Herbert Anderson was not the only participant in the Battle of Sydney Harbour to be dealt with harshly by Muirhead-Gould.


Until the time of his death, Reginald Andrew (Reg), commander of HMAS Seamist was adamant he had sunk M21, and had seen other submarines in Taylors Bay as Seamist approached to drop the second depth charge.


Reg’s interview in 1978 with author Carruthers, (177) is illuminating and sheds light on the events in Taylors Bay during the Battle, on what transpired afterwards, and on his bitterness in the aftermath.


These are the facts as Reg Andrew tells the story.


His posting to HMAS Seamist, was to commence at midnight on 31 May 1942, but Reg thought it best to arrive a little earlier and boarded her at 4.00 pm.  The commander of Seamist at the time, Sub-Lieutenant John Doyle, motored Seamist around Farm Cove and handed her over to Reg to bring her alongside the wharf.  Doyle stepped off and said ‘You’re OK, You’re the commanding officer from now on’.  That was Reg’s familiarization with his first naval vessel and after only six weeks of training.


According to Reg, the training was irrelevant and useless.  A week of signal training was reduced to the recruits conducting their own class.  They were trained in every aspect of 6 inch guns (150mm) found on large naval cruisers, torpedoes and battleship maneuvers.  In his words, ‘What we were taught was not useful’.  When asked about his experience, he responded he had ‘none whatsoever’.  We were ‘put in the job and away you went’.  Luckily for Reg, the Coxswain of Seamist had some experience.


Without anything to do that evening, Reg retired to his bunk and slept soundly through the early mayhem of the Battle of Sydney Harbour.  He was woken at 3.00 am by a Lieutenant in a launch saying ‘I think you’d better get underway – there are subs in the harbour’.  Townley, the commander of Steady Hour lying next to Seamist, and commander of the Hollywood Fleet that night, (178) instructed Reg to patrol between Bradleys Head and the western end of the boom net, and to set his depth charges to detonate at 50 feet.  Without any other training on Seamist, other than his earlier docking at the wharf, and with little knowledge of the Harbour, one can understand the concerns Reg must have had – responding to a call of enemy submarines in the Harbour, on a dark winter night, on his first day of active service, and in command of his first vessel.


He commenced his patrol to the boom at about 3.30 to 3.45 am.  At 4.30 am he was signaled by HMAS Goonambee to investigate an object in Taylors Bay.  He did so and only found a buoy and duly reported back.


At about 5.00 am as he motored past the Bay again, he sighted an object.  As he investigated, he recognized it to be the conning tower of a submarine.  Thirty years later Reg said that to find a submarine on the surface was a shattering experience which caught him very much off guard, and far from ready to deal with the situation.


But deal with it, he did.  Reg bought Seamist between the submarine and the shore and saw it dive with its propellers splashing.  He called for the Very Flare pistol and a depth charge and swung Seamist in an arc to cross where the submarine had submerged.  At the right moment Reg fired the pistol sending a red flare into the sky and ordered the depth charge to be dropped.  There was an explosion and upheaval of water.  Seamist rode the resulting wave ‘like a surf boat’ as he carried on, into another arc, to attack the submarine again.  As Reg bought Seamist around again, he called for another depth charge by which time the submarine’s hull had surfaced upside down.  He recalled how he ran in towards it so close he ‘could have stepped off onto the sub’.


Just as he was about to order the second depth charge to be dropped, the Coxswain yelled to Reg, there were another two subs behind.


In his interview, Reg described the events:


I attacked the first submarine and got the charge on it, now when I came back again that submarine came up with its propellers out of the water upside down.  At the time of dropping the second charge on that hulk which really didn’t need another one as it had it in any case, but a few seconds before, attention was drawn to two more behind me on the port quarter and I looked around behind me and saw two more conning towers high above water, at least 3 feet [approx. 1m] above the water, and the nearest one to me was what I reported was crash diving because all around the conning tower was bubbles and air rushing out, and in the quick flash that I looked, appeared to be sinking.


When he dropped the second depth charge, there was a mighty explosion and wave that Seamist rode.  But the force of the explosion was so great, it damaged one of the engines and Reg knew he would be unable to make another run.  He used his Aldis lamp to signal Townley in Steady Hour, but there was no response.  With only one engine he motored, as best he could, to Steady Hour and told Townley of his sighting of the other two submarines.  


