19 November 2016 marks the 75th Anniversary of the loss of the Australian warship HMAS Sydney and her entire ship’s company of 645 servicemen.
Sydney was a light cruiser built in England and launched in September 1934. During the first years of the Second World War she fought in the Mediterranean alongside ships of the Royal Navy before returning to Australia to serve in home waters. She suffered no casualties in the Mediterranean, despite taking part in numerous combat operations. To her ship’s company and the people of Australia she was affectionately known as the ‘Stormy Petrel’ or the ‘Grey Gladiator’.
On 19 November 1941, Sydney was off the Western coast of Australia when she encountered the German Auxiliary Cruiser Kormoran. In a brief and close range battle both ships suffered heavy damage, and Sydney sank soon after. The crew of the German ship scuttled their crippled vessel, and many were found and taken into captivity in Australia for the rest of the War.
The loss of Sydney and her crew was a major blow to the Australian Royal Navy. As much as 35% of all Australian Naval personnel lost in the Second World War died aboard the Sydney and it remains the worst single loss of life in the history of the Australian Navy.
Those who lost their lives have no known grave but the sea. The Commonwealth War Graves Commission commemorates all 645 servicemen. Their names can be found on the three great Naval Memorials in the United Kingdom, and on the Sydney Memorial in Australia.
The majority are commemorated on the Plymouth Naval Memorial and many of their names can be found on Panels 56 to 58 & 60 to 62.