Sydney Under Attack: Japanese Midget Submarine 31 May – 1 June 1942

Looking back on the Japanese midget submarine attack on Sydney

Peter Doyle's story

Peter Doyle was a 10-year-old schoolboy, living with his family at Watsons Bay on the night of the attack.

I can remember the sirens going off. My Dad, who was in the army, stationed up at the main guns at Dover Heights, was on rostered leave. We got out of bed and went to the kitchen, which had plywood on the windows as a blackout precaution and a brownpaper shade on the lamp. We all put on our ear muffs, which were made out of powder puffs with a cotton tape you tied under your chin. You also put a wooden peg in your mouth to stop the concussion.

We all got under the kitchen table. We had an old aunt living with us who was very alarmed. My Aunty and Uncle lived in what is now the main part of the restaurant and they joined us. By this time my Dad was in his army uniform and was leaving, to report back to the barracks. Before he left, he and Uncle Vic got an old lounge out because there wasn't enough room under the table and turned that upside down so the top became a cover. My three younger brothers got under that … My Dad was told there was a light showing in the nearby hotel. So he called out and threw small stones at the window to tell them to turn it out.

I remember the rumble. I remember biting on this peg and thinking "I'm going to hurt my teeth and choke if I keep this peg in my mouth much longer." I remember everyone got dressed and for some reason they were putting on their Sunday best. I don't know why.

Extract from Jenkins, David Hitting home: The Japanese attack on Sydney 1942, Random House, Sydney [1992]