Yesterday I drove from Melbourne back to Canberra to be with Manface for a few more days before I start my course in Melbourne next week.
If you’ve driven to Melbourne on the Hume Highway you will know about the big submarine that randomly sits in the middle of Holbrook. To give you an idea of how odd seeing a submarine in Holbrook is, I should explain… Holbrook is an inland Australian town of about 1300 people, nowhere near the coast (probably a good 400km inland).
So how did a submarine end up in Holbrook?
Well as the story goes, Holbrook was originally called Germanton. During WW1 when Australia was at war in Europe against Germany, the town elders in Germanton decided that it would be best to change the name of the town. Around the same time, Lieutenant Norman Holbrook became the first Naval winner of the Victoria Cross when the submarine that he commanded sunk a Turkish Battleship. So Germanton decided to name the town in honour of ol’ Holbrook.
On return home to Australia, the then Commander Holbrook made several visits to the country town and in 1982 his widow donated his medals to the town. The town further strengthened its unlikely connection to the Australian submariner community by granting Freedom of Entry to the Shire in 1982 and 1996.
HMAS Otway’s fin was gifted to the town of Holbrook in 1995. However, the town of Holbrook had a greater vision and began to raise money to buy the whole submarine. Gundula Holbrook, Commander Holbrook’s widow donated $100, 000 to the town to enable the project to forge ahead. Eventually the town was able to purchase the outer skin of the above-the-water section of the submarine from a Sydney scrap yard. The structure was cut into sections and transported by truck down the Hume Highway to Holbrook where it was reconstructed in the place where it stands today.
I haven’t actually stopped at the sight in years, so I thought I would yesterday. It is quite a comforting site for me. I remember passing it when I was a little girl and we would drive to Sydney to visit family, when I would drive home from uni (university) in the break between semesters. It was and still is a unique and odd feature which is now a constant in the otherwise boring (oaky fine, Australia is beautiful… but when you’re driving 100s of km the acknowledgement of its beauty is somewhat dulled) Australian landscape.