For Reg, Townley appeared disinterested and seemed keen to have a ‘general conversation’ – ‘Did Seamist fire any red Very flares?’, ‘Did you drop any depth charges?’.  Reg remained concerned and told Townley, the two additional submarines would already be making their way out of the harbour.  Reg said he was ordered to ‘Fuck off to base’.  For him, ‘Nothing could have been more distasteful to the morale of the crew who to this stage considered, they had put up a jolly fine show’ and ‘Apart from the indignity of being sent home, the order in such language was to say the least, degrading’.


After what Reg described as an interminable delay of unnecessary questioning, Townley motored Steady Hour into the Bay and began a search.  Nothing was found.  Townley then called Yarroma over from her patrol duty at the western end of the boom gate, to use her ASDIC equipment in a crisscross search.  A contact was found at about 6.40 am and Steady Hour and Yarroma dropped further depth charges.


Reg subsequently reported his actions with the first submarine, and described the sightings of what he believed to be, two further submarines.  


He was questioned at length at Garden Island by senior officers.  When he said he had sunk a submarine at a particular location, Reg said he was ‘accused of insinuating the Admiral was a liar’, because, according to Muirhead-Gould, there wasn’t a submarine at that location.


In the interview with Carruthers, Reg expressed his view the senior officers ‘Set out to prove in any possible way I was a liar’.  ‘I was given a severe dressing down’.


In his official report of 22nd June 1942, Muirhead-Gould confirmed Townley in Steady Hour was responsible for sinking the submarine, and that Reg Andrew with Seamist and Eyres with Yarroma had merely assisted.  That was despite Muirhead-Gould’s chronology confirming Seamist had attacked first at 5.00 am, approximately one hour and forty minutes before Townley dropped his first depth charge at 6.40 am.


Clearly over the intervening years, Reg became bitter that his deeds and those of his crew on that night were not recognized, just as those of Anderson and his crew in Lolita were never recognized.  What made it hard for Reg to accept, is that Townley, who received the credit for Reg’s actions, never spoke to him about his actions – You’d think any sort of human being, being a senior officer of the flotilla like that, would at least have something to say – congratulations, or you did a good job or something.  I never heard a word from him’.


Reg felt ostracized, and after the intervening thirty-five years in which he mulled over the events and circumstances, he summed up his view, I suppose if it’s all boiled down, I should have been decorated’.  ‘I was told confidentially, that because the Admiral had got a kick in the bum for it, and the whole box and dice was a fiasco, nobody would get any credit, and they had to shut me up.  But the CO of Steady Hour was a politician, and he had to get the credit, and it was easy to give him credit, and forget that I was in it and that’s what happened’.


Given we now know, there was only one submarine in Taylors Bay that night when Reg and his crew did their duty and attacked, it is difficult to understand how Reg could have believed there were two more submarines.


*             *             *


Having reviewed the available reports, including Horace Doyle’s account (179) of Yarroma’s actions, listened to the interviews with Reg, and read his narrative of the action, it is my view there were possible explanations.


Firstly, Reg and his Coxswain most probably observed two buoys, one of which Reg sighted earlier when responding to Goonanbee’s direction at 4.30 am.  Given the bay affords secure anchorages, there would be a strong likelihood there may have been other buoys in the bay.  With the concussion from the explosion of the first depth charge, the buoys were probably foundering and appeared like conning towers in the melee of bubbles and escaping air.  At the time Reg and his Coxswain sighted the two additional ‘submarines’, Seamist was heading south-east out of Taylors Bay towards the western channel and it is more than likely, the buoy he had seen earlier that morning would have been behind him in Taylors Bay.  Whilst Reg recounted the other ‘submarines’ were a mere 45 metres away, given the circumstances, he could easily have underestimated the distance.


The second possibility is that the concussion from the explosion of the first depth charge, may have dislodged wreckage or debris from the bed of the bay.  An old drum or piece of wreckage hurled to the surface by the blast of 180kg of high explosive in the depth charge, may well have looked like a conning tower rising 3 feet [900 mm] above the surface, especially in poor light against the dark background of the shore and headland.


The third possibility, suggested by Carruthers and included in Grose’s book, (180) is that one of the additional ‘submarines’ seen by Reg, could have been the stern section of M21, severed from the body of the submarine by the explosion of Seamist’s first depth charge.  Having been severed, the rear section may have been blown to the surface and observed by Reg and the coxswain before sinking.  


This possibility raises a number of issues which arise from the lack of definite evidence in the report (181) of the salvage operation.  


