BLUFDuring WW2, HMAS Sydney engaged the German auxiliary cruiser HSK Kormoran—in the battle that followed, both ships were destroyed.
Early in WW2, the second HMAS Sydney (2) successfully operated in the Mediterranean Sea, sinking the Italian cruiser Bartolomeo Colleoni. However, on the way home to Fremantle in November 1941, it was destroyed by the German auxiliary cruiser HSK Kormoran.
- Kormoran was a concealed gun, mine laying German auxiliary cruiser disguised as a merchant ship.
- Unable to ascertain the identity of the Kormoran, Sydney closed to about 1000 metres of Kormoran.
- Closing to within 1000 metres put HMAS Sydney(2) within range of the Kormoran's guns.
- HMAS Sydney with its bigger guns could have destroyed the Kormoran without putting itself in range of the Kormoran's guns..
- The Kormoran’s gunners could de-camouflage and open fire in just 6 seconds.
- The gun crews concentrated on Sydney’s bridge, the gunnery control tower, the engine room, and the Walrus aircraft.
- Sydney returned fire, but both vessels were fatally damaged.
- All of Sydney’s 645 crew perished.
- One was found deceased in a life raft.
- In 2021 his identity was confirmed as Thomas Clark.
- Three hundred eighteen of Kormoran’s 380 crew survived.
- The theory that a Japanese submarine was involved has been discounted (Japan hadn’t entered WW2 yet).
It is still unclear why Captain Burnet of Sydney closed to within 1,000 metres putting Sydney in range of the Kormoran guns. However, one theory is that Burnett might have come within range of the Kormoran in the mistaken belief that the Kormoran was a lightly armed German supply ship that might have beeb carrying allied prisoners of war.
- Nov 2021 ABC News Identity of 'unknown sailor' revealed as 21-year-old Thomas Welsby Clark
- Nov 2021 Sydney Morning Herald Unknown sailor from HMAS Sydney was engaged to be married, family says
- Nov 2021 Minister for Defence media release Unknown HMAS Sydney II sailor named after 80 years
- Nov 2021 the West Australian HMAS Sydney: How mystery of Unknown Sailor was finally solved