HMAS SYDNEY SUNK
OFF THE COAST OF WEST AUSTRALIA
ON 19 NOVEMBER 1941

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On the 19 November 1941 HMAS Sydney II located an unidentified merchant vessel in the ocean SW of Carnarvon. HMAS Sydney II had just handed over escort of the troop ship Zealandia in the Sunda Strait and was headed for Fremantle.

HMAS Sydney II approached the merchant vessel and requested identification. Little did the Captain of HMAS Sydney II know that this innocent looking "merchant vessel" was in fact the HSK Kormoran, a disguised German raider.  Kormoran was masquerading as the Dutch merchant vessel called Straat Malakka.

 

The Battle

 

Whilst the SYDNEY was lost with all hands - 645 young men, 317 of the German ship’s complement of 390 were rescued.

One of the weak spots was that only 141 feet amidships was armour plated, (the 5.9 inch guns of KMS Kormoran had a penetration capacity of 3 inches at a range of 5,000 yards and 1.7 inches at 12,000 yards, rear fused shells that penetrated armour before exploding were usually used). It should be remembered that the warship that can survive accurate short range fire has yet to be built and that HMAS Sydney was most definitely vulnerable in the extreme.

 

The Disbelief

Because of SYDNEY’s apparent superior firepower, there was disbelief that KORMORAN could have sunk her. In some quarters this led to suspicion of foul play.

 

The Coverup

The Royal Australian Navy said nothing initially. Government restrained the press, trying to shield the public from a collective blow to morale

The Minister for Information issued the following two censorship instructions, on the afternoon of 25 November, to all newspapers and radio stations throughout Australia:

FC756: “Pending further advice no reference press or broadcasting to HMAS Sydney”.

FC757: “No reference whatever press or radio to any statements or rumours regarding alleged naval activity Australian waters”.

The Royal Australian Navy then sent out non-specific bereavement letters. For decades after the war, relevant documents were not released.

 

 

Captain Theodor Detmers

His Interrogation

 

The Coded Diary

 

Internment

 

THE CONSPIRACY THEORIES

 

 

REFERENCES

Finding Sydney Foundation Web site

 

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

 

 

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                         "Australia @ War"
                         

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©  Peter Dunn 2006

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This page first produced 23 March 2008

This page last updated 23 March 2008