Tag Archives: HMAS Sydney

Saluting AB Clark, late of HMAS Sydney

From the office of the Australian Defense Minister:

Eighty years after the Australian warship HMAS Sydney (II) sunk off the West Australian coast, the only body recovered from the tragedy has now been identified.

New DNA evidence has confirmed Able Seaman (AB) Thomas Welsby Clark from New Farm in Brisbane as the previously unidentified sailor.

The Sydney sank on 19 November, 1941 following an intense battle with the disguised German merchant raider HSK Kormoran, about 120 nautical miles (222 km) west of Steep Point, WA.

AB Clark is believed to be the only sailor to have made it to a life raft after the ship went down.

Despite surviving the battle and the sinking, he tragically died at sea in the life raft. His remains were found near Rocky Point on Christmas Island nearly three months later.

DNA samples collected from his body in 2006 have been extensively tested over the past 15 years and revealed both mitochondrial DNA, passed from mother to child, and Y chromosome DNA passed from father to son.

Research facilitated by the Sea Power Centre – Australia has successfully identified two living direct relatives.

Minister for Veterans Affairs and Minister for Defence Personnel Andrew Gee said the formal identification was a significant development in Sydney’s story and an historic moment for Australia.

“To finally learn Tom’s name, rank, service number and home town, 80 years after he was lost is truly remarkable”, Minister Gee said.

“It is says a lot about Australia that, despite the decades that have passed, our nation is still working so hard to identify those lost in war and ensuring we honour the sacred commitment to remember them.

“I know this is a terribly sad time for Tom’s family. Like his brave shipmates, he died defending Australia, our values and way of life. His family should be immensely proud.

“The Office of Australian War Graves has agreed that next year Tom’s grave in Geraldton War Cemetery will be marked by a new headstone bearing his name. He will be ‘unknown’ no longer.

“By identifying Tom, our nation honours all those who lost their lives in HMAS Sydney (II).

“His story helps Australia understand the immense sacrifice made for our country and also the loss and grief that is still felt by the descendants of those who perished on that day.

“Today our nation also extends its deepest sympathies to the descendants of the 644 other crew members who were sadly never recovered after that infamous battle.

“They gave their lives protecting our nation and fighting tyranny, and by ending the threat posed by the Kormoran they undoubtedly saved many other Australian lives.

“At this time we remember them and all of the 39,000 Australians who lost their lives in the Second World War.”

Chief of Navy Vice Admiral Mike Noonan said AB Clark was just 21 years old when he died and was representative of the many young lives lost in the battle.

“Of Sydney’s total complement of 645 men no one survived. This included six Royal Australian Air Force members, eight Royal Navy personnel and four civilian canteen staff. Eighty-two officers and sailors were killed in Kormoran,” said Vice Admiral Noonan.

“We revere the service and sacrifice of all who perished.

“Solving this World War II case involved specialists in DNA analysis, forensic pathology and dentistry, ballistics, anthropology, archaeology and naval history. I commend the combined effort spearheaded by the Sea Power Centre to confirm AB Clark’s identity.

“The Australian Federal Police National DNA Program for Unidentified and Missing Persons was instrumental, as were the Australian National University, Australian War Memorial, University of Adelaide and University of Sydney, not to mention Able Seaman Thomas Clark’s family.”

“His long voyage is complete, may he Rest in Peace.”

Dr Leigh Lehane, (a retired academic) was surprised and saddened to learn her Uncle Tom was the unknown sailor.

“To be quite honest it was a bit upsetting,” she said.

However, she said establishing the truth was important.

“I am so grateful for the many, many people, well over a hundred, who helped ascertain the truth about his identity,” Dr Lehane said.

She was born in July 1941, the month before her Uncle Tom joined Sydney. According to a family story he met his new niece on a final visit to Brisbane.

“He came and held me as a little baby. That’s a very pleasurable thought because I don’t think anyone else is alive now who knew Tom sort of eye to eye,” Dr Lehane said.

Remembering Sydney vs. Kormoran in a unique, and mutual, way

The Type 123 Brandenburg-class frigate Bayern (F-217) deployed to the Pacific in August in an effort to “show more presence in the Indo-Pacific region.”

