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Glass wool souvenir in presentation envelope - Japanese submarine attack May 1942

Date: 30 July 1942
Overall: 122 x 132 mm, 5 g
Medium: Paper, ink, glass wool
Credit Line: ANMM Collection Gift from Malcolm Bartsch
Object Name: Souvenir
Object No: 00050210
Related Place:Sydney Harbour, Nihon, Sydney,

User Terms

    The folder contains a fragment of glass wool used as insulation between the plates of the batteries that supplied power to drive the motors of the Japanese midget submarines attacked Sydney on 31 May 1942. Souvenirs were made from parts of the submarines and postcards were produced in their thousands and sold to members of the public for fundraising purposes during World War II.

    SignificanceThe attack on Sydney Harbour by the Japanese midget submarines on the night of Sunday 31 May 1942 was the first attack on Sydney by a foreign power, and brought the war home to the east coast of Australia.

    HistoryThree Japanese midget submarines infiltrated Sydney Harbour on the evening of 31 May 1942. Their mission was to attack and sink allied naval vessels. The first submarine became entangled in an anti-submarine torpedo net and the two crew blew it up. The second submarine fired two torpedoes. One ran ashore at Garden Island and the second passed under the Dutch submarine K9 striking the harbour wall beneath the depot ship HMAS KUTTABUL and exploding. Nineteen Australian and two British sailors were killed. The submarine then slipped out of the harbour - not found until 2006, off Sydney's northern beaches. The third submarine was attacked and sunk.

    In 1943 a composite midget submarine made from parts of the two submarines recovered from Sydney Harbour were taken on a 4,000-kilometre tour to raise money for the war effort. The tour visited Wagga Wagga, Benalla, Ballarat, across to Adelaide and along the Victorian coast to Melbourne, then back to Sydney. Souvenirs and postcards of the submarines were sold at every stop along the way. The tour drew thousands of people and attracted significant media attention in every town they visited.

    When the tour concluded, the remainder of the souvenirs were passed on consignment in late April 1943 to the Australian War Memorial, which received "40,989 glass wool envelopes, 99,010 postcards (sold in sets of 9) and 565 dozen miniature lead sub models." The glass wool had been used as insulation in the submarines. In a letter of 5 August 1943, Captain Muirhead-Gould noted "313 dozen lead subs and 25,000 postcards disposed of through Department of Information to USA for sale." Proceeds of the sale of these souvenirs went to the RAN Relief Fund and King George's Fund for Sailors. These funds raised money for sailors and their dependants who had been injured or killed during the war.

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