Submariners ‘still on patrol’

A PERISCOPE looks out to sea from Monument Hill in Fremantle, keeping permanent vigil for the submariners of the Royal Navy’s 4th and 8th flotillas who didn’t return from the battles of World War II.

Taken from the HMS Tabard, the periscope was erected by the Royal Navy Submariners Old Comrades Association in October 1972 and late last month a special service was held to commemorate its 50th anniversary.

RN Submariners Association (Australia branch) secretary Barry Grace said the service was also a memorial to the people of Fremantle who assisted the city’s secret submarine port during the war.

Mr Grace said the service was attended by WA governor Chris Dawson, Fremantle mayor Hannah Fitzhardinge, former navy officer Miquela Riley who ran for the seat of Fremantle at the last election and Netherlands honorary consul Anthony Willinge, a nod to the Dutch submarine fleet also based in Fremantle during the war.

Former submariner Peter Kerry wrote a book about “Operation Periscope” before his death and said he had no better friends than his underwater colleagues.

“To those of you who have never been in a submarine in wartime, you can only imagine what it might be like, but to those of us who have served in submarines it is a special feeling, especially if you have been ‘annoyed’ by the opposition,” he wrote in the introduction.

“The sudden blackout, the noise and the angle down in darkness with things sliding over the deck – if you can only find your torch, the age before the secondary lights come on.

“Truly a time to remember.”

The periscope arrived in Fremantle on April 21, 1972 aboard the P&O liner Oriana, its 14-metre pine packing case causing quite a stir amongst the intrigued passengers.

It sat on the docks for some time after the top brass at the Leeuwin Barracks reneged on a deal to store until its installation, but after some running around by Mr Kerry, the Fremantle council agreed to store it at the depot.

Mr Kerry said given the periscope had been taken from the Tabard, which was to be sold and broken up within two years, he was expecting a somewhat used instrument.

“You can imagine my surprise when the packing case was opened, to find a practically new periscope, fully reconditioned and wrapped in plastic sheeting,” he said.

“Also in the case were a brass plaque, a ship’s crest and a set of clamps and lifting ropes.

“The brass plaque was beautifully made and inscribed with the words: To commemorate the close ties forged between the People of Fremantle and the Officers and Men of the British and Allied Submarines of the 4th and 8th Flotillas based in Fremantle during World War II’.”

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