Battle between HMAS Sydney and HSK Kormoran
The battle between HMAS Sydney and German auxiliary cruiser Kormoran was a single ship action between the Australian light cruiser , with Captain Joseph Burnett
Joseph Burnett
Joseph Burnett was a Royal Australian Navy officer most widely known as the captain of the light cruiser in the battle between HMAS Sydney and HSK Kormoran on 19 November 1941...

 commanding, and the German auxiliary cruiser , under Fregattenkapitän (Commander) Theodor Detmers
Theodor Detmers
Theodor Detmers was the commanding officer of the German auxiliary cruiser Kormoran. He was also a recipient of the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross...

. The half-hour long engagement occurred after the two ships encountered each other off the coast of Western Australia
Western Australia
Western Australia is a state of Australia, occupying the entire western third of the Australian continent. It is bounded by the Indian Ocean to the north and west, the Great Australian Bight and Indian Ocean to the south, the Northern Territory to the north-east and South Australia to the south-east...

 on 19 November 1941, and resulted in the ships' mutual destruction.

When Sydney failed to return to port, air and sea searches for the cruiser were conducted between 24 and 29 November. Three boats and two rafts carrying German survivors were recovered by merchant ships, while another two German boats made landfall north of Carnarvon, Western Australia
Carnarvon, Western Australia
Carnarvon is a coastal town situated approximately 900 kilometres north of Perth, Western Australia. It lies at the mouth of the Gascoyne River on the Indian Ocean. The popular Shark Bay world heritage area lies to the south of the town and the Ningaloo Reef lies to the north...

: 318 of the 399 personnel from Kormoran survived. However, apart from two pieces of debris, no sign was found of Sydney or the 645 aboard; it was the largest loss of life in the history of the Royal Australian Navy
Royal Australian Navy
The Royal Australian Navy is the naval branch of the Australian Defence Force. Following the Federation of Australia in 1901, the ships and resources of the separate colonial navies were integrated into a national force: the Commonwealth Naval Forces...

 (RAN), and the largest Allied
Allies of World War II
The Allies of World War II were the countries that opposed the Axis powers during the Second World War . Former Axis states contributing to the Allied victory are not considered Allied states...

 warship lost with all hands during World War II. Australian authorities learned of Sydneys fate from the Germans, who were then placed in prisoner of war
Prisoner of war
A prisoner of war or enemy prisoner of war is a person, whether civilian or combatant, who is held in custody by an enemy power during or immediately after an armed conflict...

 camps until the end of the war. The exact location of the two wrecks was unknown until March 2008.

How and why Sydney was defeated by the weaker Kormoran has been the subject of speculation and controversy, with numerous books on the subject, along with government inquiries published in 1999 and 2009. According to the German accounts, which were accepted as truthful by their interrogators and most subsequent commentators, the cruiser sailed too close to the disguised merchant raider, negating the advantages of armour and superior gun range, and was destroyed by heavy fire and a torpedo strike after Kormoran revealed herself. However, some believe that the truth of Sydneys loss has been the subject of an extensive cover-up
A cover-up is an attempt, whether successful or not, to conceal evidence of wrong-doing, error, incompetence or other embarrassing information...

, alleging that the Germans did not follow the laws of war
Laws of war
The law of war is a body of law concerning acceptable justifications to engage in war and the limits to acceptable wartime conduct...

, the Japanese were secretly involved, and any Australian survivors were killed in the water to hide this. No evidence has been found to support any of these theories.


HMAS Sydney

was one of three "Modified Leander" or "Perth" class light cruisers of the RAN. Built for the Royal Navy
Royal Navy
The Royal Navy is the naval warfare service branch of the British Armed Forces. Founded in the 16th century, it is the oldest service branch and is known as the Senior Service...

, the cruiser was purchased by the Australian government to replace , and was commissioned into the RAN in September 1935. The cruiser was 562 in 4 in (171.4 m) long, and displaced
Displacement (ship)
A ship's displacement is its weight at any given time, generally expressed in metric tons or long tons. The term is often used to mean the ship's weight when it is loaded to its maximum capacity. A number of synonymous terms exist for this maximum weight, such as loaded displacement, full load...

 8940 LT (9,083.5 t). Sydney carried eight 6 in (152.4 mm) guns
BL 6 inch Mk XXIII naval gun
The 50 calibre BL 6 inch gun Mark XXIII was the main battery gun used on the Royal Navy's conventional light cruisers built from 1930 through the Second World War.-Description:...

 in four twin turrets ("A" and "B" forward, "X" and "Y" aft) as primary armament. These were supplemented by four 4 in (101.6 mm)
QF 4 inch Mk V naval gun
The QF 4 inch Mk V gun was a Royal Navy gun of World War I which was adapted on HA mountings to the heavy anti-aircraft role both at sea and on land, and was also used as a coast defence gun.-Naval service:...

 anti-aircraft gun
Anti-aircraft warfare
NATO defines air defence as "all measures designed to nullify or reduce the effectiveness of hostile air action." They include ground and air based weapon systems, associated sensor systems, command and control arrangements and passive measures. It may be to protect naval, ground and air forces...

s, nine 0.303 in (7.7 mm)
.303 British
.303 British, or 7.7x56mmR, is a .311 inch calibre rifle and machine gun cartridge first developed in Britain as a blackpowder round put into service in December 1888 for the Lee-Metford rifle, later adapted to use smokeless powders...

 machine gun
Machine gun
A machine gun is a fully automatic mounted or portable firearm, usually designed to fire rounds in quick succession from an ammunition belt or large-capacity magazine, typically at a rate of several hundred rounds per minute....

s, and eight 21 in (533.4 mm) torpedo tube
Torpedo tube
A torpedo tube is a device for launching torpedoes. There are two main types of torpedo tube: underwater tubes fitted to submarines and some surface ships, and deck-mounted units installed aboard surface vessels...

s in two quadruple mountings. The cruiser also carried a single Supermarine Walrus
Supermarine Walrus
The Supermarine Walrus was a British single-engine amphibious biplane reconnaissance aircraft designed by R. J. Mitchell and operated by the Fleet Air Arm . It also served with the Royal Air Force , Royal Australian Air Force , Royal Canadian Air Force , Royal New Zealand Navy and Royal New...

 amphibious aircraft.
Initially assigned to escort and patrol duties in Australian waters, Sydney was sent to the Mediterranean in mid-1940. Sydney operated against Italian naval forces
Battle of the Mediterranean
The Battle of the Mediterranean was the name given to the naval campaign fought in the Mediterranean Sea during World War II, from 10 June 1940-2 May 1945....

 for eight months, during which she participated in multiple battles, sank two Italian warships and several merchantmen, and supported convoy operations and shore bombardments. The cruiser was recalled to Australia in early January 1941: the need to rest the ship and her crew, plans to spread combat experience across the RAN fleet, and a desire to reinforce the nation following German raider activity in nearby waters were all factors. Sydney was assigned to Fremantle, Western Australia
Fremantle, Western Australia
Fremantle is a city in Western Australia, located at the mouth of the Swan River. Fremantle Harbour serves as the port of Perth, the state capital. Fremantle was the first area settled by the Swan River colonists in 1829...

, and resumed escort and patrol duties. Command was handed over from Captain John Collins to Captain Joseph Burnett
Joseph Burnett
Joseph Burnett was a Royal Australian Navy officer most widely known as the captain of the light cruiser in the battle between HMAS Sydney and HSK Kormoran on 19 November 1941...

 in May 1941.

On 11 November, Sydney departed Fremantle for Singapore
Singapore , officially the Republic of Singapore, is a Southeast Asian city-state off the southern tip of the Malay Peninsula, north of the equator. An island country made up of 63 islands, it is separated from Malaysia by the Straits of Johor to its north and from Indonesia's Riau Islands by the...

 with the transport . The vessels sailed to Sunda Strait, where the troopship was handed over on 17 November to . Sydney then turned for home, and was scheduled to arrive in Fremantle late on 20 November. At the time of the battle, she had a ship's company of 645: 41 officers, 594 sailors, six Royal Australian Air Force
Royal Australian Air Force
The Royal Australian Air Force is the air force branch of the Australian Defence Force. The RAAF was formed in March 1921. It continues the traditions of the Australian Flying Corps , which was formed on 22 October 1912. The RAAF has taken part in many of the 20th century's major conflicts...

 personnel, and four civilian canteen staff.


During the 1930s, discrepancies between the conventional warship strength of the Kriegsmarine
The Kriegsmarine was the name of the German Navy during the Nazi regime . It superseded the Kaiserliche Marine of World War I and the post-war Reichsmarine. The Kriegsmarine was one of three official branches of the Wehrmacht, the unified armed forces of Nazi Germany.The Kriegsmarine grew rapidly...

 (German Navy) and other nations caused by the Treaty of Versailles
Treaty of Versailles
The Treaty of Versailles was one of the peace treaties at the end of World War I. It ended the state of war between Germany and the Allied Powers. It was signed on 28 June 1919, exactly five years after the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand. The other Central Powers on the German side of...

 led the German military to recognise that auxiliary cruisers engaged in commerce raiding
Commerce raiding
Commerce raiding or guerre de course is a form of naval warfare used to destroy or disrupt the logistics of an enemy on the open sea by attacking its merchant shipping, rather than engaging the combatants themselves or enforcing a blockade against them.Commerce raiding was heavily criticised by...

 would be of use during future wars, and that suitable vessels should be identified. The merchant ship Steiermark was one such vessel; she was taken up by the Kriegsmarine at the start of World War II. Renamed , she was the largest and newest of nine raiders, referred to as Hilfskreuzer (auxiliary cruisers) or Handelsstörkreuzer (trade disruption cruisers).
Kormoran was commissioned in October 1940: after modification, she was 515 ft (157 m) long, and displaced 8736 LT (8,876.2 t). The raider was fitted with six single 5.9 in (149.9 mm) guns (two each in the forecastle and quarterdeck, with the fifth and sixth on the centreline) as main armament, supplemented by two 37 mm (1.46 in) anti-tank guns, five 20 mm (0.78740157480315 in) anti-aircraft autocannon
An autocannon or automatic cannon is a rapid-fire projectile weapon firing a shell as opposed to the bullet fired by a machine gun. Autocannons often have a larger caliber than a machine gun . Usually, autocannons are smaller than a field gun or other artillery, and are mechanically loaded for a...

s, and six 21 in (533.4 mm) torpedo tubes (a twin above-water mount on each side, and two single underwater tubes). The 5.9 in (149.9 mm) guns were concealed behind false hull plates and cargo hatch walls, which would swing clear when the order to decamouflage was given, while the secondary weapons sat on hydraulic lifts hidden within the superstructure. To facilitate her role, the ship could be disguised as one of several Allied or neutral vessels.

