Despite searching 150 square nautical miles off the coast of Sri Lanka, HMA Ships Leeuwin and Diamantina have been unable to confirm the final resting place of HMAS Vampire (I).
The V Class destroyer was sunk on 9 April 1942, during a battle against Japanese carrier-borne aircraft. The Royal Navy carrier HMS Hermes was also sunk by the Japanese dive bombers.
Vampire (I)’s Captain, Commander William Moran, and eight members of the ship’s company died in the battle.
More than 100 Royal Australian Navy personnel embarked in HMA Ships Leeuwin and Diamantina have been involved in the search, assisted by members of the Sri Lankan Navy and the Marine Science section of the Sri Lankan Government.
The search was conducted using state of the art hydrographic survey equipment and a team of Navy Clearance Divers, but regrettably no wreck was found.
It is now believed that Vampire (I)’s final resting place is in a deep ocean trench, at a depth of roughly 1.5 kilometres. Leeuwin will remain in location a little longer, charting an area on the lip of a larger underwater trench.
The Commanding Officer of HMAS Leeuwin, Commander Richard Mortimer said scans from both ships revealed no definitive, nor indicative, signs of Vampire (I) on the continental shelf area, meaning she was probably in the deep-water trench.
“We looked at the wreck of Hermes nearby to build a picture of what shifting sand and coral growth would look like for Vampire (I), and we have not found anything fitting that profile that didn’t turn out to be natural organic material,” Commander Mortimer said.
“The most likely outcome is that Vampire (I) sank into the trench, which is too deep for the search platforms’ combined sensors.”
Commander Mortimer said not finding Vampire (I) was a disappointing result for everyone involved, but both ship’s companies had taken heart in knowing the painstaking search had narrowed the likely location of the missing warship for future expeditions.
“While the precise location of Vampire (I)’s wreck remains a mystery for now, I am proud of the crews of Leeuwin and Diamantina for their efforts in significantly narrowing down the resting place of our lost sailors and informing possible searches in the future,” he said.
Chief of Navy, Vice Admiral Mike Noonan said the bravery and sacrifice of Vampire (I)’s crew remained an example of courage and devotion to duty for all Navy members.
“We continue to remember those who lost their lives 77 years ago,” Vice Admiral Noonan said.
Navy Headquarters has written to relatives and friends of Vampire (I)’s lost shipmates to update them on the search outcomes.