The report documents that on the Friday after the attack, it was ‘Discovered tail of submarine had been blown off’.  However, there is nothing in the report confirming when the stern was severed – by the depth charge attack, or if the stern had been sheared off during the salvage operation.  In support of the latter, the diver’s narrative includes ‘stepped the length of the sub and made it about 85 feet’ [25.9 metres], (182) which is about 1.4 metres longer than the actual length of the sub.  If the stern had been severed by the attack, the length of the sub would have been much shorter.  However, at a depth of 81 feet (24.7 metres) in 6 inches (150mm) of mud and poor light, diver Bullard could have overestimated the length of his steps.


The salvage report also records ‘motors inside the hull were still running’.  Despite the absence of any report by the divers that the propellers were rotating, authors have accepted this confirmed the main propulsion motor was running, and as this would require power from the batteries located in the remainder of the submarine, it would not have been possible for the stern to have been severed during the attack.  Notwithstanding, it is noted from a review of detailed drawings of the submarine prepared by naval draftsmen at Garden Island, (183) there were a number of additional internal motors.  Given the report merely notes ‘motors inside the hull were still running’, it could easily have been one of those additional motors that could have been running and that the stern had been severed by the attack.  


But perhaps the most compelling evidence to be weighed up for this possibility, is that when describing his run in to drop the second depth charge, Reg recalled the submarine came up ‘with its propellers out of the water upside down’.  The propellers could not have been in two places – behind him as he ran in to drop his second depth charge, and on the submarine when she came out of the water upside down!


Grose however suggests a further possibility, (184) that Andrew’s second depth charge was dropped on the buoy he had seen earlier that morning, and the other two submarines behind him as he ran into drop the second depth charge, were in fact the stern of M21 breaking the surface before it slid back into the water, before the bow broke the surface.  The difficulty with this possibility is Reg’s statement, that when he ‘came back again that submarine came up with its propellers out of the water upside down’, and buoy’s don’t have propellers!


In the confused light, Reg’s two submarines could have been buoys, pieces of old wreckage or debris, the stern of M21, or the stern and the bow of M21 as suggested by Grose.  Any combination of these, provided Andrew and his Coxswain, reason to believe there were two more submarines, in addition to the one they were then attacking.


Whatever the reason, as commander of the vessel prosecuting the attack, with only three crew, in a harbour in which he had little experience, with a vessel of which he had taken command only five hours earlier, and with little relevant training, Reg and his crew, deserved a proper hearing.  That hearing was denied, and the credit for his actions in sinking M21 was given to Lieutenant Townley and Steady Hour.


Notwithstanding, and unknown by Reg, he had no chance of being credited with destroying the submarine.  Just eight days after the Battle and prior to receiving any written report, the Naval Board wrote to Muirhead-Gould requesting that he convey the congratulations of the Board to Townley, for the initiative and skill shown by him and his officers and crew ‘in successfully sinking an enemy submarine’. (185)  Without waiting to compile his reports, Murhead-Gould wrote his own personal letter to Townley, congratulating him and his crew for the ‘vigilance, skill and determination which bought about the destruction of Japanese [submarine] No. 21’, adding ‘it is a triumph for “The Little Ships” as well as a personal triumph for you’. (186)  


What may have contributed to Reg’s bitterness, is that when Townley was given credit for sinking a submarine, for Reg, there had to be another submarine – the one he attacked and sank.  If the authorities were saying the submarine that had been lifted from Taylors Bay was Townley’s, then his, was still somewhere on the bottom of Taylors Bay.


For Reg, the scenario that there was more than one submarine in Taylor’s Bay, was reinforced after the war in 1948, when Eric Breydon, the commander of the Hollywood Fleet at the time of the submarine attack, wrote to Hermon Gill.  Gill had earlier been appointed by the Australian War Memorial to prepare the official naval history of the War.  On the evening of the attack, Breydon had not been on duty and played no part in the action, but Gill had sent him a letter which he had received from Reg Andrew.  That letter has not been found, but in response, Breydon told Gill, ‘My view is that Andrew did sink one submarine, and “Sealice, in his letter, gave him credit for the one not yet raised from the seabed’ and ‘Townley also sank one submarine and, according to the official view, his victim was No. 21.’  Of importance, Breydon says Townley’s submarine was ‘visually sighted’ by Yarroma and Steady Hour as she was surfacing.  Other than Breydon’s statement, there is no evidence that a second submarine was ‘visually sighted’, in the period between 5.15 am to 8.27 am, when Yarroma and Steady Hour were searching Taylors Bay and dropping their depth charges.


