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Minor shell damage in Sydney, 8 June 1942
Minor shell damage in Sydney, 8 June 1942


Japanese submarines
shell Sydney
and Newcastle

[One week after the first attack on Sydney, Japanese submarines fired a few shells into suburbs in Sydney and Newcastle; there were no casualties and little damage. Coastal guns replied without effect. Most people were unaware until afterwards that they had been attacked. Thereafter, there were no further attacks on Australian coastal towns and cities, but Japanese submarines sank twenty-nine Allied merchant ships off the Australian coast between June 1942 and December 1944, with the loss of 577 lives. As well, nearly 300 lives were lost when the hospital ship Centaur was sunk off the Queensland coast in May 1943. The official communique of 9 June 1942 read 'Eastern Sector-Sydney and Newcastle were shelled lightly without effect in a nuisance raid by enemy submarines'. The Newcastle Morning Herald drew some lessons from the attacks:]




The reaction of Newcastle and Sydney to the raids and to the firing of East Coast batteries in anger for the first time in Australian history was one of curiosity mixed with irritation at the disturbance at a night's rest. Perhaps the enemy's attack was not as stupid as might appear. His purpose was intimidation. He was testing civilian nerves, and doubtless hoped by this demonstration that, in spite of losses, he still has a number of submarines off our coast to slow down production and to limit our use of our coastal waters. If this were the object, the attack failed. Its effect was to annoy, not frighten, civilians, and to hammer home in the very heart of Australian industry the need for vigilance, for increased production, and for lending every energy to the great task of keeping Australia free and restoring the freedom of the seas. If the Japanese planned to lower civilian morale, they succeeded only in disturbing a complacency of which we are well rid, and in spurring our determination to make an end of such impertinences, together with more serious affronts to our national pride and honour.

Indeed, the raid served as a realistic test of our precautionary measures, and we have gained from its several lessons which in face of a severe attack might cost us dear. We have learned that street shelters are required not only for the floating population, but may be needed by residents on the more exposed part of the waterfront. In the light of that experience we must devise means for making them readily accessible at night. We have learned that the brownout, whatever its inconvenience, is a wise precaution, and we have discovered some weakness in the arrangements for ordering a blackout. Another lesson is that the instinct to switch on lights and watch the proceedings is potentially dangerous. Curiousity is natural, but it can kill more than cats and it cannot be impressed too strongly on civilians that they will serve their own and the community's interests best by keeping lights off and going quietly to shelter.

Newcastle Morning Herald, 9 June 1942


The Association for the Advancement of Australian Culture