Wreck of Japanese Midget Submarine M-24 that attacked Sydney Harbour on the 31st May/1st. of June in 1942, found at last

On the night of the 31st.May/1st. of June 1942, three Midget Submarines carried on the casings of three Japanese I Class Submarines were launched off Sydney Heads.

I-22 had carried Midget 21, I-24 was Mother Sub to Midget A ( so designated as it was not found at the time of the raid ) and I-27 had carried Midget 14.

Japanese Midget Submarine Raised in Sydney Harbour in June 1942
Japanese Midget Submarine Raised in Sydney Harbour in June 1942

The three Midgets creep into Sydney Harbour.
The three midgets made for the Harbour entrance guarded by an anti submarine net stretching across the harbour, but still unfinished.

Midget 14 was the first to enter through the boom gate at about 2000 ( 8 PM ) she merely followed a Manly ferry, although the loop designed to pick up crossings did register, the significance of the reading was not realised.

The CO of this first entrant into the harbour, Lieutenant Chuman had problems, his boat became entangled in the anti submarine net, so he eventually fired demolition charges to destroy both the Midget, his crew member, and himself.

Midget A with Sub Lieutenant Ban in command followed at about 2148 ( 9.48 PM ) and proceeded up harbour.

Midget 21 with Lieutenant Matsuo in charge, was the last to transit the boom gate entrance, but he had depth keeping problems, was sighted by Navy patrol boats on duty, and was attacked with a 6 pattern of depth charges, and further attacked by two of the patrol boats. He was not seen again until discovered in Taylor's Bay by divers after the attack was all over, the propellers of his craft still turning, both crew were dead.

But back to Midget A, Ban had her in position but 800 meters from the US heavy cruiser Chicago, he lined her up and fired his left tube torpedo, it veered off course, well ahead of the cruiser, to pass under the Dutch Submarine K9, under the old accommodation ferry HMAS Kuttabul, and strike the retaining wall at Garden Island.

Here it exploded, to destroy Kuttabul with the loss of 19 RAN ratings and 2 Royal Navy sailors.

Ban had also experienced depth keeping problems, as his Midget surfaced and went down again, in the attack on Chicago, he had passed so close, that her armament could not depress sufficiently to get in a shot at the invader. Her small arms fire managed to shoot away some of her own guard rails tryinmg to fire on the invader.

Fire from the Australian Mine Sweeper HMAS Geelong appeared to strike the casing of this Midget Submarine.

HMAS Canberra moored at Number 1 Buoy.
During this attack on Sydney I was serving in the RAN heavy cruiser HMAS Canberra, we were secured to Number 1 buoy in Farm Cove, many of our crew ashore on night leave.

At the time, I was her Officer of the Watch during the first watch 2000 ( 8 PM ) till midnight, and from her quarterdeck had a ringside seat of the fracas that was unfolding.

Ban fires his second torpedo.
Ban fired his second torpedo, to once more miss Chicago by some 4 meters, it ran aground on the East side of Garden Island, but did not blow up.

Ban now successfully exited the harbour through the boom gate he had earlier entered, and took his Midget through Sydney Heads to the open sea, but never made the rendevous with his Mother Submarine, to disappear, his location and fate unknown over the next 64 years.

Memorial Plaque unveiled on Garden Island.
A memorial Plaque for all of the intrepid Japanese Submariners who had made this daring but unsuccesful raid on Sydney Harbour was erected and unveiled on Garden Island. The Mother of Sub Lieutenant Ban journeyed from Japan to be present at the ceremony.

Midget Submarine found laying on the ocean floor at Long Reef in November 2006.
It is identified as the wreck of Midget M-24. Over the intervening years since that fateful night in 1942, many false claims were made about finding the missing Midget.

In 2005, a TV special by Damien Long named M-24 The Last Sunrise, went to air on Foxtel in Australia. It indicated that it was believed that the third Japanese Midget was in sand near the mouth of the Hawkesbury River, north of Sydney.

This theory was about to be proven wrong.

