Culture and heritage

Heritage of NSW

M24 midget submarine

Following the discovery of the M24 submarine, the NSW and Australian governments jointly protected the site under the NSW Heritage Act 1977 and the Commonwealth Historic Shipwrecks Act 1976. The NSW Government continues to work collaboratively with the Australian Government to protect our important underwater cultural heritage through the national Historic Shipwrecks Program.

Wreck of the midget submarine M24. Courtesy Heritage Branch/Royal Australian Navy.

Wreck of the midget submarine M24. Courtesy Heritage Branch/Royal Australian Navy.

For over 60 years one of the great Australian wartime and maritime mysteries was the whereabouts of the third and last Japanese midget submarine, which invaded Sydney Harbour on the evening of 31 May 1942. That night, the harbour was full of allied naval vessels and the midget submarines were on a mission to inflict maximum damage.

Two of the midget submarines were destroyed almost immediately and recovered from Sydney Harbour within a week, but the third could not be found.

This was the only submarine able to launch its torpedoes and with terrible effect, sinking the ferry HMAS Kuttabul, killing 21 men on board and injuring another 10.

There were many theories about what might have happened to the missing submarine and many so called 'discoveries'.

It was not until November 2006, that a group of weekend divers called 'No Frills Divers' located the still intact Japanese midget submarine M24 off Bungan Head, Newport (Sydney, Australia). The submarine was entangled in nets 54 metres below on the seabed.

Like all shipwrecks the M24 has a fascinating story to tell — of the events in Sydney Harbour on the night of 31 May and the early morning of 1 June 1942; the role of the Japanese midget submarines, and the Japanese submarine campaign along Australia’s eastern seaboard during World War II.

The Heritage Branch continues to manage the site and undertakes an ongoing program of archaeological surveys.

Diver at M24 Midget Submarine

M24 Midget Submarine. Images courtesy of Steve Trewavas

Diver at M24 Midget Submarine

M24 Midget Submarine. Images courtesy of Steve Trewavas

Page last updated: 11 September 2017