It was the night that war came to Sydney. On the 31st of May 1942, three Japanese midget submarines crept in Sydney harbour and wreaked havoc. But was it really the enemy that caused so much damage? Peter Grose, author of “A Very Rude Awakening”, thinks not.
Written with first-person testimonies and thorough military research, Grose provides a background to the Japanese midget submarine project and follows a timeline well past that of the faithful night on May 31st 1942. Unfortunately, a pretty picture of our country’s defence is not painted with incompetence, lack of training and faulty equipment just part of the problems that plagued the encounter and aided the Japanese.
The book is frustrating, to say the least, with multiple clear opportunities presented to authorities prior to the attack that could have prevented the enemy from slipping into the highly populated port. There is also the added frustration of how highly detailed the book is. Grose has most definitely written this novel for the historians and those with some knowledge of the times and nautical terminology. There are acronyms and technical details galore and, even as the daughter of a submariner and having grown up in this environment, I found it difficult at times to stay focused and not lose my place. I am not entirely certain if it was the struggle sometimes faced or my sheer disgust at some of the higher ups actions on and prior to the attack that had me contemplating throwing the book against the wall at multiple points in time, but it certainly enlisted quite the range of emotions from me. None of which were positive.
In saying that, it is important to remember the limitations of the time. 1942 was quite some years ago and technology was simply not efficient. It was clearly a case of luck and a few competent men that saved the evening and Sydney from further destruction.
“A Very Rude Awakening” was difficult for me to read and, at times, quite laborious, but the detail and story told need to be read. This is a pretty clear account that we were simply not ready to defend ourselves. If you can move past the heavy jargon and scornful tone that had me questioning just how objective Grose was truly being, “A Very Rude Awakening” may be the read for you. I’ll just wait to watch the documentary soon to be released.
- Ashayla Webster
“A Very Rude Awakening” is written by Peter Grose and published by Allen & Unwin Books