The Finding Sydney Foundation (FSF) has completed arrangements with the German Naval Association (Deutscher Marinebund or DMB) to assist it in its intent to pay its respects to the men killed in the battle between HMAS Sydney and HSK Kormoran which were sunk following a battle off the Western Australian coast on 19 November 1941. Under these arrangements the FSF will be providing two plaques to be placed at the German Naval Memorial at Laboe, Kiel in Germany. The wording on the plaques, one in English and the other in German, has been provided by the DMB and is as follows:
“In Commemoration of the Crew of the Australian Light Cruiser HMAS Sydney II and the German Auxiliary Cruiser Kormoran (HSK 8)
In the sea battle off Shark Bay Western Australia between Kormoran and HMAS Sydney on 19 November 1941, 80 Kormoran men and 645 Sydney men were killed. Both ships sank due to the damage they had suffered in battle. In March 2008 the wrecks of Kormoran and Sydney were located by the Finding Sydney Foundation. Today we reach out our hands in friendship, to commemorate those who died at sea together.
In memory of those who died in battle, and to remind the living.
May the men from both ships rest in peace.”
The FSF was formed by a Deed of Trust with the objects of searching for HMAS Sydney and HSK Kormoran and to undertake philanthropic activities to commemorate the men involved in the engagement. Since finding the wrecks of the two ships in March 2008, the FSF has completed many commemorative projects throughout Australia and will be winding up its activities at the end of June 2010.
The German Naval Memorial at Laboe, Kiel has international significance and it is one of the few military memorials that were not destroyed by the Allies at the end of World War Two as, in the words of the post-war British Military Administration, the memorial did not “glorify war and the spirit of aggression, but belongs to those whose intention is a personal tribute to the seamen who died for their country.” To further strengthen this commemorative tradition and to highlight the Naval Memorial’s role as an international place of remembrance, the DMB in 1996 gave it a new dedication which in English is: “Memorial for all those who died at sea and for peaceful navigation in free waters.”
Underpinning these arrangements is a centuries-long military ethos; the tradition and custom of humanity and compassion shown by sailors, soldiers and airmen and women of all nations in respecting the dead on either side in conflict. As Australians, the FSF is proud that history has shown that this obligation has been a predominant feature of Australian sailors’ and airmen’s’ ethos and its discharge in their name or by the DMB is nothing less than those sailors, airmen and civilians killed in HMAS Sydney would have expected of themselves.
The FSF is satisfied that the DMB’s intent is to record Germany’s personal tribute to all of the men who died in the battle between the two ships and has no element of glorifying either combatant or nation. Provision of the plaques therefore sits easily within the FSF’s Deed by commemorating the men involved in the engagement.Media Contacts:
Ted Graham AM, Chairman, +61 (0) 409 611 606
Commodore Bob Trotter OAM RAN (Ret’d), Director, +61 (0) 418 487 158