Kormoran departed German waters during December 1940, under the command of Fregattenkapitän (Commander) Theodor Detmers
Theodor Detmers
Theodor Detmers was the commanding officer of the German auxiliary cruiser Kormoran. He was also a recipient of the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross...

. After operating in the Atlantic, during which time she sank seven merchant ships and captured an eighth, the raider sailed to the Indian Ocean in late April 1941. Only three merchantmen were intercepted during the next six months, and Kormoran was diverted multiple times to refuel German support ships. As the raider was carrying several hundred sea mines
Naval mine
A naval mine is a self-contained explosive device placed in water to destroy surface ships or submarines. Unlike depth charges, mines are deposited and left to wait until they are triggered by the approach of, or contact with, an enemy vessel...

 and was expected to deploy some of these before returning home in early 1942, Detmers planned to mine shipping routes near Cape Leeuwin
Cape Leeuwin
Cape Leeuwin is the most south-westerly mainland point of the Australian Continent, in the state of Western Australia.A few small islands and rocks, the St Alouarn Islands, extend further to the south. The nearest settlement, north of the cape, is Augusta. South-east of Cape Leeuwin, the coast...

 and Fremantle, but postponed this after detecting wireless signals from a warship (Australian heavy cruiser ) in the area. Instead, he decided to sail north and investigate Shark Bay
Shark Bay
Shark Bay is a World Heritage listed bay in Western Australia. The term may also refer to:* the locality of Shark Bay, now known as Denham* Shark Bay Marine Park* Shark Bay , a shark exhibit at Sea World, Gold Coast, Australia* Shire of Shark Bay...

. At the time of the battle, the raider was disguised as the Dutch merchantman Straat Malakka, and carried 399 personnel: 36 officers, 359 sailors, and 4 Chinese sailors hired from the crew of a captured merchantman to run the ship's laundry.


On 19 November, shortly before 16:00, Kormoran was 150 nmi (172.6 mi; 277.8 km) south-west of Carnarvon, Western Australia
Carnarvon, Western Australia
Carnarvon is a coastal town situated approximately 900 kilometres north of Perth, Western Australia. It lies at the mouth of the Gascoyne River on the Indian Ocean. The popular Shark Bay world heritage area lies to the south of the town and the Ningaloo Reef lies to the north...

. The raider was sailing northwards (heading 025°) at 11 knots (6 m/s). At 15:55, what was initially thought to be a tall ship
Tall ship
A tall ship is a large, traditionally-rigged sailing vessel. Popular modern tall ship rigs include topsail schooners, brigantines, brigs and barques. "Tall Ship" can also be defined more specifically by an organization, such as for a race or festival....

 sail was sighted off the port bow, although it was quickly determined to be the mast of a warship (HMAS Sydney). Detmers ordered Kormoran to alter course into the sun (heading 260°) at maximum achievable speed (which quickly dropped from 15 knot because of problems in one of her diesel engines), while setting the ship to action stations
Action Stations
Action Stations is the general signal to the personnel of a warship that combat with a hostile attacker is imminent or deemed probable...

. Sydney spotted the German ship around the same time, and altered from her southward heading to intercept at 25 kn (13.6 m/s).
As she closed the gap, the Australian cruiser requested that Kormoran identify herself. Communications were initially attempted with a signal lamp
Signal lamp
A signal lamp is a visual signaling device for optical communication . Modern signal lamps are a focused lamp which can produce a pulse of light...

 to repeatedly send "NNJ" ("You should make your signal letters"), but those aboard the raider did not understand the uncommonly used signal and did not respond. Sydney continued to signal for 30 minutes, after which those aboard the cruiser used flags
International maritime signal flags
The system of international maritime signal flags is one system of flag signals representing individual letters of the alphabet in signals to or from ships...

 to send the more common "VH" signal ("You should hoist your signal letters"), while the signal lamp was used to transmit the message in plain language. After another delay, Kormoran raised "PKQI"—the call-sign for the Dutch merchant ship Straat Malakka—on the triatic stay
Stays (nautical)
Stays are the heavy ropes, wires, or rods on sailing vessels that run from the masts to the hull, usually fore-and-aft along the centerline of the vessel...

 and hoisted a Dutch merchant ensign. As Sydney was approaching from just starboard of Kormorans stern and 15000 m (49,212.6 ft) away, the call-sign was obscured by the raider's funnel: German accounts vary as to if this was to further the illusion of a civilian ship, a ruse to lure Sydney closer, or an error on the signaller's part. Sydney signalled "Make your signal letters clear", which the signals officer aboard Kormoran did by lengthening the halyard
In sailing, a halyard or halliard is a line that is used to hoist a sail, a flag or a yard. The term halyard comes from the phrase, 'to haul yards'...

 and swinging it around to starboard. By 16:35, with Sydney 8000 m (26,246.7 ft) away, the malfunctioning engine aboard Kormoran was repaired, but Detmers chose to keep it in reserve.

Sydney asked Kormoran "Where bound?", to which the raider responded "Batavia". Sydney may have then made signals asking for the raider's port of origin and cargo; the Germans who claimed this said their replies were "Fremantle" and "Piece-goods" respectively. At around 17:00, Detmers instructed his wireless operators to send a false distress signal indicating that Straat Malakka was being approached by a suspicious ship. The message, transmitted at 17:03 and repeated at 17:05, contained the distress call for a merchantman under attack from a raider instead of a warship (QQQQ, as opposed to RRRR), the latitude and longitude of the transmitting ship, the time per Greenwich Mean Time
Greenwich Mean Time
Greenwich Mean Time is a term originally referring to mean solar time at the Royal Observatory in Greenwich, London. It is arguably the same as Coordinated Universal Time and when this is viewed as a time zone the name Greenwich Mean Time is especially used by bodies connected with the United...

 (normal practice was to transmit local time; using GMT was to let the Kriegsmarine know that the ship was actually a raider about to be lost), and the ship's name. This signal was partially received by the tugboat Uco ("QQQQ [unintelligible] 1000 GMT") and a shore station at Geraldton, Western Australia
Geraldton, Western Australia
Geraldton is a city and port in Western Australia located north of Perth in the Mid West region. Geraldton has an estimated population at June 2010 of 36,958...

 ("[unintelligible] 7C 11115E 1000 GMT"). The Geraldton station broadcast a message to all ships asking if there was anything to report (which was interpreted by the Germans as acknowledgement of their signal), but after no response was forthcoming, ignored it until a report on the signal was forwarded to the Naval Board on 27 November.
During the exchanges and distress signal, Sydney positioned herself just off the raider's starboard beam on a parallel course, approximately 1300 m (4,265.1 ft) from Kormoran. The cruiser may or may not have been at action stations
Action Stations
Action Stations is the general signal to the personnel of a warship that combat with a hostile attacker is imminent or deemed probable...

: the main guns and port torpedo launcher were trained on Kormoran and her Walrus
Supermarine Walrus
The Supermarine Walrus was a British single-engine amphibious biplane reconnaissance aircraft designed by R. J. Mitchell and operated by the Fleet Air Arm . It also served with the Royal Air Force , Royal Australian Air Force , Royal Canadian Air Force , Royal New Zealand Navy and Royal New...

 scout plane had been readied for launch, prompting Detmers to inform his crew to prepare to engage Sydney, but her 4 in (101.6 mm) guns were unmanned, and personnel were standing on the upper deck. During her manoeuvre, Sydney appeared to signal "IK" (the short-form for "You should prepare for a cyclone, hurricane, or typhoon"), which Kormoran did not respond to, as from their perspective, such a signal did not make sense. The Germans were unaware that the letters were the interior of Straat Malakkas secret callsign, "IIKP": to verify her identity, the ship had to signal back the outer letters. The aircraft was shut down by 17:25, and the catapult swung into the storage position; the two ships were too close for a safe launch.

At around 17:30, after the raider had failed to reply for fifteen minutes, Sydney signalled by light "Show your secret sign"; Detmers knew that Kormoran was in trouble.


In response to the cruiser's signal, Detmers ordered that Kormorans disguise be dropped, the Dutch flag replaced with the Kriegsmarine ensign, and for the guns and torpedoes to open fire. Accounts disagree on which ship fired first, but agree that both opened fire almost simultaneously. The first shots from Sydney, a full, eight-shell salvo from the main guns, were reported in most accounts to have passed over Kormoran, although some of the Germans said that shells punched through the funnel and the wireless office at bridge level without exploding, and hit the water on the far side of the raider. One analysis claims that this was either a warning shot just over the superstructure, or an attempt to destroy the raider's bridge as a prelude to capture. With Kormorans opening salvo (which consisted of two shells instead of four because the raider's two centreline guns were slower to decamouflage), the gunnery officer attempted to bracket the cruiser's bridge but failed to hit it, with the shells striking other parts of the ship or missing completely. Two torpedoes from Kormorans starboard above-water tubes were launched simultaneously with the raider's attack, and the close proximity of the target allowed the use of the anti-aircraft and close defence guns to rake Sydneys flank, thus preventing the use of the cruiser's secondary weapons.

