After the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, the US government conducted an inquiry.  After the bombing of Darwin, the Australian Government launched an inquiry.


By the end of the week following the Battle of Sydney Harbour, Smith’s Weekly newspaper of 6 June called for an inquiry and sackings - ‘If it’s the Navy or the coastal defences that neglected safeguarding the great port of Sydney, the responsibility should be sheeted home’. (194)


The Opposition Leader in the NSW Parliament suggested the federal authorities be asked to conduct an inquiry into the entry of the Japanese submarines into Sydney Harbour.  Premier McKell responded ‘it would be very wrong and most inopportune to ask for any such inquiry unless evidence of negligence is bought forward’.  He added, that if such evidence was bought forward he would act.


The next day, on 10 June 1942, the Minister for the Navy, Mr Makin issued a statement that he consider an inquiry into the harbour defences was unnecessary.  Makin was quoted saying ‘A thorough investigation has been made into the entry of Japanese midget submarines and this has proved that the defences are up to the mark’. (195)  That was despite the ongoing inquiry, and no written report from those responsible for the protection of Sydney Harbour and the safety of the residents of Sydney.


The following Saturday, a week after the shelling of Sydney and Newcastle suburbs, the Smith’s Weekly newspaper of 13 June was again calling for an inquiry; ‘Our Navy Must Never Be Caught Napping’ screamed the headline.  ‘Conflicting Statements on Sydney Harbour Raid – There Should Be a Public Inquiry’ was the bi-line. (196)  ‘Clearly there is a need, not for ministerial complacency, but for searching inquiry.  An inquiry must be made into the Sydney affair, and it must not be suppressed, whatever its findings’.  The newspaper informed its readers the American allies had not hesitated to launch an inquiry into the attack on Pearl Harbor, and had not hesitated to publish the findings.  Smith’s Weekly maintained the American inquiry constituted a precedent for Australia to hold an inquiry.


By the next edition on 20 June, the newspaper had been informed of James Cargill’s discovery and informed its readers of the ‘Story of the Night-Watchman’.  The newspaper described Cargill’s actions; that he rowed to the disturbance he had observed at the boom net, reported to commander Eyres on Yarroma, had been ‘ridiculed’ by Eyres, rowed again to the object, reported a second time to Eyres, before rowing a third time (197) with a sailor from Yarroma who confirmed the object was a submarine.  On seeking an explanation from the Navy for the delay in taking action, Smith’s Weekly was informed the ‘Admiral’ (being Muirhead-Gould) would not make any statement.  Smith’s was directed to address the matter to the Naval Board.  Again, the newspaper called for an inquiry, ‘Public anxiety must be allayed.  National safety must be protected.  A full enquiry, as in the Pearl Harbor case, is essential’.


In the 4 July edition, the newspaper published a poignant letter from a reader identified as ‘Lookout’ of Cremorne:


If the presence of submarines in Sydney Harbour was known at 10 o’clock on the night of May 31, why were the men on the torpedoed depot ship not put on alert?  Many of the survivors were undoubtedly asleep – by their own admissions.  The loss of life could well have been avoided, or at any rate reduced, if an alert had been given.  Who was responsible for this omission of this precaution? (198)


Having been fobbed off by the Naval Board, who claimed they had a report from Cargill that ‘does not disclose any suggestion of neglect or delay on the part of any naval personnel’, the newspaper again called for an Inquiry.


The task of determining what happened was left to the Naval Officer in Charge – Rear Admiral Muirhead-Gould.  Yet it was that very person, Muirhead-Gould, who was responsible for the safety of Sydney Harbour, and who had allowed three enemy submarines to penetrate the defences and kill twenty-one naval sailors.


There was no inquiry, public or otherwise.  


*             *             *


Five months before the Battle of Sydney Harbour, five Japanese midget submarines participated in the attack on Pearl Harbor.  Whilst the submarines failed, the attack alerted allied navies of the existence of the Japanese midget submarines and the enemy’s intention to use them to attack shipping in harbours.  Three weeks after the attack on Pearl Harbor, on 24 December 1941, Muirhead-Gould issued directions regarding the protection of Sydney Harbour, including additional anti-submarine and mine-sweeping vessels, and patrol and auxiliary patrol vessels.  He ordered depth charges to be set to ‘100 feet’ (30.5m). (199)  Given a cursory examination of a nautical chart of the harbour would have identified only two small areas with a depth greater than 100 feet, this was a monumental mistake that rendered the main anti-submarine armament, useless!  Muirhead-Gould’s order rendered the Channel Patrol Boats (CPB) of the Hollywood Fleet, impotent - as if their ‘guns had been spiked’ - as found by Lolita when she attacked and dropped her depth charges on M14 at the boom net. (200)


