Sub gates progressing

FREMANTLE PORTS is a step closer to preserving important World War II relics on Victoria Quay that caught the eye of Tangney MP Ben Morton.

Last year Mr Morton wrote to the Port asking it to look into why remnants of the submarine net that once protected the harbour from Japanese attack were being allowed to rust (“Wartime relics rusting away,” Herald, May 24, 2018).

He’d been alerted to the old mechanism by Applecross resident John Kostanic who says Fremantle’s important role in the Allies’ Pacific operation (it was second only to Pearl Harbour) made it too important to lose.

Mr Kostanic contacted the Herald this week saying he’d not heard anything from the port for some months and feared the project had gone into limbo.

But Ports bugle Neil Stanbury says they received an expert report late last year on how best to preserve the cast winch installations.

“The port’s seeking some costings around actioning his recommendations,” Mr Stanbury said.

Heritage value

“The next step would be to develop some signage and possible heritage interpretation about the submarine defence installation.

“We’re well aware of their heritage value–the harbour’s important role during World War II as an Allied naval base is an important part of Victoria Quay’s overall story and needs to be highlighted in any development of the quay.

Although Fremantle never came under attack by the Japanese fleet, the Herald has been told by old-timers that it was a palpable fear, and recently spoke with a Geraldton historian who says the port came perilously close to attack.

The historian, Jack Green, says a Japanese submarine captain had been given orders to shell Fremantle, but after encountering two Allied navy ships while travelling down the coast, mistakenly thought his mission had been uncovered and turned around. Confusing a fishing cannery in the tiny coastal village of Port Gregory with an ammunition factory, the Japanese captain decided to unleash his arsenal there.

Locals told the Herald you can still see where he blasted through the surrounding reef to approach the town, but his shells apparently all fell short and no on-shore damage was reported.

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