The town of Holbrook lies midway between Sydney and Melbourne on the Hume Highway. It is one of the few towns on this 1,000 kilometre stretch of road not to be yet bypassed with a Freeway. Holbrook remains a convenient spot to break a long journey for food and drink
Considering Holbrook is several hundred kilometres inland, it is probably the last place you would expect to find a submarine.
So why is there a submarine in Holbrook? During the First World War, the town of Germantown changed its name to Holbrook as a demonstration of patriotism. The inspiration for the town’s new name, Lieutenant N.D. Holbrook, RN, was the Commander of the 43 metre B11 submarine which torpedoed and sank the Turkish battleship Messoudieh in December 1914. His exploits earned him the first naval Victoria Cross; and the attention of the citizens of this small NSW town. Lt. Holbrook acknowledged the compliment with three subsequent visits to the town bearing his name. Not surprisingly, a 1/5 scale, 8.5 metre model of the submarine B11 was installed in a local park.
Somewhat more surprisingly, HMAS Otway submarine is embedded in an adjacent park.
The Otway was one of six Oberon-class subs built for the Royal Australian Navy between 1966 and 1979. It is 90 metres long, some eight metres wide, and was powered by diesel/electric motors. The Otway was usually crewed by at least 65 men.
Holbrook has long considered itself a “submarine town”, so when the HMAS Otway was decommissioned from the Royal Australian Navy, the town was presented with the submarine’s fin. As long as the town had the fin, it might as well have the rest of the submarine. Makes sense? A fund raising effort, including the donation of $100,000 from Lt. Holbrook’s widow, resulted in a failed bid for the whole submarine but the successful negotiation for the outer skin to the waterline. This was carved up, shipped to the town and re-assembled by local unemployed trainees.
HMAS Otway is certainly one of the more unusual sights on the Hume Highway and adjacent is the Submarine Café.