Muirhead-Gould does not reveal that mistake in any of his reports including his final 16 July 1942 report, and extraordinarily asserts, depth charges ‘were not capable of exploding in depths under 42 feet’ (ie they could detonate at depths greater than 42 feet), and then advises this had since been amended with all depth charges on the CPB’s ‘modified to fire at 25 feet’ (ie at depths greater than 25 feet). (201)  Yet, within two weeks of his report, an order was issued for depth charges ‘to be set to 100 feet’. (202)  The CPB’s main armament had again been ‘spiked’ and rendered useless in the harbour!


With regard to the induction loops, Muirhead-Gould had been alerted, as early as mid 1941, that the installation had given an ‘abnormal amount of trouble’.  As a consequence, he had been warned by the loop experts, that defence against midget submarines would require booms, patrols to seaward against parent craft, and ‘extreme vigilance’. (203)  In addition, the Admiralty had expressed several relevant views, that ASDIC on harbour defence vessels was not suitable, and a small 50 ton midget submarine would only be detected within 5 fathoms (30 feet, 9.15m) of the actual loop cable. (204)  In early 1942, just four months before the attack, the British Officer in Charge of Australia’s anti-submarine establishment, advised Muirhead-Gould the defences against such an attack were deficient and issued instructions regarding the watchkeeping scheme and additional personnel. (205)


On 27 April 1942, Muirhead-Gould issued further orders that dramatically increased the activities of the Channel Patrol Boats of the Hollywood Fleet.  He ordered that until further notice, one ASDIC fitted vessel of the Hollywood Fleet would be on continuous patrol off Lady Bay just inside the harbour entrance, with another non ASDIC fitted vessel patrolling at each boom entrance each night between 7 pm and 7 am.  Two further ASDIC fitted Hollywood Fleet vessels were required to keep ‘continuous A/S [ASDIC] watch covering the approaches to East and West channels’. (206)  That was five vessels of the Hollywood Fleet on duty at the net every night, three of which were fitted with ASDIC.


Bewilderingly, Muirhead-Gould’s further order just five days before the attack on 25 May 1942, cancelled the ASDIC capable vessel patrolling off Lady Bay. (207)  Furthermore, the number of vessels at the boom on the night of the attack had been reduced even further to just two – Yarroma with her ASDIC equipment and Lolita without ASDIC detection equipment.  We also know Yarroma was not keeping an active ASDIC watch on the evening of the attack ‘the reason being that, generally speaking, A/S [ASDIC] watch is not possible inside the boom owing to echoes off the boom drowning all others’. (208)  In addition, Yarroma was not maintaining an active patrol as she was anchored until approx. 9.40 pm, and it was only at that time, she set an ASDIC watch, but only by hydrophone ‘due to the proximity to the boom’. (209)


There is no documentation identifying the reason for Muirhead-Gould’s increase in the number of patrol boats in April, and the further reduction to two, just five days before the attack – especially given the warnings of enemy activity and, extraordinarily, given the boom net had not been completed.


It is also known Muirhead-Gould had been one of the senior officers who conducted the inquiry into the sinking of the British battleship HMS Royal Oak in Scarpa Flow, Scotland, in October 1939. (210)  Royal Oak had been sunk by a German submarine which had penetrated into the Scarpa Flow harbour past boom nets.  Having participated in that inquiry, Muirhead-Gould would have been well aware of the difficulties associated with excluding enemy submarines from harbours.  Yet five months after the attack on Pearl Harbor, which included midget submarines, the boom net across Sydney Harbour had not been completed, and only two Channel Patrol Boats of the Hollywood Fleet were on duty on the evening of the attack.  Smith’s Weekly in their 6 June edition, reminded Muirhead-Gould and their readers of the Scarpa Flow attack.  The failures in that attack which resulted in the loss of HMS Royal Oak, were front and centre before Muirhead-Gould and senior officers of the Navy, including Sir Guy Royal, First Naval Member of the Naval Board.


And, it is not as though there was a lack of warnings of an impending attack!  


On 23 May 1942, just eight days before the attack, the Japanese submarine I-29 launched her seaplane which flew over Sydney Harbour before dawn. (211)  At the time, the harbour was full of vessels including the cruiser USS Chicago.  The seaplane was observed and reported by personnel at the Port War Signal Station on South Head, and by a mobile radar station at Iron Cove, west of the Harbour Bridge. (212)  Muirhead-Gould was absent (213) which may have accounted for the lack of action, but at the very least it should have resulted in a heightened lookout and reporting regime.


