As we approach the commemoration of the victory over Japan on 14 August 1945, VJ day, an inquiry into the sinking of the HMAS Sydney has found there is no evidence of a conspiracy to cover up what really happened to the warship. HMAS Sydney was a battle-hardened Leander-class light cruiser of the Royal Australian Navy.
Her sinking by a disguised German warship Kormoran flying a false flag in November 1941 represents the greatest ever loss of life in an Australian warship and the largest vessel of any country to be lost with all hands during the Second World War. All 645 officers and crew went down with the ship.
On 24 April.2008, at a service of remembrance, the bells tolled 645 times for HMAS Sydney.In handing down the three volume report of the Commission of Inquiry, former NSW Supreme Court judge Terence Cole has found there is no substance to any of the conspiracy theories.
Some relatives of those lost had argued that the Kormoran alone could not have destroyed the Sydney, suggesting a government cover-up, or that it was sunk by a Japanese submarine. (Japan was then neutral)
"The incontrovertible, empirical facts available for the first time since the finding of the wrecks accorded with and accorded with and confirmed the German account," the Commissioner said. "There is no doubt that the German account was, speaking generally, true."
Having recently been sent detailed lists of all of the merchant ships around the Australian coast he found that the the commanding officer of HMAS Sydney did not expect to encounter any merchant ship in the area.
Although he had not made any formal finding of negligence against the Captain, he said that the knowledge that there were no merchant ships nearby and of the possible presence of a German raider should have caused the sighted vessel to be treated as suspicious.
It may well be that the Captain had assumed the German commanding officer would have acted more honourably, and not attempted to disguise his ship as a neutral peaceful vessel.
As we remember those who saved this Commonwealth of Australia, it is fitting that the truth has finally been established over the tragic loss of HMAS, Sydney.