Hunt for HMAS Sydney II
28 February 2008 - MINSCIENCEANDPERSONNEL 14/08
The Minister for Defence Science and Personnel, the Hon. Warren Snowdon, MP, today offered his best wishes to the Finding Sydney Foundation as the search begins to locate the missing Royal Australian Navy cruiser HMAS Sydney II.
HMAS Sydney II was tragically lost in November 1941 in the Indian Ocean off Western Australia with its entire crew of 645, following a fierce engagement with the German raider Kormoran.
The SV Geosounder, with renowned shipwreck investigator Mr David Mearns, is due to depart today from the port of Geraldton, Western Australia, to begin the search.
“I’m sure all Australians will join me in wishing the search team every success in solving one of Australia’s most enduring maritime mysteries and bringing some peace to the relatives of the lost crew,” said Mr Snowdon.
The team will use deep-water sonar imaging equipment to sweep the seabed for any indicators of a wreck site such as debris fields, other seabed anomalies or the wreck itself.
The search area will encompass more than 1800 square nautical miles of ocean in depths ranging from 2,300m to 4,200m approximately 120 nautical miles offshore from Australia’s most Westerly point, Steep Point.
“The search team will first attempt to locate the German ship Kormoran, as more is known about her estimated location,” said Mr Snowdon.
“If Kormoran is found, her position will be used to plot Sydney’s last observed movements based on testimony from Kormoran’s crew. It is hoped that this will lead to the discovery of Sydney’s final resting place.”
$4.2 million in Federal Government funding, as well as state government funding and private contributions from individuals, has enabled the Finding Sydney Foundation to conduct this search.
HMAS Sydney search continues despite cyclone threat
ABC News Online - 7 March 2008
A mission to find HMAS Sydney is continuing despite a threat by Cyclone Ophelia.
The category one storm is making its way down the Western Australian coast and is expected to weaken out to sea.
The search ship, Geosounder, is currently 130 to 160 nautical miles due west of Steep Point, north of Shark Bay.
The group managing the mission, the Finding Sydney Foundation, says the crew will be keeping a close eye on the storm.
Meanwhile, Project Manager Patrick Flynn says the Geosounder has completed its first 23 hour search after a difficult start.
"The geology initially was more complicated than they thought, and that gives some issues with interpretation of the sonar readings," he said.
"The good news is that that is not the majority of the sea floor which they are finding is quite flat and giving good reflection, so that's good news for the team. "
Wreck of HMAS Sydney found
ABC News Online - 17 March 2008
The group searching for HMAS Sydney has found the wreckage of the World War II Australian warship off the coast of Western Australia, the ABC has confirmed.
The breakthrough by the Finding Sydney Foundation comes less than 24 hours after it announced it had located the wreckage of the German raider Kormoran, which also sank after a battle with the Sydney in November 1941.
The Sydney's entire crew of 645 went down with the ship in the Indian Ocean and its location has been a mystery for 66 years.
The Australian ship was last seen badly damaged and steaming over the horizon after the exchange of gunfire with the Kormoran, which also sank after the battle.
Members of the crew on the research ship the Geosounder found the Kormoran using sonar technology and were confident of locating the Sydney.
The wreckage of the Kormoran was found about 100 nautical miles off Steep Point, more than two kilometres below the ocean's surface, and the Sydney was found just 10 nautical miles west.
Chief executive officer of the Finding Sydney Foundation Bob Trotter says although the experts have been working in very deep water, they can be sure of their findings.
"Very sure. David Mann's our project director on the water out there, has done this about 30 times before in very deep water and he's probably the world's best at finding manmade objects at the bottom of the sea in very deep water," he said.
Royce Laycock was son of an engine stoker who worked on the ship and was only four when his father died.
"It's good news to know that they've found the ship, because you really didn't realise or know what happened," he said.
"I've read all the books and stories and publications over the 66 years, and it's just good news."
The son of another sailor who died on the Sydney, Bob Honor, says it is an important discovery.
"It's been a 66-year wait. Why?" he said. "Because they were trying to hide something? I don't know, I have no idea, I don't really care now. I'm happy to think they have found it after so long."
Lee O'Neill's father also went down with the ship, and he says he hopes the finding will bring closure to the families.
"I've always wondered how a ship like that could lose all men," he said.
"I've read so many books on it and heard so many different stories and spoken to people. Things to me just don't add up. I realise it won't bring him back and I accept that, but I just want to know what happened."
Even before an official announcement, federal politicians are having their say about how the discovery site should be commemorated.
Coalition backbencher Bruce Scott says the wreck of the Sydney should be left as a permanent war grave.
"It should be left with all on board to rest in peace. And the same with the Kormoran," he said.
"It's a war grave and it should be left as other ships have around the world from the First and Second World Wars - on the sea bed.
"I think that's the way the sailors who went down with the Sydney would like to think it was that way as well, particularly the families."
Naval Association spokesman Les Dywer says it was a major discovery.
"[I am] absolutely excited that they've finally unravelled the resting place of one of the greatest naval mysteries ever," he said.
The wrecks of HMAS Sydney and the German raider Kormoran will be protected under the Historic Shipwrecks Act.
Federal Environment Minister Peter Garrett will issue an interim protection declaration today after the dramatic discovery of the two ships.