Subsequent salvoes from the raider were more accurate. The second, three-shell salvo destroyed Sydneys bridge and damaged her upper superstructure, including the gun direction control tower
Director (military)
A director, also called an auxiliary predictor, is a mechanical or electronic computer that continuously calculates trigonometric firing solutions for use against a moving target, and transmits targeting data to direct the weapon firing crew....

, wireless offices, and foremast. The fourth 5.9 in (149.9 mm) gun was ready by this time, and all four began to fire: the third and fourth salvoes knocked the cruiser's "A" and "B" turrets out of action before they could fire a second time, and the fifth hit Sydney on the waterline in proximity to the forward engine room, although one shell hit high and destroyed the Walrus. Kormorans guns were aimed at Sydneys waterline and upper deck during the next three salvoes. After the sixth German salvo, Sydney resumed fire with her aft turrets: "Y" turret fired less than four times with little effect, but multiple shots from "X" turret struck Kormoran, damaging the raider's machinery spaces, wounding the sailors manning one of the guns, and starting a fire in an oil tank.

Around the time of the eighth or ninth German salvo, one of the two torpedoes fired at the start of the engagement struck Sydney just forward of "A" turret and near the asdic compartment (the weakest point on the ship's hull), ripping a hole in the side and causing the bow of the cruiser to angle down. After the torpedo strike, Sydney turned hard to port: the Germans assumed that the Australian ship was trying to ram them, but the cruiser passed aft. During the turn, the 10th German salvo tore the roof from "B" turret and destroyed "A" turret's housing.

The main phase of the engagement ended around 17:35, with Sydney heading south and slowing, while Kormoran maintained her course and speed. Sydneys main armament was completely disabled (the forward turrets were damaged or destroyed, while the aft turrets were jammed facing port, away from Kormoran), and her secondary weapons were out of range. The cruiser was wreathed in smoke from fires burning in the engine room and forward superstructure, and around the aircraft catapult. Kormoran discontinued salvo firing, but the individually firing aft guns scored hits as Sydney crossed the raider's stern.

At around 17:45, Sydney fired two torpedoes from her starboard tubes (although some Germans reported more). Prior to the torpedo launch, Detmers had decided to destroy Sydney completely and ordered the raider to turn to port so four-gun salvoes could be fired: this manoeuvre caused the torpedoes to pass astern of Kormoran. After completing the turn, battle damage caused Kormorans engines to fail completely, leaving the raider dead in the water while Sydney continued to sail southwards at low speed. Kormoran maintained a high rate of fire despite being immobilised—some sailors claimed that up to 450 shells were used during the second phase of the battle—and scored hits on the cruiser, although many shells missed as the range increased. The raider fired her guns for the last time around 17:50, with the range at 6600 yards (6,035 m), and a torpedo was launched at 18:00, but missed Sydney.


By the end of the 30-minute battle, the ships were about 10000 m (32,808.4 ft) apart: both were heavily damaged and on fire.

Sydney was proceeding on a south-south-east bearing, apparently not under control. The Australian warship quickly disappeared from German sight, although the glow of the burning ship consistently lit the horizon until 22:00, with some German survivors stating that the light was visible consistently or occasionally until midnight. Sydney sank during the night; it was originally thought that the cruiser exploded when fires reached the shell magazine
Magazine (disambiguation)
A magazine is a kind of periodical publication.Magazine may also refer to:-Storage:*Magazine , a place to store ammunition in warships and fortifications*Magazine , a device that holds ammunition for firearms...

s or torpedo launchers, or took on water through the shellholes on her port side and capsize
Capsizing is an act of tipping over a boat or ship to disable it. The act of reversing a capsized vessel is called righting.If a capsized vessel has sufficient flotation to prevent sinking, it may recover on its own if the stability is such that it is not stable inverted...

d. However, after the wrecks were located, it was determined that Sydney lost buoyancy and sank upright: the bow was torn off as she submerged and descended almost vertically, while the rest of the hull glided 500 m (1,640.4 ft) forward as she sank, hitting the bottom stern first.

Kormoran was stationary, and at 18:25, Detmers ordered the ship to be abandoned, as damage to the raider's engine room had knocked out the fire-fighting systems, and there was no way to control or contain the oil fire before it reached the magazines or the mine hold. All boats and liferafts were launched by 21:00, and all but one filled: a skeleton crew manned the weapons while the officers prepared to scuttle
Scuttling is the act of deliberately sinking a ship by allowing water to flow into the hull.This can be achieved in several ways—valves or hatches can be opened to the sea, or holes may be ripped into the hull with brute force or with explosives...

 the ship. Kormoran was abandoned at midnight; the ship sank slowly until the mine hold exploded 30 minutes later. The German survivors were in five boats and two rafts: one cutter carrying 46 men, two damaged steel liferafts with 57 and 62 aboard (the latter carrying Detmers and towing several small floats), one workboat carrying 72 people, one boat with 31 men aboard, and two rafts, each bearing 26 sailors. During the evacuation, a rubber liferaft carrying 60 people, mostly wounded, sank without warning; killing all but three aboard. Total German casualties were six officers, 75 German sailors, and one Chinese sailor.

Search and rescue

Note: All times in this section are UTC+8
UTC+08:00 is an identifier for a time offset from UTC of +08:00. In ISO 8601 the associated time would be written as .With an estimated population of 1.53 billion living within the time zone, roughly 22.5% of the world population, it is the most populous time zone in world, as well as a possible...


When Sydney did not arrive on schedule, there was little immediate concern: the northbound journey with Zealandia could have taken longer than expected, Durban may have been late to the rendezvous, Sydney could have diverted to aid southbound merchant shipping, or minor engine problems may have occurred. Warships were expected to maintain wireless silence unless necessary; none of these were sufficient reason to break silence and inform Fremantle of the delay. When the ship failed to arrive by 23 November, wireless communications stations (initially those in Fremantle, then all high-power stations in Australia) began to send out signals ordering Sydney to report in.

At 06:00 on 23 November, the troopship recovered one of the two rafts carrying 26 German sailors at 24°35′S 110°57′E. Initially believing that these were survivors of a German raider attack, and that the raider may still be in the area, Aquitania resumed her voyage to Sydney, maintaining silence until the afternoon of 26 November. Detmers saw the troopship, but he did not make their boat's presence known, as he hoped to be recovered by a neutral
Neutral Powers
Neutral Powers refers to those countries which remained neutral during World War II. During World War II, these nations were Ireland, Portugal, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland...


Six Lockheed Hudson
Lockheed Hudson
The Lockheed Hudson was an American-built light bomber and coastal reconnaissance aircraft built initially for the Royal Air Force shortly before the outbreak of the Second World War and primarily operated by the RAF thereafter...

 aircraft from No. 14 Squadron RAAF
No. 14 Squadron RAAF
No. 14 Squadron was a Royal Australian Air Force maritime patrol squadron of World War II. The Squadron was based in Western Australia throughout the war and was disbanded in 1945.-Squadron history:...

, based at RAAF Base Pearce
RAAF Base Pearce
RAAF Base Pearce is the main RAAF base in Western Australia. The base is located in Bullsbrook, north of Perth. It is used for training by the Royal Australian Air Force and the Republic of Singapore Air Force...

, began to search for the ship on the morning of 24 November. When it was learned that the Zealandia handover occurred on schedule, air searches commenced in the Java Sea. The first news relating to the engagement between Sydney and Kormoran was received by the Australian Naval Board during the afternoon of 24 November; the British tanker Trocas reported that she had rescued a raft at 15:00 carrying 25 German naval personnel (one having perished) at 24°6′S 111°40′E. After further communication with Trocas, the Naval Board learned that the sailors had come from the raider Kormoran, which had participated in a mutually destructive engagement with an unspecified ship, which the Naval Board assumed was Sydney.
Wireless signals to Sydney ceased, as it was assumed that if the cruiser had survived, battle damage or operational reasons prevented her reply. Six nearby merchant vessels (Pan Europe, Saidja, , Sunetta, Centaur
AHS Centaur
Australian Hospital Ship Centaur was a hospital ship which was attacked and sunk by a Japanese submarine off the coast of Queensland, Australia, on 14 May 1943...

, and Hermion) were instructed to pass through that location and keep a lookout for survivors or wreckage of either ship, while four RAN auxiliaries sailed from Fremantle to search the area. Aircraft from No. 14 and No. 25
No. 25 Squadron RAAF
No. 25 Squadron is a general reserve squadron of the Royal Australian Air Force. The squadron is based at RAAF Base Pearce in Perth, Western Australia and forms part of the Combat Reserve Wing. The squadron has been based at Pearce since 1938. 25 Squadron was originally formed at RAAF Base...

 Squadrons were relocated to Carnarvon to commence aerial searches from there the next morning, and were supplemented by two PBY Catalina
PBY Catalina
The Consolidated PBY Catalina was an American flying boat of the 1930s and 1940s produced by Consolidated Aircraft. It was one of the most widely used multi-role aircraft of World War II. PBYs served with every branch of the United States Armed Forces and in the air forces and navies of many other...

 flying boats; one each from Townsville and Port Moresby. On 25 November, was sent from Sunda Strait to follow Sydneys assumed course if she had headed for Surabaya or Singapore after sustaining damage.

Several German lifeboats were spotted on 25 November during the air search off Western Australia: the 46-man cutter had come ashore at 17-Mile Well, the 57-man lifeboat was nearing Red Bluff when spotted, and a third lifeboat was further off the coast. That afternoon, the staff of Quobba Station rounded up the two groups that had made landfall with no resistance. On the morning of 26 November, aircraft spotted two boats at sea, but were unable to find them again that afternoon. At sunset, the 31-man boat was located by the passenger ship Koolinda at 24°07′S 112°46′E, which recovered the sailors and made for Carnarvon.

