HMAS Sydney, Turnbulls speech.

The HMAS Sydney was an Australian cruiser lost with all hands off the Western Australian coast during WW2. This was the only allied warship to suffer that fate, and as it was lost fighting an inferior foe (a merchant raider) .



The loss of 645 men, with no trace, and the survival of most of the raiders crew (she was also damaged in the fight and sunk from the damage after the battle) led to a cottage industry of conspiracy theories including the covert assistance of a Japanese submarine and the massacre of Sydney survivors by the raiders crew.



The Captain of the Komoran always maintained the Sydney had made a terrible mistake and instead of remaining at long range  (where the Sydney would have destroyed them without risk to itself), pulled in close allowing the Germans to unleash a couple of unanswered salvos to great effect. The German crew concentrated their fire on the target directors and bridge area, effectively decapitating the ship. Much of the fire directed back at the Kormoran was sporadic and disorganized, clear signs the turrets were fighting independently as best they could. The last sighting of the Sydney was a burning hulk disappearing over the horizon.


Captain Detmers (of the Kormoran) reported all this, but despite searches little was found of the Sydney, and no crew were ever found. There was a body washed up in a float thousands of miles away which may have been a crewmember, but this has been unable to be proven.



The loss of the ship with all hands deeply affected many people, and many of the crews families went to their graves never knowing what had happened. As a result there was a movement, which picked up speed over the years for a genuine seabed search to be made to try and locate the wreck. Fundraisers were held, and after many, many abortive efforts, and with the assistance of the navy and government, the Sydney and the Komoran were found. To Detmers credit the Sydney was located very near his last sighting of it, indicating this man had been telling the truth all along.

Thsi picture is from the Sydney memorial.


My Grandmother was present when the Komorans crew was brought through her town (lucky bay, a tiny fishing town) and was told by one of the soldiers escorting the crew that “something terrible has happened to the Sydney”. She always wanted to see the ship found but died quite some years ago, one of the things she left me was her Sydney foundation pin.

Another shot of the memorial, the statue is a mother looking for a son/husbandlost on the ship.


Geraldton (the closest major town to the action) built a truly great memorial a few years back.



Earlier this year the ship was finally found and last week a service was held to commemorate the crew.

This link to the Sydney foundation goes over the timeline and has many images of the ships, far beyond what i will attempt to cover.

 People from all over Australia flew in for the service, family members, friends and many politicians.

According to this PDF, even Kevin Rudd was scheduled to attend

However he pulled out at the last minute leaving his end to be held up by the defense minister instead. Mr “all Kevin all the time” was just to busy to honour the war dead.

My nephew (a sea cadet) attended and was involved in the service, introducing the Premier of WA. The Governor general Ms Bryce gave a vacuous, platitude larded speech


My father also attended the service, and by his account the only speech (apart from the mayor of Geralton, there was one Geraldton boy on the ship) that stood out was the one given by Malcolm Turnbull, leader of the federal Liberal party. It was direct, spoken extremely well, and paid fitting tribute to the blokes who were lost. Ill put it in full below.


HMAS Sydney Memorial Service

Wednesday, 19 November 2008

Source: Queens Park Geraldton

E&OE…………The man to whom we have come to pay our respects today once walked among us. 

He was one of our sons, and one of our mates.

He joined with his shipmates in taking on the tyrants of the world. He did so bravely. He asked for no quarter. He stood up to the greatest enemies freedom had ever faced and above all he stood up as all sailors do to the magnificence, the omnipotence of the ocean.

It is said there are no atheists in a foxhole. I don’t believe there are any atheists on the deck of a warship on the mighty ocean when they recognise that their fierce guns and their powerful engines are as nothing compared to that mighty, primeval, often cruel creation – the ocean itself.

No doubt he went to sea looking for adventure, patriotism, serving his country, seeing the world.

He recognised the brutalities of war; he recognised the risk of death, the risk of defeat.

But he went there filled with optimism and courage and looked forward to a life after battle, a life after the victories with his family and his friends, living a life of peaceful contentment. A life that was cut short in that cruel battle.

And so many of you today lost fathers and loved ones, shipmates, in that terrible battle.

So we remember him and we remember all of the men who sank with the Sydney that day, all 645 of them, and all the other sailors who have served Australia in wars defending our freedom.

These were deeply troubling times.

We know that, in that threatening world, he loved his country, and saw in Australia freedoms and values he should fight to preserve.

So he rose to the challenge history had set for him.

He sailed the world, under our flag.

He saw war in all of its fury, the ocean in all of its magnificence and cruelty but he did not flinch.

He came home a hero, at a time when this nation was in its greatest need of heroes.

And then came that awful day of November the 19th, 1941.

Keeping watch on our sea approaches, he saw on the horizon a ship that should not have been there and was not what it appeared to be.

As a part of that crew of 645 brave Australian seamen, he set off in pursuit; never to return.

The man to whom we pay our respects today died in our name.

Not only for the Australia he knew, but for the Australia still to come.

And that is why we honour him, and all who lie at rest today having served our nation.

They were all of them our mates, and they died in our name.

And that is why the unknown sailor and all sailors will be forever in our hearts.

The songs from the service.


2 Responses to “HMAS Sydney, Turnbulls speech.”

  1. Ash Says:

    That may well go down as one of Mr. Turnbull’s greatest speeches of his political career.

    The men of the HMAS Sydney did their country proud, fighting for what they knew was right. May they rest in peace.

  2. bingbing Says:

    That was a really great speech. But how’s that Rudd not bothering to show up? Pathetic.

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