When I lectured to the Murray River Decorative & Fine Arts Society at Albury-Wodonga on the border of New South Wales and Victoria, I was told over dinner about a town with a submarine, up in the Riverina hills.
I was intrigued, and asked my host Barb Ross to take me to the place where she grew up, Holbrook, which was originally called Ten Mile Creek and then Germanton.
Many Australian-German place-names fell out of favour during the First World War, and the inhabitants of Germanton chose to rename their town in tribute to a naval hero, Lt (latterly Commander) Norman Douglas Holbrook, VC (1888-1976), who took an obsolete British submarine under a minefield to torpedo a Turkish battleship in the Dardanelles in 1915. He was the first submariner to be awarded the Victoria Cross, and the first recipient of the medal in the First World War.
Commander Holbrook took a personal interest in the little town that had taken his name, and after his death his widow, Mrs Gundula Holbrook, presented the council with his Victoria Cross medal.
In tribute to Commander Holbrook the town council raised funds to purchase a decommissioned Oberon-class Australian submarine, HMAS Otway, in 1995. Mrs Holbrook contributed A$100,000 to bring the outer shell of the vessel above the waterline to the town, and to establish a small park and the Holbrook Submarine Museum [http://www.holbrooksubmarinemuseum.com] alongside.
This spectacle has surprised at least one driver of a huge Australian road-train, hammering through the foggy night until his headlights picked out the unmistakable shape of a submarine’s bows, four hundred miles from the ocean.
Maybe this disconcerting moment saved him from jumping the only set of traffic lights on the 847km road between Sydney and Melbourne.
There is a further display about Norman Holbrook at the Woolpack Museum: http://www.woolpackinn.com.au.