HMAS Sydney and the HSK Kormoran found off Steep Point, Shark Bay
HMAS Sydney was a modified Leander class light cruiser 6830 tons. 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 and was carrying out troop ship escort duties between Australia and South-East Asia. After handing over the escort of Zealandia in the Sundra Strait, Sydney then turned around to head back to Fremantle.
At around 4pm on 19th November, west of Shark Bay, Western Australia, Sydney sighted what she believed to be a merchant ship about 20 kilometres away and challenged her. The other ship identified herself as the dutch ship Straat Malakka. However it was really the German raider Kormoran, disguised and sailing under false flag. According to survivors of Kormoran, the ill prepared Sydney closed to within 1000 metres and was then surprised and overwhelmed when the crew of the heavily armed raider opened fire at nearly point blank range with concealed artillery and torpedoes. Neither ship survived the attack. 340 men from the Kormoran were rescued, however the Sydney sunk with all 645 hands on board.
The wreck of the Sydney was found by the Finding Sydney Foundation on 16th March 2008 approximately 150 kilometres west of Steep Point, Shark Bay and 22.6 kilometres from the Kormoran which was discovered a few days earlier.
The sinking of the Sydney remains the greatest tragedy in Australian Naval History.