Day 116: Sub Way

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submariners walk

There are many good reasons to take the riverside walk between New Farm and Newstead. Among them is the Submariners Walk heritage trail.

It’s waiting on the boardwalk cycleway at Teneriffe, announced by eye-catching submarine-shaped bench seating and lots of signs explaining what it’s all about.

submariners walk
The red brick former engine room with the wool stores in the background.

It was opened in March 2013 to “recognise and honour the sacrifices made by submariners in brave defence of our nation” because, hidden away under water, they never received deserved recognition.

The location isn’t a random choice.

submariners walk
The submarine-shaped bench seating.

New Farm Wharf was the site of the US Navy Submarine Operations and Maintenance base and the home port of Submarine Task Force 42/72, from April 1942 until March 1945.

During this time, 79 submarines sailed up the Brisbane River and 800 staff and officers called the New Farm port home while General Douglas MacArthur was in town commanding the war in the Pacific.

The entrance to the base, which had a barracks, stores, workshops, medical and other facilities, was at the southern end of Macquarie St.

There is a lot to learn here, such as that New Farm-based submarines made a significant contribution to allied victory in the Pacific; and “when manned by a brave and determined crew, the submarine is one of the deadliest weapons at sea”.

submariners walk Brisbane River
A pleasant riverfront location to honour the submariners.

As well as the seating bearing the name of the various classes of submarine, there are also signs to tell the stories.

The Collins class, for example, was the first to be built in Australia and was commissioned in 1996. They were 77.4m long with a surface speed of 10.5 knots and a submerged speed of 21 knots. The entire fleet was based at Garden Island off WA.

The Oberon Class, 1978-92, was 90m long with a submerged speed of 17 knots, and conducted intelligence collection missions during the Cold War. It is said that if an Oberon had been damaged or sunk while “collecting” the search area would have been millions of square miles in foreign waters.

Another plaque is dedicated to the submarines and crews who conducted war patrols from New Farm – and there’s a long list of them.

submariners walk Brisbane River
When New Farm was the bustling submarine port during World War II.

In 1910, the first submarines for the RAN were ordered to be built in the UK by Vickers and Sons shipyard. They arrived in Sydney in 1914. Later that year, near Rabaul in New Guinea, one became Australia’s first submarine lost with all hands. The second was sunk in the Dardanelles a year later.

A number of signs list other submarines that left New Farm never to be seen again, such as the USS Seawolf, which sailed on September 21, 1944 and by October 3, was reported lost with all hands.

If you pause to have a look around, you will see a charming set of steps leading up to Hastings St with the famous woolstores of Goldsborough Mort (1930s) and Elder Smith (1920s) towering in the background.

The plain red brick box in the foreground is an old engine room that, when the wharves were active, held two ammonia pressers driven by steam engines to refrigerate goods to be shipped.

During World War II it helped provide refrigerated goods to the submarines on the river.

All up, the Submariners Walk accounts for about 300m along the waterfront. There’s a bus stop nearby or enjoy the walk along the cycleway between New Farm Park and Newstead House.

submariners walk Brisbane River
Plenty of signs tell the stories.