Two West Australian towns will this weekend commemorate the tragic fate of the 645 seamen aboard HMAS Sydney II.
Linked forever to one of Australia’s greatest naval tragedies, Carnarvon and Geraldton will this weekend commemorate the 75th anniversary of the sinking of the HMAS Sydney II.
The Coral Coast towns will hold services, unveil a memorial and offer guided tours in honour of the tragic event.
HMAS Sydney II disappeared in 1941 without a trace, its tragic fate unknown until March 2008, when renewed efforts to find the ship came to fruition when it was discovered approximately 112 nautical miles off Steep Point lying in 2560m of water.
The ship had been celebrated for its successful battles in the Mediterranean, famously sinking the Italian cruiser Bartolomeo Colleoni.
The ship and crew of predominantly young men received a hero’s welcome on return to Australia in 1941.
In the same year the German Raider HSK Kormoran, disguised as a Dutch merchant vessel, used the advantage of surprise to bring down HMAS Sydney II and its 645 Australian seamen.
Carnarvon’s association with HMAS Sydney began when German survivors from HSK Kormoran came ashore at Quobba. They were detained in Carnarvon, where locals formed a bond with the survivors. In 1981 a cairn was erected at Quobba Point, along with the town cenotaph.
In Carnarvon a memorial service will be held Saturday, November 19 at 1pm at the HMAS Sydney Memorial Cairn on Olivia Terrace, and will include the unveiling of the Walk of Remembrance. Plaques representing each of the servicemen lost have been placed along the fascine wall.
On Sunday a united service will be held at 11.15am at the HMAS Sydney Memorial Cairn at Quobba Point overlooking the ocean.
The town will also hold the ticketed HMAS Sydney Perpetual Gala on Saturday night, while Carnarvon’s past will be celebrated with exhibitions at the library and art gallery.
Carnarvon’s program of events can be found here.
Geraldton’s connection with HMAS Sydney II is linked to the site of the sinking. Geraldton is home to the HMAS Sydney II memorial and has become Australia’s premier site for honouring the tragedy.
Geraldton will hold a commemorative service at 5pm at the HMAS Sydney Memorial Grounds on Gummer Avenue. There will be a series of free shuttle buses to get people to and from the service.
Free guided tours of the HMAS Sydney Memorial will occur through Friday November 18 to Sunday November 20.
The WA Museum is also developing a new Sydney Kormoran experience in Geraldton and has invited families and friends of the crewmen who are visiting the town during the anniversary to share their stories and bring any memorabilia for the museum to document and record.
Details on Geraldton’s anniversary events can be found here.