Friday, April 26, 2013

Submariners' Walk Heritage Trail, Teneriffe

Of course, Anzac Day always makes me think of young men going to war, and in particular those who didn't return. I have never experienced armed conflict first hand and have absolutely no desire to do so. My (almost) 21 year-old nephew is a soldier and I hope that he never gets sent off to some overseas military operation. I know we have to have armed forces and that we therefore need people to join the military services, but while I acknowledge their service and thank them for it I hope that most of them never have to be involved in an actual war.

Recently a ceremony took place quite close to where I live. It was a memorial to the Australian and US submariners who were based at the Capricorn Wharf at Teneriffe during WWII. 

At the sunset ceremony on 23 March, the Governor of Queensland opened the Submariners' Walk Heritage Trail along the river where the subs used to dock. Along the trail are plaques commemorating the men, the ships and their service during WWII. In a cute idea there are seats shaped like submarines for people to sit on while they reflect on the sacrifices of war-time service personnel.













(Photos: © Harry E Haxton)

The following photograph shows some of the American subs with their tender at the wharf during the war.
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(Photo: ozatwar.com)

Submarine warfare was dangerous. Five of the US submarines that left Teneriffe to go on patrol never came back - lost with all their crew. USS Growler, part of the US sub fleet based here, was involved in action against a Japanese convoy when it collided with the convoy's escort Hayasaki, almost sinking the sub. After the collision the Japanese ship opened fire on Growler, wounding her commanding officer Howard W Gilmore and killing two others. Selflessly Gilmore gave the order for the submarine to dive, even though he was unable to get off the bridge into the vessel. The boat submerged and Gilmore perished, but Growler was able to return to Brisbane for repair. Gilmore was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor, becoming the first submariner to receive that award. Here is a photograph of the damaged USS Growler at Teneriffe (that's the Powerhouse in the background). USS Growler was lost in action in November 1944.  
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(Photo: wikipedia)

About seventy US submarines used the Capricorn Wharf for maintenance and repairs during the war, and for the last three months of 1942 there were as many US submarines operating from Brisbane as from Pearl Harbor. About 800 US service personnel were involved at Capricorn Wharf and there were further men and women at the store depot at Windsor. In addition, Archbishop Duhig's Benedict Stone factory was acquired for torpedo maintenance and storage.

The walkway along the river is now a beautiful and peaceful place, used by cyclists, runners, walkers and sightseers alike. I hope that the Submariners' Walk Heritage Trail reminds them of the sacrifices made by others so that they are able to enjoy it.

Click here for a Google Map.

tff 

3 comments:

  1. I had no idea there were so many subs and submariners here in Brisbane. Thank you for filling me in. I'll go and take a look at the heritage trail for sure!

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  2. I also didn't realise that in late 1942, there were as many US submarines operating from Brisbane as from Pearl Harbour. In fact while I know a great deal about Australian and New Zealand lads making a huge contribution in the war effort on behalf of Britain, France and Belgium, I suspect Australians born after the war know very little about American participation in the war.

    Yet now I am writing this, I am reminded of a story my mother told us years ago. When the American navy ships docked in Port Melbourne, my grandmother (and her three teenage daughters) used to board every ship and asked to speak to the captain. Amazingly no captain every turned her away. She insisted on taking home any Jewish sailors on board, feeding them a Sabbath meal, cleaning their clothes and writing to their mothers back in the USA. Every lad who was looked after by my grandmother left an American coin or momento to thank her for her kindness.. and she kept them all.

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  3. nightowl: It's a lovely walk along the river and I am sure that you will find the submarine heritage trail very interesting.

    Hels: What a marvellous gesture from your grandmother! I am sure the sailors would have been comforted by a home visit during such a terrible war.

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