Starboard quarter view of the Modified Leander Class Cruiser HMAS Sydney II. Laid down in July ...

Accession Number P00271.004
Collection type Photograph
Object type Black & white - Print silver gelatin
Date made c 1935
Conflict Period 1930-1939

Item copyright: Copyright expired - public domain

Public Domain Mark This item is in the Public Domain


Starboard quarter view of the Modified Leander Class Cruiser HMAS Sydney II. Laid down in July 1933 and destined for the Royal Navy, HMS Phaeton was still on the stocks when purchased for the Royal Australian Navy and renamed HMAS Sydney, the second ship to bear this name. In October 1935, Sydney sailed for Australia but owing to the Italo-Abyssinian crisis, she was detained for some months in the Mediterranean. Finally arriving home in August 1936, Sydney participated in routine cruises and exercises. One the outbreak of war in September 1939, she was based in Fremantle and carried out patrols and ocean escort duties. In May 1940, and under command of Captain J A Collins, RAN, Sydney was ordered to the Mediterranean whee she joined the 7th Cruiser Squadron and participated in the bombardment of the Italian base at Bardia and on engagement with three Italian destroyers, one of which, Espiro, was damaged and Sydney detailed to finish her off. On 19 July 1940, Sydney, patrolling north of Crete, received a report that British destroyers were in action with Italian forces off Cape Spada. She sped southwards, engaging the enemy and scoring hits on the cruiser Bartolomeo Colleoni. As the Italians withdrew, laying smoke, Sydney gave chase, heavily damaging Colleoni which was finished off by torpedoes from the destroyers. Captain Collins was awarded the CB for this brilliant action. There followed a period of quiet activity for Sydney with offensive sweeps, bombardments and convoy escort duties before returning to Sydney to a tumultuous welcome. Following an extensive refit and now under command of Captain J Burnett, RAN, Sydney carried out patrols and convoy escort duties. Having escorted the troopship Zealandia to Sunda Strait, Sydney handed over to HMS Durban and set sail for Fremantle. About 4 pm on 19 November 1941, some 150 miles off Carnarvon, Western Australia, Sydney encountered the German Raider Kormoran and closed to check the identity of the raider. Aided by the element of surprise, Kormoran opened fire with guns and torpedoes to which Sydney replied almost simultaneously. In the ensuing action, Sydney was severely damaged and Kormoran crippled and set on fire. Burning fiercely, Sydney drifted away and later sank after nightfall and was lost will all hands. The German vessel was scuttled and the crew taking to the boats. These survivors were later rescued and were interned for the duration of the war.

Related information