Wednesday, 19 November 2008

Remembering HMAS SYDNEY, sunk 67 years ago today.

On 5 November 1941 at Albany, Western Australia, HMAS Sydney began escorting the troopship Zealandia, which was bound for Singapore. HMAS Sydney and Zealandia arrived at Fremantle on 9 November. They were delayed by a labour dispute on board Zealandia, but left Fremantle on 11 November. On 17 November, HMAS Sydney handed over escort duties of Zealandia to HMS Durban at Sunda Strait, then turned around to head back to Fremantle.

HMAS Sydney was scheduled to arrive back in Fremantle in the afternoon or evening of 20 November. Axis submarines and surface raiders had already been active in the Indian and Pacific Oceans, and it was expected that any Australian naval vessel on such a voyage might have to investigate reported sightings or suspicious vessels.

At about 4pm on 19 November, somewhere west of Shark Bay, Western Australia, HMAS Sydney sighted what she believed to be a merchant ship about 11 nautical miles away and challenged her. The other ship identified herself as the Dutch ship Straat Malakka. She was, in fact, the German merchant raider Kormoran, disguised and sailing under a false flag. According to survivors from Kormoran, the ill-prepared HMAS Sydney closed to within 1,000 metres (1,100 yd), and was surprised and overwhelmed when the crew of the heavily armed raider opened fire at nearly point-blank range with concealed artillery and torpedoes.

Kormoran was also badly damaged in the ensuing battle and had to be abandoned and scuttled due to engine failure and a fire that was burning out of control. Survivors from Kormoran were rescued by the ships Koolinda, the Cunard liner Aquitania, Trocas and HMAS Yandra, while a further 103 reached Carnarvon by lifeboat. The Germans reported that Sydney was last seen down by the bow and on fire as she disappeared over the horizon.

HMAS Sydney was sunk by the German raider Kormoran 67 years ago today.

She was lost with all hands.

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