Report on the loss of HMAS Sydney II

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Kangaroo
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Re: Loss of HMAS Sydney II

Post by Kangaroo » 22 Dec 2010 08:15

Hey, hey, hey - fair go - I did not make this theory up myself - it was only relayed to me by a seemingly reliable source, and certainly does not reflect my own personal view either. So as pigs might fly buddy however, it is not as absurd as other theories such as a Japanese submarine being involved or Detmers crew machine gunning survivors in the water. But then again you were not involved in or part of the 'Finding Sydney Foundation' team, working with David Mearns to find it either. Besides it has already been proven that gas was brought into Australia in the early 1940's as part of the Brisbane Line defense plan and stockpiled at various sites around the country - particularly just outside of Lithgow NSW.

Sid Guttridge
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Re: Loss of HMAS Sydney II

Post by Sid Guttridge » 22 Dec 2010 12:23

No, Kangaroo, not "an interesting new theory".

Just another, improbable, completely unsubstantiated, urban myth in the making.

ChristopherPerrien
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Re: Loss of HMAS Sydney II

Post by ChristopherPerrien » 22 Dec 2010 18:58

The theory sounds like"scuttle-butt" which is extremely common on warships. People talk alot and don't know the whole story. Possibly some boxes or cylinders were transfered, containing gods knows what. (propane compressed air, etc)
I have seen "mysterious cargo" sprout allkinds of speculation.

For a real story about "mysterious cargo" on a warship, read "The Sinking of the USS Indianapolis." Of course in that case the cargo truely was of extreme importance and secrecy.

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Polar bear
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Re: Loss of HMAS Sydney II

Post by Polar bear » 22 Dec 2010 19:56

hi,
ChristopherPerrien wrote:"The Sinking of the USS Indianapolis." ... Of course in that case the cargo truly was of extreme importance and secrecy ...
... and no longer aboard when INDIANAPOLIS was sunk on July 31, having been offloaded at Tinian on July 26.

greetings, the pb
Peace hath her victories no less renowned than War
(John Milton, the poet, in a letter to the Lord General Cromwell, May 1652)

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Takao
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Re: Loss of HMAS Sydney II

Post by Takao » 23 Dec 2010 06:19

More to the point, concerning Mustard gas, was the German bombing, on December 2, 1943, of Allied shipping at Bari, Italy. The merchantman SS John Harvey carrying some 2,000 * 100lb. mustard gas bombs exploded, dispersing the mustard gas throughout the harbor. The first deaths began occurring some 18 hours after the ship's detonation. A total of 83 would die within a month of the disaster, out of some 628 cases of mustard gas poisoning.

A few links:
http://fhp.osd.mil/CBexposures/ww2mustard.jsp
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Air_Raid_on_Bari
http://www.history.navy.mil/faqs/faq104-4.htm

So, no, mustard gas would not account for the entire HMAS Sydney crew being lost. Most likely, is is just another "latrine rumor," albeit one that can neither be sufficiently proved or disproved.

That being said, Phosgene was also stored in Australia, and would present more of a danger to men in enclosed spaces. But, then again, there is much less of a danger for the men topside, and it is unlikely to have accounted for the deaths of the entire crew.

So, even though the HMAS Sydney has been found, there remain many unawnsered questions pertaining to her sinking and the deaths of her entire crew.

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Re: Report on the loss of HMAS Sydney II

Post by Mark V » 03 Jan 2011 18:54

Graeme Sydney wrote: To me, the old Pongo Grunt, Sydney's behaviour is totally against Self Preservation 101.
It seems that the cumulative information that Sydneys commander and officers gathered during (long) approach of unknown vessel (change of course, fumbling with flag signals, QQQQ messages, and the very fact that Kormoran was much bigger and more modern vessel than the ship which she was disguised, etc.).....

.... came to naught. They never or way too late put 1+1+1 together, like 1000+ yards range side by side + several 6-inchers + hidden torpedo tubes = sunken cruiser. Sydneys officers propably eventually seriously suspected Kormoran being foul, but the all the time increasing risk never did show in other actions. Bit of arrogance showing ? as Kormoran whatever it was under the disguise clearly was still only thin-skinned, fat, slow, merchant ship. Maybe it was beyond normal thought process that inside such fat, ugly ship could be crew well trained and determined to fight as in any naval ship. Maybe Kormorans best disguise was that it was merchant vessel, being harmless by association.

Like previously mentioned, Sydney was very lucky to score those few hits on Kormoran that disabled her and caused uncontrollable fire.

