Culture and heritage

Heritage of NSW

M24 midget submarine

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 ten.

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.

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

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

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.

Welcome to this web exhibition and learn more about this fascinating part of our maritime history.

Page last updated: 24 October 2012