Shelling of Port Gregory

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Shelling of Port Gregory
Part of the Battle for Australia during World War II
Date 28 January 1943
Location Port Gregory, Western Australia, Australia
 Australia  Empire of Japan
Commanders and leaders
None Empire of Japan Lieutenant Commander Tatenosuke Tosu[1]
Australia Coastwatchers Empire of Japan One submarine (I-165)
Casualties and losses
None None

The shelling of Port Gregory took place on 28 January 1943 during World War II. The attack was conducted by the Japanese submarine I-165 under the command of Lieutenant Commander Tatenosuke Tosu[1] as part of the attempts to divert Allied attention away from the evacuation of Guadalcanal in the Solomon Islands. None of the ten shells fired at Port Gregory caused any damage, and the attack was not noticed by the Allied naval authorities until a radio signal sent by Tosu was intercepted and decoded a week later.


I-165 in 1932

During the Pacific War Japanese submarines occasionally operated off Western Australia.[2] In early 1943 the major Japanese headquarters across the Pacific were directed to use their forces to make small attacks on Allied positions in an attempt to divert attention away from the planned evacuation of Guadalcanal, Operation Ke.[2] In mid-January, the commander of the Japanese Southwest Area Fleet ordered that I-165 be dispatched to attack Allied shipping off north-western Australia.[2] As part of the fleet's contribution to the diversionary operations, I-165 was also directed to bombard a coastal Australian town. It is likely that the busy port town of Geraldton was selected for bombardment.[3] The submarine I-166 was ordered to conduct a similar mission against Cocos Island.[2]

I-165 sailed from Surabaya in the occupied Dutch East Indies on 21 January 1943.[4]

The attack[edit]

On the evening of 27 January I-165 arrived just north of Geraldton. While preparing for the attack, the crew of I-165 observed three aircraft and what Tosu believed was a destroyer in the area. Tosu decided to postpone his bombardment mission, and sailed north. While sailing on the surface the submarine passed within 2 miles of what was identified as a destroyer without being noticed.[4][5]

The following evening I-165 surfaced 4 miles off the village of Port Gregory just after midnight. From a range of 7,000 metres (7,700 yd), she fired about ten 100-mm (3.9-inch) shells from her Type 88 deck gun at a derelict crayfish cannery, which the submarine's crew had mistakenly identified as an ammunition factory. None of the shells caused any damage. Tosu did not attempt to observe the results of his submarine's bombardment, and resumed patrolling off the coast of Western Australia.[4][5]

Two Australian coastwatchers stationed near Port Gregory noticed gunfire at night on 28 January, but neither observed any shells landing.[5] Allied naval authorities only learned of the attack when the submarine's battle report radio signal was intercepted and decoded a week later.[1][5] I-165 returned to Surabaya on 16 February without having sunk any Allied ships during her patrol.[4][5]

Australian naval historian David Stevens has noted that "clearly as a diversion operation the bombardment had been an abject failure. Nevertheless, for the Allied navies it provided another graphic example of the poor planning and inadequate doctrine so common in the Japanese submarine force".[5]

The attack on Port Gregory was one of three submarine shellings on Australian towns and cities, the other two being the attacks on Newcastle and Sydney in June 1942.[6]



  1. ^ a b c Kawano, Teruaki (29 May 1991). "Letter from Professor Teruaki Kawano to David Jenkins (Annex A of Submission 130)" (PDF). HMAS Sydney II Commission of Inquiry. Department of Defence. Retrieved 27 March 2016. 
  2. ^ a b c d Stevens 2002, p. 46.
  3. ^ Stevens 2002, pp. 46–47.
  4. ^ a b c d Hackett, Bob; Kingsepp, Sander. "IJN Submarine I-165: Tabular Record of Movement". Combined Fleet. Retrieved 27 March 2016. 
  5. ^ a b c d e f Stevens 2002, p. 47.
  6. ^ Stevens, David M. "Japanese submarine operations against Australia 1942–1944". Australia–Japan Research Project. Australian War Memorial. Retrieved 27 March 2016. 

Works consulted[edit]

  • Stevens, David (2002). "Forgotten assault". Wartime (18): 46–47. ISSN 1328-2727.