Down Memory Lane

HMAS Kattabul, which was torpedod in Sydney during WW2
HMAS Kattabul, which was torpedod in Sydney during WW2

Sydney, Australia, is about as far away on the planet as you can get from Midlothian, – so where’s the connection?

Well it’s actually pretty direct, and revolves around Ordinary Seaman David Black Trist, whose parents resided in Newtongrange, and one fateful night in 1942.

In May 1942 the Imperial Japanese Navy (IJN) was running riot throughout the Pacific, sweeping all before it with its fleets of aircraft carriers and battleships.

One of the lesser known elements of the IJN was the submariners.

A ‘midget submarine’ attack had been staged on Pearl Harbor the previous December, indeed it was the opening shots of the attack that brought the United States into the war.

The attack on Pearl Harbor was a failure and, despite this, it was decided that an equally audacious attack would be conducted against the Royal Navy, Royal Australian Navy and US Navy inside the harbour at Sydney.

Approval having been gained, a flotilla of submarines left Truk Lagoon on May 18, 1942, and headed south between Rabaul and the Solomon Islands.

Each had a ‘midget submarine’ clamped to its deck.

Despite being detected by radar, the craft slipped down the coast and, on the night of May 29, 1942, the Japanese submarines positioned themselves 30-odd miles north-east of Sydney Heads.

John Duncan’s full feature appears in this week’s Advertiser. On sale now.