80 YEARS ago, on November 19, 1941, the Royal Australian Navy (RAN) suffered the greatest loss of life in its history when HMAS Sydney was sunk by the German ship Kormoran, 112 nautical miles off the coast of Western Australia.
With 645 lives lost, it was the largest Allied loss of a single ship in WWII.
The Kormoran was also sunk; however the majority of her crew were rescued and became prisoners of war.
What happened that day has long been the subject of intense speculation, as no member of the RAN has survived to tell their side of the story.
The mystery was further compounded by the fact that the final resting place of the two ships remained a mystery for nearly 70 years.
It wasn’t until 2008 that the wrecks were found, but that didn’t do much to tell the whole story.
Of all those from HMAS Sydney who perished that day, only one body has been found.
He ran aground in a life raft on Christmas Island three months after the sinking, but could not be identified and was buried as an unknown sailor near where he was found.
These remains were exhumed in 2006 and transferred to Geraldton War Cemetery.
A bone fragment was taken for examination at the time and last week the RAN announced that DNA tests had been used to positively identify the remains of Leading Seaman Thomas Welsby Clark, who was 21 when the HMAS Sydney sank.
This week, the Naval and Mariners Association of Australia, Nambucca Valley, gathered at Nambucca Heads to hold a service commemorating the loss of life on HMAS Sydney 80 years ago.
Association secretary Mr John Kent told News Of The Area: “Former RAN members and merchant seamen regard the remembering of those who perished in Sydney as of the greatest importance. 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 thrown into the water as members of the Naval and Mariners Association watched and reflected on this war tragedy.
Mr Kent added: “We do a memorial service for the crew of HMAS Sydney every year, but this being the 80th anniversary and with the identification of the unknown sailor the service seems somehow more important.”
Letâs not forget that.
By Mick BIRTLES