The 79th HMAS Kuttabul memorial service was held at Garden Island on Sydney Harbour to remember the 27 lives lost in a World War II Imperial Japanese Navy midget submarine attack in 1942.
Commander Australian Fleet Rear Admiral Mark Hammond and Japan’s Consul General Kiya Masahiko laid wreaths at the Kuttabul memorial and visited the Naval Heritage Centre where the conning tower of submarine M-22 is on display.
The master of ceremonies, Commanding Officer Kuttabul Captain Matthew Shand, recounted how on May 31, 1942, three Imperial Japanese Navy midget submarines raided Sydney Harbour with devastating results.
“On a Sunday night 79 years ago the harsh reality of war came to Australia’s biggest city. A torpedo detonated under the converted ferry HMAS Kuttabul, killing 21 Royal Australian Navy and Royal Navy sailors,” Captain Shand said.
“The naval depot at Garden Island was named after the ship as a lasting tribute to their sacrifice.”
Of the three midget submarines that attacked that night, two were destroyed.
The remains of four Japanese submariners were recovered, cremated and returned to Japan with the assistance of neutral Switzerland.
Through Switzerland’s Consul-General, the Japanese Government thanked the Royal Australian Navy for returning the submariners’ ashes.
“The fate of the third submarine and its crew of two remained a mystery for decades,” Captain Shand said.
“In 2006 a group of recreational divers located M24 about 5km off Bungan Head, Sydney.
“Each year we honour the lives lost in the Sydney Harbour midget submarine attack, including the crew of M24, whose submarine was left on the seabed as a war grave.”
The memorial service included a blessing by Senior Chaplain Rainer Schack and the playing of the national anthems of Australia and Japan.