Submarine Institute of Australia

Bringing discussion and research to the surface
Launch Secret Fleets


12th March 2012

As part of many activities to celebrate the Centenary of Australian Submarines, the Submarine Institute of Australia (SIA) will host an official book launch of the second edition of Secret Fleets: Fremantle's World War II Submarine Base. The event, set to take place at Western Australian Maritime Museum in Fremantle on 21st March 2012, will see guests welcomed by Author Lynne Cairns along with a number of World War II submarine veterans and/or widows.

During World War II, Fremantle was the second largest Allied submarine base in the world, hosting almost 170 submarines. Secrecy surrounding the operation of the Fremantle submarine base meant that its existence was little known at the time and, until now, has been largely forgotten by history.

In 1942 Japanese submarines were extremely active in Australian waters and spy planes frequently made surveillance flights over major cities. Without a safe haven in the Pacific Allied submarine forces relocated to Fremantle, which became a vital submarine base. Submarines of the British, Dutch and United States navies made 416 war patrols out of the port between March 1942 and August 1945.

Author Lynne Cairns showcases the wartime history of one of the world’s most isolated ports and touches on the social changes experienced by locals when Fremantle became flooded with more than 10,000 international sailors from the US Navy, Royal Dutch Navy and the Royal Navy. 

Some sailors were billeted in private homes while large groups of submariners were in leased accommodation at some well known Perth establishments; The Weld Club, Ocean Beach Hotel Cottesloe, Balmoral Hotel Victoria Park, Majestic Hotel Applecross and Perth city hotels; Palace, His Majesty’s, Wentworth, King Edward and Hyde Park. 

Submarines operating from Fremantle sank a very large tonnage of Japanese shipping in the Western Pacific. This success strangled supply lines from Japan, as well as shipments of petroleum products and strategic minerals going back to Japan from the captured resource rich East Indies.

The success of the Fremantle submarine campaign disrupted the Japanese war effort and was a major factor in shortening the war in the Western Pacific.

Secret Fleets can be purchased online at For more information, access to images or interviews with SIA member Lloyd Blake please contact:

Jenny Coyle
c/- Devahasdin
Submarine Institute of Australia Inc
(08) 9226 2222



HMAS Ovens on display

The Western Australian Maritime Museum has on permanent display an authentic Oberon class Submarine.  HMAS Ovens is the most intact Oberon Submarine on display anywhere in the world and is a living memorial to submariners and those who gave their lives while serving from Fremantle during World War II. Guided tours of the submarine leave half hourly (10am - 3.30pm) from the Western Australian Maritime Museum.

About the Submarine Institute of Australia

Established in 1999, the SIA is a not-for-profit body that has as its objective: ‘To promote informed discussion and research in the fields of submarine operations, engineering, history and commercial sub-sea engineering - otherwise known as submarine matters.’  With a global membership in military and industry sectors, the Institute has a number of projects that support its objective.  It aims to provide an independent input into considerations underpinning Australia’s future submarine capability.

About the Author

Lynne Cairns worked as a graphic artist before studying history during the 1980s. Between 1990 and 1995 she worked at the Western Australian Maritime Museum, where she co-wrote Unfinished Voyages: Western Australian Shipwrecks 1881-1900, with Graeme Henderson, before producing a history of the World War II submarine base at Fremantle, published in 1995 as Fremantle's Secret Fleets: Allied submarines based in Western Australia during World War II.  Lynne Cairns has now retired from the Museum.



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