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It is believed that H.M.A.S. Sydney has been lost in an action in which an enemy raider was sunk.
The Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) made the following statement tonight:—"Information has been received from the Australian Naval Board that H.M.A.S. Sydney has been in action with a heavily armed enemy merchant raider, which she has sunk by gun fire. This information has been received from survivors from the enemy vessel, who were picked up some time after the action. No subsequent communication has been received from the H.M.A.S. Sydney, and the Government regrets to say that the ship must be presumed lost.
"Extensive search by air and surface units to locate survivors continues," the Prime Minister said. "The next of kin of men on board, to whom the Government and the Naval Board have extended deepest sympathy, were informed last Wednesday."
The Prime Minister added that although the action took place some days ago, an announcement to the public had not been made earlier for three reasons. For strategical reasons, including the safety of other ships, it was thought desirable not to publish the Information earlier than now. There was also the remote, yet not impossible, eventuality of the Sydney still being afloat, and also a hope that a version could he obtained from one of her personnel. Time was taken in the desirable direction of informing the next of kin.
Mr Curtin said that the Government and the Naval Board had kept the press informed of developments as information was received, and were sensible of the cooperation of the press in withholding publication.
Members of the crew of the HMAS Sydney, upon their arrival at Circular Quay in Sydney. February 10, 1941.CREDIT:FREDERICK JOHN HALMARICK
"While regretting the loss of a fine ship and her gallant compliment," Mr Curtin said, "the people of Australia will be proud that the Sydney had upheld the traditions of the Royal Australian Navy and had completed a glorious career in successful action against the enemy."
BRIEF BUT BRILLIANT CAREER
H M.A.S. Sydney began her brief but brilliant career with the Empire navies in 1935. Originally begun as H.M.S. Phaeton, under the Imperial Government's 1932 construction programme, she was acquired by the Commonwealth Government in 1935.
After non-spectacular but very useful pre-war service with the British Navy, the Sydney, in the middle of 1938, came home to Australia for the first time, reaching Fremantle on August 2, Melbourne on August 8, and Sydney on August 11.
August, 1939, with war clouds gathering fast, found the Australian cruisers Canberra and Sydney on a cruise to the Dutch East Indies and Singapore. The following month came the outbreak of war, and the Sydney was soon once more bound for the Mediterranean for service with the Imperial fleets, but this time on actual war duty
This article first appeared on www.theage.com.au
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