorating the loss of HMAS Kuttabul was held on 31 May 2013 at the memorial site near Kuttabul Steps. It was attended by about a hundred guests, mostly official representatives of Service Chiefs, the NSW Commissioner of Police and ex service organisations including three members of the Naval Historical Society. Political leaders were represented and the High Commissioner of the United Kingdom of Great Britain together with the Consuls General of Japan, the Netherlands and the United States of America attended and were amongst those who laid wreaths of remembrance.
Commander Todd Wilson, RAN, the captain of HMAS Kuttabul gave an address outlining events leading to the sinking of Kuttabul and paid tribute to all who lost their lives on both sides of the conflict and commented that the last survivor of the tragedy had died some eighteen months ago.
Colour to the occasion was provided by the Band of the Royal Australian Navy. The singing of the national anthems of the participating countries was led by LSMUSN Tracy Kennedy who impressively rendered them all in their native tongues. An unusual variant to the order of service was an aboriginal smoking ceremony performed by local elders.
The service was followed by a reception hosted by the Commander Wilson at the Naval Heritage Centre. Amongst the guests was Captain Jason Britton of ADV Ocean Shield and Mr and Mrs Cargill. Mr Cargill, a retired schoolteacher, is the son of the late James Cargill, the night watchman who first raised the alarm that a submarine was caught in the boom net. Coincidentally the motor cutter on display in the Naval Heritage Centre was one of the boats used by the night watchmen, but not the actual boat used on the night of 31 May 1942.
The North Shore
The Defence of Sydney Monument 1939 – 1945 honours all those who served in the defence of Sydney both men and women of the services and civilian organisations. It is wonderfully situated in grounds that were once part of the School of Artillery on North Head. Being on ex-Army land it may not be widely known to many in the RAN which is unfortunate, as it commemorates actions following the Japanese submarine attacks on 31 May 1942. An event which brought the impacts of war close to the heart of our major city, and tested our defences. With the passing of time unfortunately very few now have first hand memory of this event.
The monument takes the form of a lookout with a gangplank leading to a deck complete with stainless steel rails, providing a fine nautical exhibit. It was unveiled by His Excellency Rear Admiral Peter Sinclair AC, Governor of New South Wales on 18 November 1995. Since that time, annually on the last Friday of May, a commemorative service is held at the site. This year a representative of the Naval Historical Society attended along with about 500 others, mostly representing the local community. There is possibly a high level of interest owing to the attendance of the local Federal Member of Parliament, the Honourable Tony Abbott, who was most attentive in introducing the ceremony and thanking all participants.
The service held on the last day of autumn was in glorious sunshine in a bushland setting high on plateau allowing a faint scented sea breeze. Native birds blended their melody with those of the congregation. From this vantage point, which Coastwatchers used 70 years ago, there is a spectacular view over Sydney Harbour, the greys and greens of coastal vegetation complementing the harbour with its opalescent sparking blue and gold water blending with a flawless azure sky.
The proceedings were dignified by two impressive guest speakers, firstly the Chief of Army, Lieutenant General David Morrison AO, and secondly by Corporal Daniel Keighran VC. The former spoke to the ‘Battle of Sydney’ remembering those 21 men from HMAS Kuttabul who gave their lives. He also reminded us of the air war then being fought in northern Australia, which was generally underreported to those living further south and all occurring before our troops saw action in New Guinea. The latter spoke with humility, mainly addressing his remarks to the significant number of school children and younger members in attendance. His theme was well chosen in sharing a sense of duty and striving to help others.
As an alternative to laying wreaths many individuals and organisations donated books which were placed at the base of the monument for later distribution to worthy causes. Navy was well attended by representatives of the Chief of Navy, the Fleet Commander, HMAS Penguin, HMAS Success, the Submarine Association, the Royal Navy Submariners Association, Naval Warfare Officers’ Association, Federation of Naval Ships Association and the HMAS Sydney Association. The catafalque party was provided by St Aloysius College Cadet Unit and it was touching to see that these young men were afterwards presented to the Chief of Army.
Members visiting the Manly area may find a short detour to this memorial, and the associated Australia’s Memorial Walk, a pleasant and worthwhile experience.