After the War, there were various newspaper reports of the attack.  In May 1949, the Melbourne Hearld, included an account; ‘After seven years, here is the first authentic account of the Midget Sub Raid on Sydney’. (242)  The account included Lolita, however, it was inaccurate and reported that both Yarroma and Lolita ran in at maximum speed to attack the periscope which had been sighted in Yarroma’s spotlight, and as they did so, there was a terrific explosion as the Japanese self-destructed their submarine.  The account was repeated in Perth’s Western Mail and Adelaide’s Advertiser.


In 1950, in an anniversary account published in the Sydney Daily Telegraph, there is no mention of Lolita at all. (243)  In an article in The Sydney Morning Herald of November 1958, Lolita misses out again. (244)  


For the 1968 official history of the Royal Australian Navy, historian Hermon Gill relied on the reports of Muirhead-Gould and as a result, Lolita merely ‘closed the scene’.  There is nothing of Anderson and his crew’s actions.  There is no further mention of Lolita, or any of the Hollywood Fleet’s contribution to the remainder of the war.  There is no mention of HMAS Esmeralda, HMAS Kiara, HMAS Leilani, HMAS Marlean, HMAS Miramar, HMAS Nereus, HMAS Silver Cloud or HMAS Winbah.  


For the public, little was known of the attack, and reported accounts were often significantly inaccurate.  


For the 50th Anniversary of the Battle, the Canberra Times in 1992, mistakenly referred to Yarroma instead of Lolita. (245)  There was no mention of Lolita’s actions to depth charge the submarine and cause it to self-destruct.


That was despite the earlier release in 1982 of Carruthers book, Australia Under Siege (246) which for the first time, accurately disclosed in detail, the actions taken.  It was for that book, that Carruthers had conducted the interview with James Nelson - the Coxswain on the Lolita, Reginald Andrew, the commander of Seamist and other key participants who had first-hand knowledge of the Battle.  For Carruthers, those first-hand accounts shed light on what Muirhead-Gould had excluded from his reports.


But despite this new information, there was no updated edition of the Australian War Memorial’s ‘Official’ history of the Royal Australian Navy by Gill, either for the Battle of Sydney Harbour or for the numerous other battles and engagements researched by numerous amateur and professional historians.  The 1968 edition by Gill is all that remains on library shelves presenting the supposed ‘official’ version of the Royal Australian Navy’s actions.


However, for Carruthers, Nelson’s account clearly identified Lolita and the crew were put in ‘harm’s way’ when they carried out their duty to protect the allied shipping in Sydney Harbour.  It was those views that Carruthers, later presented to the Tribunal in 2012 on behalf of Brian Anderson when he sought an appropriate award for his father.


Of significance, as a result of its examination and consideration of the evidence, the Tribunal determined:


… that CWO Anderson was the Commanding Officer of Lolita on the night of 31 May 1942 when Sydney Harbour was attacked by three Japanese midget submarines.  Midget 14 entered Sydney Harbour around 2000 [8.00 pm] and shortly afterward became entangled in the defence net.  Around 2015 [8.15 pm] Mr. Cargill, a watchman spied a suspicious object in the net.  He collected his mate Mr. Nangle (247) and rowed out to the object.  He thought it might be dangerous and about 2130 [9.30 pm] he reported his suspicions to the Commanding Officer of Yarroma.  The Commanding Officer of Yarroma reported these suspicions to the Port War Signal Station and was ordered to investigate.  A general warning was broadcast at 2227 [10.27 pm].  Around 2220 [10.20 pm], the Commanding Officer of Yarroma called Lolita over and ordered it to investigate.  Lolita approached the object in the net and realized it was a submarine.  CWO Anderson sent a message to the Port War Signal Station and decided to attack the submarine with depth charges.  Before he could drop the third set of depth charges the submarine blew itself up.  CWO Anderson put himself and Lolita in danger when he attacked the submarine and his actions possibly led to Midget 14 destroying itself. (248)


In addition:


The Tribunal accepts that CWO Anderson played an important role in the defence of Sydney Harbour on the night of 31 May/1 June 1942 and this is not in contention.  CWO Anderson’s contemporaneous report and the later account by Mr. Nelson set out the events surrounding the actions on the night of 31 May 1942 in particular. (249)




Rear Admiral Muirhead-Gould’s report was clearly inaccurate which was understandable in the circumstances. (250)


At long last, the story of HMAS Lolita’s actions and those of her commander and crew, were officially recognized, albeit, by an Awards Tribunal.


