SYDNEY, NSW SHELLED
BY A JAPANESE SUBMARINE
ON 8 JUNE 1942
Just after midnight on 8 June 1942, Japanese submarine I-24 travelled at periscope depth about 9 miles south west of the Macquarie light near Sydney.
I-24 surfaced and pointed its deck gun towards Sydney. Commander Hanabusa gave his target instructions to gunnery officer Yusaburo Morita. His orders were to aim directly at the Sydney Harbour Bridge. As they travelled in a north west direction towards the coast, Morita fired his deck gun across the bow of I-24. He fired 10 shells within 4 minutes. The shells came down in the following eastern suburbs:-
A few shells may have fallen short into Rose Bay. I-24 had finished firing by the time searchlights on the shore had been turned on. The coastal batteries were ready to fire about 10 seconds after I-24 fired its last shell.
Only one of I-24's shells actually exploded. The Australian authorities believed that the Japanese may have been using armour-piercing rounds intended to hit steel plated ships. The Japanese however had some reports of similar events with their shells even when penetrating the hull of a steel ship.
One of the shells went through the double brick wall just below the gutter line in Grantham Flats at the corner of Manion Avenue and Iluka Streets, Rose Bay. Mr Ernest Hirsch and his family lived in Grantham Flats. He was in his bed in his bed in the sitting room on the top floor when the shell hit the flats. The shell skidded across the fllor in his mother's room and went through another 2 internal walls coming to rest on the stairs where it was discovered by Air Raid Warden Harry Woodward. Fortunately it had failed to explode. His mother was covered in broken bricks and her bed was broken by falling debris. She escaped unharmed. Her son suffered a fractured foot when he was buried under a pile of broken masonry. Ernest's wife and 18 month old son were in another room and wer not injured.
The unexploded shell was carried by Harry Woodward and two others to a nearby park where they temporarily buried it. The Navy demolition team recovered it later for detonation.
Another shell landed in Bradley Avenue, Bellevue Hill destroying the back rooms of a house owned by Mrs. M. McEachern. It also damaged the house next door. Again, this shell did not explode. Mrs. McEachern was in bed at the time but not asleep. She heard a shell whistle by and then a thud. She heard two more shells whistle. The third and final shell was the one that hit her house.
Another shell hit the gutter outside a small 2 storey grocery store run by Mr & Mrs. S. J. & Alice Richards on the corner of Small and Fletcher Streets, Woolahra. It shattered all the windows in the building. Alice and her 2 children hid under the bed. When they eventually came down stairs they found their shop was wrecked.
Other shells fell at:-
9 Bunyula Road, Bellevue Hill
68 Streatfield Road, Bellevue Hill
67 Balfour Road, Rose Bay
1 Simpson Street, Bondi
Olola Avenue, Vaucluse
Yallambee Flats, 33 Plumer Road, Rose Bay
The only shell that exploded was the one that fell outside Yallambee Flats. It demolished part of a house. A woman sleeping on an enclosed verandah was slightly injured by flying glass. About 12 women lived in the flats. The warning sirens eventually sounded about 10 minutes after the last shell had been fired.
At Bankstown Airfield, Lt George Leo Cantello (0-388884) of the 41st Fighter Squadron, 35th Fighter Group, received a phone call saying that Sydney was being shelled. He was the only pilot on the base at the time. He took off immediately in his P-400 Airacobra aircraft, Serial #BW140, and climbed to 1000 feet. The aircraft's engine failed about two minutes after takeoff and it plumetted to the ground and exploded in a ball of flame north of Hammondville, which was a small farming community about 3 miles south south west of Bankstown airfield. It is now a suburb of Sydney. Lt. Cantello died instantly.
Ships attacked off the Australian coastline by Japanese submarines
Reconnaissance flights over Australia from Japanese submarines during WW2
German U-Boat attacks off the Australian Coast during WW2
Jenkins, David, "Battle Surface - Japan's Submarine War against Australia 1942 - 44", Random House Australia, 1992
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© Peter Dunn 2015
This page first produced 31 October 2000
This page last updated 29 March 2017