In November 1995, His Excellency Rear Admiral Peter Sinclair AC, then Governor of NSW unveiled the Defence of Sydney Monument 1939-1945 at North head.  The Monument had been erected as part of the Australia remembers program for the 50th anniversary of the end of WWII.  The foundation stone had been laid by Sir Roden Cutler VC, AK, KCMG, KCVO, CBE.


The Monument is dedicated to ‘the memory of the men and women of the armed services of Australia, her Allies, and those who served in the civilian services and volunteer organisations, who worked to protect the Port of Sydney’ throughout the war.  The Monument lists all of the relevant units of the three military services – Navy, Army and Air Force together with civilian services.  Given the Monument is specific to the ‘Port of Sydney’, it is odd there is no mention of the Battle of Sydney Harbour – the only time Sydney was attacked and defended.  


Given the ‘official’ nature of the Monument with the involvement of the Governor of NSW and Sir Roden Cutler, perhaps it was too much for the Department of Veterans’ Affairs as a major sponsor, to recognise Sydney’s defences had been breached.


However, beside the memorial, as an ‘add on’ which was not planned with the Monument, are four small plaques funded entirely by the Balgowlah-Seaforth-Clontarf RSL Sub-Branch.  The plaques tell a version of the story of the ‘Attack on Sydney Harbour’.  There is nothing of HMAS Lolita’s actions, and incorrectly, Steady Hour and Yarroma are included in Seamist’s attack on M21 at 5.00am.  The plaques are not included in the description of the Monument on the NSW War Memorials Register!



Australia Remembers Monument at North Head, Sydney – dedicated in 1995.  The four plaques describing a version of the Battle of Sydney Harbour can be seen between the flag pole and the monument.


A single information panel at a remote lookout in the Sydney Harbour National Park, below the road at Georges Head provides brief information of the Battle.  There is no mention of the Hollywood Fleet or of the actions of HMAS Lolita, Seamist, Steady Hour or Yarroma.  The panel is out of date and has been left to deteriorate. (276)  The panel had been erected by the Mosman RSL, Mosman Historical Society, the NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service and the Department of Veterans’ Affairs on 19 January 2006, twenty four years after author  Steven Carruthers had provided the first detailed account of the Battle.



Information panel at the remote lookout at Georges Head.



Detail of information panel at the remote lookout at Georges Head.

See Appendices for text included on the panel.


There are no information panels at Laings Point, Bradleys Head, Taylors Bay or at any other location around the harbour.


Whilst there is a small collection of panels at the Royal Australian Navy’s Heritage Centre at Garden Island, there is no mention of HMAS Lolita.  And there is no memorial plaque at the Centre to the Hollywood Fleet among the collection of brass plaques to other naval ships, for thirteen former motor cruisers, requisitioned into service to support the allied war effort, taking action they were never designed or constructed to do, but gallantly did with their commanders and crews.


The Australian War Memorial’s exhibition of the recovered midget submarines is the centre piece of the Anzac Hall, yet it merely refers to Sydney Harbour having been protected by electronic indicator loops, an almost completed boom net, anti-aircraft batteries ‘and a small defence flotilla’ that patrolled the harbour.  That’s all!


Despite the elaborate display of the destroyed submarines, there is no mention of HMAS Lolita, HMAS Seamist, HMAS Steady Hour, HMAS Yarroma or their commanders and crews.  There is no mention elsewhere in the War Memorial, of the Battle of Sydney Harbour.   There is no memorial plaque for the Hollywood Fleet among the other plaques, set in the pavements and lawns surrounding the War Memorial.  


And there has been no new edition of Gill’s official history, or even an addendum to correct the record.  And there is nothing on the Memorial’s website.




These are matters of national heritage and it is appropriate that the errors of the past be corrected.  It is never too late – especially as we approach the 75th anniversary of the loss of HMAS Lolita, the 75th anniversary of the end of hostilities in World War II, and the 80th anniversary of the Battle of Sydney Harbour in 2022.

276 See Appendix E – Information Panel at Georges Head for text incorporated on the panel.