Newbattle at War a history of the Parish at war   

 Now featuring Scots in the Great War Living History Society.    

Sydney, Australia, about as far away on the planet as you can get from Newbattle, so where's the connection? Well it's pretty direct, and centres around Ordinary Seaman David Trist Black whose parents resided in Newtongrange and one fateful night in 1942.


In May 1942 the Imperial Japanese Navy (IJN)  was running riot throughought the Pacific, sweeping all before them with their fleets of aircraft carriers and battleships. One of the lesser known elements of the IJN was the submariners.



A midget submarine attack had been staged on Pearl Harbor the previous December, indeed it was the opening shots of the attack that brought the United States into the war. The attack on Pearl Harbor was a failure and despite this it was decided that an equally audacious attack would be conducted against the Royal Navy, Royal Australian Navy and US Navy inside the harbour at Sydney.


Approval having been gained a flotilla of submarines  left Truk Lagoon on 18 May 1942 and headed south between Rabaul and the Solomon Islands. Each had a midget submarine clamped to its deck. Despite being detected by radar the craft slipped down the coast and on the night of 29 May 1942, the Japanese submarines positioned themselves 30 odd milles north-east of Sydney Heads.


At 3.00 am the next day one of the submarines launched a reconnaissance aircraft. After circling Sydney Harbour  with it navigation lights on,(it was spotted by USS Chicago but taken to a US plane at first), by the time fighters had been scrambled, the aircraft returned to its submarine, reporting the presence of 'battleships and cruisers' moored in the harbour. The flotilla's commanding officer decided to attack the harbour with the next night. The next day I-22, I-24, and I-27 launched midget submarine s A-14, A-21 and M-24 about 8 miles east of Sydney and at about 4.30 pm they released three midget subs which then began their approach to Sydney Harbour.  The latter submarine M24,would be of particular significance for Seaman Trist and his shipmates.


The attack

The A14 was detected by an electronic indicator loop but was ignored due to the harbour being busy. The submarine became caught in the anti-submarine net. Rather than surrender the crew detonated a demolition charge killing themselves. Shortly after another sighting was reported but again ignored. It was midget submarine M24. 


Around half an hour later the harbour  was put on full alert for the subs. USS Chicago spotted the submarine and fired on it. At the same time A21 entered the harbour. An auxiliary naval patrol boat and another patrol vessel, the Yandra, tried to ram the midget and attacked it with depth charges. The M24 pressed home it's attack and was spotted by HMAS Geelong just as it started it's attack run on USS Chicago, perhaps because of this the torpedoes  missed Chicago and one struck an old ferry which had been pressed into service as HMAS Kuttabal, killing 19 Australians, 2 British and wounding 10 others, the second torpedo beached and failed to explode. David Trist was serving on the Kattabul, he is listed as HMAS Penguin but this refers to the base which changed it name to Kattabul later on the war. The A21 was hunted down by ships in the harbour it was later found on the floor of the harbour with the crew inside, they had shot themselves rather than be captured.


As for M24, she escaped the harbour but was never seen again presumed lost at sea, that is until 1996 when some Aussie divers came across the wreck lying on the seabed. It is now classified as a war grave and contains the remains of Lieutenant Katsuhisa Ban and his navigator,
Ensign Mamoru Ashibe.


David Black Trist was buried with full military honours in Rockwood Necropolis Sydney, he was 18 years old when he died.

He commemorated on Newtongrange War Memorial and somewhat more unusually on the wall behind the organ in Newbattle Church.