But, on 29 May, just two days before the attack, a further flight was conducted from another Japanese submarine I-21.  This time the plane flew in from the sea, down the harbour, passed USS Chicago, then over Garden Island and the city, returning for a final circuit through the prohibited air space over the assembled fleet and harbour installations, before flying east out to sea.  There is no mention of the plane in the Sydney Log. (214)  However, the plane was positively identified as a Japanese float plane, and it is inconceivable, the report would not have been passed onto Muirhead-Gould. (215)  Regardless, it is surprising Muirhead-Gould did not implement any further precautions to prevent an imminent attack, especially given these two flights were in addition to an earlier flight from a plane launched from another Japanese submarine I-25, 3½ months earlier on 17 February 1942. (216)


In addition, Muirhead-Gould knew there were enemy submarines off the coast and close to Sydney.  On 16 May 1942, the Russian merchant ship Wellen was attacked off Newcastle.  Two torpedoes had missed the vessel, but the submarine surfaced and attacked Wellen with her deck gun.  Fortunately, Wellen was armed and returned fire.  The enemy submarine discontinued the engagement. (217)


Furthermore, just five days before the attack on 26 May, the New Zealand naval authorities detected a signal from a submarine operating in the Tasman Sea.  They identified the location as being approx. 700 nautical miles (1,300km) east of Sydney, and notified the Australian authorities. (218)  Again, at 6.00 pm on 29 May, the New Zealanders intercepted a further signal and notified the Australian authorities of a probable submarine approximately 40 miles (64km) east of Sydney Harbour. (219)  


The requirement for ‘extreme vigilance’ appears to have been overlooked!


*             *             *


Both authors, Carruthers and Grose include copies of Japanese Telegraphic Orders No. 3 and No. 4, which they attest are the signals of 26 and 29 May, detected by the New Zealanders.  Both Orders clearly identify the forthcoming attack on Sydney Harbour. (220)  Carruthers does not expresses any views on whether the signals were decrypted by the allies before the attack.  Grose, simply notes there ‘is no evidence’ the 26 May signal was ‘decoded’ by the Australians or Americans before the attack. (221) For his 1982 book, Carruthers, received a copy of the ‘official Japanese War History’ which included the ‘planning and execution of the Japanese attack’. (222)  That account includes Telegraphic Orders 3 and 4.  


However, as early as 1953, the Australian Department of External Affairs received a copy of the Japanese account of the attack on Sydney Harbour. (223)  The account was provided to Gill for his use in preparing the Official History of the Royal Australian Navy.  Whilst only one page of the document remains in the file, it is more than likely, Telegraphic Orders 3 and 4 were set out in that document, just as they were set out in the document obtained by Carruthers.  As a result, in 1953, Gill would have become aware of the significance of those Orders, and the implications if they had been decrypted and passed to Muirhead-Gould and others prior to the attack.  Neither of those Orders are discussed in Gill’s account of the Battle.


Former Navy Public Relations Officer in Sydney, Lew Lind who has written extensively on Australian military action is adamant, ‘Britain and the United States were aware of the forthcoming enemy operation (224) and ‘Half a century after the Special Attack Group struck its blow, many interesting and related facts are still withheld from the public’. (225)  When writing about the description of the JN-25 Japanese coded signals, Lind says ‘When the question of Australia sharing the secrets revealed by Ultra (226) arose, both great powers agreed the Australian government could not be trusted with this vital weapon’.  Other than relying on his personal knowledge, Lind does not cite any evidence to support his views.


The National Australian Archives holds fifteen folios of ‘FRUMEL [Fleet Radio Unit Melbourne] records of Communications Intelligence’ relating to different subjects. (227)  The third folio relates to intelligence gathered in the lead up to the planned Japanese invasion of Port Moresby, and the resulting Battle of the Coral Sea.  That battle played out on 7 and 8 May, just three weeks before the Japanese attack on Sydney Harbour.  The fourth folio relates to intelligence gathered in the lead up to the Battle of Midway, which occurred during the week following the Battle of Sydney Harbour.  The information set out in those two folios, in addition to the information included in the remaining thirteen folios is profound in the level of detail that is revealed.  It is that information that enabled the allies to position their forces to counter and forestall the Japanese attacks in the Coral Sea and at Midway.