Centaur, which had been ordered to collect the Germans from Carnarvon and transport them to Fremantle, encountered Detmers' lifeboat at 22:20, at coordinates 24°39′S 112°15′E. The crew of Centaur lowered food to the 62 in the lifeboat, took on 9 wounded, and began to tow the lifeboat. During the voyage to Carnarvon, the damaged and overloaded German lifeboat was swamped: Centaurs master lowered two of his lifeboats for the Germans to use, before resuming the "motley towing combination". Arriving in Carnarvon on the afternoon of 27 November, the Germans were relocated from the boats to Centaurs cargo holds, where they were joined by their colleagues which had reached shore and Australian Army
Australian Army
The Australian Army is Australia's military land force. It is part of the Australian Defence Force along with the Royal Australian Navy and the Royal Australian Air Force. While the Chief of Defence commands the Australian Defence Force , the Army is commanded by the Chief of Army...

 guards. The last boat, carrying seventy Germans and two Chinese, was spotted from the air at 25°4′S 112°4′E during the late morning of 27 November, and was recovered shortly after by HMAS Yandra. On 28 November, HMAS Wyrallah found a German lifebelt and two four-man liferafts, one of which was carrying a deceased German sailor, who was buried at sea.
The search was terminated at sunset on 29 November. All of the German lifeboats were accounted for: between them, 318 of Kormorans 399 personnel survived. Conversely, none of 645 from Sydney were found, and the only definite remains from the Australian warship were an inflatable lifebelt located by HMAS Wyrallah on 27 November (the discovery of a second RAN lifebelt by the merchant ship Evagoras that same day was initially reported, but later found to be false), and a damaged carley float
Carley float
The Carley float was a form of invertible liferaft designed by American inventor Horace Carley . Supplied mainly to warships, it saw widespread use in a number of navies during peacetime and both World Wars until superseded by more modern rigid or inflatable designs...

 discovered by HMAS Heros on 28 November. A second carley float, which washed up on Christmas Island in February 1942, is believed to be linked with the cruiser.


On 26 November, the Naval Board distributed lists of Sydneys ship's company to all district naval offices. Telegrams to next-of-kin, stating that their relatives were "missing as a result of enemy action" were lodged, although naval censors advised the media that no announcements relating to the cruiser be made. Despite this, rumours about the ship's loss were circulating, fuelled by the lack of information to substantiate the "missing" telegrams. Australian Prime Minister John Curtin
John Curtin
John Joseph Curtin , Australian politician, served as the 14th Prime Minister of Australia. Labor under Curtin formed a minority government in 1941 after the crossbench consisting of two independent MPs crossed the floor in the House of Representatives, bringing down the Coalition minority...

 officially announced the loss of the cruiser during the afternoon of 30 November. Censorship restrictions on the newspapers were lifted to publish the statement, but radio stations were instructed to wait 48 hours before broadcasting the news to avoid alerting any other German ships in the area. Several Melbourne stations disobeyed, and were temporarily suspended from broadcasting. Curtin made a second announcement three days later, providing what had been learned of the battle.

The destruction of Sydney with all hands was a major blow to morale: it was the largest loss of life in the history of the RAN, and the ship's company made up over 35% of RAN naval personnel killed during World War II. This was compounded by the loss of , which was sunk by a German U-boat on 27 November; news of this was announced a day after Sydneys fate was made public. However, the battle was not widely reported in other Allied nations, as it was a small loss compared to contemporary naval incidents — the aircraft carrier and the battleship were sunk in separate incidents during the same two-week period — and was quickly obscured by Japan's attacks on Pearl Harbor
Attack on Pearl Harbor
The attack on Pearl Harbor was a surprise military strike conducted by the Imperial Japanese Navy against the United States naval base at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, on the morning of December 7, 1941...

 and Singapore
Battle of Singapore
The Battle of Singapore was fought in the South-East Asian theatre of the Second World War when the Empire of Japan invaded the Allied stronghold of Singapore. Singapore was the major British military base in Southeast Asia and nicknamed the "Gibraltar of the East"...

 in early December. Sydney was the largest Allied ship to be lost with all hands during the war.

In Germany, news of the battle was assembled from communications intercepts during the search for survivors, which was combined with Allied news articles to assemble an account of the battle and published in early 1943 for internal consumption by German officials. The events were made public in December 1943, after the early accounts were confirmed by a member of Kormorans crew sent home in a prisoner exchange.

Interrogation of survivors

Interrogation of the German survivors to discover the fate of Sydney began on 25 November. This was initially hampered, as the sailors had been ordered to obfuscate the enemy by falsely answering all questions. Many did not follow this instruction, but their accounts included second-hand information of varying reliability. Several groups were quickly combined together, and had the opportunity to standardise any falsification: those who made landfall in two separate groups were combined, then placed aboard Centaur with the men from Detmers' lifeboat. However, some efforts were made to keep officers separate from the sailors; Detmers and his executive officer were initially held aboard HMAS Yandra, then transported overland to Fremantle, and while all of the sailors were interned at a camp near Harvey
Harvey, Western Australia
Harvey is a town located in the South West of Western Australia along the South Western Highway, 140 km south of Perth, between Pinjarra and Bunbury...

, the officers were imprisoned at Swanbourne Barracks. Not all groups had this opportunity: the survivors rescued by Aquitania were delivered to Sydney, and interrogations of these men showed the same commonalities and inconsistencies as the main body of interviews. In addition, some of the Germans were interviewed, formally or informally, prior to their group reuniting with others; the independent accounts provided the same common elements. Based on this, it was concluded that the true story was being given, and that there were no widespread attempts to falsify accounts.
After the main interrogations was completed, the Germans were moved from Fremantle to Murchison, Victoria
Murchison, Victoria
Murchison is a small rural village located on the Goulburn River in Victoria, Australia. Murchison is located 167 kilometres from Melbourne and is just to the west of the Goulburn Valley Highway between Shepparton and Nagambie. The surrounding countryside contains orchards, vineyards and dairy...

 during late December and early January: the officers aboard the troopship Duntroon, the sailors overland on two trains. The sailors were placed in No. 13 Prisoner of War Camp, which already hosted 1,200 soldiers of the Afrika Korps
Afrika Korps
The German Africa Corps , or the Afrika Korps as it was popularly called, was the German expeditionary force in Libya and Tunisia during the North African Campaign of World War II...

 and their shipmates rescued by Aquitania, while officers were sent to the nearby Dhurringile homestead
HM Prison Dhurringile
HM Prison Dhurringile is a minimum security prison located on Murchison Road, Murchison, Victoria, Australia.Situated 160 km north of Melbourne, the 68-room mansion, completed in 1877, was originally a homestead for a large farm. The house was completed for the Winter-Irving family, who were...

. Some further interrogations were carried out after this point. Listening devices were planted in the prisoners' quarters, and intelligence agents infiltrated the camp, but neither method provided new information.

One sailor died in captivity from lung cancer on 24 March 1942, and was buried in the Tatura
Tatura, Victoria
Tatura is a town 17 km west-south-west of Shepparton in Victoria, Australia located 3 km off the Midland Highway, forming part of the City of Greater Shepparton. At the 2006 census, Tatura had a population of 3,533, however the true figure is believed to be close to 4,400. Attractions...

 war cemetery. On 11 January 1945, Detmers and nineteen other Axis officers escaped from Dhurringile through a tunnel excavated during the previous seven months; all were recaptured within days. Detmers was found with a German-English dictionary which included two encrypted accounts of the battle (a deck log or action report, and an engineering log), although these provided little new information. Shortly after returning to the camp, Detmers was hospitalised for three months following a stroke.

The German officers and sailors were repatriated after the war, departing from Port Phillip Bay with other Axis prisoners aboard the steamer Orontes on 21 February 1947. Ironically, tied up to the opposite pier was the real Straat Malakka. On arrival in Cuxhaven, the prisoners were searched before leaving the ship; several written reports were confiscated, although nothing new was learned from these.

Honours and awards

For sinking Sydney, Detmers' Iron Cross
Iron Cross
The Iron Cross is a cross symbol typically in black with a white or silver outline that originated after 1219 when the Kingdom of Jerusalem granted the Teutonic Order the right to combine the Teutonic Black Cross placed above a silver Cross of Jerusalem....

 First Class was upgraded to the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross
Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross
The Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross was a grade of the 1939 version of the 1813 created Iron Cross . The Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross was the highest award of Germany to recognize extreme battlefield bravery or successful military leadership during World War II...

. Kormorans executive officer, gunnery officer, and the sailor who manned the starboard 37 mm (1.5 in) gun were awarded the Iron Cross First Class (for the executive officer, this was a bar
Medal bar
A medal bar or medal clasp is a thin metal bar attached to the ribbon of a military decoration, civil decoration, or other medal. It is most commonly used to indicate the campaign or operation the recipient received the award for, and multiple bars on the same medal are used to indicate that the...

 to a previous Iron Cross), while the other members of the crew were all awarded the Iron Cross Second Class.

Sydney was granted the battle honour
Battle honour
A battle honour is an award of a right by a government or sovereign to a military unit to emblazon the name of a battle or operation on its flags , uniforms or other accessories where ornamentation is possible....

 "Kormoran 1941" in recognition of the damage done to Kormoran. This was one of only three honours awarded during the 20th century for the sinking of a single ship, and the second granted to a ship named Sydney.

Post-war searches

Despite the approximate position of Kormoran being known (most German accounts giving the battle coordinates as 26°S 111°E), the required search area for both ships was unfeasibly large. This was due to the lack of a detailed location, a problem which was compounded by supporters of alternate engagement theories, who believed that the Germans were lying and that the ships would be found further south and closer to shore.

The survey ship conducted multiple unsuccessful searches for Sydney and Kormoran between 1974 and 1991, when the ship was based in Fremantle. Another search was conducted by in July 1997. However, all RAN surveys were restricted to the continental shelf
Continental shelf
The continental shelf is the extended perimeter of each continent and associated coastal plain. Much of the shelf was exposed during glacial periods, but is now submerged under relatively shallow seas and gulfs, and was similarly submerged during other interglacial periods. The continental margin,...

