Allied Warships

HMAS Sydney (D 48)

Light cruiser of the Perth class


HMS Sydney as seen during the war.

NavyThe Royal Australian Navy
TypeLight cruiser
ClassPerth 
PennantD 48 
Built bySwan Hunter and Wigham Richardson Ltd. (Wallsend-on-Tyne, U.K.) 
Ordered10 Feb 1933 
Laid down8 Jul 1933 
Launched22 Sep 1934 
Commissioned24 Sep 1935 
Lost19 Nov 1941 
History

Laid down as HMS Phaeton but purchased (before launching) by the Australian Government in 1934.

Sunk in the Indian Ocean west of Shark Bay, Western Australia by torpedoes and 5.9in gunfire of German raider Kormoran.

When she was sunk HMAS Sydney (Capt. Joseph Burnett, RAN) was on her way home for a refit. The Kormoran was cleverly disguised as a Dutch merchantman. Ambushed without warning, the blazing Sydney vanished into the night with 645 men onboard and was never seen again for 66 years (see note below). Kormoran later sank with 85 casualties and 315 survivors.

 
Former nameHMS Phaeton

Commands listed for HMAS Sydney (D 48)

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CommanderFromTo
1Capt. John William Ashley Waller, RN9 Oct 193716 Nov 1939
2Capt. John Augustine Collins, RAN16 Nov 193914 May 1941
3Capt. Joseph Burnett, RAN14 May 194119 Nov 1941 (+)

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Notable events involving Sydney include:


19 Jul 1940
Action off Cape Spada;

The Australian cruiser HMAS Sydney (Capt. J.A. Collins, RAN) and the British destroyers HMS Hasty (Lt.Cdr. L.R.K. Tyrwhitt, RN), HMS Havock (Cdr. R.E. Courage, DSO, DSC, RN), HMS Hero (Cdr. H.W. Biggs, DSO, RN), HMS Hyperion (Cdr. H.St.L. Nicolson, DSO, RN) and HMS Ilex (Lt.Cdr. P.L. Saumarez, DSC, RN) were on a sweep into the Aegean Sea. They were sent to intercept two reported Italian cruisers. In the action that followed, the Italian light cruiser Bartolomeo Colleoni is halted off Cape Spada, at the north west tip of Crete, by Sydney's gunfire. Later she was finished off with torpedoes from the destroyers. The Italian light cruiser Giovanni delle Bande Nere manages to escape.

8 Oct 1940
Operation MB-6;

A British convoy with the merchants
Memnon (7506 GRT),
Lanarkshire (11275 GRT),
Clan Macauley (10492 GRT) and
Clan Ferguson (7347 GRT)
left Alexandria for Malta on 8 October 1940. This convoy was escorted by the British Anti-Aircraft cruisers
HMS Calcutta (Capt. D.M. Lees, DSO, RN),
HMS Coventry (Capt. D. Gilmour, RN)
and the Australian destroyers
HMS Stuart (Capt. H.M.L. Waller, DSO, RAN),
HMS Voyager (Cdr. J.C. Morrow, DSO, RAN),
HMS Waterhen (Lt.Cdr. J.H. Swain, RAN)
and the British destroyer
HMS Wryneck (Cdr. R.H.D. Lane, RN).

Cover was provided by the Mediterranean Fleet (Admiral Cunningham) with the British battleships
HMS Warspite (Capt. D.B. Fisher, CBE, RN),
HMS Valiant (Capt. H.B. Rawlings, OBE, RN),
HMS Malaya (Capt. A.F.E. Palliser, DSC, RN),
HMS Ramillies (Capt. H.T. Baillie-Grohman, OBE, DSO, RN),
the British aircraft carriers
HMS Illustrious (Capt. D.W. Boyd, DSC, RN),
HMS Eagle (Capt. A.R.M. Bridge, RN),
the British heavy cruiser
HMS York (Capt. R.H. Portal, DSC, RN),
the British light cruisers
HMS Gloucester (Capt. H.A. Rowley, RN),
HMS Liverpool (Capt. P.A. Read, RN),
HMS Ajax (Capt. E.D. McCarthy, RN),
HMS Orion (Capt. G.R.B. Back, RN),
the Australian light cruiser
HMAS Sydney (Capt. J.A. Collins, CB, RAN)
escorted by the British destroyers
HMS Hyperion (Cdr. H.St.L. Nicolson, DSO and Bar, RN),
HMS Havock (Cdr. R.E. Courage, DSO, DSC, RN),
HMS Hero (Cdr. H.W. Biggs, DSO, RN),
HMS Hereward (Lt.Cdr. C.W. Greening, RN),
HMS Hasty, (Lt.Cdr. L.R.K. Tyrwhitt, RN),
HMS Ilex (Lt.Cdr. P.L. Saumarez, DSC, RN),
HMS Imperial (Lt.Cdr. C.A.deW. Kitcat, RN),
HMS Jervis (Capt. P.J. Mack, DSO, RN),
HMS Janus (Cdr. J.A.W. Tothill, RN),
HMS Juno (Cdr. W.E. Wilson, RN),
HMS Nubian (Cdr. R.W. Ravenhill, RN),
HMS Dainty (Cdr. M.S. Thomas, DSO, RN),
HMS Decoy (Cdr. E.G. McGregor, DSO, RN),
HMS Defender (Lt.Cdr. St.J.R.J. Tyrwhitt, RN)
and the Australian destroyers
HMAS Vampire (Cdr. J.A. Walsh, RAN) and
HMAS Vendetta (Cdr. R. Rhoades RAN).

The convoy was not spotted and arrived safe at Malta on 11 October. The only damage sustained was to the destroyer HMS Imperial that was mined off Malta and was out of action for over 6 months.

While on the return trip the Mediterranean Fleet was sighted by an Italian aircraft. The Italian Navy tried to intercept them in the Ionian Sea. In the night of 11/12 October the first Italian torpedo boat flotilla with Airone, Alcione and Ariel attacked HMS Ajax. The attack failed and Ajax sank Airone and Ariel, Alcione escaped. A little while later the Italian 11th destroyer flotilla, with Artigliere, Aviere, Camicia Nera and Geniere arrived at the scene. They were surprised by the radar-directed gunfire from HMS Ajax. Artigliere was heavily damaged and Aviere was slightly damaged. Camicia Nere tried to tow Artigliere away but she was sighted by a British Sunderland aircraft that homed in 3 Swordfish aircraft from HMS Illustrious. However, the torpedoed they fired didn't hit the Italian ships. Later the British heavy cruiser HMS York arrived at the scene. Camicia Nera quickly slipped the towing line and sped off. After her crew had left the ship Artiglire was sunk by York.

While the Mediterranean Fleet was still on the return trip aircraft from HMS Illustrious and HMS Eagle attacked Leros and in the evening of the 14th the British light cruiser HMS Liverpool while south-east of Crete was hit in the bow by a torpedo from an Italian aircraft. The cruiser was heavily damaged and was repaired at the Mare Island Navy Yard in the USA. HMS Liverpool was not operational again until January 1942.

17 Mar 2008
The wreck of HMAS Sydney is finally found, see this website for more information (offsite link).

Media links


Bitter Victory

Olson, Wesley


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