Given the above, it is for reasonable people to ask, if the allies were able to detect and decrypt the signals which formed the basis of those summaries for the battles of Coral Sea and Midway, why would it not have been possible for the 26 and 29 May signals collected by the New Zealanders, to have been decrypted and read by the allies?  Given the attack on Wellen and the overflight on 23 May, it seems unbelievable that those signals would not have been decrypted.  It becomes even more unbelievable that the earlier 26 May signal, would not have been decrypted, given the 29 May signal identified an enemy submarine to be only 40 miles (64km) off Sydney, after the over-flight on that same day.


One is left to ask, if either signal had been read before the night of 31 May 1942, who was aware of the forthcoming attack?  Did the British or the United States decide not to warn the Australian authorities so as to allow the attack to proceed to awaken the Australian population from their slumber with regard to the war in the Pacific.  Or perhaps, given the allies had thwarted the Japanese just three weeks earlier in the Coral Sea battle, and a further engagement was imminent at Midway, did the authorities allow the attack to proceed so as not to alert the Japanese their naval codes had been broken?  


By April 1942, the US intelligence forces were decrypting and reading the Japanese JN-25 coded signals, but they had been experiencing difficulties, after Far East Combined Bureau (FECB) was withdrawn to Colombo in current Sri Lanka, and Kilindini in Mombasa off the east coast of Africa.  Progress in decrypting signals picked up again in June 1942. (228)  However, given the absence of the actual decrypted signals to review, it is simply not possible to determine if Telegraphic Orders No. 3 of 26 May and No. 4 of 29 May were read, and if so, when they were read.


Grose includes a paragraph from the ‘intelligence digest’ of 31 May, which he says is a substantial decryption of a signal sent on 25 May providing information gathered from the 23 May over-flight.  According to Grose, those dates indicate a five day decryption process, thereby suggesting the Telegraphic Order No. 3 sent on 26 May would have been decrypted on 31 May and included in the ‘intelligence digest’ of 1 June, and the Telegraphic Order No. 4 of 29 May would have been decrypted and included in the ‘intelligence digest’ of 3 June 1942.  If Grose is correct, specific details of the attack may well have been available to warn Muirhead-Gould and the authorities to prepare for the attack.


Until the authorities release the files of the decrypted signals and related intelligence summaries, one can only speculate.  However, it is more than likely, the decrypted signals have been destroyed.  At a conference of senior Australian officers of the Central Bureau held to decide ‘the disposal of Central Bureau records’ on 29 November 1945, Commander Nave was given the task of destroying the records, with the exception of fifty messages to be selected by him for their value as examples of operational intelligence. (229)  Can it be that the fifteen folios referred to above, are all that remain of the intelligence records collected during the Pacific war?  Or were the records collected by FRUMEL, separate and exempted from the direction, and are yet to be released?


Even without the decrypts of the Telegraphic Orders 3 and 4, there had been plenty of warning events – a minimum of six that would have warned a knowledgeable and experienced commander of potential enemy action – three over-flights, the attack on Wellen, and the two warnings of submarines in close proximity to Sydney.  In addition, Muirhead-Gould was well aware of the capabilities of submarines entering harbours because of the Scarpa Flow incident, and was well aware the Japanese used midget submarines in the attack against Pearl Harbor, and could do so, against Sydney.  That is why a boom net with gates was being constructed, and three induction loops had been installed across the harbour!  


In addition, Japanese radio ‘chatter’ had been detected by radio operators onboard USS Chicago, the night before the attack.  The ‘chatter’ was reported to the Garden Island Operations Room. (230)


*             *             *


Because of the actions of the Hollywood Fleet and other vessels, a significant disaster was curtailed.  


However, twenty-one Australian and British naval personnel were killed by the enemy, the harbour defences had been breached by three enemy submarines and confusion ranged across the harbour and city.  The circumstances warranted a Naval Board of Inquiry at the very least, or a Royal Commission, as was implemented for the Japanese air attack on Darwin just four months earlier.  Despite Boards of Inquiry being conducted for the loss of HMAS Nereus, Marlean, Silver Cloud and Steady Hour, where there were no deaths, and another for the loss of HMAS Lolita where there were two deaths, there was no such inquiry into the Battle of Sydney Harbour, the sinking of HMAS Kuttabul and the loss of twenty-one sailors.  Despite the pleas of the Smith’s Weekly and others in the NSW Parliament, the matter was simply left to the officer in command of Sydney Harbour, Muirhead-Gould.


