Submarine Town

From Scrap Metal to Monument

Holbrook’s unlikely association with submariners began in 1915 when the town was named after British submarine commander, Lieutenant Norman Holbrook (1888-1976). In 1992, after repeated visits from their namesake, the town officially awarded ‘Freedom of Entry to the Shire’ to personnel of the Royal Australian Navy Submarine Squadron. A few years later, in recognition of their unique connection, the RAN gifted the fin of the recently decommissioned HMAS Otway to Holbrook.

With the remainder of the submarine on offer for public sale by tender, the Holbrook community set their sights on more than the fin. Led by a hastily formed working party, passionate residents and local organisations raised thousands of dollars. But, even with a donation of $100,000 from Gundula Holbrook, Lieutenant Holbrook’s wife, the town was unable to win the tender and the submarine was sold to Sims Metal for scrapping.

Undeterred, the town’s working party negotiated with the company and used the money they had raised to buy the upper casing and tail section of the submarine. By June 1997, residents had used the casing to assemble what appeared to be a full-sized military submarine surfacing from the ground next to the Visitor Information Centre.

Travellers of the Hume Highway now see the memorial dedicated to former and current submariners as iconic, earning Holbrook a new nickname: Submarine Town.