Australians find wreck of German warship

17th March 2008, Comments 0 comments

The Kormoran, a mine-layer masquerading as a Dutch freighter, sank HMAS Sydney with gunfire in 1941.

Sydney -- The wreck of the German warship responsible for Australia's worst maritime disaster has been found in the Indian Ocean 241 kilometers off Shark Bay on the west coast, officials announced Sunday.

The Kormoran, a mine-layer masquerading as a Dutch freighter, sank HMAS Sydney with gunfire in 1941.

None of the Sydney's 645 crew survived. It was the largest vessel of any country to be lost with no survivors during World War II.

Of the 397 aboard the Kormoran, 317 survived to provide accounts of how Australia's most modern warship was sent to the bottom by a far inferior vessel.

Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, who announced the discovery, said it was likely the Sydney would be located soon.

"Finding the Kormoran is one big step forward," Rudd said. "Of course that doesn't mean that the search has yet found the Sydney itself, but it does play one significant step closer."

The Finding Sydney Foundation, financed partly by government money, has been searching using sonar equipment on the seismic vessel Geosounder since last month.

Foundation president Ted Graham said that finding the wreck of the Kormoran, which is the property of the German government, "gets us halfway to solving where the Sydney is."

Search director David Mearns said the hull of the Kormoran was in pieces.

"The wreckage fits perfectly with what we know and expected to see for Kormoran from testimony of the German survivors," Mearns said in a statement.

Ean McDonald, who was a lieutenant commander on the Sydney in 1939, said the riddle of the sinking might now be solved.

"There's always been doubt about the whole action, how Sydney was surprised and sunk by the German raider," he told AAP news agency. "There are many, many questions that would be presumably resolved when they find the ship."

Pat Ingham, who lost 21-year-old husband John, recalled the astonishment when news of the sinking was broadcast.

"She'd been in a battle in the Mediterranean and back and just doing convoy duty on the west coast for a short time, and then that happened," Ingham said. "Everyone was shocked, they couldn't believe it."

DPA with Expatica

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