In the aftermath, Muirhead-Gould directed the commander of HMAS Adelaide, which had been moored at Garden Island during the attack, to investigate and prepare a report.  Commander J B S Barwood’s report (231) of 11 June was succinct, set out the facts as he had determined and included various remarks which made clear, there had been a lack of communication between individual units, there had been a lack of communication between Garden Island and auxiliary craft at the Heads and the Channel Patrol Boats that were off duty in Farm Cove, there was a failure of the loop station to inform anyone of the submarine crossings, the off duty Channel Patrol Boats of the Hollywood Fleet were not immediately used, and there was a failure of the Port War Signal Station to handle the volume of communications.  This was hardly an endorsement of Muirhead-Gould’s preparations to protect Sydney and the assembled naval fleet!


Is it really possible that Muirhead-Gould, the officer with the responsibility for the safety of Sydney Harbour, never sought to hold regular exercises to test the defences and iron-out such matters?  Clearly not, as the earlier instruction to set depth charges to 100 feet (30.5m) would have been found to be unsuitable if an exercise had been undertaken.  There is no mention in the ‘War Diary’ for Sydney of any such exercises, and it appears the Channel Patrol Boats were sent out of the harbour to Broken Bay for training, rather than to test the defences of Sydney Harbour itself. (232)  In addition, Muirhead-Gould in a puzzling draft of his report, acknowledged the loop operators could not be blamed because ‘no one had ever before experienced the effect of a Midget submarine crossing a loop, nor had anyone, in Sydney at any rate, ever seen a Midget’s signature’.  Really!  Despite installing the loops, it appears Muirhead-Gould did nothing to test the system – such as towing a submerged steel cylinder the size of a midget submarine across the loops.  The only documented exercise was carried out in Newcastle and Cairns in November 1942, six months after the Battle when a mock periscope was towed into those harbours.  The test exposed significant deficiencies in sighting the periscope.  There is no evidence that test was carried out by Muirhead-Gould at Sydney Harbour, or if the lessons learnt from the Newcastle test had been implemented at Sydney. (233)


Of significance, Barwood provided a detailed chronology of events, cross-referenced to reports submitted by commanding officers of the vessels involved in the Battle.  In addition, it appears he conducted interviews with those and other officers.  He also referenced the various signals transmitted during the battle.


Today, the reports from the commanders of the Channel Patrol Boats - Yarroma, Seamist, Steady Hour, Marlean and Winbah referred to by Barwood are missing.  All the transcripts of the interviews conducted by Barwood are also missing.  And yet, similar reports and transcripts of evidence obtained for the Boards of Inquiries into the loss of Nereus, Marlean, Silver Cloud, Steady Hour and Lolita (234) are preserved.


There is no record of any interview with Anderson, or of his report as commanding officer of HMAS Lolita.  Lolita is not mentioned at all within Barwood’s report, other than his note that Sub-Lieutenant Eyres of Yarroma asked Anderson to investigate.  There is no mention of any action taken by Lolita.


Of Barwood’s report, Muirhead-Gould scribbled on the cover ‘I don’t think much of this’ and crossed out large amounts. (235)


The midget submarines M14 and M21 were salvaged within days, and by 6 June 1942, Muirhead-Gould was aware M14 had in fact penetrated the western gap in the boom defence and was found to be inside the net. (236)  She had not, as alleged by Muirhead-Gould, merely run into the net in trying to enter the harbor.  She was in fact inside the net!


In a Minute sheet on 16 June, Muirhead-Gould referred to the events as the ‘Battle of Port Jackson’.  Clearly in his mind at the time, the events were worthy of record as a ‘battle’.


With ongoing scrutiny from the media, Muirhead-Gould came under pressure to report to the Naval Board.  In addition, Sir Guy Royle, First Naval Member of the Naval Board, (237) required him to report on various matters. (238)  Muirhead-Gould issued his first report on 17 June.  It consisted of a single page.  Two paragraphs provided an introduction and details of the weather.  These were followed by a table referring to just five actions, and a paragraph that concluded there had been five submarines – one self-destroyed, two sunk in Taylors Bay and a further unlikely to have survived Yandra’s attack at the Heads.  Four crossings of the loops were observed, all said to be inwards with no outward crossings.  There was no mention of any allied vessel that had responded to the attack, and there was no mention of HMAS Lolita.  All despite Muirhead-Gould having received Barwood’s extensive report six days earlier.


