Nambucca Valley Naval and Mariners Association remember those lost on HMAS Sydney 80 years ago

Nambucca Valley Naval and Mariners place a floral tribute into the sea in memory of those that perished on the HMAS Sydney. (L-R) Allen Willey, Tas Fribbins, John Guyenette, Mick Edwards, David Benn, John Kent, Allan Harris and Wally Wallbank.


80 YEARS ago, on 19 November 1941, the Royal Australian Navy (RAN) suffered its biggest ever loss of life when the HMAS Sydney was sunk by the German ship, Kormoran, 112 nautical miles off the Western Australian coast.

With 645 lives lost it was the biggest allied loss from a single ship during WWII.

The Kormoran was also sunk; however the majority of her crew were rescued and became prisoners of war.

Just what happened on that day has long been the subject of intense speculation as no RAN personnel survived to tell their side of the story.

The mystery was further compounded by both ship’s final resting place remaining a mystery for nearly 70 years.

It was not until 2008 when the wrecks were found however this has done little to tell the full story.

From all those of the HMAS Sydney who perished that day only one body was ever recovered.

It washed ashore in a life raft on Christmas Island three months after the sinking, however could not be identified and was buried as an unknown sailor near where he was found.

These remains were exhumed in 2006 and relocated to the Geraldton War Cemetery.

A bone fragment was taken for examination at the time and last week the RAN announced DNA testing has been used to positively identify the remains of Able Seaman Thomas Welsby Clark who was 21 when the HMAS Sydney sank.

This week the Naval and Mariners Association of Australia, Nambucca Valley, gathered in Nambucca Heads to hold a service to commemorate the loss of lives on the HMAS Sydney 80 years ago.

Secretary of the association, Mr John Kent, told News Of The Area, “Former members of the RAN and Merchant Mariners consider the act of remembering those who perished on the Sydney to be of the utmost importance and Australians should never forget them.”

During the dignified service the Naval Prayer was recited by the Vice President of the Association, Mr Tas Fribbins.

In keeping with tradition a floral tribute was cast into the water while members of the Naval and Mariners Association watched and reflected on this wartime tragedy.

Mr Kent added, “We conduct a service in memory of the crew of HMAS Sydney each year however this year being the 80th Anniversary and with the unknown sailor being identified the service feels somehow more significant.”

Lest We Forget.



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