The Sydney and the Kormoran were discovered 10 nautical miles apart off Western Australia's mid-west coast after a two-and-a-half week search.
Until now, the only trace of the Sydney has been a life raft and jacket, now housed in the National War Memorial, and the remains of a sailor washed up on Christmas Island.
The search team is now almost certain the man was from the Sydney.
Finding Sydney Foundation spokesman Ted Graham says it is important the wreck sites be left undisturbed.
"They contain the remains of many people and our view is firmly that they should be left alone," he said.
Prime Minister Kevin Rudd says the war dead will be treated "with complete respect."
The 645-strong crew of the Sydney was lost after the two ships fought a battle in 1941
Sydney search ship delayed
Wednesday - 26 March 2008 - ABC News Online
The departure of the search ship that located HMAS Sydney has been delayed again.
The SV Geosounder is preparing to embark on a two-week trip to record the first images of the wreck site.
The ship remains at Geraldton Port while its crew completes tests on technical equipment.
It is expected to depart at ten o'clock this morning.(WST)
The team leader Patrick Flynn says they hope to reach the wreck of the Sydney on Friday, although a cyclonic weather system developing near Christmas Island could delay the arrival.
Mr Flynn says, weather permitting, the first still images of the wreck will be made public on the weekend.
Media Conference on the commission of inquiry into the loss of HMAS Sydney
Monday - 31 March 2008 - CPA 310308/08
Subject: Acting Prime Minister, the Hon. Julia Gillard, and Chief of the Defence Force, Air Chief Marshal Angus Houston announce the establishment of a commission of inquiry, into the loss of HMAS Sydney II.
Okay, can I thank everybody for attending today and can I say we're here to take a step forward in solving what has been a 66 year mystery. Of course, the greatest mystery in Australian maritime history is what happened to the HMAS Sydney. I think all Australians watched with a sense of intrigue when the wreck of the Sydney was found.
And for many Australians, the families and loved ones of the brave service personnel who lost their lives when the Sydney was lost, it was a time for reflection and for sadness.
But finding the wreck and solving the mystery go together, but solving the mystery requires more. It requires us to now enquire into the circumstances of the loss of the Sydney and to try for all time to solve this mystery, to solve this riddle, to give the Australian nation an answer as to what happened to the Sydney and, importantly, give the loved ones of those whose lives were lost an answer as to what happened when their loved ones were lost on that fateful day.
So today I'm here with the Chief of the Defence Force and with the Chief of Navy to announce that there will be a commission of inquiry into the loss of the Sydney. The Prime Minister foreshadowed this and today we announce that commission of inquiry.
It will be headed by His Honour, Mr Terence Cole. Mr Cole has been selected because he's an expert in maritime law; he has also served as the Deputy Judge Advocate General of the Australian Defence Force.
He will sit as the inquiry by himself. He will sit alone. The inquiry will be conducted in Sydney and ultimately he will report to the Chief of the Defence Force on his findings.
This is going to be an extensive and complicated inquiry. There are documents that travel across 23 kilometres of shelf space that must be worked through in the course of this inquiry, because they all pertain to the Sydney, and may include information that is relevant to the inquiry.
So it will take some time. But it's a task that is worth doing because do want answers to this very longstanding mystery.
Can I take opportunity to offer my words of praise to the Chief of the Defence Force for organising this commission of inquiry; I think it is an important step to getting the answers that the nation has sought and has wanted to hear for 66 long years.
I'm happy, of course, to take questions on this matter, but questions about the details of the inquiry should be directed towards the Chief of the Defence Force, and if there are questions about the Sydney itself, then they should be directed to the Chief of Navy.
So are there questions? Yes?
Isn't this going to cover much the same ground that the parliamentary inquiry considered over two years, only with the benefit of pictures?
Well I'll allow the Chief of the Defence Force to answer that question, but can I answer it in part by saying we are clearly in new circumstances, now we are able to pinpoint and see, through the use of photography, the actual wreck of the Sydney. We know the exact geographic location now, where it is located; we can obviously gain information from the wreck itself. That, of course, has never been available to anybody enquiring into this matter in the past.
But I'll allow the Chief of the Defence Force to also deal with that question.
I think that answers the question satisfactorily.
Can you explain though, Defence has taken up the practice recently of putting an arms length person, a civilian judge or someone in charge of its inquiries, what is it about the circumstances surrounding the loss of the Sydney that decided you not to put a - to put someone other than a retired or a senior naval officer or naval architect, or someone like that, in charge of the inquiry?
Well, as you know, with the military justice initiatives one of those was to create a capacity to do CDF commissions of inquiry. One of the characteristics of the way we would do business is to always have somebody with credibility, somebody who has extensive legal background, preferably someone with judicial background.
And, of course, His Honour Terence Cole has extensive judicial background and is absolutely the right person to do an enquiry of this nature.
Ms Gillard said that this inquiry will be … and will take time, have you any idea of the timeframe …?
Well, I sat down last week with His Honour Terence Cole and we spent a lot of time going through that. The first step will be to gather all of the information and scope out just what is involved in doing this very complex and comprehensive and complete inquiry.
I think it's absolutely fundamental that we must leave absolutely no doubt as to what happened. We have to establish the facts and we will use everything that is available to His Honour to enable to determine with reasonable certainty what happened to Sydney.