Muirhead-Gould issued a further report on 22 June 1942 - more substantial, at just under three pages with an attached four page chronology.  Despite having Barwood’s detailed chronology, Muirhead-Gould said there had been ‘great difficulty’ experienced in constructing ‘any sort of chronological plot’, due to the large number of ships and boats and people involved in the operations.  Notwithstanding, he confirmed his view, that the first midget submarine had been in the harbour for two hours, and bewilderingly identified it was Cargill, who had failed to promptly report the sighting to Yarroma.  According to Muirhead-Gould, Yarroma did not fire because the commander thought the sighted object could have been a mine.  He said both matters were ‘deplorable and inexplicable’.  He also concluded Steady Hour was responsible for sinking M21 in Taylors Bay with ‘assistance’ from Seamist and Yarroma.  There was no mention in the report of Lolita playing any part in the Battle.


There was no mention of his personal letter two weeks earlier congratulating Townley for sinking M21!

Seven weeks after the Battle, Muirhead-Gould issued his third report on 16 July 1942. (239)  This was a more ‘extensive’ report – this time 3½ pages, which at least included six Appendices.  Despite the additional material, Muirhead-Gould maintained the attack was by four midget submarines, yet in his Appendix IV, he confirmed four crossings of the loop with one being an outward crossing.  Therefore, only three submarines could have penetrated the harbour!  Unbelievably he said the attack ‘was possibly’ proceeded by aerial reconnaissance which may have been carried out on ‘29th, 30th and 31st of May’, despite the absence of evidence of any over-flights other than on the 23 and 29 May.  His new report further reduced the number of naval ships in the harbour to just seven, when there were twenty-nine naval ships plus the twelve Channel Patrol Boats of the Hollywood Fleet.


With regard to the submarines, Muirhead-Gould identifies M14 was ‘caught in the nets’.  He does not disclose the initial report from the salvage operation which confirmed the submarine had been on the inside of the nets, having already successfully penetrated the harbour defences.  It had not been identified by the loop station and had avoided Yarroma, which at the time was anchored at the western gate.  As for the destruction of M14, there is no mention of HMAS Lolita’s actions.  Muirhead-Gould merely maintained the submarine ‘was unable to free herself and blew herself up’.  There is no consideration that having been detected, Chuma had taken decisive action to destroy his submarine in a manner that would also destroy Lolita.

Muirhead-Gould makes no disclosure he had been aboard HMAS Lolita, and makes no reference to his exchange with Anderson.


As for M21, he corrected his earlier view and confirmed Seamist was the first to attack her at 5.00 am.  However, Muirhead-Gould does not disclose that in doing so, Seamist was unable to attack again because she had been disabled by the second depth charge explosion.  He then discloses that Yarroma and Steady Hour continued the attack, but then fails to disclose the submarine had not moved in the intervening hour and forty minutes.  A proper analysis, would have revealed that Seamist’s attack had been successful in disabling the submarine, and that Reg Andrew had reason to believe there were two further submarines.  


The updated ‘Chronological Narrative’ failed to add anything of significance, other than to confirm the Channel Patrol Boats moored in Farm Cove, had been ordered to action stations at 2.30 am during the morning of 1 June – nearly four hours after the explosion of M14 at the boom net, and two hours after Kuttabul had been torpedoed.  Muirhead-Gould did not disclose he had six of the twelve Channel Patrol Boats of the Hollywood Fleet at his disposal.  Despite the excuse they were out of sight of Garden Island, and they had switched off their radio telephone sets (if in fact they had been fitted), it seems inexplicable that these armed and manned vessels were not dispatched immediately to perform the duties for which they had been requisitioned – to protect the harbour and allied shipping.


A troubling issue arising from his narrative, which is also evident from his earlier 22 June version, is his suggestion to Captain Bode that Chicago should ‘go to sea’.  If correct, this was made 10 minutes before Muirhead-Gould was informed the object in the net was a submarine, and 15 minutes before it was destroyed.  If as reported earlier in the evening, the object in the net was nothing other than naval debris or a mine, why would USS Chicago need to get up steam and proceed to sea?  That is, unless, Muirhead-Gould’s narrative with regard to the cessation of his dinner with Bode was deliberately misrepresented!


Another troubling issue is the whereabouts of Muirhead-Gould and Captain Bode after the explosion of M14 at 10.35 pm.  In a draft of his report (240) Muirhead-Gould is ‘convinced that Chicago and Perkins were underway before the firing of the torpedo which sank Kuttabul’.  The only way Muirhead-Gould would be able to convince himself of that error, would be because, as Nelson said, he was ‘a little bit icky ticky’, ‘a little bit under the weather’ – because he was intoxicated!  The facts as recorded are these: the first confirmed warning of a submarine was when Anderson sent his message ‘Have sighted enemy submarine and proceeding to attack’, or a few minutes later at 10.35 pm when M14 was destroyed.  From that time, with Chicago requiring four hours to raise steam, the earliest she could leave the harbour would be at about 2.30 am, but Kuttabul had been destroyed by the torpedo, two hours earlier at 12.30 am.


