Unfortunately, Brian Anderson died in 2017 before I was able to speak with him.  So, had his two brothers.  All I had was a copy of the review report from the Defence Honours and Awards Appeals Tribunal which had considered his petition and had ultimately dealt the blow to Brian in 2013.


From the information I have gathered, it appears Brian Anderson began his action in 2004.  In August 2007, the Directorate of Honours and Awards of the Department of Defence dealt the first blow when the Awards Directorate rejected Brian’s petition on behalf of his late father.  Anderson was not to be recommended for recognition by an honour, or for an award for his service during the Battle of Sydney Harbour.


Brian did not accept that decision and in 2008, he sought a review of the decision through the Defence Honours and Awards Tribunal.  But in November 2010, the Tribunal upheld the earlier decision – they refused to recommend, to the Minister for Defence, that an honour or an award should be made.


Again, Brian Anderson did not accept that determination and lodged an application with the Federal Court for a review of the earlier determination.  There must have been a process of negotiation as the application was settled on the basis that Brian Anderson would make a new application to the Defence Honours and Awards Tribunal - for a new review of the original decision.  The Tribunal would be composed of new panel members.


Brian provided an initial submission and a further eight submissions.


The Tribunal conducted a hearing on 5 July 2012.  When one listens to the recording of the hearing, one can only be impressed by Brian’s passion and dedication for the true story of the Battle of Sydney Harbour to be told, together with the actions of his father, his crew and HMAS Lolita.  His children can be proud of their father’s quest, and the actions of their grandfather, Herbert Anderson.


Brian claimed Lolita had immediately attacked the Japanese submarine M14, and it was because of his father’s quick actions, the Japanese submarine commander ‘knew the game was up’. (169)  He contended, Lolita had on two occasions dropped depth charges on the midget submarine which failed to explode and was preparing to drop a third depth charge to detonate at a shallower depth, when Chuma destroyed his submarine.  Brian Anderson was of the belief, as was Coxswain Nelson, (170) that Lolita’s attacks led Chuma to destroy his submarine.


Brian contended his father played a much greater role in the defence of Sydney Harbour than was acknowledged by Muirhead-Gould in his reports.  


In addition, he argued his father’s actions, on that night, had greater strategic impacts on the defence of Sydney Harbour because the destruction of the submarine led to the element of surprise being taken away from the other two submarines.  Having caused the element of surprise to be eliminated, Brian argued his father’s actions, may therefore have saved many lives.  He submitted that if the other two submarines had been able to successfully approach the allied ships and accurately strike with their torpedoes, the loss of life and loss of the significant warships in the harbour could have been far more substantial.


Crucially, Brian submitted his father’s actions were deliberately overlooked by Muirhead-Gould and the Naval Board, and as a consequence it was right and proper for an award to be made in response to his petition.


In support of the submission, Brian provided a ‘wide range of evidence’.  The Tribunal took account of a transcript of the Carruthers interview with James Nelson, the Coxswain on HMAS Lolita, at the time she attacked M14. (171)  It was in that interview that Nelson confirmed Anderson had immediately maneuvered Lolita to enable the object at the boom net to be investigated, and having confirmed the object was a submarine, Anderson took immediate and decisive action to attack.  In Nelson’s opinion, Anderson put Lolita in danger so as to destroy the submarine.


In addition, the Tribunal took account of a draft report written by Herbert Anderson, together with his record of service, which they accepted revealed he was ‘highly thought of by his superiors and considered utterly reliable’. (172)


At the hearing, Brian Anderson told the members of the Tribunal that Muirhead-Gould had deliberately written his report so his father, would receive no credit for his actions.


Mr Carruthers gave evidence in support of the application - that Herbert Anderson had put Lolitain the line of fire to do his duty’.  He informed the Tribunal the midget submarine had ‘kept quiet so that the other two submarines could still launch a surprise attack’ and that having been discovered, Chuma blew up his own submarine, M14 in the hope of destroying Lolita.  Carruthers held the view that if Lolita had not forced the submarine to be destroyed, ‘far more damage could have been caused that night’.  Finally, Carruthers said, no person received recognition for their actions that night, because the Navy had been embarrassed by the attack.


In opposition, Dr David Stevens, (173) then Director of Strategic Historical Studies at the Sea Power Centre – Australia, gave evidence for the Department of Defence.  He said Herbert Anderson ‘was not forgotten’ and all the documents submitted by Brian Anderson had been added to the ‘naval historical record’ and that future historians would be able to include and acknowledge his father’s actions and the role of Lolita in the defence of Sydney Harbour.


In addition, the Department of Defence argued that no award should be made to Anderson.  In their submission, the Department referred to its ‘policy on retrospectivity’ as it applied to WWII service, (174) but failed to acknowledge to the Tribunal, that while some personnel within the defence establishment may hold ‘views’ regarding retrospectivity, there is no ‘policy’.


In addition to the Department of Defence submission, the Tribunal also ‘noted’ there were ‘certain procedures’ for recognizing actions of individuals during WWII, and found those ‘certain procedures’ had not been ‘commenced’ in relation to any person’s actions in the Battle of Sydney Harbour.  Yet, neither the Department of Defence, nor the Tribunal, identified those ‘certain procedures’.


The Tribunal for Anderson made its decision upholding the original determination, ‘not to recommend’ to the Minister for Defence that Anderson be considered for a defence honour, and that he not be recommended for an award.


Brian Anderson appealed directly to Tony Abbott seeking his support for recognition of his father’s actions. (175)


Now Mr Anderson has appealed to Tony Abbott to correct the record after an eight-year legal battle with defence to seek recognition for his father’s actions, which he claims saved many lives.  “My father was involved in the pivotal point of the whole attack”, Mr Anderson told The Australian.  “But he has been written out of history.”


There has been no recognition for Herbert Anderson or HMAS Lolita.  Townley and Steady Hour, and Eyres and Yarroma and others received letters of thanks for their efforts – but Anderson and HMAS Lolita were inexplicably ignored.


As for the memorial at Bradleys Head, it was revealed in late 2018 by the Minister for Veteran’s Affairs, HMAS Lolita had been ‘inadvertently excluded despite having two of her ships’ company killed in the fire that destroyed the vessel’. (176)

169 Report of the Review of a Decision by the Department of Defence regarding recognition for Commissioned Warrant Officer Herbert Spencer Anderson (Deceased), para.33

170 Australian War Films Archive, Archive No. 1639, Interview with James Nelson, 30 June 2004, Timecode 03:23:00:00

171 Carruthers Collection, RAN Sea Power Centre - Australia  

172 Anderson’s Service record, NAA A3978, Anderson H S., includes ‘a very reliable officer’ and ‘handles a small ship very satisfactorily’ and ‘entirely to my satisfaction’ from the NOIC Darwin.  Yet in February 1944, Muirhead-Gould said Anderson ‘lacked the initiative necessary to make a good Commanding Officer’ and ‘I would not recommend him for command at present’.

173 Dr David Stevens is also the author of ‘A Critical Vulnerability’ and other publications.

174 The Department of Defence did not include a copy of the alleged ‘policy’ in their evidence, and no such ‘policy’ has been found.

175 Plea to honour father who foiled Sydney Harbour mini sub’, The Australian, 20 October, 2014

176 Letter from Minister for Veterans’ Affairs and Minister for Defence Personnel – The Hon Darren Chester MP, dated 25 November 2018