I think this is very, very important from the families' point of view; it's also important from our point of view because, strange as it may seem, no board of inquiry was conducted during World War II after the loss of Sydney. So this is very much unfinished business and we think that this is the best way to go.
Will the inquiry look at aspects like whether a search was launched in time or whether …?
The detailed terms of reference - at the moment there is just one term of reference and that is to inquire into the circumstances that led to the loss of HMAS Sydney and all of her crew.
Now, as we scope out what needs to be done, we'll get into what's within the scope of the inquiry and so forth. And the terms of reference will obviously be expanded to include items such as that.
Well of course His Honour Terence Cole has been selected for this inquiry because of his expertise in maritime law, because of his work with the Australian Defence Force.
Can I say in relation to past royal commissions over which His Honour has presided, our argument hasn't been with the work of His Honour in presiding over those inquiries; our argument in relation to the inquiry in relation to the building industry was about the motivations of the former government in creating that inquiry, and also about its terms of reference.
Clearly His Honour Mr Terence Cole is very well qualified for this appointment, he does have expertise in the area, and that will be brought to bear on what is going to be a complicated inquiry, a long running inquiry, and an inquiry of significance to the nation, to our history, to our understanding of ourselves, and also of contemporary significance to Australians who are alive today but remember that fateful day very clearly. They remember the loss of their loved ones and they're still looking for personal answers.
Will this inquiry actually talk to any of the German survivors?
I spoke again to His Honour about this last week, and yes, we would intend to try and find as many of them as we can. Of course, the reality is all of them are ageing and many of them have passed on. But clearly that is a very important thing that we need to do.
Have there been any further surveys of the wreck since you found it and how soon can you see…?
There's been no further surveys, the Geosounder, as you would know, returned to Geraldton to exchange the sonar equipment with which it used to find the wrecks for a remotely operated vehicle. They had some technical difficulties in getting that equipment on board last week. The vessel sailed from Geraldton on Saturday, and as of about 90 minutes ago, they were close to the site but they're weather affected at the moment, there's a cyclone just been through that area, and they've not yet been able to deploy the remotely operated vehicle.
Once the weather abates to a point where they can put the vehicle into the water, their plan is to search - well to use the vehicle to search the Sydney initially, and then the Kormoran and then the battle site. They believe that they can achieve that between now and about 11 April, and as we get the imagery it will be transmitted back to Australia where it will be freely available on the Sydney search website.
Would you be having input - in particular questions that you feel as a sailor of experience, coming from a maritime position, you would like to see answered? Do you think are likely to be answered by this enquiry?
As the Acting Prime Minister said, the mystery continues. It came in two parts, where was the Sydney, where was the Kormoran? We've now resolved the first part of the mystery; the second part of the mystery is what happened and why?
It would be speculation to try and attempt to answer that why question at this stage, but that's the pressing question, certainly in the Navy's mind, and I think in the mind of most Australians that are aware of this situation. Why was it, how could it be that the Sydney sank almost without trace?
I think the current investigations and certainly Terence Cole's inquiry will hopefully go towards answering that why question; how could it happen? That's the question that I would like to understand and I'm sure the rest of the Navy would as well.
Terence Cole will obviously have as long as it takes to try and solve these riddles … what time frame would we be looking at, are you thinking of next year, 2010, I mean, has he indicated … ?
As the Acting Prime Minister said, it's going to take a long time. I mean 23 kilometres of shelf space with documentation, that gives you some idea of how much material has to be looked at. But it's important that we get this right, it's important that it be a very complete inquiry.
I would say that we're probably looking well into next year before we get anywhere near the end of it. Certainly it's very important that the work that the Geosounder's doing continues, and it may be necessary to, later in the year, perhaps in the next weather window, to do further research, take further imagery to assist our understanding of what happened out there on 19 November.
Are you aware of any - talking about the 23 kilometres of shelf space, is this archived material … is there any Navy material or official material that you're aware of from the wartime or since, that has not been made public?
I understand a lot of this material has not been looked at ever before. So this gives you some idea of the challenge His Honour faces. It will be very important to find every piece of material and have a close look at it.
Some families have expressed a hope that maybe some personal effects could be retrieved from the vessel. Is that possible and are there plans to retrieve anything from the ship?
I think first of all you've got to understand that where Sydney is, it's - is a war grave and we don't want to - we don't want to interfere with the site. We respect everybody that was lost at that site.
Of course the other very realistic limitation on us is the depth of the water. To actually recover anything at 2,700 metres is extremely challenging.
So at this stage we haven't planned to do that. We'll certainly have a look at it, but I think in terms of how we approach it we have to realise that is a war grave and that comes first.
What level of support is the ADF providing to this search of the battle site or is this strictly a civilian…?
The Government has funded the current search to the tune of $4.2 million at this stage. That funding is sufficient to cover the next phase of the search which is the gathering of imagery underway at present. Depending on where we get to and where we might need to go further, further applications may need to be made to government for additional funding.
Ms Gillard, just on a different matter, should the - is the Government considering enlisting the [indistinct words] that will allow it to use guest workers from the Pacific, both as a means to address our labour shortage but also as a means to help Pacific nations requiring these funds, people sending money back home?