How could there be a visual sighting?  Reg had squarely caught the submarine with his first depth charge which inverted the 50 ton submarine and blew it to the surface.  He followed it with his second depth charge, so close to the submarine he could have stepped from Seamist onto its hull.  The concussive blast from the 180 kg of high explosive in each depth charge, in the shallow water of Taylors Bay would have effectively destroyed the submarine and it would have remained on the seabed.


Breydon, in his conclusion to Gill recommended that Andrew be informed ‘the effect of the information given by “Sealice” in his letter is regarded as authentic and in accordance with official records and must be accepted’.  For Reg, this was the official position – there had been more than one submarine.


Breydon did not reveal the identity of ‘Sealice’, and no record relating to ‘Sealice’ has been found.


In another twist, Reg in his early 1970’s manuscript, describes how Breydon with his vessel HMAS Silver Cloud, and others of the Hollywood Fleet, spent ten days dragging a chain between two vessels across the bed of Taylor Bay.  In those ten days Reg and Seamist were not allowed to participate or point to the location where he believed the second submarine would lie.  Nothing was found, but on the eleventh and last day of the search, Reg with Seamist was allowed to join the search and in proceeding between Chowder Head and Bradleys Head across the entrance to Taylors Bay, the two vessels came to a ‘grinding halt’ as the chain caught an object on the sea bed.  The object registered as metallic on the galvanometer attached to the chain.  Reg recounts he was ordered to drop his end of the chain.  It was pulled into Silver Cloud and both vessels advanced fifty metres whereupon the chain was re-strung between the vessels and the search continued.


According to Reg’s account, there was no attempt to raise the object and according to him, the site was subsequently marked on charts held by the anti-submarine training school at Rushcutters Bay and used for diving exercises.  Reg was adamant, that if Townley’s sub was the one raised from Taylor’s Bay, his was the one caught in the chains and never raised.  Again, unbeknown to Reg, it is possible the chains had snagged the 1889 wreck of the SS Centennial, or the 1910 wreck of the SS Currajong, both of which lie on the seabed in the vicinity of Taylors Bay. (187)


Reg’s confusion was understandable - no one seemed interested in finding ‘his’ submarine.


Reg Andrew and his crew believed they had sighted a submarine, attacked it and had sunk it.  In his interview, he was adamant that Steady Hour and Townley ‘had nothing whatever to do with it.  The submarine that he [Townley] got the main credit for was sunk and was well and truly home and hosed before he [Townley] came on the scene and it was at least an hour and a half after I attacked with Seamist that he [Townley] dropped his charges’.


It is a significant loss that the reports of the action, written by Andrew, Townley and Eyres, are missing from the national record of the Battle.  It is a significant loss that there are no transcripts of evidence from the commanders that would have been available, had there been the required Board of Inquiry.  But today we have the interviews with Reg Andrew and his written statements.  In the absence of any evidence to the contrary, and there is none, they should be believed.


Within weeks of the attack, Muirhead-Gould knew there had only been three submarines and the third submarine, (M24) had escaped the harbour at 1.58 am, (188) approx. three hours before Reg attacked M21. With M14 destroyed at the boom net, the only submarine remaining in the harbour at 5.00 am was M21, caught by Reg in Taylors Bay.  Having been attacked, there was every reason for M21 to escape the confines of Taylors Bay into the larger harbour.  But it didn’t – it remained in Taylors Bay because Reg had irreparably damaged or destroyed it!


Lying on the bottom, destroyed by Reg, it is most improbable M21 surfaced and was sighted by Townley.  And there was no other submarine that could have been sighted.  But, for whatever reason, Breydon informed Gill, a second submarine was ‘sighted’ by Townley and Eyres to be ‘under way and surfacing’.


Based on the information that was available, there should never have been any doubt there was only one submarine in Taylors Bay that night.


On 21 June 1942, just three weeks after the Battle, the loop experts determined one of the four crossings was ‘outward bound’. (189)  Two days later, a news broadcast from Tokyo regarding the raid on Sydney announced the ‘three Japanese submarines which participated in this raid have not yet returned’. (190)  The following day, Muirhead-Gould advised the Naval Board that one of the loop crossings ‘may be in the opposite direction to other three’.  With M14 destroyed in the net and with another having left the harbour, there could only have been one in Taylors Bay.  In his advice, he only spoke of one in Taylors Bay, which he said was ‘probably attacked’ by Seamist at 5.00 am ‘and relocated and finally sunk’ by Steady Hour, Yarroma and Seamist at 7.00 am.