She has completed exercises and steamed with a host of foreign navies along the way.

PASSEX on Sept 7 2021 with the German frigate Bayern, Ticonderoga-class cruiser USS Shiloh (CG-67), and the Pakistani Navy frigate PNS Alamgir (F260)– formerly USS McInerney (FFG-8)–in the Indian Ocean. (Photos: German Navy)

Notably, when Bayern arrived in Fremantle last week she was the first German navy ship to visit Australia since the tall ship Gorch Fock berthed in Sydney in 1988.

Historically, German and Australian naval ships don’t interact very often.

Speaking of which, there was one very memorable meeting between the two countries at sea on 19 November 1941 when the Leander-class light cruiser HMAS Sydney (D48) came across the notorious German auxiliary cruiser (Hilfskreuzer) Kormoran which was brazenly steaming just 150 miles south-west of the coast of Western Australia. The heavily-armed commerce raider, known as “Raider G” to the Allies, had been at sea for 352 days and her crack crew had chalked up some 75,000 tons of shipping. A wolf in sheep’s clothing found by Sydney while flying a Dutch flag, with the action beginning at what was effectively point-blank range. 

In the mutually destructive surface action that followed, both ships were lost with a combined butcher’s bill of 727 men dead to include every single member of the Australian cruiser’s complement.

The engagement echoed a similar one between the Dresden-class cruiser SMS Emden and the Chatam-class light cruiser HMAS Sydney off Cocos Islands in November 1914, only much bloodier.

Only a few weeks away from the 80th anniversary of the loss of Kormoran and the later Sydney, embarked exchange sailors from the Royal Australian Navy on Bayern this week joined a solemn ceremony held by the crew to observe the battle, over at 26°S 111°E.

Members of the Bayern’s ship’s company also participated in a wreath-laying ceremony at the State War Memorial in Perth’s Kings Park. 
 

SMS Emden survivors, from beyond the grave

The Australian War Memorial this week posted this excellent round table studio interview filmed in Ausburg, Germany in the 1950s with three direct survivors and son of a serving officer of the German Light cruiser SMS Emden. The interview was conducted in English and concerns the parts played by the interviewees in the naval battle with the cruiser HMAS Sydney at Cocos Island on 9 November 1914.

The survivors are Petty Officer Hans Hahns age 72, Able Seaman Arthur Werner age 72, Captain Erich Prekenschau and Prince Meinrad of Hohenzollern son of Prince Franz Joseph of Hohnezollern (1891-1964) who was one of the Emden’s serving officers (Prince Franz Joseph had died a few weeks before the interview was filmed).

German raider, SMS Emden is sunk by Australian Cruiser, HMAS Sydney

Hermes, Clamagore, and Newcastle to be no more

Lots of changes among the world’s floating museum ships and those otherwise long in the tooth this week.

Hermes/Viraat

Centaur-class aircraft carrier HMS Hermes (R12) bouncing around the North Atlantic with her bow mostly out of the water, 1977.

Laid down at Vickers-Armstrong on 21 June 1944, two weeks after the Allies stormed ashore at D-Day, as HMS Elephant, the RN carrier HMS Hermes only joined the fleet on 18 November 1959 (after 15 years at the builders) with a much-altered plan that included an angled flight deck to allow the operation of jet-powered aircraft at sea. After legendary Cold War service and a pivotal part in the Falklands War in 1982, she was sold to India in 1987 and took the name INS Viraat (R22) and, homeported in Mumbai, served the Indian Navy for three more decades, undergoing a further five refits while in Indian service.

The last British-built ship serving the Indian Navy, Viraat was the star attraction at the International Fleet Review held in Visakhapatnam in February 2016. Her last Sea Harrier, (White Tigers in Indian service), flew from her deck on May 6, of that year and was given a formal farewell at INS Hansa, in Goa two days later. She was to be preserved as a floating museum, commemorating an amazing career.

Fast forward three years and this is not to be. Deli announced this week that she will soon be scrapped.

