Considering that Holbrook N.S.W. is over 200 km inland, it is surprising to see signs along the highway connecting the town with the submarine H.M.A.S. Otway.
It is even stranger to see a full-size submarine surfacing through the grass in a small town.
When I first saw the submarine from the car, my immediate thought was how the local Chamber of Commerce had just grasped at a straw of an idea to get passing traffic to stop in their town. It is a truly surreal sight, and it’s not until you actually take a closer look and read the attached signs that one is made aware of what the connection is between submarines and the town of Holbrook.
The town of Holbrook first started off with the name of Ten Mile Creek but by the mid-1800s there were so many Germans living in the area that it’s name was changed to Germanton. By the time the First World War rolled around, it was considered an unpatriotic name and was renamed Holbrook after a British submariner named Norman Douglas Holbrook.
Lt Holbrook was awarded the first Victoria Cross given to a submariner by navigating his obsolete B11 submarine (built in 1905)
through the five lines of mines in the Dardanelles to torpedo the Turkish battleship Mesudiye.
Further attempts by the French and British at a similar feat ended in failure and submarines being sank. When a British and French fleet decided to take on the guns guarding the Dardanelles three more ships were sunk with a loss of life not seen in the British navy since Trafalgar. That naval disaster consequently led to the idea of taking the guns guarding the Dardanelles by land, which in turn became the great military disaster that we all know as Gallipoli.
So there you have it, Holbrook was named after a British WWI submariner and as a consequence, has a 1960s Australian sumbmarine in a park by the highway.