In addition, if Muirhead-Gould did leave his dinner at 10.20 pm or soon after, perhaps at the time M14 exploded in the net at 10.35 pm, where was Muirhead-Gould for 1 hour and 40 minutes before he boarded Lolita at midnight?  It was only a short walk to board his vessel and travel the 15 minutes to the boom net to board Lolita.  One is left to conclude the dinner continued – and perhaps only finished after the further explosions of Yandra’s depth charges at 11.07 pm?  But that would still leave 45 minutes unaccounted by Muirhead-Gould.


Muirhead-Gould had plenty of reasons to manipulate the facts and massage his report.  


But it is troubling why Sir Guy Royle allowed him such lee-way and had not taken more decisive action for an Inquiry – just as there had been for the loss of HMS Royal Oak at Scarpa Flow.  Perhaps one may speculate that by the time Muirhead-Gould was compiling his reports, Sir Guy may have received copies of the decrypts of Telegraphic Orders 3 and 4 that revealed the startling warnings of the attacks.  Or perhaps he had already been informed by Vice-Admiral Leary USN, Commander of the allied naval forces in the South-West Pacific Area who shared the same building in Melbourne, and was fully informed of all JN-25 and Ultra intelligence.  Or perhaps he may have been concerned an Inquiry would lead to an adverse finding against a fellow senior officer of the Royal Navy (Muirhead-Gould) or even himself, for not ensuring adequate protection of Sydney Harbour.


Notwithstanding, and in massaging his report, Muirhead-Gould expunged Lolita and Anderson from the history of the Battle, and failed to properly credit Andrew and Seamist for their actions against M21.


Given the significance of the Battle, Muirhead-Gould’s report should have been submitted to the Naval Board.  However, there is no record of any of his three reports ever being submitted to the Naval Board, let alone being considered by the Board.  Surprisingly, for such a significant event, there is also no evidence in the National Australian Archives or the Australian War Memorial’s collections, that the report was provided to the War Cabinet.  There were no statements in either the Federal or State parliaments, other than in the days immediately following the attack.  On 1 August 1942, a ‘secret’ report (241) was dispatched to allies.  There is no mention of HMAS Lolita.  There is no disclosure that M14 had penetrated the defences and was inside the boom net when it self-destructed.  Seamist was credited with attacking M21 before Steady Hour and Yarroma, but incorrectly had merely caused the submarine to ‘run into the bottom’.  There is no acceptance that Seamist had disabled M21.  


The war in the Pacific and Europe continued and no further reference was made of the Battle of Sydney Harbour during the war years.  Naval officers and sailors were bound by official secret prohibitions and could not even discuss the events with their loved ones.

194 Smith’s Weekly (Sydney), 6 June 1942, p.3

195 The Sun (Sydney), 10 June 1942, p.1

196 Smith’s Weekly (Sydney), 13 June 1942, p.2

197 Cargill in his official statement said he rowed twice to the object but in his later statements, he said he had rowed three times to the object.  Whether he rowed two or three times is rather irrelevant, given he reported the object initially to Eyres on Yarroma and again when he returned Yarroma’s sailor.  

198 Smith’s Weekly, 4 July 1942, p.11

199 NAA: SP338/1, 201/37: (Japanese) Midget Submarine Attack on Sydney Harbour, May 31st June 1st 1942., p.4

200 It is therefore odd, that Townley ordered Reg Andrew to set his depth charges to detonate at 50 feet at the time he was ordered to patrol between Bradleys Head and the boom net on the morning of the Battle of Sydney Harbour.  If Townley as deputy commander of the Hollywood Fleet, and presumably Breydon as commander of the Hollywood Fleet, were aware of the consequences of Muirhead-Gould’s ‘100 feet’ Order, why did they fail to ensure Anderson and his crew on Lolita were aware of the depth issue, and ensure a crew member aboard Lolita was familiar with the process to reset the depth to a shallower setting.

201 NAA: 1049/5, 2026/21/79: Midget Submarine Attack on Sydney Harbour, p.37

202 NAA: SP338/1, 201/37: (Japanese) Midget Submarine Attack on Sydney Harbour, May 31st June 1st 1942., p.106

203 NAA: MP1049/5, 1855/3/209: Anti-submarine loops – policy. p.1

204 NAA: MP1049/5, 1855/3/209: Anti-submarine loops – policy

205 Kennedy, D., ‘Anti-Submarine Defences of Sydney Harbour 1942’, Naval Historical Society of Australia, March 2005.  The source was not cited and a copy has not been found.

