Adelaide Flinders University

HMAS Sydney: captain error to blame

HMAS Sydney

From ABC News

A Defence inquiry has found HMAS Sydney was sunk by a German raider in 1941 because of an error by its captain.

All 645 crew members on the Sydney perished when it was hit by heavy fire from the Kormoran, which was disguised as a merchant ship, off the Western Australian coast in November 1941.

Commissioner Terence Cole, who conducted the inquiry, says Captain Joseph Burnett assumed the Kormoran was a merchant ship, even though he had information there were no friendly ships in the area.

He says that meant the Sydney got within point black range of the raider without going to action stations.

"Sydney closed to a vulnerable position having lost all tactical advantages of speed and gunnery at distance," he said.

"By that time it was too late, Sydney thereafter was subjected to the intense barrage I have described - thus was Sydney and her crew lost."