Can I say of course we have the 457 skilled visa system. And the Government is certainly maintaining the ability of skilled people to come to this country and to contribute their skills. There have been integrity problems with the use of that visa. They have been small in number given how large the number of people who come in on the 457 visa is. But they've still been concerning. And the Government has consequently sought to act in that area. And my colleague Chris Evans is dealing with that matter through a review of the 457 visa and integrity arrangements.
On the question of guest workers, there has been continuing interest by our Pacific Island neighbours on such a scheme. Obviously from their point of view it would enable money to be remitted back to their home country to families and friends. It's a matter that continues to be on the foreign policy agenda but there have been no conclusions of those discussions.
What's changed since January when Kevin Rudd ruled it out?
Well the - of course our Pacific neighbours have indicated a continuing interest in this area and of course the discussion continues. There has been no decision taken and I'm sure the Prime Minister, earlier in the year, referred to this, there's been no decision taken to create a guest worker visa.
But Pacific nations do raise this issue with us and consequently it is on the foreign policy agenda for discussions.
But, as I say, there has been no decision taken and people shouldn't expect to see any quick moves in that area.
Ms Gillard, on COAG, the states insistence in the communiqué, putting a line in that said, the Commonwealth should pay for its own policies how will that affect the rollout of your computer program, your trade centre program now that the states believe there's a greater onus on you paying more of the costs of those particular programs?
Well around the COAG table and around the table of the working party which it's been my great pleasure and privilege to chair, the productivity working group that has dealt with the implementation of these promises, there's been a clear understanding that the Commonwealth was making available a billion dollars of resource for computers in schools.
Of course states and territories have been making their own efforts in this area. They want children to come out of school ready for the world of work in the modern age, ready for life in the modern age. And of course that requires people to be able to use computers.
So they were investing; they're delighted to see a federal government that's prepared to work in partnership with them and invest an extra billion dollars that would not have been available to them had it not been for the Rudd Labor government's promise.
We have indicated to them, we understand that to make sure computers are available in circumstances where they can be used, to make sure that maintenance occurs, to make sure that professional development occurs for teachers so the computers are fully integrated into the learning environment, that that takes a strategic co-investment. And we are talking to them about the nature of that strategic partnership.
The hundred million dollars which we have promised to roll out this financial year will be rolled out. It will be rolled out by 30 June and our state and territory colleagues are working with us in partnership to facilitate that roll out.
Why should they be funding your election promises? They've got their own programs for which they are accountable to their voters and you've got yours. It certainly seems, please tell me if I'm wrong, that the states are saying, well no, these are your policies, you fund them.
Well, I think that analysis is a bit of a simplistic one, with respect. What the states and territories are obviously saying is, they are responsible for their schools and in running those schools they know that there is a lot to do to make sure that there's appropriate access to computer technology. And they want the children who go to those schools to have that access.
And then of course they see the election of the federal government that says, we not only want to work in partnership with you, we want to put a billion dollars on the table to get this shared objective done. And when you have those sorts of discussions, then clearly you want to work together in a strategic partnership and you want to deal with the co-investment issues. That's what we're going to do.
We're going to make sure that the hundred million that has been promised for this financial year is rolled out. That's an early promise, it's an important promise and it will be delivered and it will be delivered to those schools who are in most need. That is that they have a ratio of computers to children that is worse than 1 to 8, counting computers that are four years old or less.
There was no talk of sharing though during the election campaign when you went to all of those schools and you and Kevin Rudd were photographed with kids with computers promising this. There was no talk of sharing then.
Well I think when you see our election promises rolling out you would have seen much commentary from our state and territory colleagues. And that commentary, whether it was in education or whether it was in health or whether it was in water, was all about how they would love to be in a position to end the blame game, and to work with a federal government that was prepared to work with them on things that should be shared objectives and are shared objectives.
Our state Labor governments and territory Labor governments want to see Australian kids get a world class education. They want to work in partnership with a federal government that is committed to ensuring every Australian student gets a world class education.
Have the existing state programs failed? Is that why you have such a large number of schools with such poor ratios of less than 1 in 4. Have the states not spent the money wisely?
This is a huge capital task. It's a huge task to move from a situation where our schools didn't have access to computers to a situation where computer technology for upper secondary students is embedded into the curriculum in everything they do. It's an enormous task.
And when you are going to undertake an enormous task like that, from the perspective of the state or territory government, there's obviously concern about the time it is going to take to make sure that every child in those upper secondary years gets the access to computers that we would like to see them have.
So the states and territories were working in this area. What they lacked was a federal government prepared to work in partnership with them. What they have now is a federal government prepared to work in partnership with a billion dollars to be allocated to this area, and a billion dollars is a lot of money. And it means that there can be a real difference to access to computer technology for Australian students.
I'll take one more and then we'll go.
Given that the Government's campaign against binge drinking, are you disappointed to hear that some members of the Australian swim team got into a bit of pub brawl over the weekend. And should Nick D'Arcy lose his place at the Olympics because of that?
Look, I'm not going to make specific comments about individual athletes; that's a matter that should be dealt with by sporting officials and authorities.
Obviously the Government is very concerned about binge drinking by Australian young people, particularly by teenagers, many of them below the legal drinking age. We're concerned about the role models in sport and, you know, many of our athletes are great role models for Australian children as they're growing up. They give them something that they want to aspire to.