Clamagore

In formation on 18 April 1966. The boats seen are: USS BLENNY (SS-324), CLAMAGORE (SS-343), COBBLER (SS-344), and CORPORAL (SS-346)

Subron-21’s GUPPY IIIs in formation on 18 April 1966. The boats seen are: USS BLENNY (SS-324), CLAMAGORE (SS-343), COBBLER (SS-344), and CORPORAL (SS-346)

The submarine USS Clamagore (SS-343), a Balao-class 311-foot “fleet boat” of the type that crushed the Japanese merchant fleet during WWII, commissioned on 28 June 1945– just narrowly too late for the war. However, her Naval service was rich, being converted to a GUPPY II snorkel boat in 1947 and later GUPPY III in 1962– one of only a handful to get the latter upgrade.

Decommissioned in 1973, the boat was still in pretty good shape when she was donated at age 36 to become a museum ship at Patriot’s Point, South Carolina where she has been since 1981, near the WWII carrier USS Yorktown.

The Clamagore (SS-343) being brought to Patriots Point Naval and Maritime Museum, Charleston, SC. 1981. Courtesy Tommy Trapp via Navsource

The Clamagore (SS-343) being brought to Patriots Point Naval and Maritime Museum, Charleston, SC. 1981. Courtesy Tommy Trapp via Navsource

Now, she is suffering from extensive decay and, although a group of subvets is trying to save her (and taking the state to court) Palmetto State lawmakers have voted to spend $2.7 million in public dollars to sink the Cold War-era submarine off South Carolina’s shores.

Newcastle

To replace their aging Adams (Perth)-class DDGs, the Royal Australian Navy in the 1980s ordered a six-pack of Oliver Hazard Perry-class guided missile frigates. Known locally as the Adelaide (FFG01)-class in RAN service, the first four vessels were built in the U.S. at Todd in Seattle, while last two were constructed by AMECON of Williamstown, Victoria.

Besides the names of large Australian cities, the vessels carried the names of past RAN vessels including two HMS/HMAS Sydney’s that fought in WWI and WWII, and Oz’s two aircraft carriers.

Photo by ABPH Tracey Casteleijn/RAN/ #950365-10

Photo by ABPH Tracey Casteleijn/RAN/ #950365-10

Canberra and Adelaide were paid off in 2005 and 2008 respectively, then sunk as dive wrecks. Sydney struck in 2015 and began scrapping soon after, while Darwin was broken up in 2017. Melbourne and Newcastle were to stick it out until the new Hobart-class destroyers arrive to replace them by 2019.

With that, HMAS Newcastle (FFG06), was put to pasture this week after she traveled more than 900,000 nautical miles, visited over 30 countries, conducted six maritime security operations and earned battle honors in East Timor, the Persian Gulf, and the Middle East.

Lieutenant Commander Nick Graney salutes during the national anthem as part of HMAS Newcastle’s decommissioning ceremony at Fleet Base East, Sydney on Sunday 30th June 2019.

Lieutenant Commander Nick Graney, RAN, salutes during the national anthem as part of HMAS Newcastle’s decommissioning ceremony at Fleet Base East, Sydney on Sunday 30th June 2019.

The final Australian FFG, Melbourne (FFG05), is set to be decommissioned 26 Oct 2019 and, like Newcastle, will be sold to Chile to begin a second career on the other end of the Pacific. Should that somehow fall through, the Hellenic Navy has also expressed interest in acquiring these classic but hard-used Perries.

And the beat goes on…

Canadian whisky in U.S-built FFG recovered in Oz

To replace their aging Adams (Perth)-class DDGs, the Royal Australian Navy in the 1980s ordered a six-pack of Oliver Hazard Perry-class guided missile frigates. Known as the Adelaide-class in RAN service, the first four vessels were built in the U.S. at Todd in Seattle, while last two were constructed by AMECON of Williamstown, Victoria.

Besides the names of large Australian cities, the vessels carry the names of past RAN vessels including two HMS/HMAS Sydney’s that fought in WWI and WWII, and Oz’s two aircraft carriers.

