HMAS Sydney II Memorial
19 November 2011
Distinguished guests, ladies and gentleman, relatives of those who were lost in HMAS Sydney II.
I am privileged to join you this evening in the grounds of this memorial in commemorating the 645 sailors and airmen who perished when HMAS Sydney II was lost at sea 70 years ago.
We also commemorate the service of HMAS Sydney II and her crew during the Second World War.
In her time, HMAS Sydney II was one of Australia’s most accomplished warships with a proud fighting record.
She was commissioned at Portsmouth on September 1935 and was in Fremantle on the day war was declared in 1939.
In 1940, HMAS Sydney II joined the Mediterranean Fleet and participated in a number of engagements and operations, including The Battle of Cape Spada in July, during which she engaged a superior force of Italian ships and sunk the Italian cruiser Bartolomeo Colleoni.
In February 1941, HMAS Sydney II returned to her home port of Fremantle.
The return home of the Royal Australian Navy’s most famous fighting ship promised hope at a time when Australia had never been more threatened.
Based in Fremantle, and with a large number of her crew coming from Western Australia, I believe a particularly special bond was forged with the people of this state.
From Fremantle, HMAS Sydney II operated routinely in Western Australian waters and the Indian Ocean.
And 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.
After achieving her mission, HMAS Sydney II altered course for home, but sadly never arrived back in Fremantle.
On her way home, on 19 November, HMAS Sydney II encountered the disguised German Raider Kormoran and the two ships engaged in a fierce battle during which both were sunk.
During the battle with the Kormoran, HMAS Sydney II’s crew acquitted themselves magnificently.
They inflicted critical damage on the Kormoran, which forced her eventual abandonment and scuttling.
However, the Australian cruiser was crippled from the outset of the action.
Sydney’s crew served and fought bravely to the end.
But none of her 645 crew, which included six airmen of the Royal Australian Air Force and four civilian canteen staff, survived the action.
The loss of HMAS Sydney II with all hands was a tremendous blow to the entire Australian community during a particularly dark period of World War II.
It has been said, that at the time of her loss there was hardly a city or town in Australia that did not have one of its own serving in her.
This evening, as we reflect at this memorial which bears the names of all who died in HMAS Sydney II, their memory serves as a reminder to us all of what ordinary Australians have willingly given to ensure the freedom and protection of our nation.
The wrecks of both HMAS Sydney II and Kormoran now lie approximately 112 nautical miles west of Steep Point, Western Australia.
Their final resting place is now a poignant reminder of their sacrifice.
Lest We Forget.