We obviously want to work with the sporting authorities, with our great sporting codes, whether it be AFL or NRL or whether it be the netball. We want to work with all of them to create those role models and make sure that they're there for Australian young people to look at as we combat binge drinking.
And the Government will continue in that endeavour working with those sporting codes. And those sporting codes are very happy to be working with the Government in this area. They understand that binge drinking is an issue in the Australian community. Yes, it does surface from time to time in the world of sport and it's a matter about which they're concerned.
QC for Sydney probe
Tuesday - 1 April 2008 - The Australian
THE man who presided over the inquiry into AWB kickbacks to Saddam Hussein has been asked to examine the sinking of HMAS Sydney 67 years ago.
Acting Prime Minister Julia Gillard said Terrence Cole QC would oversee what she warned would be a lengthy and complex investigation into the navy's worst maritime disaster.
Mr Cole was appointed to lead the commission of inquiry because of his extensive knowledge of maritime law and experience as deputy judge advocate-general of the Australian Defence Force, Ms Gillard said.
"This is going to be an extensive and complicated inquiry. There are documents that travel across 23km of shelf space. It will take some time," she said.
The wrecks of the light cruiser and its foe, the German raider Kormoran, were discovered last month in deep water off the West Australian coast near Carnarvon.
The inquiry is expected to take in testimony from German survivors of the Kormoran, while underwater footage of the two wrecks and a nearby debris field, expected to be collected this week, may provide clues as to how the Sydney, a superior warship, allowed itself to be drawn within the range of the raider's guns and torpedoes.
Chief of the Defence Force Angus Houston described the loss of the Sydney as "unfinished business". The terms of the inquiry, which will be held in Sydney, were likely to be broadened as the investigation proceeded, he said.
First photos released of HMAS Sydney wreck
Friday - 4 April 2008 - ABC News Online
The search team that found the wreck of HMAS Sydney has released the first dramatic pictures of the vessel lying on the bottom of the Indian Ocean.
HMAS Sydney was destroyed in a gun battle with the German raider Kormoran on November 19, 1941 with the loss of all 645 crew.
The Finding Sydney Foundation says the pictures were taken nearly 2.5 kilometres below the surface of the ocean.
The search director, David Mearns, said the first pictures to be released of HMAS Sydney in 66 years clearly show the twin guns of the X turret were pointed to port.
"Because we landed [the camera] nearer to the stern we began moving slowly in that direction to see if we could locate Sydney's bell on the quarterdeck," he said.
"Sadly it was nowhere to be found, but there was no mistaking that the wreck before us was that of HMAS Sydney and her damage matched perfectly to what we expected to see from the side-scan sonar imagery and from the German accounts of the battle.
"Based on the characteristic impact damage I have seen with many deepwater shipwrecks I believe that Sydney hit the seabed stern first and slid 50 metres or so to her final resting place."
Finding Sydney Foundation Director Bob Trotter says the photos reveal severe gunfire damage to the ship's deck and gun turrets.
"In terms of what it actually shows I guess it shows the Sydney is in a very bad state, it was obviously hit very hard by the Kormoran," he said.
A 90-year-old man has expressed sheer disbelief at photos of the wreckage of HMAS Sydney released today.
Fred House from Hobart was a gun layer for five years on HMAS Sydney, but was forced to return home because of an injury just six months before it sank.
Mr House says photos of the wreckage have answered a few of his questions about the fate of the naval ship.
He says it has been great to see the Sydney one last time.
"Yes it's good to see them," he said.
"The gun that I was on is not on the photos but no it's good to know that they've found her the mystery is where did the crew go."
Phyllis Wilkin's brother was on board the Sydney.
She studied the photos closely as they came through today and says she is looking forward to the analysis of them.
"Just to know exactly how it happened, I can't quite equate the Sydney being 12 point whatever nautical miles from the Kormoran if it had the bow shot off so soon, then one would expect it to be right beside the Kormoran", she said.
First photographs of the wreck of the Sydney
Friday - 4 April 2008 - MINSCIENCEANDPERSONNEL29/08
The Minister for Defence Science and Personnel, the Hon. Warren Snowdon today congratulated the Finding Sydney Foundation following the release of the first pictures of HMAS Sydney II.
“The incredible photos of the underwater wreckage bring home how fierce the battle must have been for the brave men onboard the Sydney,” said Mr Snowdon.
“Seeing these pictures for the first time will be very emotional for the relatives of the crew of HMAS Sydney II and my thoughts go out to them.”
“The search team continues to work under difficult conditions, so to capture these revealing pictures with the remotely operated vehicle (ROV) is an outstanding achievement.”
“The wreck-site and resting place of the crew of the Sydney continues to be treated with the respect and dignity it deserves and I can confirm that the ROV has not touched the wreck nor has anything been retrieved from HMAS Sydney II,” said Mr Snowdon.
Further examination of the wreck of the Sydney, the battle-field site and the Kormoran is expected to continue over the coming days, subject to acceptable weather conditions and operational issues with the ROV. The search vessel is expected to return to Geraldton later this month.
“I am also pleased to announce that the Navy has received 536 registrations from relatives of 236 crew members of HMAS Sydney II via the toll free number and web site.”
Planning continues for a private Navy commemorative service onboard HMAS Anzac over the site of the Sydney and Kormoran on 16 April and the national memorial service on 24 April at St Andrew’s Cathedral, Sydney.
