The Search for HMAS Sydney

STOP PRESS: HMAS Sydney Found !

About 4pm on 19 November 1941, the lookout on HMAS Sydney reported an unidentified merchant ship near Shark Bay. An exchange of signals aroused the suspicions of Captain Burnett RAN, and he closed in for a closer look at the mysterious 8500 tonne vessel.

When the two ships were less than a kilometre apart, the disguised German raider, Kormoran, dropped its camouflage and let loose with a slavo from six 150mm guns and torpedoes. HMAS Sydney was caught unawares, took the full brunt of the German guns and was immediately set ablaze.

In a desperate act of reply, HMAS Sydney unleashed a return salvo from her remaining gun and struck the raider in the engine room, a blow that would prove fatal for the Germans.

After the short, bloody battle, both ships’ crews were busy fighting their respective fires. HMAS Sydney and her 645 men drifted off to the horizon never to be seen again. Kormoran’s survivors abandoned ship and scuttled her near the site of the battle. Neither wreck has ever been located.

Numerous conspiracy theories have developed since, including a massacre of survivors by the Kormoran and even an intervening Japanese submarine.

In 2005, the Federal Government allocated $1.3 million to help set up a company to search for the wreck and both NSW and WA State Governments have since added funds.

As of March this year, despite extensive sonar soundings, the two wrecks stubbornly remained hidden.


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