Now at last, a group of weekend scuba divers were on the cusp of creating Australian Naval History. They had chanced upon the wreck of this A type Submarine, now identified as M-24, she rests on the bottom in about 70 meters of water, at Long Reef a few kilometers off Sydney's northern beaches.

This rather motley crew who call themselves " No Frills Divers." have solved a 64 year old mystery of what happened to the daring crew of two, Sub Lieutenant Katsuhisa Ban and Petty Officer Mamoru Ashibe, and their craft.

Make up of the group of seven.
The " No Frills Divers Group" is made up of: Alan Simon ex Company Director, Phillip Hendrie retired printer, Anthony Hay bus driver, David Muir electrician, David Arnold plumber and gas fitter, Greg Kearns mortgage broker, and Paul Baggott builder.

The Group of 7 Divers who located and dived on the Japanese Midget Submarine, M-24 in November 2006
The Group of 7 Divers who located and dived on the Japanese Midget Submarine, 
M-24 in November 2006, it went missing in 1942.
Picture from New Idea Australia. Issue dated the 25th. of November 2006.

Sunday the 12th. of November 2006.
On Sunday the 12th. of November 2006, at 0900 ( 9 AM ) this group met at Long Reef beach, north of Sydney, and decided to revisit a place they had noted some months earlier. Their fish finder had picked up something sitting on the bottom some 4 months earlier, but then it was too rough to dive that day. Off they set for the same position guided by their GPS Navigator.

This object sat at 70 meters meaning divers would have a scant 12 minutes to investigate the mystery object, before needing to stop for two stages to decompress, then back to the surface.

Paul said a snagged fishing net covered the object sitting on the bottom when he reached it, but swimming to the rear of it he found propellers sticking out above the sand. Now the conning tower became obvious, and at the bow the torpedo tube was found.

Without any doubt this object was a midget Submarine, the interior seemed to be full of mud and sand, but overall this find was in reasonable condition, given it had sat on the ocean floor for some 64 years.

Now they have disproved previous theories about this Midget Sub, the 7 divers wish to treat their amazing find as a WAR GRAVE, they have talked to members of the Royal Australian Navy, and now wish to notify the Japanese Government about their historic find.

Katsuhisa Ban has a brother still alive in his home land, who always wished to know the fate of his late brother.

Our 7 divers have recently met with Commander Shane Moore RAN, Director of the Naval Heritage Centre on Garden Island, he has confirmed that this find is indeed the third and missing Midget Submarine, M-24, that had attacked shipping in Sydney Harbour over the night of the 31st. of May/1st. of June back in 1942.

How the Japanese Government may react to this find, one may but speculate, will they wish to raise the wreck of M-24, and finally lay to rest two very brave Japanese Sailors?

So the last page closes on a 64 year old mystery that many ex Naval personnel including myself thought would never be solved.

Sub Lieutenant Ban was very unlucky not to bag USS Chicago, and perhaps even my own ship, HMAS Canberra that wild night in May back in 1942. Somehow the defense of Sydney Harbour muddled through, and we were extremely lucky to get away with just HMAS Kuttabul as the only victim, it was still tragic that 21 Sailors died from the attack.

We still have the mysterious disappearance of the RAN, WW1 Submarine AE-1, lost off Rabaul in 1914, unresolved.

Perhaps we should suggest to the intrepid " No Frills Divers " they move their diving activities much further north and probe the depths around Rabaul to seek the wreck of AE-1.

Post Script

Moving ceremony ends saga of missing midget sub

It closes the chapter on that night on May 31st, when three Japanese Midget Submarines penetrated the Harbour defences, Midget M-24 was never found until recently a group of Weekend Scuba divers came across her wreck off Sydney Heads.

In the Australian Newspaper of Tuesday August 7th. 2007 is this photo and report about the Midget Submarine attack in May of 1942.

Their reporter D D McNicoll wrongly describes the 8 inch gunned heavy cruiser USS Chicago as a Battle Cruiser, there was no such class of ship serving in the USN in WW2.

The Royal Navy had two battle cruisers HMS Repulse ( sunk by Japanese aircraft off Singapore ) and HMS Renown who saw out WW2 to be scrapped in 1948.


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