206 NAA: SP338/1, 201/37: (Japanese) Midget Submarine Attack on Sydney Harbour, May 31st June 1st 1942., p.3

207 NAA: SP338/1, 201/37: (Japanese) Midget Submarine Attack on Sydney Harbour, May 31st June 1st 1942., p.2

208 NAA: SP338/1, 201/37: (Japanese) Midget Submarine Attack on Sydney Harbour, May 31st June 1st 1942., p.43

209 NAA: SP338/1, 201/37: (Japanese) Midget Submarine Attack on Sydney Harbour, May 31st June 1st 1942., p.43

210 Grose, P., A Very Rude Awakening, p.15

211 Carruthers, S., Japanese Submarine Raiders 1942, p.87

212 Grose, P., A Very Rude Awakening, p.62-64

213 NAA: AWM78, 418/1: Sydney Log

214 NAA: AWM78, 418/1: Sydney Log

215 Grose, P., A Very Rude Awakening, p.71-76

216 Grose, P., A Very Rude Awakening, p.62

217 Grose, P., A Very Rude Awakening, p.60, 61

218 Grose, P., A Very Rude Awakening, p.66

219 Grose, P., A Very Rude Awakening, p.79

220 Carruthers, S., Japanese Submarine Raiders 1942, p.88, 89.,  Grose, P., A Very Rude Awakening, p.66, 79

221 Grose, P., A Very Rude Awakening, p.66

222 A copy of ‘Chapter 6, Attack of Sydney harbour by special submarine boat’ is included in the Carruthers’ Collection at the Sea Power Centre – Australia.

223 AWM69, 88/3.  Note only one page of the document remains in the file.  The remaining pages are missing.

224 Lind, L., Toku Tai – Japanese Submarine Operations in Australian Waters, p.8

225 Lind, L., Toku Tai – Japanese Submarine Operations in Australian Waters, p.8

226 ‘Ultra’ was the allied designation for intelligence resulting from the decryption of German cypher traffic, where the resulting information was considered more important than the then highest security classification (Most Secret) and was therefore regarded as Ultra Secret.

227 NAA: B5555, 1 to 15: These 15 Records all have different Item titles.

228 Pfennigwerth, I., A man of intelligence: the life of Captain Eric Nave, codebreaker extraordinary, p.195

229 Pfennigwerth, I., A man of intelligence: the life of Captain Eric Nave, codebreaker extraordinary, p.228

230 Carruthers, S., Japanese Submarine Raiders 1942, p. 89

231 NAA: SP338/1, 201/37: (Japanese) Midget Submarine Attack on Sydney Harbour, May 31st June 1st 1942., p.199-217

232 NAA: AWM78, 457/1: Naval Base Headquarters, HMA Naval Establishments, Sydney: War Diary

233 NAA: MP1049/5, 2002/2/156: Midget submarine detection exercises

234 Extensive searches at National Archives and the Australian War Memorial have been unsuccessful.

235 NAA: SP338/1, 201/37: (Japanese) Midget Submarine Attack on Sydney Harbour, May 31st June 1st 1942., p.198

236 NAA: MP1049/5, 2026/21/79: Midget Submarine Attack on Sydney Harbour., p.101

237 Vice Admiral Sir Guy Royle of the Royal Navy, left England on 12 May 1941 and commenced duty as the First Naval Member (FNM) of the Australian Commonwealth Naval Board on or about 18 July 1941.  He assumed the appointment of Chief of the Naval Staff (CNS).  He was promoted to Admiral on 29 October 1942.  He continued as the FNM and CNS to 29 June 1945.  See NAA: A2680 36/1941.

238 NAA: SP338/1, 201/37: (Japanese) Midget Submarine Attack on Sydney Harbour, May 31st June 1st 1942., p.154

239 NAA: MP1049/5, 2026/21/79: Midget Submarine Attack on Sydney Harbour., p.23, 26-40

240 NAA: SP338/1, 201/37: (Japanese) Midget Submarine Attack on Sydney Harbour, May 31st June 1st 1942., p.145

241 Japanese Midget Submarines Attack on Sydney Harbour, 1 August 1942, Issued by ‘Direction of the Naval Board’.  Copy held by Sea Power Centre – Australia, ADFDA Archive Ledger, No. 4 (File opened 1 March 2005).