City researcher seeks submarine information

A Mount Gambier researcher is looking for photographs and first-hand memories of the war trophy tour of a captured Japanese midget submarine which visited the South East in 1943.

The three-state tour has fascinated Valentine Pylypenko and he is keen to hear about their stops at Millicent and Mount Gambier. The rare display of the submarine aboard a trailer was arranged by the Federal Government to boost morale and raise war bonds during World War II.

With a crew of two, the armed submarine was one of four which entered Sydney Harbour on the night of May 29, 1942 and which targeted military sites. The South East Family History Group is helping Mr Pylypenko with his quest for information. “I’m sure we have nothing about the Japanese submarine visits at the SEFHG Research Centre,” Mr Boyle said.

“I have sent an email to the 140 members of the group to see if they know anything. “We can appeal for the people of the district to forward any local knowledge of the visit. “People can check their photo albums for any unknown photos of this visit to the district.”

Mr Boyle’s appeal attracted a response from history group member Dorothy Willshire, who was eight years of age and living in Millicent in 1943. Now living in Melbourne, Ms Willshire said the Japanese midget submarine was displayed outside the Millicent Railway Station.

“I cannot remember crowds but they were selling tiny metal mini subs as souvenirs,” Ms Willshire said. “Unfortunately, they are long since gone. “I was too young to realise their ‘value’. “No photos, again too young to have my first box Brownie camera. “Not a lot of help but brings back memories.”

According to Mr Pylypenko, the submarine was displayed on Sunday March 7 from 8-10am in front of the Millicent Railway Station office at Railway Terrace. “Several hundred people inspected the composite sub which was displayed in three sections and heard a lecture by one of the 23 RAN support crew,” Mr Pylypenko said.

“As the tour was also a fundraiser, various souvenirs were available for purchase. “I am hoping to locate any photographs locals may have taken or any souvenirs they may have. “These could include small metal off cuts from the subs suitably tagged (one was actually shaped as a submarine), postcards produced for the tour or Periscope Certificates for those lucky enough to have the opportunity to look through the sub’s periscope.

“The metal off-cuts were 11.5cm long and sold for three shillings (30 cents). “People who remember the event or visited the display may be able to have their reminiscences recorded as a local history initiative.”

It is estimated 500,000 people saw the midget submarine on its tour. Mr Pylypenko may be contacted on 0419 957 470.

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