GERMAN RAIDER "KORMORAN" SINKS
HMAS SYDNEY II
OFF THE WESTERN AUSTRALIAN COAST
IN NOVEMBER 1941
HSK Kormoran found on 12 March 2008
HMAS Sydney found 16 March 2008
The German Raider "HSK Kormoran" sank HMAS Sydney II at a location about 290 kms south west of Carnarvon in Western Australia in November 1941. The entire complement of HMAS Sydney II comprising 42 Officers and 603 ratings were all killed as a result of this tragic incident. This included six members of 9 Squadron RAAF who were attached to the Seagull amphibious aircraft assigned to HMAS Sydney II. HSK Kormoran was also sunk as a result of battle damage during its attack on HMAS Sydney II.
On about 28 June 2001 reports were announced that someone had supposedly located the wreckage of "HMAS Sydney" and possibly the "Kormoran" somewhere off Geraldton. These claims were never substantiated. A week earlier the Department of Defence announced they may have found the grave of a sailor from HMAS Sydney on Christmas Island (see below).
The following article was from Perth "ABC News Online" Home Page dated 1 July 2001:-
Dispute over location of watery grave
A Canberra researcher has questioned claims by a NSW team that they have found the final resting place of the Australian Navy cruiser HMAS Sydney, which sank off the West Australian coast in 1941.
The NSW study puts the wreck about 170 kilometres south-west of Geraldton at about 4.8 kilometres deep, it also claims to know the location of the wreck of the German ship Kormoran. (Kormoran was actually located on 12 March 2008 approximately 460kms NNW of this claimed location).
Former Canberra public servant Michael McGeorge has been investigating the issue with others over two years, including visits to Western Australia and interviews with eye witnesses to the battle.
Mr McGeorge says there is substantial evidence the wrecks are in another location, in much shallower water.
"I suggest that no matter what anybody thinks about where we know these wrecks are, that shallow water should be investigated before wasting time and money possibly, I'm not saying will be a waste but I think as a matter of course that logically that shallow water should be investigated and we're certain the wrecks are there," he said.
The following article was from Geraldton "ABC News Online" Home Page dated 17 June 2001:-
Govt pledges $200,000 for HMAS Sydney memorial
The Federal Government has pledged $200,000 to help build a memorial commemorating the crew of HMAS Sydney.
The Sydney sunk after a battle with the German raider Kormoran in 1941 about four weeks after leaving Geraldton in WA's midwest.
Local Federal member Wilson Tuckey says the memorial will be built on Mount Scott overlooking the Geraldton harbour and will feature a woman and child farewelling the vessel.
He says the Sydney's sinking has a special significance in Australia's military history.
"It was the most significant single disaster for the Australian Defence Forces in its history," he said.
"Roughly 650 people lost their life as you know and I'm sure that the great mystery that surrounds its disappearance has always focused people."
Department of Defence Media Mail List
PACC 209/01 Wednesday, June 20 2001
NAVY HAS GRAVE IN ITS SITES
The Royal Australian Navy believes the team it sent to Christmas Island may have found the site of the grave of the Unknown Sailor.
The body of a sailor was recovered on Christmas Island on February 6 1942 and was subsequently buried in an unmarked grave. A Parliamentary Inquiry deemed it as "highly probable" that the sailor was from the ill-fated cruiser HMAS Sydney, lost with all hands after a desperate fight with the German raider Kormoran.
During the week June 8 to 14 the four-person team, led by Lieutenant Commander Richard Chartier from Navy Headquarters in Canberra, narrowed the search field to an area of about 12 square meters and believes they may have identified a possible location of the unmarked grave within that area.
According to Lieutenant Commander Chartier the old European Cemetery had changed significantly since the sailor was buried there.
"Most of the site was overgrown with scrub and a large amount of debris has been deposited over the area," he said. "The regrowth and the steep slope combined to make the search quite difficult."
The weather was also a factor that required consideration by the team. "Torrential rain made the surface of the cemetery muddy, slippery and quite hazardous. Our First Aid Kit was put to good use as team members received minor cuts and abrasions during the search," Lieutenant Commander Chartier said.
Despite the conditions, by Wednesday the team had cleared away the scrub, found the perimeters of the old residence garden, and marked out a path that led past the gravesite.
"Mr Kevin Lourey, a crucial member of the team, who spent 20 years on Christmas as a civil engineer from 1949, was then able to identify a grave-sized area that he believes is where the grave is located. An area of about 12 square meters has been set aside for an eventual excavation." Lieutenant Commander Chartier said.
"We have sketched the area and requested that a detailed survey be conducted. However, all markings will be removed to reduce the likelihood of disturbance to the site to our return later in the year to attempt an exhumation of the remains."
The team returned to the mainland on Friday June 15 and is hopeful that it has located the unmarked grave. Nevertheless, as explained in the Parliamentary Inquiry's Report on the Loss of HMAS Sydney, it must be stressed that even if remains are found, they may not reveal the identity of the Unknown Sailor.
Should any remains be found, a decision will be made in due course regarding their future reinterment.
Before departing Lieutenant Commander Chartier was full of praise for the support and interest extended his party on Christmas Island. "The cooperation we received was marvellous," he said. "People made us feel most welcome and the assistance they provided made our job so much easier."
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© Peter Dunn 2015
This page first produced 8 January 2001
This page last updated 08 December 2017