Search for Vampire to begin off Sri Lanka

Published on Department of Defence (author)

Topic(s): HMAS Leeuwin (A245), HMAS Diamantina (M86), HMAS Vampire (I)

HMAS Vampire (I) at sea. Image scanned from the Navy Historic Archive. (photo: Unknown)
HMAS Vampire (I) at sea. Image scanned from the Navy Historic Archive.

One of the remaining maritime mysteries of the Second World War may soon be solved, thanks to a joint operation between the Royal Australian Navy and the Sri Lankan Navy.

Nine sailors died when the destroyer, HMAS Vampire (I), sank after enduring an intensive Japanese air attack off the Sri Lankan coast.

Vampire had been attempting to protect the Royal Navy aircraft carrier, HMS Hermes, on 9 April 1942.

Commander of Australia’s Fleet, Rear Admiral Jonathan Mead said the ship’s precise location had never been confirmed but that a new lead had recently emerged.

“This new information was shared during recent high-level Navy to Navy talks conducted in Colombo.

“We have always known roughly where Vampire went down but its exact location has proved elusive.

“There are no guarantees of success but we owe it to the families of those on board to follow up this new lead,” Rear Admiral Mead said.

HMAS Vampire (I) at sea. Image scanned from the Navy Historic Archive.

HMAS Vampire (I) at sea. Image scanned from the Navy Historic Archive.

Further research by both Australian and Sri Lankan hydrographers in recent months concluded that there was a strong chance HMAS Vampire’s final resting place had been identified. 

The Australian hydrographic ship, HMAS Leeuwin, and mine hunter, HMAS Diamantina, are in the region to assist with a more thorough search.

“Whatever the outcome, we are most grateful to Sri Lanka for their cooperation and understanding,’ Rear Admiral Mead said.

Vampire’s story illustrates the enduring ties we have with Sri Lanka and the Indian Ocean region,” he said.

Families and friends can register their interest to keep updated with the search of HMAS Vampire. A group email is being established, in the interim please email navy.events@defence.gov.au.