Canberra and Adelaide were paid off in 2005 and 2008 respectively, then sunk as dive wrecks. Sydney struck in 2015 and began scrapping last month, while Darwin, Melbourne and Newcastle are sticking it out until the new Hobart-class destroyers arrive to replace them by 2019.

One of the Todd-built greyhounds now being dismantled, Sydney, just gave up her mini-bottle of now 41-year-old blended MacNaughton Canadian whisky, which had been wrapped in pipe insulation in the forward starboard leg of the main mast back in April 1982.

The yard got the word from the states that the bottle may still be there, and it was.

Should have been Kentucky bourbon, but hey…

Via the RAN

 

The RAN shows it can pull off a photoex in style

Photo by ABPH Tracey Casteleijn/RAN/ #950365-10

Dig those one-armed bandits! Photo by ABPH Tracey Casteleijn/RAN/ #950365-10

Here we see the Royal Australian Navy’s FFG-7 class in toto to include HMAS Adelaide (FFG-01), Canberra, Sydney, Darwin, Melbourne and Newcastle during Exercise Kakadu in 1995. With a beam of 45 feet on each of those hulls, it wouldn’t surprise me if this near-perfectly aligned six-pack of greyhounds are in a space about 500 feet wide from the portside of Adelaide to the starboard of Newcastle.

Besides the names of large Australian cities, the vessels carry the names of past RAN vessels including two HMS/HMAS Sydney’s that fought in WWI and WWII, and Oz’s two aircraft carriers.

Known as the Adelaide-class in RAN service, the first four vessels were built in the U.S. at Todd in Seattle, while last two were constructed by AMECON of Williamstown, Victoria, to replace aging Adams (Perth)-class DDGs.

Canberra and Adelaide were paid off in 2005 and 2008 respectively, then sunk as dive wrecks. Sydney struck in 2015 and began scrapping last month, while Darwin, Melbourne and Newcastle are sticking it out until the new Hobart-class destroyers arrive to replace them by 2019.

The Polish Navy, who operate two former USN FFG7s still with single-arm Mk 13 missile launchers (ORP Generał Tadeusz Kościuszko, ex-USS Wadsworth (FFG-9) and ORP Generał Kazimierz Pułaski, ex-USS Clark (FFG-11)), has expressed interest in picking up the last remaining ships for operational use.

Maybe they can recreate the above image in the Baltic in 2020?

 

Photos from raider Kormoran and HMAS Sydney

The German raider SMS Kormoran (HSK-8) and the light cruiser HMAS Sydney (D48) were re-discovered in 2008 with an expedition to the wrecks going out earlier this year.

The two locked horns in an epic battle that sent both to the bottom 19 November 1941 in the (then relatively peaceful) Pacific/Indian Ocean theater.

The German raider went 515-feet, 8,700-tons and had a main battery of 6 × 15 cm (5.9 in) SK L/45 C guns– and no armor with a speed of just 18 knots.

HMAS Sydney, a Leander-class light cruiser, was about the same size (562-feet, 8,900-tons) but carried 8 × 6-inch (150 mm) breech-loading Mk XXIII guns, had 1-3 inches of armor, and could touch 32-knots.

Still, the battle ended both.

Although Sydney covered herself with glory, her victory came at a high price and it was a national blow to Australia.

Australian Secretary to the War Cabinet Frederick Shedden to John Curtin, the first formal advice to the Prime Minister that the HMAS Sydney was believed lost

Australian Secretary to the War Cabinet Frederick Shedden to John Curtin, the first formal advice to the Prime Minister that the HMAS Sydney was believed lost

Researchers from Curtin University and the Western Australian Museum captured 700,000 high resolution images of the two ships with the help of two remotely operated underwater vehicles lowered to 2.5km on the ocean.

One of the raider's 5.9's named Linda

One of the raider’s 5.9’s named Linda

The tally board inside Kormoran with the kill list-- up until 19 Nov anyway

The tally board inside Kormoran with the kill list– up until 19 Nov anyway

Another Kormoran gun

Another Kormoran gun

They were designed to be hidden under false bulkheads

They were designed to be hidden under false bulkheads

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Sydney

Sydney

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