An expedition to survey the historic World War II shipwrecks of HMAS Sydney II and the German raider HSK Kormoran has produced new high resolution images and a video from the HMAS Sydney’s wreck to confirm why it was so quickly disabled, leading to catastrophic damage and the loss of all on board – 645 crew – during World War II.
On 19 November 1941, HMAS Sydney, a light cruiser of the Royal Australian Navy with an impressive record of war service, was lost following a battle with the German raider HSK Kormoran in the Indian Ocean off the Western Australian coast. The loss of the Sydney with its full war complement of 645 remains Australia’s worst naval disaster. The Kormoran was also sunk, but 317 of its crew of 397 were rescued. The fate of the Sydney remains one of Australia’s greatest wartime mysteries with not even the location of the wrecks established until 2008.
The new images taken two days ago by Curtin University on board DOF Subsea’s vessel Skandi Protector clearly shows a 15cm shell hole through the bridge at the compass platform. According to the Western Australian Museum’s CEO Alec Coles “it was a remarkable early discovery for the expedition, and provided support for the theory that within the first 30 seconds of the battle Sydney’s bridge was destroyed, her command structure lost, and her ability to effectively fight back severely disabled“.
“This also supports the German captain Theodor Detmers’ account of the battle which states the first salvo to hit Sydney was a direct hit to the bridge,” Mr Coles said.
When the wrecks were found in 2008 the shell hole was not obvious, presenting as a shadow in the photographs taken.
The wrecks lie in 2.5 km of water, 20 km apart, about 200 km west of Steep Point at Shark Bay.