|Extracts from a Broadcast on Station 2FC by Rear Admiral G.C. Muirhead-Gould D.S. C. on (date unknown) July 1942 after the recovery of the hulls of the two Japanese submarines from the bottom of Sydney Harbour.
The vessels in which this attack was delivered were a sort of human torpedo, in that the steel of cylinder in which these men set forth was built more on the design of a torpedo than on the design of a submarine. It had few of the usual characteristics of a submarine, there were no ballast tanks, nor pressure hull, nor hydroplanes, but it had, of course, a conning tower and periscope, horizontal and vertical rudders, and net cutters. The vessel could steam on its motors a considerable distance, and it carried in its hose two real and deadly torpedoes. There are indication that if a mission were successfully accomplished, an attempt would be made to return to a base or parent ship, and means were provided for escaping, if escape could be managed with honour; I repeat “with honour”, with the mission accomplished, not when detected and attacked with torpedoes still in the tubes, which is the reason why one of these boats blew herself up when only threatened with attack. They were not very susceptible to the various forms of under-water detection, and they were difficult to see from surface craft or aircraft when at periscope depth. They were, however, half-blind when submerged at night, and probably forced to come to the surface at intervals to get their bearings.
They are manned by a crew of two – an officer and a rating – who must have been of exceptionally slight build. They were provided with food and drink to last them for a few days – preserved cherries, dried currants, seaweed, orange slices and a tin of paste which we think is crab and cheese, and each man had a packet of dried squib (sic) sewn into his clothing. For drink there was a bottle of port and a flask of whisky or spirits of some sort and several bottles of soda water. There was a heating system, and a system of air purification. When the submarine is exhibited for your inspection it will be divided into three main sections; the foremost section containing the torpedo tubes and their mechanism and half of the main batteries. The centre portion contains the control room, conning tower and more batteries, and the after section the main motors and rudder mechanisms. These compartments will be erected separately so that you will easily see the contents and arrangements of each compartment. This is not the time nor the place to describe to you in detail the intricate machinery and method of working it, but one thing that everyone will notice is the confined space into which these men had to climb and to work, to live for a while, and then to die. The Conning tower and control room combined is a space only about five feet square. And here the Officer sat while his man, and you may be sure that in such a venture his man was his true and trusted friend, crept and crawled on his hands and knees along the dreadful length of their mutual coffin.
I have been criticised for having accorded these men military honours at their cremation, such honours as we hope may be accorded to our own comrades who have died in enemy hands, but I ask you – Should we not accord full honours to such brave men as these? It must take courage of the very highest order to go out in a thing like that steel coffin. I hope I shall not be a coward when my time comes, but I confess that I wonder whether I should have the courage to take one of those things across Sydney Harbour in peace time. Theirs was a courage which is not the property or the tradition or the heritage of any one nation: it is the courage shared by the brave men of our own countries as well as of the enemy, and however, horrible war and its results may be it is a courage which is recognised and universally admired. These men were patriots of the highest order. How many of us are really prepared to make one thousandth of the sacrifice that these men made? Possibly it may not be so hard when the time comes to give our lives bravely in the smoke of battle, amid the roar of guns and bombs, gallantly led, or gallantly leading a forlorn hope against desperate odds; but to start upon an expedition such as these men did, in cold blood, days and perhaps weeks before their final sacrifice, this is patriotism of a very high order.
1. “Extracts from a broadcast on station 2FC by Rear Admiral G. C. Muirhead-Gould on ? July 1942 about the recovery of the hulls of two Japanese submarines from the bottom of Sydney Harbour” in Mitchell Library, State Library of New South Wales (ML Aw 102/1).
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