, as the navy did not possess the technology to effectively search the seabed off the shelf. The searches were not exhaustive, and were primarily a response to civilian claims that the wreck site was at a certain location, with the survey ship sent to prove or disprove the claim. Other searches were conducted by aircraft of the Royal Australian Air Force carrying magnetometer
A magnetometer is a measuring instrument used to measure the strength or direction of a magnetic field either produced in the laboratory or existing in nature...

s; again, these were only in response to claims of possible locations.

In 1990, the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution
Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution
The Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution is a private, nonprofit research and higher education facility dedicated to the study of all aspects of marine science and engineering and to the education of marine researchers. Established in 1930, it is the largest independent oceanographic research...

 (WHOI) were approached to join a Western Australian Maritime Museum-led search for Sydney and Kormoran, which was agreed to on the condition that the search area be narrowed considerably. This was attempted at a 1991 forum: although the location of the battle was generally agreed upon, because the exact fate and time of sinking for Sydney was unknown, the possible location could not be more accurately determined. Though WHOI staff were initially positive the search area could not be narrowed down, shipwreck hunter Robert Ballard
Robert Ballard
Robert Duane Ballard is a former United States Navy officer and a professor of oceanography at the University of Rhode Island who is most noted for his work in underwater archaeology. He is most famous for the discoveries of the wrecks of the RMS Titanic in 1985, the battleship Bismarck in 1989,...

 commented that searching for the ships could not be described as a needle in a haystack, "because the haystack has not yet been found", and the WHOI withdrew their support.

Following the 1999 government report into the Australian cruiser's loss, which recommended that a seminar be organised to again attempt to identify the most likely search area for the warships, the HMAS Sydney Location Seminar was organised by the RAN's Sea Power Centre and held at the Western Australian Maritime Museum. However, participants in the seminar could not agree on whether the battle location given by the Germans (referred to as the "northern position") or a point off the Abrolhos Islands (the area for the battle advocated by supporters of the "southern position") was more likely to contain the two ships. In 2002, a coalition of oil and gas companies involved in the North West Shelf Venture
North West Shelf Venture
The North West Shelf Venture, situated in the north-west of Western Australia, is Australia's largest resource development project. It involves the extraction of petroleum at offshore production platforms, onshore processing and export of liquefied natural gas, and production of natural gas for...

 performed a gratis
Gratis is the process of providing goods or services without compensation. It is often referred to in English as "free of charge" or "complimentary"...

 search of eight suspected targets in the proposed southern area. No evidence was found of shipwrecks at any of the eight sites, although supporters of this search area claimed that the equipment used was defective and rejected the findings. Subsequent examination of the most popular southern site by DOF Subsea
DOF Subsea
DOF Subsea is an international subsea operating company. The company operates in all major offshore petroleum markets with 23 offshore vessels, 25 Remotely operated vehicles, 1 Autonomous underwater vehicle and 11 diving spreads. The company has been operating since the 1980s and has since 2005...

 Australia vessel SV Geosounder in March 2007 found no evidence of a shipwreck: the two searches firmly discrediting the alternative engagement area.

Wreck discovery

American shipwreck hunter David Mearns
David Mearns
David Louis Mearns, born circa 1958, is a United States-born marine scientist and deep water search and recovery expert, long resident in the United Kingdom. He is famous for locating the wrecks of several ships lost during World War II...

 first learned of the battle and mutual destruction of Sydney and Kormoran during a conference in 1996, and started studying the battle in 2001. Mearns focused on primary source documents, which led him to believe that German accounts of the battle's location were truthful, and was able to convince the RAN that a search around that area was feasible. Mearns' organisation entered a partnership with HMAS Sydney Search Pty. Ltd., a not-for-profit company set up to support a search for Sydney, in late 2004. In mid-September 2004, the German government granted Mearns permission to film Kormoran if she was found. On 14 August 2005, the Australian government announced a A$1.3 million grant to the Finding Sydney Foundation (a charitable foundation set up by the directors of HMAS Sydney Search to manage funding), which was followed by A$500,000 from the Western Australian government and A$250,000 from the government of New South Wales. Several small donations were made by companies and the public, but it was not until the Australian government approved another A$2.9 million in October 2007 that the search could proceed. Even so, the money raised only permitted the chartering of the survey vessel SV Geosounder for 45 days.

Mearns' plan was to determine a 'search box' for Kormoran by plotting the possible starting points of the two rafts from the raider through a reverse drift analysis. This search box (calculated to be 52 by in size) would then be inspected over several days with a side-scan sonar
Side-scan sonar
Side-scan sonar is a category of sonar system that is used to efficiently create an image of large areas of the sea floor...

 towed by Geosounder. Mearns focused on finding Kormoran first: the German wreck's approximate location could be predicted, and while the same was not true for Sydney, there was a wealth of information indicating her position relative to Kormoran. After locating one or both vessels, Geosounder would return to port and embark a remotely operated vehicle
Remotely operated vehicle
A remotely operated vehicle is a tethered underwater vehicle. They are common in deepwater industries such as offshore hydrocarbon extraction. An ROV may sometimes be called a remotely operated underwater vehicle to distinguish it from remote control vehicles operating on land or in the air. ROVs...

 (ROV) to film the wrecks. Geosounder was scheduled to depart early on 29 February 2008, but problems and last-minute modifications delayed this until after 16:00, and fuel leaks forced her return that evening. Repairs were made, and the ship reached the south-east corner of the search box just before midnight on 4 March, but the early days of the search were hampered by recurring faults with the sonar and the effects of Tropical Cyclone Ophelia. Kormoran was located during the afternoon of 12 March: the ship had been torn apart by the mine deck detonation, with two large pieces sitting 2560 m (8,399 ft) below sea level and 1300 m (4,265.1 ft) apart, with an oval-shaped debris field between them, centred at 26°05′46"S 111°04′33"E. The raider's discovery was announced by Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd
Kevin Rudd
Kevin Michael Rudd is an Australian politician who was the 26th Prime Minister of Australia from 2007 to 2010. He has been Minister for Foreign Affairs since 2010...

 on the morning of 17 March.
Using the wreck location and the German observations of Sydney after the battle, a 20 by search box for the cruiser was calculated. Sydney was located just after 11:00 on 17 March, only hours after Kormorans discovery was made public. Prime Minister Rudd announced the find a day later. Sydneys wreck was located at 26°14′31"S 111°12′48"E at 2468 m (8,097.1 ft) below sea level: the bow of the cruiser had broken off as the ship sank, and was located at the opposite end of a debris field stretching 500 m (1,640.4 ft) north-west from the hull. The two wrecks were 11.4 nmi (21.1 km) apart, with Sydney to the south-east. On discovery, both wrecks were placed under the protection of the Historic Shipwrecks Act 1976
Historic Shipwrecks Act 1976
The Historic Shipwrecks Act 1976 is an Australian Act of Parliament designed to legally protect historic shipwrecks and any relics or artifacts from those wrecks...

. Both wrecks were placed on the Australian National Heritage List
Australian National Heritage List
The Australian National Heritage List is a list of places deemed to be of outstanding heritage significance to Australia. The list includes natural, historic and indigenous places...

 on 14 March 2011.

Geosounder returned to Geraldton on 20 March, but delays in installing and testing of the ROV prevented departure until 29 March, with the ship sailing through the path of Cyclone Pancho. Sydney was the first to be inspected; electrical problems with the ROV set the start of filming back to 3 April. Six ROV dives were made over a five-day period, during which the main hull and debris field were inspected, filmed, and documented. The damage found by the search team corresponded with the descriptions given by Kormoran survivors after the battle. After the conclusion of ROV operations near Sydney, Geosounder travelled to the wreck of Kormoran. The search was declared complete just before midnight on 7 April.


The first collected historical account of the engagement was published in 1947, in George Hermon Gill's Royal Australian Navy, 1939–1942, the first of two RAN-oriented volumes in the government-sponsored Australia in the War of 1939–1945 series. Because of the scope of the book, the account of the battle itself was brief, and Gill accepts the German interpretation of events while blaming Burnett for endangering his ship. The account is described by naval historian Tom Frame
Tom Frame (bishop)
Tom Frame is an Australian Anglican bishop, historian, academic, author and social commentator.Frame was born in Stanmore, New South Wales and raised in Wollongong by his adoptive parents.-Career:...

 as "bland and unemotional", and "necessarily superficial", but Gill's analysis of the battle is attacked by Frame as "seriously flawed, inconsistent and contradictory". Several biographical
A biography is a detailed description or account of someone's life. More than a list of basic facts , biography also portrays the subject's experience of those events...

 and autobiographical
An autobiography is a book about the life of a person, written by that person.-Origin of the term:...

 works which touched on the battle (including books by Detmers and former Sydney commander John Collins) were also published around this time: none of which contributed new information.

Michael Montgomery's 1981 book, Who Sank The Sydney?, was the first published work to focus solely on Sydney and the events surrounding her loss, and the first to comprehensively challenge the accepted view of the battle. The son of Sydneys Royal Navy navigator, Montgomery could not accept the ship's loss as described by Gill, and claimed that the true events were being covered up. According to his book, Kormoran had fired on Sydney while flying the flag of a neutral nation, a Japanese submarine was involved in the battle, and any Australian survivors were killed to hide the involvement of the Japanese. Montgomery also suggests that Britain had foreknowledge of
Pearl Harbor advance-knowledge debate
The Pearl Harbor advance-knowledge conspiracy theory is the idea that the American officials had advance knowledge of Japan's December 7, 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor...

 the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor
Attack on Pearl Harbor
The attack on Pearl Harbor was a surprise military strike conducted by the Imperial Japanese Navy against the United States naval base at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, on the morning of December 7, 1941...

