The Minister for Defence Stephen Smith will today attend a memorial service in Geraldton, Western Australia to honour the 645 sailors and airmen who perished when HMAS Sydney II was lost at sea 70 years ago.
Minister Smith will lay a wreath at the Sydney II Memorial Dome of Souls and pay tribute to the crew of the Modified Leander Class Light Cruiser which was lost off the coast of Western Australia on the 19th November 1941, after an encounter with the German Raider HSK Kormoran.
Today we remember the bravery of the 645 men who made the ultimate sacrifice in Australia’s greatest naval tragedy. Their service was not in vain, nor will their sacrifice be forgotten.
Sydney II’s wartime station was the port city of Fremantle from where she operated routinely in Western Australian waters and the Indian Ocean. It was from Fremantle that she set sail on her last voyage on Armistice Day, 11 November 1941, to escort the troopship Zealandia to the Sunda Strait.
On Remembrance Day this year, Minister Smith attended a service at the WACA in Perth to commemorate the 70th Anniversary of the departure of HMAS Sydney II from Fremantle and to dedicate the WACA museum exhibit honouring HMAS Sydney II and her crew.
After achieving her mission the Sydney II altered course for home, but sadly never arrived back in Fremantle.
On her way home, Sydney II encountered the German Raider Kormoran and the two ships engaged in a fierce battle during which Sydney II was sunk, but not before damaging beyond repair the German ship which also sank.
The Minister for Veterans’ Affairs, Warren Snowdon, said the crew of HMAS Sydney II displayed the finest example of what it means to be Australian. They showed courage and tenacity under fire, never gave up, and went down fighting.
Their memory will forever serve as a reminder to us all of what ordinary Australians have willingly given to ensure the freedom and protection of our great nation.
The wrecks of both Sydney II and Kormoran were discovered approximately 112 nautical miles west of Steep Point, Western Australia, by the Finding Sydney Foundation in March 2008.
Minister Smith said that as a former Trustee of the HMAS Sydney Foundation Trust, which was established in 1995 to find the final resting place of HMAS Sydney II, the memorial ceremony was particularly moving.
The HMAS Sydney II Memorial was declared a military memorial of national significance in 2009, and the Australian Government supported the established of a memorial in Geraldton, which was completed this month with the finalisation of the pool of remembrance.
The HMAS Sydney II Memorial has become an important place of reflection for the loved ones of those lost in the tragedy. It is important that the community continue to honour the memory of the crew, and acknowledge the suffering and grief of the families left behind.
Commemorative services for the HMAS Sydney II are also being held today in Martin Place Centre, and at the Shrine of Remembrance in Melbourne.
To mark the 70th anniversary of the sinking, recovered artefacts from the wreck will be on display in the Assembly Hall at the Anzac Memorial in Hyde Park in November.