Holbrook Submarine Museum
HMAS Otway’s colourful history began even before it was completed
The impressive tribute to Australian submariners has stood proudly in Holbrook – The Submarine Town – since 1997
250 kilometres from the nearest ocean, in a small country town, is possibly the last place you might expect to find a submarine. But Holbrook, New South Wales, boasts the imposing 89-metre-long complete casing and fin of HMAS Otway, along with its own Submarine Park and Museum.
The popular tourist attraction has special significance to the town which, in 1915, was re-named Holbrook in honour of Lieutenant Norman Douglas Holbrook, the first submariner to be awarded the Victoria Cross. A 1/5 scale model of the British submarine HMS B11 – commanded by Lt. Holbrook – is also on display in the town.
Holbrook Town council was originally gifted the fin of Otway, the second of six Royal Australian Navy Oberon Class submarines, after it was decommissioned in 1995. This prompted a fundraising drive to acquire the whole submarine. That did not prove possible but after negotiations with a scrap yard in Sydney, the town succeeded in purchasing all the outside casing above the waterline.
Getting the Otway to its new home between Melbourne and Sydney was a “military exercise” of its own. The submarine had to be cut into sections and transported nearly 500 kilometres by road. That achieved, Otway was then pieced back together by a team of unemployed trainees as part of a community work program. Later, original periscopes and masts were added.
The impressive tribute to Australian submariners has stood proudly in Holbrook – The Submarine Town – since 1997. HMAS Otway’s colourful history began even before it was completed.
Early in 1968, while Otway was still under construction in Greenock, RAN personnel sent to Scotland for submarine training which provided vital assistance to residents whose houses were destroyed in a fierce storm.
Otway arrived in Australia in September 1968, during the voyage becoming the first RAN vessel to visit Ghana and the first Australian submarine to round the Cape of Good Hope.
In 1969, Otway escorted HMS Trump, the last submarine of the Royal Navy’s Australia-based 4th Submarine Squadron, out of Sydney Harbour.
In the following year she visited New Zealand and was involved in training exercises in the Indian Ocean.
In 1971, the Otway’s fin was damaged, not once but twice, in separate incidents while taking part in SEATO Exercise Subok. On the first occasion, it was struck by a dummy torpedo dropped from a helicopter and on the second Otway was hit by a whale, damaging a periscope. Neither incident required major repairs.
Later that same year, Otway – forced to sail from Brisbane at short notice and with only two-thirds of her complement on board – successfully rescued the crew of the stricken ketch One And All, aground on Middleton Reef, in the Tasman Sea.