Having reached that position, with only one submarine in Taylors Bay, Muirhead-Gould faced a dilemma in his third report having already awarded the kill to Townley.  He had to deal with Andrew’s submarine.  He did so by merely saying the first attack being Andrew’s ‘caused the submarine to run into the bottom’ and ‘damaged the midget’, while the later attacks ‘progressively wrecked her’.  The Board’s and Muirhead-Gould’s earlier congratulations to Townley remained.

In 1953, the Department of External Affairs obtained a copy of the ‘official’ Japanese account of the submarine attack on Sydney Harbour. (191)  The report provided to Gill, confirmed only three midget submarines had been involved in the attack. (192)  


With that confirmation, and despite Breydon’s earlier advice of two submarines in Taylors Bay, Gill reached the conclusion there had only been one.  He reached that conclusion in 1954 but made no determination regarding the actual attack and the impact of Reg’s attack.  That was fourteen years before the Australian War Memorial published Gill’s Royal Australian Navy 1942-1945, Vol. 2, which contained the ‘official’ account of the battle.  Gill had those fourteen years to thoroughly research the circumstances of the Battle, interview the participants and consider the various claims.  There is no evidence he took any action, other than to rely on what had been written in the months following the Battle, and in the ‘official’ Japanese report.


By 1949, Townley was a member of Parliament and was appointed Minister for Defence in 1958.  With only one submarine attacked in Taylors Bay and therefore none for Townley to sink, perhaps it was easier to perpetuate the confusion at Reg’s expense, and leave the matter well alone – and merely set out the timeline and leave it for readers to draw their own conclusions.


Whilst running in the 1949 election for the Federal Electorate of Denison, the story of ‘The Midget Sub Raid On Sydney’ appeared in the Melbourne Herald, (193) with similar accounts in Perth’s Western Mail and Adelaide’s Advertiser.  It was Townley’s opportunity to correct the record and at least give Reg his pat on the back.  There was no response.

177 Australian National Maritime Museum: Voice interviews by Reginald Andrew … relating to the Sydney Harbour Attack, 1977., Object No. 00047664.  See also Reg Andrew manuscript story of the Battle prepared in the early 1970’s, Carruthers Collection, RAN Sea Power Centre – Australia.

178 The commander of the Hollywood Fleet was Lieutenant Commander Richard Eric Breydon.  At the time of the Battle, he was on leave and Townley as second-in-command, assumed the role.

179 AWM PRO3229 – Papers of Horace Frederick Doyle

180 Grose, P., A Very Rude Awakening, p.167

181 NAA: SP338/1, 201/37: Midget Submarine Attack on Sydney Harbour, May 31st June 1st 1942, p.92-94

182 Grose, P., A Very Rude Awakening, p.179

183 NAA: B6121, 174S, Parts 1 and 2: Midget Submarines – Japanese.  This Record ncludes 2 drawings.

184 Grose, P., A Very Rude Awakening, p.168

185 NAA: MP1049/5, 2026/21/79: Midget Submarine Attack on Sydney Harbour, p.95.  There is no indication of what prompted the Naval Board’s initiative and there is no record of any consideration of such a matter in the Minutes of the Board’s meetings.

186 NAA: AWM69, 85/27.  A copy of the letter had been obtained by Breydon presumably from Townley, and submitted to Gill.

187 NSW Office of Environment and Heritage website – See Maritime Heritage

188 MP1049/5, 2026/21/79: Midget Submarine Attack on Sydney Harbour., p.31 (Chronology p.3)

189 NAA: B6121, 162K:  Midget Submarine Attack on Sydney Harbour - Signals, p.120

190 NAA: B6121, 162K:  Midget Submarine Attack on Sydney Harbour - Signals, p.113

191 NAA: AWM69, 88/3.,  Note only one page remains in the file.  The remainder of the document is missing.  However, a copy of a Japanese account of the Battle titled ‘Attack of Sydney Harbour by Special Submarine Boats (Midget Submarine)’ is contained in the Carruther’s Collection at Sea Power Centre – Australia.  This is a translation of ‘Chapter 6’ of an un-named document.  The name of the document in not named.  The source is not cited.

192 Whilst only one page of the report has survived, it is possible to conclude that if the report had identified more than three midget submarines were involved in the attack, Gill would have reflected the greater number of submarines in his 1963 ‘Official History’.

193 The Herald (Melbourne), 28 May 1949, p.11