For many years, the Navy has published ‘Ship Histories’ on its official website. (251)  However, as of December 2019, five years after the decision of the Tribunal and seventy-seven years after the Battle of Sydney Harbour, not one of the vessels of the Hollywood Fleet including HMAS Lolita had been included – none. (252)  Not even those vessels that were awarded citations for their actions during the war – ‘Darwin 1942-1943’ for HMAS Kiara, and ‘Pacific 1942’ for HMAS Seamist, HMAS Steady Hour and HMAS Yarroma.  Whether or not members of the community recognize the Channel Patrol Boats of the Hollywood Fleet as real HMAS vessels, worthy of inclusion in Australia’s military history, all of the Channel Patrol Boats of the Hollywood Fleet were commissioned as His Majesty’s Australian Ships of the Royal Australian Navy, and it is not for the relatives or friends of the officers and men who served on those vessels to do the work of official historians to have those vessels appropriately acknowledged.  


The work of preserving the heritage of the Hollywood Fleet properly lies with the Governments of the day, and in particular, the Australian War Memorial, whose duty includes the development, maintenance and dissemination of the ‘national collection of historical material’. (253)  To this day, the Australian War Memorial has taken no action to collect and present the story of the Hollywood Fleet based on recent research.  It has done nothing to tell the story of the Fleet’s service throughout the war, and of the service of the men who served on the vessels.


By the end of the war, these small former pleasure motor cruisers, that were never designed to fight in a war, had served this country.  Other than HMAS Kiara, all had served protecting the habours and ports along the New South Wales coast.  HMAS Kiara, Seamist and Steady Hour also served in Darwin and along the northern coast of Australia.  HMAS Toomeree served in Merauke on the south-west coast of New Guinea.  HMAS Leilani travelled to the north coast of New Guinea and served at Hollandia, and then extraordinarily travelled to Morati in Indonesia.  HMAS Lolita reached the north-east coast of New Guinea.


HMAS Lolita, Marlean, Nereus and Steady Hour were destroyed.  HMAS Silver Cloud had been reduced to a burnt-out wreck before being salvaged by Halvorsens and rebuilt.


Other than the former Penelope, renamed HMAS Kiara, which was in Darwin, the twelve remaining vessels of the Hollywood Fleet were in Sydney Harbour on the night the Japanese attacked.  On that night and the next morning, HMAS Lolita, HMAS Seamist, HMAS Steady Hour and HMAS Yarroma launched attacks on the Japanese midget submarines.  HMAS Lolita caused M14 to be destroyed.  HMAS Seamist disabled M21 and more than likely ‘sunk’ her with her two depth charges, before she herself was damaged and retired from the action.  


Whilst some may choose to belittle the Hollywood Fleet, (254) or categorise these vessels as not real Royal Australian Navy ships, for the officers and men who served on them, they were very real naval ships.  They played a role, far in excess of what they were designed or constructed to do.  Those officers and men put their lives and their ships ‘on the line’ to defend this country.


They deserve to be recognized!

242 The Herald (Melbourne), 28 May 1949, p.11., Western Mail (Perth), 9 June 1949, p.4.,  The Advertiser (Adelaide), 2 June 1949, p.2

243 The Daily Telegraph (Sydney), 29 May 1950, p.6

244 The Sydney Morning Herald, 3 November 1958

245 Canberra Times (ACT), 30 May 1992, p.21

246 Carruthers, S., Australia Under Siege: Japanese Submarine Raiders, 1992

247 The Tribunal has not identified the source of their statement that Nangle was with Cargill when he rowed to the object.  In his written statement, Cargill said he rowed to the object.  There is no mention of Nangle being with him in the boat.

248 Report of the Review of a Decision by the Department of Defence regarding recognition for Commissioned Warrant Officer Herbert Spencer Anderson (Deceased), para.41

249 Report of the Review of a Decision by the Department of Defence regarding recognition for Commissioned Warrant Officer Herbert Spencer Anderson (Deceased), para.40

250 Report of the Review of a Decision by the Department of Defence regarding recognition for Commissioned Warrant Officer Herbert Spencer Anderson (Deceased), para.40

251 http://www.navy.gov.au/fleet/ships-boats-craft/available-ship-histories

252 Following my representations to the Minister for Veterans’ Affairs in late 2019 and the provision of my research to the RAN, HMAS Lolita was added in early 2020 and HMAS Esmeralda was added in April 2020.

253 Australian War Memorial Act 1980, Section 5

254 Including Muirhead-Gould in his exchange with Anderson aboard Lolita referring to them as ‘yachties’.  Others say they were merely ‘nappies’ of the Naval Auxiliary Patrol.  See Appendix B – Naval Auxiliary Patrol (NAP).