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Moorthorpe12
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Re: Loss of HMAS Sydney II

Post by Moorthorpe12 » 03 Jan 2011 22:35

This battle intrigued me for a long time. Over the years I came across all sorts of theories including Japanese submarines and improper tactics by Detmers.

But I think an important factor that is often overlooked is that Sydney was a pretty small cruiser. If you bear in mind that Detmers had a well trained crew, heavy guns that virtually matched Sydney's, torpedoes and an element of surprise on his side then it's not hard to imagine how he could have defeated the Australian. Even one well aimed torpedo would have been enough to send her to the bottom.

And once she sank, there was the fact that the action took place in a remote area of ocean. Even if there were initially survivors the odds were very much against them.

So I think the explanation of this tragic encounter is probably much simpler than many have supposed.

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Re: Report on the loss of HMAS Sydney II

Post by Graeme Sydney » 06 Jan 2011 00:45

@Beatnix and Mark 5.

Thanks for the additional comments and insight however to my mind it still doesn't explain why the Sydney was so close and apparently taken by surprise.

Someone with greater Naval tactics and procedures can correct me but my understanding is that Sydney's mission was to ID a unknown freighter. Procedure, tactics, discipline, commonsense and self preservation would have the Sydney treating the 'target' as suspicious until the ID was positively established. And this would have applied regardless of how the target behaved or responded.

The point being the Sydney didn't have to get within 2000 metres (and there by compromise her tactical position and advantage) to do that. This suggest to me something else was in play.

I'm not satisfied by any of the inquiries, books or explanations put forward so far because of this reason. My gut feel is the Sydney was drawn into range by some ruse (and probably an 'illegal' ruse).

My bet is that the Komoran either convinced the Sydney she was in distress and/or she was a raider supply ship and prepared to surrender. And that is why the Sydney was so close and closing, she was taking up a boarding position.

That doesn't explain why the Sydney lost the fire fight but does explain the position. The fire fight could have been won by surprise, proficiency or luck.

'Taking the bait' and rushing in is explained by the time of day and Capt. Burnett's personality. I've read a bit more about Capt. Burnett's personality and asked some of my exRAN mates about Capt. Burnett. Apparently he had a charismatic style of leadership and a popularist (he liked to be liked). Within the RAN, then and now, Capt. Burnett had a reputation of being a 'bit of a cowboy'.

Although Capt. Burnett was technically a very proficient officer and he had a wide experience within the RN and the RAN, he had not commanded his own ship. (Before and after the sinking Capt. Burnett's appointment was controversial. There were other senior RAN officers with extensive and proficient command experience with destroyers in the Med and N/Atlantic who were overlooked. This would go some way to explain the lack rigor, vigor and urgency in the subsequent inquiries. (Oh dear, another conspiracy - and I wasn't going to go there :milsmile: .))

I have been entirely underwhelmed by the inquires including this one. They seem to take the 'baffle them with BS' approach - lots of material and not much inquiry. By the nature of events the main evidences is the accounts from the Germany survivors, especially the Kormoran's Captain. Fair enough, but the unchallenged acceptance of the Captain's evidence I find hard to believe.

The best the inquires does is to say the Captain's evidence was consistent with known facts. But that's what well prepared good liars do - twist the facts just a little.

The other test of the evidence seems to be the consistency across the crew, with just enough mistakes to make it seem unprepared, unscripted. And I find this hard to accept. The whole crew was well motivated to play the role of the Holy Innocences. In every regard - militarily, nationalistically, politically and personally. This was a hand picked crew with an eye to this eventuality.

And they well probably well prepared and well versed, both before and after the events.

And the evidence gathering was haphazard, disjointed, protracted, unprofessional and basically unreliable.

Any way that's my reading of the situation to this date.
Last edited by Graeme Sydney on 06 Jan 2011 10:55, edited 1 time in total.

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Polar bear
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Re: Report on the loss of HMAS Sydney II

Post by Polar bear » 06 Jan 2011 08:56

hi,

and my reading of your post is that it seems to initialize something close to a defamatory statement concerning the KORMORAN´s commanding officer and his crew without any evidence.

IMO Burnett acted inconsiderate that day, nobody dared to contradict him on SYDNEY´s bridge and Captain Detmers just exploited his chances (he lost 80 men and his ship in doing so!)

greetings to Australia, the pb
Peace hath her victories no less renowned than War
(John Milton, the poet, in a letter to the Lord General Cromwell, May 1652)

Graeme Sydney
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Report on the loss of HMAS Sydney II

Post by Graeme Sydney » 06 Jan 2011 10:50

Polar bear wrote:hi,

and my reading of your post is that it seems to initialize something close to a defamatory statement concerning the KORMORAN´s commanding officer and his crew without any evidence.
What! I defamed a Nazi Naval Captain of a Raider by saying he probably draw the Sydney "into range by some ruse (and probably an 'illegal' ruse)."

