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Secret Fleets

Secret Fleets: Fremantle's World War II Submarine Base, by Lynne Cairns

Lynne Cairns is a former employee of the Western Australia Maritime Museum. The first edition of her book was published in 1995 as Fremantle's Secret Fleets: Allied Submarines Based in Western Australia During World War II. The book's second edition was published in 2011 with the title Secret Fleets: Fremantle's World War II Submarine Base. The latest edition includes four new chapters: the first two and the last two. Chapter one covers the evolution of submarines in general. Chapter two covers Australia's early submarine fleet (pre-WWII). The last two chapters document efforts by the Western Australia Maritime Museum to preserve the history of the Fremantle submarine base and the boats and people who worked there. Another chapter covers the development of Australia's present-day submarine fleet, which is based in Western Australia.

The book includes an updated appendix with a table listing the Fremantle arrival and final departure dates of American, British, and Dutch submarines during World War II. An "Other information" column lists the war patrol departure dates for each submarine. The author used the online version of the Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships and the submarine war patrol reports published online at the Historic Naval Ships Association ( as her information sources for American submarines. The submarine names are listed in alphabetical order in the appendix. I have found it to be a useful tool to determine quickly when a submarine was assigned down under.

The book has an interesting discussion of how the Lend-Lease program was used to get U. S. military hardware and know-how to Australia in exchange lodging, food, and logistical support for American submariners down under. The American investment was huge. The Australian commitment was significant. Combined, the partnership formed an effective war machine with Fremantle at its center. There is also information in the book about the use of Albany and Exmouth Gulf as submarine bases during the war. There are also many unique photographs of the Fremantle submarine base and city proper, submarines, base personnel, and submariners. My favorite one is a rare photograph of a shirtless Vice Admiral Ralph Christie on watch aboard the USS Bowfin during its third war patrol.

Overall this is a very good book. I highly recommend it.