, which occurred three weeks later, and ordered the Australian government to cover up the truth of Sydneys loss so the United States would be drawn into the war. However, Who Sank the Sydney? is reliant on assertions that had been proved false, unreliable sources (including a 'sailor's report' found to be a translation of an inaccurate Australian newspaper article), and selective use of German accounts that fit the hypothesis, and Montgomery is generally credited with igniting the controversy surrounding the battle.

Although not written as such, the 1984 HMAS Sydney: Fact, Fantasy and Fraud by Barbara Winter served as a reply to Montgomery's work. Winter used material from German and American archives in addition to Australian sources, with the main thrust of her work comparing the relative experience and competence of Burnett and Detmers, which supported the accepted view of the battle. In her work, Winter also sought to identify and prove false all the rumours and theories that had appeared since the battle. Frame describes her work as "reasonable and persuasive... [h]owever, she tried too hard to defend the crew of the Kormoran... at the expense of Sydney", while a government report in 1999 observed that Winter's defence of the German accounts saw her become the "bête noire
Bête noire
Bête noire may refer to:* Bête Noire , an album by British singer Bryan Ferry, released on Virgin Records in November 1987* Bête Noire , a comic anthology* La Bête Noire , a comic book...

 of those who sought, and continue to seek, darker explanations of the Sydney tragedy."

In 1991, the HMAS Sydney Forum was convened by the Western Australian Museum; its goals were to seek a consensus view of the battle, and collect suggestions on how and where searches for Sydney and Kormoran should occur. Interested parties, including Montgomery, Winter, and Frame, were brought together for the three-day forum, but instead of reconciling different views of the battle, the forum only served to further split the participants. Prompted by the outcome, Frame wrote HMAS Sydney: Loss and Controversy. Published in 1993, this was the first book dedicated to the subject authored by a naval officer or a historian, and in addition to analysing the battle and its aftermath, looked at the historiography
Historiography refers either to the study of the history and methodology of history as a discipline, or to a body of historical work on a specialized topic...

 to date and the development of the controversy. Frame's work was pro-RAN and supportive of Burnett, and while he dismissed many of the alternate claims made regarding the battle, he felt that those involving German duplicity were plausible. A second forum was hosted in 1997 by the End Secrecy on Sydney group, but the antagonism between holders of different interpretations of the battle meant the forum "degenerated into a partisan verbal melee". An Inquiry into the loss of HMAS Sydney was carried out by the Joint Standing Committee for Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade (JCFADT) during 1997 and 1998, and was tabled in March 1999. The JCFADT inquiry received over 400 submissions and compiled over 500 pages of oral testimony. However, the report was indecisive, and despite finding that there was no evidence to support the various controversial claims made about the battle, failed to end debates between holders of the various viewpoints: a debate which was said to have "become a dialogue of the deaf".

Over the next few years, several books about the battle were published. Frame's book was updated and republished in 1998. Wesley Olson's Bitter Victory: the death of HMAS Sydney, published in 2000, was a re-examination of the evidence, including comparisons with similar naval engagements and sinkings, which supported the accepted view of the battle. Glenys McDonald's 2005 work Seeking the Sydney: a quest for truth did not attempt an analysis of records and interrogation transcripts, but instead used accounts from people who claimed to have observed the battle or been involved in the search, rescue, or interrogation to compile an oral history
Oral history
Oral history is the collection and study of historical information about individuals, families, important events, or everyday life using audiotapes, videotapes, or transcriptions of planned interviews...

 of the engagement and its aftermath. Her research led her to believe that the battle had occurred much closer inshore than claimed by the Germans. The 2005 book Somewhere below: the Sydney scandal exposed by John Samuels, took an extreme view on the alternative engagement theory by claiming that Sydney was sunk by a Japanese submarine with little or no involvement by Kormoran, and that there was a wide-ranging cover up of the proof. Samuels cites no reliable sources and ignores or dismisses evidence supporting the accepted view as part of the cover up; one review states that the book only brings suffering to the relatives of those killed, and is on par with the Roswell UFO incident
Roswell UFO incident
The Roswell UFO Incident was the recovery of an object that crashed in the general vicinity of Roswell, New Mexico, in June or July 1947, allegedly an extra-terrestrial spacecraft and its alien occupants. Since the late 1970s the incident has been the subject of intense controversy and of...

 as a conspiracy theory. Also in 2005, Brett Manning used the alternate theories of the battle as the basis for the spy novel Enduring Deception, in which an American agent must cover up the cruiser's encounter with a Japanese submarine so the Pearl Harbor attack occurs without warning, drawing the United States into the war. There were also many deliberate hoaxes, some contributing to the controversies; the most damaging were claims that the wrecks had been located, hindering serious attempts to mount a search while military assets were used to check the sites. One not only involved a claim to have located the wreck off Dirk Hartog Island, but it also referred to the location of a grave there.

Following the discovery of the wrecks, a second inquiry into the loss of Sydney was held, this time by the Department of Defence
Department of Defence (Australia)
The Australian Department of Defence is a Federal Government Department. It forms part of the Australian Defence Organisation along with the Australian Defence Force . The Defence mission is to defend Australia and its national interests...

. The inquiry was presided over by Terence Cole
Terence Cole
Terence Rhoderick Hudson Cole, AO, RFD, QC , is an Australian jurist, known best for presiding over two Royal Commissions. Cole was born in Longreach, Queensland, and was educated at Fort Street High School in Sydney and the University of Sydney. He was admitted to the bar in 1962, and appointed a...

, an expert in maritime law and a former Deputy Judge Advocate General. Cole's findings were published in a three-volume report in July 2009; one of these was dedicated to assessing the various controversies and alternate theories surrounding the battle. The inquiry concluded that Burnett was responsible for placing his ship in danger, but stopped short of claiming negligence, and also found no evidence to support any of the alternate theories investigated. A month later, shipwreck hunter David Mearns
David Mearns
David Louis Mearns, born circa 1958, is a United States-born marine scientist and deep water search and recovery expert, long resident in the United Kingdom. He is famous for locating the wrecks of several ships lost during World War II...

 published an account of the search for the two ships: The Search for the Sydney: How Australia's greatest maritime mystery was solved.


Rumours that the battle was not what it seemed commenced almost as soon as Sydney failed to reach Fremantle on schedule, some emanating from the highest levels in the Administration, but it was not until Montgomery's Who Sank The Sydney? that a published work collated these rumours and challenged the accepted view of the battle. Frame and Olson both credit Montgomery with igniting the controversy; the former describes Montgomery's work as "a polemical, finger-pointing, brawling account" which, if not deliberately prepared to create a controversy, had that effect, while the latter claimed that the book only "sparked debate [and] opened old and new wounds". The controversial views have been maintained and propagated by several organisations, such as the Sydney Research Group and End Secrecy on Sydney, and authors like McDonald and Samuels.

Much of the controversy surrounding the battle stemmed from disbelief that a modified merchant ship could totally defeat a modern cruiser, with most theories describing how the Germans deceitfully gained the advantage. However, the two ships' armament was closer to equal than this matchup implied, and although Sydney normally had the advantage of armour plate and superior range, these were lost by closing with Kormoran. The proximity meant that the advantage would go to the ship that fired first; while Burnett likely assumed that Sydney was dealing with a merchantman, Detmers was ready for Kormoran to surprise the cruiser, and the raider's gun crew knew where to aim for maximum effectiveness.

The main theories include:

Improper use of flags

These theories contend that Detmers acted illegally by firing before Kormoran raised her battle ensign
Battle ensign
A battle ensign is the name given to a large war flag which is flown on a warship's mast just before going into battle.The flag identified the allegiance of the ship in what could be a very confusing situation, with thick clouds of gunsmoke obscuring the ships in action, hence the large size of...

, flew a white flag of surrender to trick Burnett into relaxing, or used false signal flags to indicate a medical or engineering emergency and lure Sydney in. While it was a war crime
War crime
War crimes are serious violations of the laws applicable in armed conflict giving rise to individual criminal responsibility...

 for a ship to attack without flying her battle ensign or while flying a surrender flag, false distress signals were considered legitimate ruses
Ruse of war
A ruse of war, or ruse de guerre, is an action taken by a belligerent in warfare to fool the enemy in order to gain intelligence or a military advantage against an enemy.-Modern history:* American Civil War General George Meade's General Order No...


All German accounts indicate that Kormoran lowered the Dutch flag and raised the German war ensign before the order to fire was given, although general distrust of German claims, plus the statement in Detmers' autobiography that it took six seconds to raise the flag, decamouflage, and start firing, led to questions. Olson contends that in Detmers' original report, the 'six seconds' figure encompassed only the flag-raising, with the meaning corrupted over time. Conversely, Frame considers the possibility as knowledge of doing so would have been limited to very few people. He cites other parts of the autobiography, where Detmers repeatedly asserts that he had committed no crime while stating his fear of court martial.

Winter traces the origin of the "surrender or distress" theory to a single newspaper article written just after the battle; the reporter had no access to the prisoners or naval intelligence. Olson doubts that a surrender flag was used to lure Sydney in, as this would have informed Burnett that Straat Malakka was not what she seemed. He considers that the Germans may have used false signals or pretended to scuttle, but only hypothetically.

The 2009 Cole inquiry concluded that the German ensign was raised before the first shell was fired. Cole thought that the use of surrender or distress flags was an "invention of those seeking to find a justification" for the cruiser's close approach.

Japanese involvement

The claim of Japanese involvement, specifically a submarine operating with Kormoran, is based on several elements. The German survivors were found with milk bottles bearing Japanese labels. Although cited as evidence that a Japanese submarine was supplying Kormoran, the bottles were obtained from the supply ship Kulmerland
Kulmerland (ship)
The Kulmerland was a supply ship of the Kriegsmarine that operated during the Second World War in the Indian Ocean and Pacific Ocean. It was named after the Kulmerland region of Prussia, with the city of Kulm, which in 1920 was made part of the Polish Corridor.It supplied German auxiliary ships ...