By his own evidence the DUTCH national flag was dropped precisely 6 seconds before the first shot.

Wow, such imprudence :roll: .

By their very nature of operations Raiders skirted very close to the moral and legal edges of warfare. You might also notice the illegal is in inverted comma's implying that it's interpretation could be open to debate. In fact I think the whole Raider concept could be open to debate on moral and legal grounds. And there is no honour in been a good liar.

By the way, the evidence I offered was that it was an explanation of the Sydney's position as described by the Komoran's captain. The only other explanation of the Sydney's position at the start of the engagement is the incompetence of the captain and ship's crew (which itself seems unlikely given both Burnett's and the crew's previous performances).


And returned greetings to the now free and democratic Federal Republic of Germany .

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Polar bear
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Re: Report on the loss of HMAS Sydney II

Post by Polar bear » 06 Jan 2011 20:53

hello, Graeme, thanks,

I get a skin crawl when somebody calls a German kriegsmarine officer indifferently a "Nazi" - IMO that´s not correct.

Showing a Neutral flag until dropping camouflage was a ruse, may be a close call legally - but it was not illegal

By the book, the own ensign had to fly when the first shot was fired - and that rule was observed.

greetings, the pb
Peace hath her victories no less renowned than War
(John Milton, the poet, in a letter to the Lord General Cromwell, May 1652)

Mark V
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Re: Report on the loss of HMAS Sydney II

Post by Mark V » 07 Jan 2011 21:20

Graeme,

Lets for sake of discussion speculate that Kormoran played an act of "surrendering supply ship".

- what differentiates KM supply ship from hilfskreuzer ? Hmmm... HK has concealed armament and supply ship not - both are ships under disguise, from German lot of shipping available. Also, ship not commandeered, but sent from Germany, would propably had been tanker, not general cargo vessel. Why Sydney should had been any closer ?? Even if they had been facing ship recognizing itself as enemy, and acting surrender ?? Capture an enemy merchant vessel ? - OK... - but why an earth endager valuable cruiser by going abreast at point-blank-range. Just order them to abandon ship, overwatch action, and rescue the crew from boats. If they open seacocks (like they surely will) what is the loss ? Capturing enemy code books ? - OK, thats valuable target, but it is the job of boarding party using motor launch, and could be done even if seacocks are open if party acted swiftly, and if there is no hell-machine attached to ammunition/mine storage with short fuse.

Speculation is fun, but remember that there is not evidence to support any foul play from Detmers and his crew.

>>>This was a hand picked crew with an eye to this eventuality. And they well probably well prepared and well versed, both before and after the events.<<<<<

That is high claim that you should have concrete evidence. All German raiders had their crews hand-picked for their initiative, seamanship and experience - but you claim that crew was hand-picked by acting skills - from what theater may i ask ??

For sure Germans rehersed the battle over, and over again - like Aussie sailors should had done also. They did not, and so they were surprised with their pants down and lost their ship and their lives.

By an large German surface raiders during BOTH world wars usually showed reasonable restrain in action, good treatment of prisoners, and overall acted like collegues should treat each others, across national barriers, as many of the crew members (and part of officer core) were highly experienced men from German merchant marine. Their way of war was hundred times more gentlemanly than submarine warfare for example. Calling them nazis is ludicrous.


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Sunbury
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Re: Loss of HMAS Sydney II

Post by Sunbury » 09 Jan 2011 08:36

This battle intrigues me as well. Simply put Detmer outwitted Burnett and had Burnett place the Sydney close by. Burnett gave up all the advantages and strengths of his ship, he should have under no circumstances moved from being astern. How Detmer achieved this tactical advantage, who knows. It was war and he was fighting for the survival of his ship. He defeated a superior enemy, he deserved his Knight's Cross.

Kangaroo's post above is ludicrous, if he did even rudimentry research he would have known the so called Brisbane Line plan did not exist in November 1941. We were not yet at war with Japan, Singapore and Malaysia were where any future battle was to be fought.

Mustard gas was stored in Australia, there were tests of it on Australian troops on Hinchenbrook Island in 1942, it was never used operationally. That is off topic but it also serves as a warning to never volunteer for anything in the Army! Those poor men did volunteer, a bad mistake. I have seen the Army film of the tests, they made me shudder at the gas blisters on those men, one poor man had no testicles just a massive blister.

