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- Ship histories and stories, History - WW2
- RAN Ships
- HMAS Sydney II
- March 1996 edition of the Naval Historical Review (all rights reserved)
The Department of Marine Archaeology, Western Australia has produced a Report No. 104, by W.J. Olsen, investigating the possible and probable causes of the loss of H.M.A.S. “SYDNEY”. It is not practicable to include this learned paper in its entirety (35 foolscap pages) in this Review, but a very brief outline is given here. The author concentrates on the question of stability of warships after being damaged by various causes. He explores in great detail damage by torpedo, shellfire (armour piercing and nose fused) mines, bombing and resultant fires on board suffered by all types of warships in WWII, but particularly cruisers of the same or similar class as “SYDNEY”. Then, in the light of the sparse information concerning the engagement between “SYDNEY” and “KORMORAN”, most of which came from the survivors of the latter, and adding his assumptions from the disappearance of “SYDNEY” without trace except for one Carley raft, he continues:
“The most obvious contributing factor would have been a large on-board explosion, such as that of a magazine blowing up, and “SYDNEY” had a number of locations where an explosion could have occurred, causing the ship to founder. These are:
1) The forward 6 inch magazine and shell rooms. 2) The after 6 inch magazine and shell rooms. 3) The 4 inch magazine. 4) Torpedo warheads, on unfired torpedoes in the port tubes. 5) Depth charges. (Stowed in a rack on the stern).
He sums these up in order of probability:
1) The possibility that the 4 inch magazine blew up cannot be ruled out. 2) The possibility that either of the forward or after 6 inch magazines or shell rooms blew up is less likely, but cannot be ruled out. 3) The possibility that torpedoes exploded in their tubes is very unlikely, but cannot be ruled out. 4) The possibility that depth charges exploded is also very unlikely, but cannot be ruled out.
He reduces his deductions to two probable causes:
1) The most likely cause, and one that is consistent with the German statements and description of the action, is that torpedo and shellfire damage resulted in extensive flooding, which eventually caused “SYDNEY” to capsize and sink.
2) The other likely cause is that fire or heat eventually caused an unflooded shell room or magazine to explode, causing the ship to rapidly sink. And of the “SYDNEY’S” magazines and shell rooms, the most likely to be affected by fire or heat was the 4 inch magazine.
“Therefore, if we assume that the search was comprehensive, and still failed to find any oil or debris, there exists the possibility that there was no magazine explosion and that “SYDNEY” sank merely as a result of the loss of stability and buoyancy.“