, which had taken on supplies in Japan. Sketches drawn by one of Kormorans crew while imprisoned were believed to contain an account of the battle in the Deutsche Einheitskurzschrift
Deutsche Einheitskurzschrift
Deutsche Einheitskurzschrift is a German stenography system. The original version was officially introduced in 1924. In 1936 and 1968, revised versions were introduced. Since the 1968 reform the shorthand is written in three levels: Verkehrsschrift, Eilschrift and Redeschrift...

Shorthand is an abbreviated symbolic writing method that increases speed or brevity of writing as compared to a normal method of writing a language. The process of writing in shorthand is called stenography, from the Greek stenos and graphē or graphie...

 system. A civilian working for Australian military intelligence attempted to decode these, and after relying on interpolation and speculation to make sense of the decoded characters and fill in the gaps, came up with a message that included the phrase "a Japanese gunfire attack from Japan itself". However, several shorthand experts consulted by Winter could find nothing resembling Einheitskurzschrift (or any other German shorthand style) in the sketches.

According to Montgomery, the involvement of a submarine is supported by numerous sightings of submarines or submarine-like objects in Australian waters, particularly a sighting off Townsville in late October of six "strange boats" that surfaced, sprouted wings, and flew off; he interpreted this as a floatplane-carrying Japanese submarine
Submarine aircraft carrier
Submarine aircraft carriers are submarines equipped with fixed wing aircraft for observation or attack missions. These submarines saw their most extensive use during World War II, although their operational significance remained rather small...

, which may have reached Carnarvon in time to attack Sydney. The Cole report noted that false submarine sightings are a common wartime occurrence. In addition, the position of all 46 active Japanese submarines have been accounted for: 28 were in Japanese waters preparing for the attack on Pearl Harbor
Attack on Pearl Harbor
The attack on Pearl Harbor was a surprise military strike conducted by the Imperial Japanese Navy against the United States naval base at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, on the morning of December 7, 1941...

, seven were readying for operations in the South China Sea and Philippines, nine were heading for the South China Sea, and two had just departed for patrols in the Pacific.

On several occasions, Japanese broadcasts stated that Sydney had been captured and towed to Japan, or that personnel were interned in Japanese prisoner-of-war camps. Post-war investigations found that these broadcasts were for propaganda purposes only. Claims that items from Sydney (such as cap tallies
Tally (cap)
The tally on a sailor's cap is a ribbon usually bearing the name of a ship or some other establishment to which he belongs.Practice varies with each navy, though a conventional tally is black, with a gold or yellow inscription. The inscription may be simply a ship's name The tally on a sailor's cap...

) were found in Japan after the war have also been aired, but further investigation found these to be based on unfounded speculation.

The lack of information about Japanese involvement is attributed to a wide-ranging cover up of Japanese aggression prior to the attack on Pearl Harbor
Attack on Pearl Harbor
The attack on Pearl Harbor was a surprise military strike conducted by the Imperial Japanese Navy against the United States naval base at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, on the morning of December 7, 1941...

, in an attempt to draw the United States into the war. Frame dismisses the suggested cover up as an attempt to draw attention to the alternate interpretation of the battle by linking it to the Pearl Harbor advance-knowledge debate
Pearl Harbor advance-knowledge debate
The Pearl Harbor advance-knowledge conspiracy theory is the idea that the American officials had advance knowledge of Japan's December 7, 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor...

. The JCFADT report concluded that there was no evidence to support the presence of the Japanese. Cole's report concluded likewise, and stated that the allegations made to 'prove' the presence of a submarine were factually wrong, lacked collaborating evidence, or otherwise did not support the claims.

No Sydney survivors

The alternate engagement theories attribute the lack of survivors, corpses, or debris from Sydney to the need to eliminate evidence of German illegality or Japanese aggression. The recovered carley float—with its damage attributed to machine-gun fire—is often presented as proof.

The Australian War Memorial undertook a detailed analysis of the carley float during 1992 and 1993 to determine the nature of the damage. Metallurgical testing of fragments found in the float showed them to be from German shells
Shell (projectile)
A shell is a payload-carrying projectile, which, as opposed to shot, contains an explosive or other filling, though modern usage sometimes includes large solid projectiles properly termed shot . Solid shot may contain a pyrotechnic compound if a tracer or spotting charge is used...

, not German or Japanese machine gun bullets. The Chinese survivors are also cited as proof that no machine-gunning of Australian survivors took place, as if they had witnessed or learned of such an act, they too would have been killed to preserve the secret.

The accepted view of the battle (based on German damage descriptions) is that the majority of Sydneys personnel were killed during the battle, with the rest dying when the cruiser sank. The Defence Science and Technology Organisation
Defence Science and Technology Organisation
The Defence Science and Technology Organisation is a branch of the Australian Department of Defence which researches and develops technologies for use in the Australian defence industry....

 used Mearns' shipwreck footage for a technical analysis of the damage to Sydney, which showed it to be consistent with German accounts. The analysis predicted that up to 70% of those aboard were killed during the battle, either directly, from wounds, or by inhaling smoke and toxic gas. Had any boats survived the battle, Sydneys seakeeping
Seakeeping ability is a measure of how well-suited a watercraft is to conditions when underway. A ship or boat which has good seakeeping ability is said to be very seaworthy and is able to operate effectively even in high sea states....

 ability would have deteriorated quickly, making evacuation impossible. The sudden loss of buoyancy when the cruiser sank would have killed anyone still aboard.

The battle damage would have forced any Australian survivors to use carley floats and personal lifebelts, which were only intended as short-term life preservers. Based on survival rates for contemporary warship losses, Olson determined that anyone who survived the sinking would have died from wounds, exposure, or drowning before the search commenced, and corpses would not have floated to the surface until after the search had been terminated. Kormorans crew enjoyed a higher survival rate because, unlike Sydney, the raider's boats and rafts were well equipped and mostly undamaged. Although Sydney is thought of as the only warship lost with all hands, the JCFADT report lists eight other ships lost during the World Wars where none survived, and another six where 95% or more aboard died.

An alternate version of this theory is that there were deliberate delays in organising searches for the ship. There is no evidence that anybody ashore knew of the battle until Trocas found German survivors and informed the authorities. The Sydney Research Group allege that Sydney attempted to radio Darwin to report that the cruiser was on fire and being abandoned. Other individuals or groups have made claims that they heard or witnessed the receipt of messages (either voice or morse
Morse code
Morse code is a method of transmitting textual information as a series of on-off tones, lights, or clicks that can be directly understood by a skilled listener or observer without special equipment...

) from Sydney, or saw transcripts of these messages. All claims state that transcripts and other evidence were later destroyed.

Sydney was not fitted with voice transmission equipment, so could not have sent any of the reported voice signals. Had the cruiser tried to send morse signals, they would have been jammed by Kormorans wireless operators. Several messages were identified as having come from other sources, while associates of the claimants have shown the evidence to be suspect for the rest. The 2009 inquiry concluded that no messages were sent by Sydney before, during, or after the engagement.

Sydney not at action stations

The claim that Sydney was not at action stations
Action Stations
Action Stations is the general signal to the personnel of a warship that combat with a hostile attacker is imminent or deemed probable...

 originates from an observation by Detmers; as Sydney approached, the cruiser's 4 in (101.6 mm) guns were unmanned, and sailors in aprons (which he describes as pantrymen), were standing on deck watching the German ship. This is interpreted by followers of alternate engagement theories as evidence that Sydney was not at action stations, and therefore unable to react when Kormoran unmasked.

Olson lists two groups of sailors that could have been mistaken for pantrymen, but had a reason to be where Detmers saw them. Ammunition handlers from the 4-inch guns, who wore protective aprons, could have been standing clear of their weapons because of the planned catapult launch of the Walrus amphibian or the direction "X" turret was facing when trained on Kormoran, both of which could have injured the unprotected gunners. A second group would have been a cutter party preparing to launch a boat to rescue the Walrus crew if it ditched, or to board Kormoran, with their life jackets mistaken for aprons. The JCFADT report suggests a third group: a damage control
Damage control
Damage control is a term used in the Merchant Marine, maritime industry and navies for the emergency control of situations that may hazard the sinking of a ship...

 party in fire-fighting gear.

Conversely, the Cole report stated that Sydney may not have been at action stations: ship's logs for several Australian warships showed that it was not common practice to do so when approaching unidentified merchant vessels in home waters. This, combined with Detmers' observation and the belief that Sydneys approach followed procedures for an 'innocent' instead of a 'suspicious' vessel, prompted Cole to conclude that the Australian cruiser was not at action stations.

The Christmas Island corpse

On the afternoon of 6 February 1942, lookouts on Christmas Island
Christmas Island
The Territory of Christmas Island is a territory of Australia in the Indian Ocean. It is located northwest of the Western Australian city of Perth, south of the Indonesian capital, Jakarta, and ENE of the Cocos Islands....

 spotted an object out at sea, which on closer inspection turned out to be a carley float carrying the body of a Caucasian man wearing a blue boilersuit that had been sun-bleached white. The flesh of his right arm had been eaten away by fish, and his eyes and nose consumed by birds. Shrapnel was embedded in the float's outer covering, while the proliferation of marine growth indicated that it had been adrift for some time. After brief examinations, the body was buried in an unmarked grave near Flying Fish Cove
Flying Fish Cove
Flying Fish Cove is the main settlement of Australia's Christmas Island. Many maps simply label it “The Settlement”. It was the first British settlement on the island, established in 1888. The cove is named after the survey vessel ....


The island's inhabitants believed that the float and sailor were of naval origin, and had come from Sydney. A post-war RAN investigation determined that as the raft's description did not match those manufactured for the RAN, this claim was incorrect. Subsequent writers on the subject have disagreed: Winter states that a carley float from Sydney would have been propelled by currents into proximity of Christmas Island around the time of its discovery, while Olson claims that the description of the float's rope and markings matched those used on British ships (from whose supplies Sydney could have drawn), the boilersuit indicated a naval rating
Naval rating
A Naval Rating is an enlisted member of a country's Navy, subordinate to Warrant Officers and Officers hence not conferred by commission or warrant...

