11 December 2006

More on loss of HMAS Sydney

Speculation about the loss of
HMAS Sydney in 1941 (see my previous post for more background info) has come back into the news with a report (headlined "Shrapnel deepens cruiser mystery") in today's Australian.

The discovery of shrapnel in the skull of the body of the one sailor who has been identified as a crew member of the Sydney has raised questions about the authenticity of the "official" version of the ship's loss:

Experts at Sydney University initially identified a metal object in the skull as a bullet from a low muzzle-velocity weapon, possibly a hand gun.

Now, sources close to the forensic scientists confirm that the object is shrapnel from a German shell, a finding which appears to be at odds with the official version of the attack.

According to that version, Sydney, under captain Joseph Burnett, sailed parallel and 1km away from Kormoran at 14 knots, while checking its identity, and was fired on when the Germans could not respond with a secret signal.

Hit by six 15cm guns, 3.7cm anti-tank weapons, 20mm cannon, machinegun fire and a torpedo, Sydney is said to have tried to ram Kormoran, missed astern, and made off at six to 10 knots until it blew up late at night.

But shrapnel in the skull poses the question of how a man mortally wounded in the head could have got into the float[in which his body was found] with Sydney still moving when Kormoran last fired at her.

The tests are expected to be completed by next February. It will be interesting to see how the results will modify the "official" or some of the other versions which are floating around.

I shall keep watching developments with interest.

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