Sydney (II) remembered 75 years on

This article has photo gallery Published on LEUT Gary McHugh (author), Mr Ben Teo (photographer)

Location(s): Geraldton, WA, Carnarvon, WA

Topic(s): HMAS Sydney (II), Commemoration

Royal Australian Navy Catafalque Party at the HMAS Sydney (II) commemorative service in Carnarvon, WA. (photo: BEN TEO)
Royal Australian Navy Catafalque Party at the HMAS Sydney (II) commemorative service in Carnarvon, WA.

Commemorations were held for the 75th Anniversary of the loss of HMAS Sydney (II) over the weekend 19-20 November in Carnarvon and Geraldton, in Western Australia.

A contingent from Rockingham base, HMAS Stirling, and the Navy Band joined the community in remembering the 645 lives lost in 1941.

Commanding Officer Stirling, Captain Brian Delamont, thanked the Shire of Carnarvon and the City of Geraldton for the tremendous efforts invested to commemorate the battle between the Australian cruiser and the German raider Kormoran.

“It is fitting the 75th anniversary commemorations are held in Western Australia as there were many lives lost in the waters adjacent to this coast, and Carnarvon played a significant role in the aftermath of the battle,” Captain Delamont said.

“It is important for Australia to continue to commemorate this significant battle and loss of life in both Sydney and Kormoran.

“Carnarvon and Geraldton have performed a great service for the Navy and the nation as we remember all those lost.”

Speaking at the commemorative service in Carnarvon, Captain Delamont recounted the battle.

Sydney was the pride of the Australian fleet at the time,” Captain Delamont said.

“News of Sydney’s success in the Mediterranean preceded her return to Australia, and in February 1941 she received a hero’s welcome in Fremantle.

“In Sydney, school children were given a public holiday so they could cheer the crew as they paraded through the city," he said.

Later in 1941, after handing over escort duties for the troopship Zealandia to the British Cruiser HMS DurbanSydney set course for Fremantle but failed to reach her destination.

On 19 November, shortly before 16:00 and 280 kilometres southwest of Carnarvon, Sydney attempted to identify Kormoran who was disguised as a Dutch merchant vessel.

Kormoran used the advantage of surprise, struck the Dutch colours, dropped the false sides, hoisted the German Naval Ensign and opened fire,” Captain Delamont said.

“Both ships fired simultaneously and missed, but Kormoran was quick to adjust and destroyed Sydney’s engine room, gunnery directors and bridge, killing the command team.

“The Australian cruiser managed to land its own fatal blows on the German raider, however, it wasn’t enough.”

After abandoning ship, German survivors saw Sydney limping south at around midnight. She eventually went down and the entire ship’s company of 645 men perished.

“The battle remains Australia’s largest single loss of life in the history of the Royal Australian Navy and we will remember them.”

A full history of HMAS Sydney (II) is available at: http://www.navy.gov.au/hmas-sydney-ii.