Australian War Memorial - AJRP
Home | About | Database | Research | Maps | Sitemap | Search | Links | Thanks | Translations | What's New | View this site in Japanese

Attitudes to the war
Japanese midget submarine objects in Australia
After the Sydney Harbour attack two midget submarines, which had been commanded by CHUMAN and MATSUO, were salvaged from the harbour and numerous objects were recovered from the vessels. Quite a few items are in museum collections in Australia. These objects are stored and displayed at various locations, such as the Australian War Memorial, the Royal Australian Navy Heritage Centre, and the Australian National Maritime Museum. The largest and most impressive item is the composite submarine which is on display in ANZAC Hall at the Australian War Memorial. This submarine was constructed from three sections originally belonging to the two retrieved submarines. The front section came from MATSUO’s vessel and the conning tower section and the rear section came from CHUMAN’s. This composite submarine toured throughout Australia between 1942 and 1943 and has been an iconic display at the Australian War Memorial for the last 65 years. The conning tower and control room of MATSUO’s vessel are exhibited at the Royal Australian Navy Heritage Centre on Garden Island. The Australian National Maritime Museum displays some small items, such as miniature submarine models. They were moulded from lead ballast which was found in the vessels, and were sold as souvenirs during the national tour.

Many objects from the submarines seem to remain in private hands, as some retrieved items were auctioned during the public exhibition in Sydney in August 1942. Furthermore, other small items, such as electrical wires, bolts, and copper piping were sold in pieces as souvenirs to raise funds for charity during the midget submarine’s national tour.

The Australian War Memorial holds 137 objects which relate to the midget submarines. One of the first items which was deposited in the collection was a traditional Japanese sword which had belonged to CHUMAN Kenshi. After its retrieval from the vessel, the sword was presented to Prime Minister John Curtin, who decided that it should be kept at the Australian War Memorial. A Japanese sword polisher, KAJIHARA Kotoken, who handled the sword, estimated that the blade was forged and polished about 450 years ago. This sword is on display in the Pacific War Gallery of the Australian War Memorial.

Of the 137 objects, 21 items are on the collection database of the Australian War Memorial, which can be viewed on the internet. The list of these items can be found here, and images for 17 of them are available on the internet. It is hoped that more items will be included in the database in the near future. In ANZAC Hall, beneath the composite submarine, the crews’ personal items are on display in the glass cabinets; they include a Nambu pistol and lanyard, a ten sen coin, a watch, and a sea boot.

Some of the items which are currently held at the Australian War Memorial were added to its collection at much later dates. For example, some personal items, such as a leather glove and a sea boot, were donated to the Memorial in the 1980s by the public. During the submarine retrieval work, many people had unsupervised access to the interior and the authorities did not manage to keep track of all the items in the vessels. As a result, many items ended up in private hands. However, in recent years, some of those items have been located and a few of them have actually been returned to family members in Japan. One example is a leather glove which had been kept by a former sailor. It was recovered from MATSUO’s submarine and kept in excellent condition by its new owner for many years. The owner’s son, who had also served in the Navy, contacted the Japanese embassy in Canberra in 2006 to say that he would like to return it to Japan. Eventually it was sent to the MATSUO family in Kumamoto and they, in turn, decided to present it to the Yasukuni Shrine for safe keeping. The glove is now on display at Yushukan, the war museum which is attached to the shrine.

In June 2008 a steering wheel, made of brass with oak handles and said to be from one of the midget submarines, was offered at public auction. The wheel was initially presented to E. J. Ward, then the federal Minister for Labour and National Service by a professional diver as a token of thanks for helping him find work. [1] It was expected to sell for between $10,000 and $20,000, but the bidding did not reach the level and it was passed in. It is quite likely that more items will turn up in the future.

1. [Sydney] Daily Telegraph, 26 June 2008, p.28.

Printer version

Midget Submarine Links
Midget Submarine
Body identification
Navy funeral
Funeral broadcast
War heroes
Mother's visit
Relic list

Attitudes links
Australian Attitudes
Tamura diary
Southern Cross
Midget Submarine


AWM REL/00635

AWM REL/22033.001


The AJRP has wound up its activities at the Memorial for the moment.
Please contact the relevant officer of the Australian War Memorial for assistance.
Internet implementation by Fulton Technology and AJRP staff .
Visit the Australian War Memorial home page.
Visit the award-winning web-site of the Australian War Memorial