First photos of HMAS Sydney raise further questions
Friday - 4 April 2008 - ABC News Online
The first photographs of the wreck of HMAS Sydney have been released by the crew of the survey boat, SV-Geosounder.
Erin Parke reports the photos have raised further questions about the circumstances of the ship's sinking off Western Australia's Mid West coast.
The photos taken last night show HMAS Sydney sitting upright but severely damaged by gunfire.
Damage to its side suggests it was struck by a German torpedo but lifeboats used during the emergency are missing.
Finding Sydney Foundation Chairman Bob Trotter says it is likely the rescue boats were too badly damaged to be of any use to the sailors.
"All we can say is that it probably would have been substantially damaged and probably not in a fit state to be used," he said.
More details are expected to emerge from the Commission of Inquiry announced by the Federal government last week.
The crew aboard the S-V Geosounder is currently taking video of the wreck which will be released today or tomorrow.
Sydney search team completes its mission
Thursday - 10 April 2008 - ABC News On line
The team which found the wreck of HMAS Sydney and the German raider Kormoran has officially completed its mission.
All 645 crew on board the Sydney lost their lives when the ship was sunk after a gun battle with the German ship in 1941.
Footage and photographs of the wrecks were taken during the Finding Sydney Foundation's 43-day search mission.
Today the Foundation released vision of personal effects, including shoes, found on the ocean floor.
A Sydney badge on a lifeboat is clearly visible, with the original paint intact.
Footage and photographs will be exhibited at the WA Museum in Geraldton on April the 24th
HMAS Sydney II commemorated
Wednesday - 16 April 2008 - MINSCIENCEANDPERSONNEL40/08
A moving service to remember and honour the tragic loss of HMAS Sydney II and her crew was held today over the site where the warship was recently discovered.
The Minister for Defence Science and Personnel, the Hon. Warren Snowdon; the Hon. Bob Baldwin, MP (representing the Federal Opposition Leader); and the Chief of Navy, Vice Admiral Russ Shalders; joined a small group in HMAS Anzac for the commemorative service, including a number of relatives of HMAS Sydney II’s crew.
Among them was Commodore Rory Burnett (rtd), son of the Commanding Officer of HMAS Sydney II at the time of her loss, Captain Joseph Burnett.
“It is with deepest respect that today we remember and honour the sacrifice of these brave young men made in the defence of our nation,” said Mr Snowdon.
Today’s service included the laying of wreaths and a 4.5 inch brass shell, inscribed with the names of all 645 men lost over the wreck site, approximately 112 nautical miles off the Western Australian coast.
“The discovery of Sydney’s final resting place means an enormous amount to the Royal Australian Navy,” said Vice Admiral Russ Shalders.
“Today is a sad day however it is the first real opportunity we have had to commemorate the loss of the Sydney since its discovery last month,” he said.
Following the service, HMAS Anzac sailed to the site of the HSK Kormoran where the German Ambassador, His Excellency Mr Martin Lutz, also laid a wreath and plaque to commemorate the 81 German sailors lost in the battle. HMAS Anzac is expected to arrive back at Geraldton early on 17 April.
A national memorial service on 24 April at St Andrew’s Cathedral, Sydney, will provide an opportunity for other relatives to commemorate the tragic loss of HMAS Sydney II and her crew. The service will also be open to the public.
HMAS Sydney memorial service
Thursday - 24 April 2008 - MINSCIENCEANDPERSONNEL43/08
Today Australians paused to remember the HMAS Sydney II and her crew at a national memorial service held at St Andrew’s Cathedral, Sydney.
As guests arrived at the service, the cathedral bell tolled 645 times, to mark the lives lost when the pride of the Royal Australian Navy’s fleet went down with all hands on 19 November, 1941.
On the eve of ANZAC Day, Prime Minister Kevin Rudd asked all Australians to remember the sacrifice of HMAS Sydney II’s crew.
“Today we commemorate HMAS Sydney II in a manner befitting her significance to the Australian nation.
“The Australian Government hopes that today’s service brings some comfort to you, the families and relatives of those who lost their lives. You should all be tremendously proud of them,” Mr Rudd said.
The Minister for Defence Science and Personnel, Warren Snowdon, said to have found the Sydney, and to have had this chance to say goodbye, give thanks and remember has been truly moving.
“Every one of the lost men of HMAS Sydney II left behind family, children they never saw grow older, mothers who outlived their sons, and we will never forget their service to Australia,” Mr Snowdon said.
More than 770 relatives of HMAS Sydney II’s crew came from all over Australia to attend the service.
With the church at full capacity, a large screen in Sydney Square allowed members of the public to view the service. The service concluded with a flyover by three Royal Australian Air Force Hawk 127 aircraft.
Following the conclusion of the service, the Prime Minister met with many of the relatives in attendance. A number of the relatives were then taken on a tour of the current HMAS Sydney.
Commission of Inquiry into the loss of HMAS Sydney II
Friday - 30 May 2008 - ABC News Online
The first day of official hearings of the Commission of Inquiry into the loss of HMAS Sydney II have been held today in Sydney.
HMAS Sydney II was lost with all 645 crew on 19 November 1941, following an engagement with the German raider, HSK Kormoran, off the Western Australian coast.