The most depressing thing about the loss of the Sydney is how so many Australians like kangaroo seek excuses/reasons for her loss. It seems a national trait almost to make excuses rather than accept that Australians were outfought and defeated in battle. I recall an outright forgery of a "Sydney account of the battle" found on a beach in Western Australia, someone took a lot of time and effort to make the document appear authentic. It was constructed to prove one of the conspiracies, pathetic really. A lot of the research groups that sprang up about the loss of the Sydney were little more than old men trying to find excuses rather than facts.

When Sydney was found, the damage she suffered tallied exactly to the German accounts of the battle, all the many conspiracy theories were found to be rubbish. Kangaroo has to his credit presented a brand new one with the mustard gas lol. The loss of the crew, came down to the bow breaking off and a rapid sinking, coupled to the fact that the Royal Australian Navy and the Royal Australian Air Force were tardy in beginning a search. Nothing sinister, just a lack of urgency from what was largely "peace time" Australia. War with Germany was on the other side of the world not on our shores.

There are no mystries left, the Sydney has been found and photographed, the damage she has matches the descriptions given by Detmer and his crew 60 plus years ago. Her crew died working to save their ship and they deserve to be remembered for that, not have their memory cheapened by petulant excuses.

I will finish on two notes. The loss of the Sydney and her crew was the worst loss suffered by Australian Navy in WW2. Sydney was the darling of the Navy with a proud record in the Mediterrian. Her loss to Australia was akin to the loss the British felt about losing the Hood. Other ships were lost against the japanese, ie. the heavy crusier Canberra at the battle of Savo Island in 1942 but the loss of life was much less. To have hundreds of German survivors and no Australian ones, people thought of foul play. "Evil Nazis" must have done an atrocity, the only carley float found was "found" to have machine gun holes in it. Post war it was found to be damaged by shell splinters not bullets, but the seed of an atrocity had been planted and some refused to see further.

Finally the Sydney was not the greatest loss of Australian lives at sea in WW2, the Montevideo Maru , a transport filled with Australian prisoners from the Fall of Rabual holds that record. An American submarine sank it over 1000 Australians died as the ship went down. The Japanese abandoned ship, letting the prisoners drown, locked below. That callousness by the Japanese was repeated throughout the Pacific War, US Submarines sinking transports filled with POW's, no one blames the the US crews, they had no idea of what was in the ships, it was a tradegy of war.
Who discovered we could get milk from a cow? and come to think of it what did they think they were doing at the time? Billy Connolly

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Post by Graeme Sydney » 10 Jan 2011 01:13

@PB and Mark V,

You have your 'sensitivity meter' set too fine or you are wearing your apologist rose tinted glasses.

What I wrote was factual, objective and pertinent. There is a difference between a Nazi naval officer and a Weimar naval officer or a Federal Republic naval officer. There is also a difference between Raider naval officer and a Fleet naval officer. If you can't see that or concede that I'm not going to waste my time explaining.

And I'm not speculating I'm using circumstantial evidence. If you want to disprove what I say tell me that the Sydney's position as reported was consistent with the ID'ing mission and not a preparing to board position.

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Takao
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Re: Report on the loss of HMAS Sydney II

Post by Takao » 10 Jan 2011 03:23

There is also a difference between a prudent captain, such as H.B. (Fearless Frank) Farncomb, who maintains his distance and defeats his opponent(only to be censured for using too much ammunition) and a "cowboy" who closes the distance and sinks his opponent, but at the cost of his ship, crew, and life.

To add fuel to the fire, from "Ahoy - Mac's Web Log"
"Canberra," keeping her distance, at about 9.5 miles, set "Coburg" alight with her main armament gunfire, she, also set off scuttling charges, and subsequently sank. It was Capain Farncomb's belief, that "Coburg," was, in fact, a Raider, his Walrus had so described the ship on its first sighting from the air. He stayed well clear to avoid any possible use of torpedoes against his ship, a very prudent action, one would have thought.

Some 215, 8 inch shells had been used, this drew some comment after his report of proceeding arrived at Navy Office, and C in C East Indies, also put in "his two bob's worth." In general, it was thought that if Farncomb had gone closer, he would have identified "Coburg" much earlier, and saved a lot of expensive 8 inch shells.

At that time, Captain Burnett, was Deputy Chief of Staff; at Navy Office, he had seen, and appended his initials to the correspondence about "Canberra" and her Captain's actions, and knew what Board members had thought and said. He then went off to take command of H.M.A.S."Sydney," and was faced with the same sort of situation when meeting "Kormoran." "Did prior knowledge have any bearing on his actions, on that occasion? Of Course we will never know."
http://ahoy.tk-jk.net/MaraudersWW2/16Pinguin.html

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