After completing fleet training in the Western Australian Exercise Area, HMAS Sydney V transited north up the west coast of Australia to pay respects to the 645 Australians who lost their lives in the battle between HMAS Sydney II and the German Raider HSK Kormoran.
CAPTION: HMAS Sydney V ship’s company stand at attention as the Catafalque Party mount the cenotaph, during a commemoration to honour the loss of HMAS Sydney II and HSK Kormoran. Story by Midshipman Lewis Taulier and Midshipman James Turnour. Photos by Petty Officer Aaron Clancy.
This is the first time Sydney V has been able to make the journey to the final resting place of Sydney II since its commissioning in 2020.
On 19 November 1941, Sydney II was returning to Fremantle from the Sunda Strait when she sighted a merchant ship claiming to be the Dutch Straat Malakka.
As she closed to 1000 yards off the beam, the German naval flag was hoisted by the Kormoran and she opened fire on Sydney’s port side with the full force of the Kormoran’s armament.
Sydney returned fire, inflicting a fatal blow to the Kormoran, before suffering a torpedo hit to the bow which caused her to fall astern and expose her starboard side to the German ship’s guns.
She was kept afloat by her remaining crew for a further four hours before succumbing to the damage and the rising seas.
Courageous acts like these form the foundations of Sydney V’s legacy, developing a strong sense of pride in officers and sailors serving both past and present.
CAPTION: Commanding Officer HMAS Sydney V Commander Grant Coleman and Warrant Officer Russell Kerney lay wreaths over the graves of HMAS Sydney II and HSK Kormoran crew.
Sydney V crew member Midshipman Brock de Winter said he saw the commemoration as a chance to experience naval history early in his career.
“Being given the opportunity to sail in the same waters where our shipmates once sacrificed so much for our country is a huge honour to all members on board,” he said.
While ship’s company remembered the fallen crew of Sydney II, it was also important to acknowledge the German crew of the Kormoran, who fought with equal determination and bravery, and lost their ship along with 79 crewmates in battle.
Though on opposing sides of the conflict, the commemoration emphasised the shared humanity that unites us all, transcending the boundaries of war.
Able Seaman Charlee Masters – member of the catafalque party – said: “With a line of family members serving on past HMAS Sydney ships, it is a great honour to pay our respects. To commemorate this momentous occasion is such a unique experience.”
As Sydney V heads back to her home port of Fleet Base East, the conflict between Sydney II and the HSK Kormoran will remain an important part of her identity, the RAN’s history and national story as a whole.