The Commission has been appointed to inquire into and report upon circumstances associated with the loss of HMAS Sydney II and consequent loss of life, and related subsequent events.
President of the Commission, The Hon. Terence Cole, AO, RFD, QC stated in his opening address that the objective of the Commission of Inquiry is to provide an independent and factual account of the events relating to the loss of HMAS Sydney II to the Chief of Defence Force, the relatives who have lost loved ones, and ultimately all Australians, in the hope it will help those affected to put the past behind them.
Mr Cole has also urged members of the public who have any information or wish to make submissions to the Inquiry to contact the Secretary of the HMAS Sydney II Commission of Inquiry at the address outlined below.
The Commission has now adjourned to undertake extensive research. Further public hearing days will be notified on the Commission of Inquiry website outlined below.
Defence opens HMAS Sydney probe
Friday - 30 May 2008 - ABC News Online
A Defence inquiry will begin today into the sinking of HMAS Sydney off the coast of Western Australia more than six decades ago.
Just two months ago one of the Australian Navy's longest running mysteries was solved when the wreckage of HMAS Sydney was discovered more than 200 kilometres off the West Australian coast.
Now the Australian Defence Force wants to know the exact circumstances that lead to the sinking and loss of the warship during World War II.
The Sydney was sunk on the November 19, 1941, by the German raider Komoran. All 645 crew on board perished.
Terence Cole QC, who previously headed a Royal Commission into the building and construction industry, is presiding over the inquiry in Sydney and will deliver an opening statement this morning.
Relatives of those lost in the sinking are hoping the inquiry will provide some answers about the ship's sinking.
Patricia Ingham's husband John was one on the 645 crew members who perished when the Sydney was sunk.
She says after more than six decades, there are still many unanswered questions.
"They're never going to find out everything, that's not possible," she said.
"But I just hope they get some tangible answers [as] to why and how it could have happened."
We owe the bereaved: HMAS Sydney commissioner
Friday - 30 May 2008 - CPA 153/08
The head of the HMAS Sydney inquiry says he owes it to the relatives of the 645 victims of the sinking to find out exactly what happened 67 years ago.
The inquiry into the World War II mystery has begun in Sydney, two months after the ship's wreckage was found off Western Australia.
The main questions naval experts would like answered are why the sophisticated ship came to engage the Kormoran at such close range and how it was defeated by an armed merchant vessel.
A commission of inquiry headed by Terence Cole QC has been appointed to investigate the circumstances.
In his opening address today, Mr Cole said some had questioned the need for an inquiry.
But the commissioner, who previously headed the AWB inquiry, said it was an important step for the relatives of those who died.
"Those relatives are entitled to assume that Australia will do all it can to establish the circumstances in which the deaths occurred," he said.
"To quote the words of Dr Michael McCarthy, an early and persistent campaigner for finding Sydney II, the failure to do so would strike 'at the very heart of the notion of service to one's country and the possibility of making the ultimate sacrifice in times of dire need.'"
Mr Cole said more servicemen were lost in the sinking than in the Korean War, the Vietnam War and on the Kokoda Trail.
"One-third of all sailors lost by Australia in World War II were lost in this single sinking..." he said.
"No country which is respectful of its military personnel or military traditions, or of its national history, can allow such a loss to remain unexplained when circumstances have occurred which may allow for the first time an explanation."
Mission to Germany
The commissioner will travel to Germany to interview survivors of the Kormoran, four of whom have already indicated they are willing to assist.
Mr Cole will also take evidence from sailors who served on HMAS Sydney on previous missions.
He said many of the veterans were frail.
"Where it is necessary, I will attend at the residences of these aged sailors and survivors to take their evidence, both in Australia and Germany," he said.
Archives in Australia, Germany, Japan, the US and Britain are already being searched for material relevant to the inquiry.
Forty-seven hours of film and 1,400 photographs of the wreckage will also be analysed.
Patricia Ingham's husband, John, was one of the crew members who perished. She says she will watch the inquiry closely.
"They're never going to find out everything. That's not possible," she said. "But I just hope they get some tangible answers [as] to why and how it could have happened."
Lieutenant Commander Ean McDonald served on the ship for nine months before it went down.
"The Kormoran must have lured the Sydney in close by offering surrender," he said. "This would be the only thing in my mind that would bring Sydney in so close."
Another theory is that a Japanese submarine also torpedoed the Sydney. Japan had not yet entered the war.
Other theories abound as to how the Sydney's crew members met their fates. Some have suggested the crew of the Kormoran fired on Australian sailors when they were in water.
A federal parliamentary inquiry looked into the circumstances of the sinking from 1997 to 1999
HMAS Sydney inquiry to resume
Monday - 1 September 2008 - ABC News Online
A Defence inquiry into the sinking of HMAS Sydney during World War II will resume in Sydney today.
One of the Royal Australian Navy's longest-running mysteries was solved when the wreckage of the warship was found in March more than 200 kilometres off the West Australian coast.
The ship was sunk in November 1941 by German raider the Kormoran, killing all 645 crew on board.
The inquiry will investigate the circumstances of the sinking and is expected to hear from Australian sailors who served on HMAS Sydney on previous missions.
Officer had safety fears on HMAS Sydney, inquiry told
Monday - 1 September 2008 - ABC news Online
A retired naval officer from HMAS Sydney has told a public inquiry into the ship's sinking that there was a problem with its safety procedures.
