The Last Post Ceremony commemorating the service of (23418) Able Seaman Raymond Charles Murdoch, HMAS Sydney (II), Second World War.

Accession Number AWM2018.1.1.72
Collection type Film
Object type Last Post film
Physical description 16:9
Maker Australian War Memorial
Place made Australia: Australian Capital Territory, Canberra, Campbell
Date made 13 March 2018
Access Open
Conflict Second World War, 1939-1945
Copyright Item copyright: © Australian War Memorial
Creative Commons License This item is licensed under CC BY-NC
Copying Provisions Copy provided for personal non-commercial use

The Last Post Ceremony is presented in the Commemorative area of the Australian War Memorial each day. The ceremony commemorates more than 102,000 Australians who have given their lives in war and other operations and whose names are recorded on the Roll of Honour. At each ceremony the story behind one of the names on the Roll of Honour is told. Hosted by Mathew Rose, the story for this day was on (23418) Able Seaman Raymond Charles Murdoch, HMAS Sydney (II), Second World War.

Speech transcript

23418 Able Seaman Raymond Charles Murdoch, HMAS Sydney (II)
KIA 20 November 1941
Story delivered 13 March 2018

Today we remember and pay tribute to Able Seaman Raymond Charles Murdoch.

Raymond Murdoch was born in Wayville, an inner-southern suburb of Adelaide, on 6 January 1922, the son of Richard and Anna Murdoch.

On the eve of the Second World War, Murdoch was living at Prospect, in north Adelaide, and working as a junior salesman. He enlisted in the Royal Australian Navy on 31 July 1939 and was posted to HMAS Cerberus, the navy’s training establishment on Western Port Bay, south of Melbourne.

Murdoch was a talented amateur boxer, and while training at Cerberus he won a cup in the lightweight boxing championship of the depot. He was later described as one of Adelaide’s “most promising amateurs”.

In late January 1940 Murdoch was posted to HMAS Sydney, a modified Leander class light cruiser armed with eight 6-inch guns that was the pride of the Royal Australian Navy. Built in England, the cruiser was commissioned into the RAN in 1935. There was a mixture of ages and experiences among Sydney’s company.

A few months later the cruiser was one of several Australian warships sent to the Mediterranean. Here Sydney demonstrated its fighting prowess, sinking the Italian cruiser Bartolomeo Colleoni in the battle of Cape Spada in July. In February 1941, Sydney returned to Australia, where it received a hero’s welcome.

During much of 1941 Sydney was engaged in escort duties off the Australian coast, which took the cruiser to the Netherlands East Indies, Singapore, Noumea, Auckland and Suva before returning to Western Australian waters. In May, Murdoch was promoted to able seaman.

On the 19th of November, Sydney was steaming back to Fremantle, having escorted a troopship part of the way to Singapore. At about 4 pm the cruiser spotted a suspicious merchant ship and decided to investigate. By 5.30 pm, Sydney had almost drawn alongside the vessel when it suddenly revealed its true identity as a German raider.

Hoisting the German naval ensign, Kormoran opened fire with its guns and fired torpedoes. Its first salvo slammed into Sydney’s bridge. The Australian cruiser returned fire, but Kormoran’s second and third salvos again hit Sydney’s bridge and amidships. The cruiser’s three main turrets, “A”, “B” and “Y”, were soon out of action, but “X” turret kept up fast and accurate fire that hit the raider’s funnel and engine room. Sydney, in turn, was hit by a torpedo between “A” and “B” turrets. Mortally damaged and ablaze, Sydney turned away from the raider but continued to fight, using its secondary armament and torpedoes.

Kormoran was also burning. At 6.25 pm its captain gave the order to abandon ship. As the German sailors evacuated their stricken vessel, they watched the Australian cruiser, now only a distant glow on the dark horizon, disappear into the night.

By midnight, Sydney was gone, lost with all hands – 645 men in all – including Ray Murdoch. He was 19 years old.

Raymond Murdoch is commemorated on the Plymouth Naval Memorial in Britain. His name is also listed on the Roll of Honour on my left, among almost 40,000 Australians who died while serving in the Second World War.

We now remember Able Seaman Raymond Charles Murdoch, who gave his life for us, for our freedoms, and in the hope of a better world.

Karl James
Historian, Military History Section

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