, and that the quantity of marine growth corresponded with the time such a float would have been at sea. The JCFADT inquiry concluded "on the balance of probability, that the body and the carley float ... were most likely from HMAS Sydney.", and while Frame was initially sceptical of the raft's origins, the evidence presented to that inquiry changed his mind.

The inquiry recommended that the grave be found, the body exhumed, and its DNA compared to relatives of Sydney personnel. A 2001 search by the RAN failed to find the grave, but they were more successful during a second search in 2006. During an autopsy, a metal fragment was found embedded in the skull, which was believed to have killed the man through brain trauma: although seized upon by believers in the massacre of Sydneys sailors, the fragment was found to be German shell shrapnel. While DNA comparison testing did not produce definite results, as of September 2010 it remained on-going.

Why Burnett approached so close

By manoeuvring in close to Kormoran, Burnett removed the advantage provided by his longer-ranged primary armament, and put Sydney in a position where the raider's main guns could penetrate the cruiser's armour. Because there were no Australian survivors, Burnett's decision is inexplicable; writers on the subject can only speculate on his reasoning, and indicate what factors they believe influenced him. Up until the 1980s, most of the material published relating to the loss of Sydney accepted the German interpretation of events (that Burnett was deceived by Kormorans disguise, and placed his ship in a tactically unsound position) and assigned Burnett various levels of blame for his role in the cruiser's demise.

Gill claimed that because Burnett had taken command of Sydney after a shore posting, and was assigned to relatively calm operational areas, he was incautious when approaching Kormoran. He also believed that Burnett was not suspicious of Straat Malakka: had he been, he would have used the Walrus to identify the ship or broken wireless silence and enquired about the ship.

Olson (among others) believes that Burnett was placed under conflicting orders: raiders were to be destroyed (preferably at range to avoid retaliation), but raider supply ships or merchantmen were to be captured to replace Allied freighters sunk in the tonnage war
Tonnage war
A tonnage war is a military strategy aimed at merchant shipping. The premise is that an enemy has only a finite number of ships, and a finite capacity to build replacements for them. The concept was made famous by U-boat commander Karl Dönitz, who wrote: The shipping of the enemy powers is one...

. The suggested method of capture was to quickly manoeuvre in close and deploy a boarding party before the ship could scuttle. Olson thinks that Kormorans actions (turning away from the coast upon seeing an unknown vessel, delays in replying to signals, the distress call transmitted long after Sydney appeared) made Burnett suspicious, and he was trying to position Sydney so he could identify the merchantman's physical features and to facilitate capture. Following the loss of Sydney, Admiralty
The Admiralty was formerly the authority in the Kingdom of England, and later in the United Kingdom, responsible for the command of the Royal Navy...

 instructions on capturing merchant ships changed to only encourage attempts if there was no risk of the ship being a raider or accompanied by a U-boat
U-boat is the anglicized version of the German word U-Boot , itself an abbreviation of Unterseeboot , and refers to military submarines operated by Germany, particularly in World War I and World War II...

; no such attempts were made for the rest of the war.

In March 1941, the heavy cruiser encountered a tanker supplying a possible raider, which split up and fled when ordered to stop. Canberra pursued the suspected raider, and fired from maximum range to avoid retaliatory fire, while her Walrus amphibian attempted to stop the tanker with bombs. The cruiser fired 215 shells, with most missing, while all of the Walrus' bombs were used. However, both ships (the raider supply ship Coburg and the captured Norwegian tanker Ketty Brovig) had commenced scuttling
Scuttling is the act of deliberately sinking a ship by allowing water to flow into the hull.This can be achieved in several ways—valves or hatches can be opened to the sea, or holes may be ripped into the hull with brute force or with explosives...

 once Canberra started firing. Post-action analysis found that if Canberra had moved closer, the same damage could have been achieved for less ammunition, and one or both ships might have been captured; factors Frame and Gill think may have influenced Burnett.

In the 2009 inquiry report, Cole determined that Burnett was following the approach and challenge procedures for an 'innocent' vessel, instead of a 'suspicious' one. The other case called for Sydney to stand off at 7 nmi (13 km; 8.1 mi) and order the merchantman to stop or be fired upon. Despite the list of ships scheduled to be in the area, Cole believes that Burnett's previous experiences with inaccurate shipping lists caused him to think of Straat Malakkas unexplained presence as a clerical error. The actions that Olson describes as indicating suspicion are also considered by Cole, who believed that by the time these came into play, Sydney would already be at the disadvantage.


The main memorial for the loss of Sydney is located on Mount Scott at Geraldton, Western Australia
Geraldton, Western Australia
Geraldton is a city and port in Western Australia located north of Perth in the Mid West region. Geraldton has an estimated population at June 2010 of 36,958...

. Planning for the memorial commenced in late 1997, after a speech by researcher Glenys McDonald at the local Rotary
Rotary International
Rotary International is an organization of service clubs known as Rotary Clubs located all over the world. The stated purpose of the organization is to bring together business and professional leaders to provide humanitarian service, encourage high ethical standards in all vocations, and help...

 club. A temporary memorial (consisting of a large boulder, a flagpole, and a bronze plaque), was installed prior to 19 November 1998, and was used in a remembrance ceremony that year. During the Last Post
Last Post
The "Last Post" can be either a B♭ bugle call within British Infantry regiments or an E♭ cavalry trumpet call in British Cavalry and Royal Regiment of Artillery used at Commonwealth military funerals and ceremonies commemorating those who have been killed in war.The two regimental traditions have...

, a large flock of seagulls flew over the participants and headed out to sea in formation; this inspired the design of the permanent memorial. The memorial included four major elements: a stele
A stele , also stela , is a stone or wooden slab, generally taller than it is wide, erected for funerals or commemorative purposes, most usually decorated with the names and titles of the deceased or living — inscribed, carved in relief , or painted onto the slab...

 of the same size and shape of the ship's prow, a granite wall listing the ship's company, a bronze statue of a woman looking out to sea and waiting in vain for the cruiser to come home, and a dome (dubbed the "dome of souls") onto which 645 stainless steel seagulls were welded. The memorial (minus the stele, which was not completed in time) was dedicated on 18 November 2001, and used the next evening for a commemoration ceremony marking the battle's 60th anniversary. By 2011, the stele had been completed, and a fifth element—a pool of remembrance containing a map of the region and the marked position of Sydneys wreck—had been added.

Other memorials commemorating the loss of Sydney include an oak tree planted at the Melbourne Shrine of Remembrance
Shrine of Remembrance
The Shrine of Remembrance, located in Kings Domain on St Kilda Road, Melbourne, Australia was built as a memorial to the men and women of Victoria who served in World War I and is now a memorial to all Australians who have served in war...

, and an avenue in Carnarvon lined with 645 trees. The service of Sydney, along with the other ships of the same name
HMAS Sydney
Five ships of the Royal Australian Navy have been named HMAS Sydney, for Sydney, the capital city of New South Wales., a Chatham-class light cruiser launched in 1912, decommissioned in 1928, and broken up for scrap, a Leander-class light cruiser launched in 1934, and sunk following an engagement...

, is commemorated by a stained-glass window at the Garden Island Naval Chapel
Naval Chapel, Garden Island NSW
The Naval Chapel at Garden Island dockyard is the oldest Christian chapel of the Royal Australian Navy . It was established in 1902 after conversion from the former sail loft., and has stained glass windows and plaques from that era to the present. The building is the oldest on Garden Island, two...

. The names of those killed aboard Sydney are inscribed at the Australian War Memorial
Australian War Memorial
The Australian War Memorial is Australia's national memorial to the members of all its armed forces and supporting organisations who have died or participated in the wars of the Commonwealth of Australia...

, while those from Kormoran are inscribed in the Laboe Naval Memorial
Laboe Naval Memorial
The Laboe Naval Memorial is a memorial located in Laboe, near Kiel, in Schleswig-Holstein, Germany. Started in 1927 and completed in 1936, the monument originally memorialized the World War I war dead of the Kaiserliche Marine, with the Kriegsmarine dead of World War II being added after 1945...


The "HMAS Sydney Replacement Fund" was established to help finance the acquisition of a replacement ship. The AU£
Australian pound
The pound was the currency of Australia from 1910 until 13 February 1966, when it was replaced by the Australian dollar. It was subdivided into 20 shillings, each of 12 pence.- Earlier Australian currencies :...

426,000 raised was used to help purchase Australia's first aircraft carrier in the late 1940s; the Majestic-class carrier was named upon her commissioning in December 1948. The Kormoran name was carried on by the , a Seeadler-class
Seeadler class fast attack craft
The Type 141 Seeadler class fast attack craft differs from Type 140 Jaguar class fast attack craft only in the installation of other, later more powerful diesel engine....

 fast attack craft of the West German Navy commissioned in 1959. East Germany also operated a Kormoran; a small corvette borrowed from the Soviet Navy from 1970 to 1974.


Although Frame refers to the battle as the "Sydney-Kormoran Action", the battle is not named in any other source. Some sources state that the Kriegsmarine operated eleven auxiliary cruisers; two were reclassified for other uses before leaving Germany. Other sources state that 317 survived, including two Chinese. The third Chinese sailor was aboard the lifeboat found by Centaur: as Eurylochus was owned by the Blue Funnel Line
Blue Funnel Line
Alfred Holt and Company, marketed as the Blue Funnel Line, was founded by Alfred Holt on 16 January 1866.The main operating subsidiary was the Ocean Steam Ship Company, which owned and operated the majority of the company's vessels....

, while Centaur belonged to the subsidiary
A subsidiary company, subsidiary, or daughter company is a company that is completely or partly owned and wholly controlled by another company that owns more than half of the subsidiary's stock. The subsidiary can be a company, corporation, or limited liability company. In some cases it is a...

Ocean Steamship Company, he was integrated into Centaurs crew instead of being handed over with the Germans.

External links

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