It is 67 years since the then flagship of the Australian Navy was sunk by the German raider Kormoran killing all 645 crew onboard.
In April the wreckage of the Sydney was found off the West Australian coast.
Francis Sheldon Collins told the inquiry he became worried about the crew's safety under Captain Joseph Burnett - who led the Sydney until it sank - because daily drills or "action stations" were not carried out under his command.
Outside the inquiry, 87-year-old Mr Sheldon Collins said he was not surprised when he later heard of the ship's fate, because he had become convinced it was doomed.
"I said to the captain's cook 'if this bastard carries on like this we're dead ducks'," he said.
Another former sailor told the inquiry Captain Burnett was aware of a German raider was in the area a month before the fatal attack.
Some witnesses have questioned the merits of the inquiry.
The inquiry is investigating how the ship got so close to the Kormoran.
From the outset there has been speculation about what the inquiry can achieve.
Findings from the inquiry are expected to be handed down by the beginning of next year.
Naval communications expert seeks to dispel HMAS Sydney myths
Tuesday - 2 September 2008 - ABC news Online
A retired naval communications expert says he hopes his evidence at at the inquiry into the sinking of the HMAS Sydney will help dispel some myths that have circulated since the warship's loss 67 years ago.
Alfred Johnson, 84, from Canberra served on the Sydney's sister ship HMAS Hobart and gave evidence today at public hearings in Sydney.
In his evidence Mr Johnson said reports of a voice message sent from the ship were impossible as the technology was not available on Australian Navy cruisers until 1942.
He told the inquiry the warship could only send and receive messages in morse code.
"All of our cruisers at that time could only transmit using morse code. There's absolutely no question," he said.
"Anybody claiming they were hearing that must have been able to read morse code and that wouldn't have happened."
Mr Johnson says he decided to make his submission because he knew people who perished on the Sydney.
"I think in an inquiry like this if we can put some honest facts before them they're more likely to come up with a more reasonable answer as to what probably did occur, and I think that would put it to rest and be helpful to any of those families," he said.
Outside the inquiry, Mr Johnson said some people had sought notoriety since the sinking by making false claims.
Questions resurface on sinking of HMAS Sydney
Saturday - 15 November 2008 - The Australian
FIVE days after HMAS Sydney and its 645 crew were lost in battle off the West Australian coast, former crew member Ean McDonald says he heard three radio signals purportedly from the ship.
The puzzling timing of what Mr McDonald -- who had been transferred from the Sydney some months before -- insists he heard while in the radio room of HMAS Perth on that day in 1944 has left him deeply sceptical of almost everything authorities have had to say about Australia's worst maritime disaster, and he is not alone.
"It is totally absorbing for those of us who have been researching it all these years," Mr McDonald, a retired architect, told The Weekend Australian.
One battle theory involving a Japanese submarine persists, and author Michael Montgomery -- the son of the Sydney's lost navigator -- has pleaded with the judicial inquiry into the ship's fate to halt the reburial of its unknown sailor, to be held on Wednesday next week.
In public hearings at the inquiry this week, Adelaide man David Angwin told of his theory that up to 300 of Sydney's crew washed up on Western Australia's midwest and that Australian military reservists were secretly sent to bury them in sandhills.
Mr Angwin, who dug in the sandhills, believes the Sydney's crew were machinegunned in the water after their battle with the Kormoran.
It is against this backdrop that Defence Minister Joel Fitzgibbon will attend the reburial of the unknown sailor in Geraldton as well as an accompanying ceremony to coincide with the anniversary of the loss of theSydney.
The events are intended to help the surviving relatives of the men who died when the Sydney and disguised German raider Kormoran sank each other 120 nautical miles off Shark Bay on November 19, 1941.
But Mr Montgomery argues that the Australian Government is effectively burying the single most important piece of evidence in the mystery of the Sydney.
He believes the sailor was shot, not hit by German shrapnel as announced in February last year by then veterans affairs minister Bruce Billson.
In a written submission to the ongoing inquiry run by Terrence Cole, Mr Montgomery says the unknown sailor was thought to have been shot and his body found in a life-raft in Flying Fish Cove at Christmas Island nine weeks after the Sydney disaster. His body was buried on Christmas Island.
"Captain Jim Parsons examined the skull and found a low-calibre, perfectly round bullet hole in the back of the head," he wrote in his submission.
The Department of Defence says it is important that the unknown sailor "is given the dignified reburial that he deserves".
"It was originally hoped that the identity of the sailor would be known in time to achieve reburial in November 2007," the spokesperson said.
"A reburial to coincide with the Geraldton-based commemorations is considered optimal, as it maximises the potential for family attendance at the memorial service for the sailor, which will be held immediately prior to the reinterment."
The department holds a DNA sample of the unknown sailor.
Justice Cole acknowledged in his opening statement that "much remains unknown'' about the Sydney despite a federal parliamentary inquiry between 1997 and 1999.
Misinformation, and a lack of information about the tragedy over decades, is one reason that seemingly outlandish theories about the ship have gained currency, according to researcher Glenys McDonald, who was part of the successful search for the Sydney in March.
"People have invested a lot of time in working out what they think happened and it is difficult to let go," she said.