HMAS Sydney (II) Search, Finding Sydney Foundation   Solving Australia's Most Enduring Maritime Tragedy
HMAS Sydney (II) Search, Finding Sydney Foundation    
HMAS Sydney (II) Search, Finding Sydney Foundation
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Royal Australian Navy

Western Australia

Australia's Coral Coast




HMAS Sydney (II)


In 1941, HMAS Sydney (II) was the pride of the Royal Australian Navy fleet.

HMAS Sydney (II)She was a 6,830 ton modified Leander class cruiser with an illustrious battle record.

RIGHT: HMAS Sydney arrives at Circular Quay, Sydney, during February 1941.

After engagements in the Mediterranean during 1940 when she famously sank the Italian battle cruiser Bartolomeo Colleoni, Sydney returned to Australian waters and in late 1941 was carrying out troop ship escort duties between Australia and SE Asia.

HMAS Sydney (II)

above image of HMAS Sydney (II) available in large format, click image


cliick here for plans
please click above picture to view a larger version of the Plans of the HMAS Sydney (II)

HMAS Sydney (II) Crew

ABOVE: Photograph of the HMAS Sydney (II) Crew from the National Archives
click the image to open a high resolution version in a new browser window



Type Modified Leander Class Light Cruiser


6,830 tons


562 ft (168.2m)


57 ft (17.27m)


Swan Hunter & Wigham Richardson Limited, Wallsend-on-Tyne, United Kingdom

Laid down

8th July 1933 (as Phaeton)


22nd September 1934 (as Sydney), by Mrs Bruce, wife of the Australian High Commissioner, United Kingdom

Horsepower 72,000


32.5 knots (60 km/h)




8 x 6 in (152mm) guns
4 x 4 in (102mm) guns
3 x .50 machine guns
12 x .303 Lewis Machine Guns
8 x 21 in (533mm) torpedo tubes
(in 2 quadruple mounts)

Aircraft carried

1 x Supermarine Walrus

Commanding Officers
Assumed Command Commanding Officer
24th September 1935 Captain J.U.P. Fitzgerald RN
9th October 1937 Captain J.W.A. Waller RN
16th November 1939 Captain J.A. Collins RAN
14th May 1941 Captain J. Burnett RAN

Further reading:

HMAS Sydney (II) Ship Story
History on the HMAS Sydney (II) from the Navy's Seapower Centre

Historical Photo Gallery
View various historical photographs of the HMAS Sydney (II) by clicking here



On the 19th of November 1941, after handing over escort of the troop ship Zealandia in the Sunda Strait, Sydney was en route back to port in Fremantle.Kormoran

In open ocean SW of Carnarvon, Sydney spotted an unidentified merchant vessel and closed requesting identification.

The HSK Kormoran, a disguised German raider, eventually opened fire and a battle ensued from which neither ship survived.

LEFT: Photograph of Kormoran issued to British warships, Oct 1941.

 Further reading:

The Loss of the HMAS Sydney (II)
About the loss of the HMAS Sydney from the Navy's Seapower Centre



Forward gun deck of the SYDNEYFor over 66 years, bitter controversy has raged over how and why Sydney sunk without a trace.

Many factors have contributed to this controversy - the first is that the battle took place in a remote, deep-water location with no allied witnesses.

RIGHT: Forward gun deck of the Sydney.

Because of Sydney’s apparent superior firepower, there was disbelief that Kormoran could have sunk her. In some quarters this led to suspicion of foul play.

The Royal Australian Navy said nothing initially. Government restrained the press, trying to shield the public from a collective blow to morale

The Minister for Information issued the following two censorship instructions, on the afternoon of 25 November, to all newspapers and radio stations throughout Australia:

FC756: “Pending further advice no reference press or broadcasting to HMAS Sydney”.

FC757: “No reference whatever press or radio to any statements or rumours regarding alleged naval activity Australian waters”.

The Royal Australian Navy then sent out non-specific bereavement letters. For decades after the war, relevant documents were not released.

Captain Theodor Detmers (2nd from right sitting) with officers of Kormoran in Australian POW camp


Whilst the Sydney was lost with all hands - 645 young men, 317 of the German ship’s complement of 390 were rescued.

The Sydney tragedy precipitated Australia’s largest loss of life in a naval battle.

LEFT: Captain Theodor Detmers (2nd from right sitting) with officers of Kormoran in Australian POW camp.




The wreck of the HMAS Sydney (II) was found by the Finding Sydney Foundation on 16th March 2008 at 26° 14’ 37” S 111° 13’ 03” E, approximately 207km (128 miles) from the west coast (Steep Point) of Western Australia at a depth of approximately 2,468 metres.

The wreck of the HSK Kormoran was found by the Finding Sydney Foundation on 12th March 2008 at 26° 05' 49.4" S 111° 04' 27.5" E, approximately 207km (128 miles) from the west coast (Steep Point) of Western Australia, at a depth of approximately 2,560 metres.

Further reading:

HMAS Sydney (II) Is Found
Finding Sydney Foundation Media Release

HMAS Sydney (II) Discovered
Finding Sydney Foundation Search Diary Report

Books (unofficial):

HMAS Sydney: The mystery of Australia's greatest naval disaster by Mike Lefroy

Junior Non-Fiction Book for younger readers

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HMAS Sydney II