- A.N. Other and NHSA Webmaster
- Early warships
- RAN Ships
- HMAS Platypus, HMAS Brisbane I, HMAS Sydney I
- June 1983 edition of the Naval Historical Review (all rights reserved)
The surviving J class boats were transferred into the RAN on 25th March 1919. They left Portsmouth for their passage to Australia on April 9th, being escorted by HMAS Sydney and the newly acquired submarine depot ship HMAS Platypus. By mid June the small convoy had reached Singapore, where local disturbances had just broken out. The local authorities requested assistance to quell the rebels and Sydney’s commander, Captain Cayley, landed a party of men on June 19th.
The insurrection was thwarted but Cayley decided to delay the departure of Sydney, so Platypus and the submarines proceeded alone, reaching Thursday Island on June 29th. One of the submarines was convoyed by HMAS Brisbane, returning from Britain after a refit, and these two reached Thursday Island on June 14th. By July 10th the submarines had arrived in Sydney Harbour.
After their strenuous war service and the long voyage to Australia the submarines were found to be in relatively poor condition and all were taken in hand for refits. This work was mostly completed by early 1920 and J1, J2, J3, J4 and J5 were posted to the newly established submarine base in Geelong. These five boats undertook what was to be their only major cruise with the RAN in January 1921 when they visited Tasmania. Shortly after, in August, three of them were taken out of commission. In May 1922 the other two boats were paid off into reserve and in June the J7, the last vessel to complete her refit, was sent straight to join her sisters in reserve at the Flinders Naval Depot.
Their days in reserve were numbered. In January 1926 J3 was sold and sunk as a breakwater off Swan Island. She now lies in six metres of water.
J1, J2, J4 and J5 were sold to the Melbourne Salvage Syndicate on 26th February 1926. They were all eventually scuttled in Bass Strait, in an area approximately 4 kilometres (2.2 nm) west-southwest of the entrance to Port Phillip. J1 was scuttled on 2 May 1926, J2 was scuttled nearby on 1 June 1926, as was J5 on 4 June 1926.
Meanwhile J4 had sunk at her moorings at Williamstown on 10 July 1924. She was later raised and towed outside Port Phillip Heads to be scuttled on 28 April 1927 in 28 metres of water. The precise location of J4 (Latitude: 38° 17.979′ S, Longitude: 144° 33.820′ E) is well known and is periodically visited by skilled recreational divers.
J7 was not sold until November 1929 and was scuttled as a breakwater at the Sandringham Yacht Club in Port Phillip, in 1930. Her decaying hull is still visible, surrounded by Yacht Club berthing pontoons and motor cruisers.
The J class submarines were an ill-conceived attempt to provide a submarine capable of operating in concert with the fleet. Here they failed, as did all subsequent attempts to adapt the submarine to this role, but they did go on to provide some notable successes against their enemies. After the war they found themselves surplus to requirements, obsolete and finally the victims of the real enemy of all warships – economics. Although their presence in Port Phillip is not generally realised, the J class submarines did play a part in the development of the submarine and they will hold a place forever in the history of Naval warfare.