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IFHAA Local History Library

Holbrook, NSW
Submitted by Geoffrey Webby


Holbrook, New South Wales
Musings on Holbrook (or Germanton)

The first resident at Ten Mile Creek (now Holbrook) was German born shepherd Johann Pabst. Pabst arrived in Australia in 1825, to work for the Australian Agricultural Co. founded by John Macarthur. In 1838 Pabst, together with his wife and two daughters, arrived at Ten Mile Creek. He later became the licensee of a Grog shop known as the Woolpack Inn on the southern bank of the Ten Mile Creek. This establishment became known as the 'The Germans' and in 1858 the settlement was officially named Germanton.

During the opening days of World War 1, fierce anti-German feelings held by the citizens of the town caused a move to change the name. The name 'Marton' (Captain Cook's birthplace in Yorkshire) was selected. However, the Lands Department rejected the name as there was already a town in Queensland called Marton. In December 1914, Royal Navy (R.N.) Lieutenant Norman Holbrook, guided a British 'B' class submarine HMS B 11 below a minefield in the Dardanelles to torpedo a Turkish battleship. News of the extraordinary bravery exhibited by LEUT Holbrook and his crew fired the imagination of loyal British subjects around the world and provided the citizens of Germanton with their answer. Germanton was officially gazetted as 'Holbrook' in 1915. Following this feat LEUT Holbrook, RX, was awarded the Victoria Cross (V.C.) and the French Legion of Honour. Holbrook has become Australia's only town to be named after a V.C. winner. Norman Holbrook was born on 9 July 1888 at Southsea, Hamshire and died at Midhurst, Sussex on 3 July 1976.

Holbrook and Submarines - The Connection Why does Holbrook, a farming community 400 kms from the nearest seaport have a life-size submarine? In the main street of the township, lies the relic of the de-commissioned OTWAY, about 90 metres from bow to stem, also a life size torpedo and a 115 model of a World War 1 submarine. Holbrook's unique link with submarines began during World War 1 when the town's forefathers believed Germanton was no longer an appropriate name for the town. On 13 December 1914, Lieutenant Norman Holbrook, RX, had taken the British submarine HMS B 11 on a hazardous journey into the Dardanelles to torpedo and sink the Turkish battleship MESSUDIYEH. In a primitive petrol engine submarine whose battery power limited her to six knots underwater for only one hour, LEUT Holbrook braved minefields, surface patrols and Turkish artillery. After the sinking, B 11, with a shattered compass, scraped along the bottom of the channel literally feeling its way out. B 11 was submerged for eight hours, unheard of in 1914, and all the crew survived the mission. LEUT Holbrook was gazetted the Victoria Cross (V.C.) making him the first naval V.C. of the war as well as the first submariner to be awarded the medal, and the name Holbrook hit world headlines for the most daring underwater raid in the war. Back in Germanton, the suggestion that Holbrook be a fitting name for the town was greeted with enthusiasm and the first meeting of the new Holbrook Council was 24 August 1915.

Norman Holbrook made a number of visits to the town before his untimely death in 1976. In 1982 his widow Gundula Holbrook donated his medals to the town. The unlikely link between the inland farming town and the Royal Australian Navy (RAN) Submarine Squadron developed between 1986-1992 when submariners were given Freedom of Entry to the Shire. Visits lapsed when the Submarine Squadron was relocated to Western Australia. Holbrook's vision of erecting a fitting memorial to Australian Submariners has become a reality. Following the Navy's gift of the de-commissioned OTWAY's "fin" in 1995, a submarine working party was formed to, investigate ways of obtaining the real thing and oversee its erection. Finance was the biggest stumbling block. Public-spirited people and organisations had raised several thousand dollars. On learning of the submarine project Gundula Holbrook made the amazing gift of $100 000.00, enabling the project to forge ahead. In 1995 the de-commissioned OTWAY was being disposed of, an unsuccessful tender bid by Holbrook led to discussions and eventually the purchase of the 'outer skin to the waterline' from a Sydney scrap yard. To move the submarine inland, the structure was cut into sections and transported by semitrailer down the Hurne Highway. It was reconstructed with the assistance of a team of unemployed trainees during a New Work Opportunity Programme. The spectacular, traffic stopping inland submarine is a fitting memorial to those brave men who serve and have served in submarines in both war and peace. An official dedication of the Submarine Memorial was staged during the Queen's Birthday weekend on 7-8 June 1997, with Mrs Gundula Holbrook the official guest.

Another great challenge for the small community is the construction of a museum housing photographs, submarine components and mock areas of a submarine interior such as engine room, galley and living quarters. Other memorials dedicated to the memory of CMDR Holbrook, V.C. RX, are located in parklands nearby, namely, a 115 model of the B 11 submarine dedicated in 1972 and a statue unveiled in 198 8. Also nearby is a Mark VIII torpedo, commemorating the actions in World War 1 of Lieutenant H. Stoker, D.S.O., RX, and the crew of the RAN Submarine HMAS AE2, unveiled by the NSW Governor, Rear Admiral Peter Sinclair, A.O., RAN, Rtd, in 1992.


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Last modified: March 20, 2006