Loss of the HMAS Sidney II

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RF
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Re: Loss of the HMAS Sidney II

Post by RF » Fri Aug 21, 2009 6:44 pm

The ''debate'' is indeed pointless if you choose to misrepresent my views and disregard and dismiss the evidence offered as ''irrelevant.''

I never said the loss of HMAS Sydney was ''fine'' or that this disaster ''could and should have happened to any other British cruiser in the same circumstances.''

I find that comment ignorant, offensive and defamatory, as it accuses me of being a traitor to my own country.

What I set out to do was to try and see matters as seen by Captain Burnett at the time of this action, without the benefit of hindsight, to try to understand why he acted as he did. Yes, he made a mistake, a genuine mistake and one that I have tried to demonstrate that other commanders could also have made. That doesn't mean that he or his crew deserved what they got or should have deserved it, and that is certainly not my view.

Now I think you should do the decent thing and apologise.
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Re: Loss of the HMAS Sidney II

Post by Ulrich Rudofsky » Fri Aug 21, 2009 6:57 pm

Salvoes between rocking chair admirals and desktop-sailors are always interesting and productive to watch and most of the time these discussions are very educational. So my advice is to have a cool one Image
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Re: Loss of the HMAS Sidney II

Post by tommy303 » Fri Aug 21, 2009 8:00 pm

Just to add my two cents worth; I believe the inquiry from start to finish has dealt with Captain Burnett in a fair manner and even has been charitable enough not to condemn him as incompetent. Instead, they admit he made a grievous error, though possibly with mitigating circumstances.

Among the circumstances are:

Kormoran was operating close to or in the main shipping channel--something which past raiders had not done before--they preferred to operate outside of these heavily patrolled areas and only occasionally snatch up a prize. Thus Kormoran was not in an area where a raider was to be expected, even if one was suspected of being in waters west of Australia--as Burnett apparently thought.

Operational orders were to establish identity by visual signals, mostly flag signals as this is what was normally used by merchant ships. However, it was admitted by the inquiry that this system was faulty in that it was rarely possible to read a flag signal over a mile away and frequently one would have to be even closer due to lighting and visibility. Breaking of radio silence was frowned up as radio signals between a warship and merchantman might alert a raider in the area that a warship was present. Visual signals and the need to close up in order to read them meant that an investigating warship would always have to come within 15cm gun range should the ship being investigated prove to be a raider.

Circumstantial evidence and descriptions of the approach from the Kormoran's crew seem to indicate that Sydney had not gone to battle stations. It was noted that alert status was increased only if the suspected ship was determined to be hostile or possibly hostile. In the past, under her former commander, the Sydney had not gone to battle stations when investigating another ship on the high seas. Something, therefore, in Kormoran's appearance or actions convinced Burnett that he was dealing with a legitimate merchant ship, even though the given identity was of a ship not expected in the area. This though was not apparently an unusual occurrence as merchant skippers sometimes did not follow itinerary closely if they could save time and cut voyage costs. This and the fact the ship was in or near a major shipping lane (i.e., not characteristic of the modus oparandi of German raiders).

There was the question of the Kumerland being in the area and it would have been desirable to capture her if practicable to obtain intelligence information on the overseas codes (which were as yet unbroken). It is possible Burnett closed the range even more to facilitate sending a boarding party over if he suspected the stranger might be a disguised supply ship. While the 4-inch guns were not manned, it appears the main battery was manned at least in part. So Burnett might have been ready to call the other ship's bluff by firing a warning shot and sending a message, 'stop, do not attempt to scuttle, or I will open fire.'

In most instances where a ship is lost and the captain survives, he must answer for the loss of his ship. Unfortunately, Burnett cannot come to the stand and answer the pertinent questions, explain his actions, or present his own defenvr, so the inquiry has done the right thing of stopping short of convicting him in absentia. As it is, the inquiry has the overall opinion that it would have been better in this instance to err on the side of caution.

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Re: Loss of the HMAS Sidney II

Post by RF » Mon Aug 24, 2009 8:10 am

Ulrich Rudofsky wrote:Salvoes between rocking chair admirals and desktop-sailors are always interesting and productive to watch and most of the time these discussions are very educational. So my advice is to have a cool one Image
I am not quite in my rocking chair yet, as my dotage is still some way off!
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Re: Loss of the HMAS Sidney II

Post by RF » Mon Aug 24, 2009 8:24 am

tommy303 wrote:
There was the question of the Kumerland being in the area and it would have been desirable to capture her if practicable to obtain intelligence information on the overseas codes (which were as yet unbroken). It is possible Burnett closed the range even more to facilitate sending a boarding party over if he suspected the stranger might be a disguised supply ship. While the 4-inch guns were not manned, it appears the main battery was manned at least in part. So Burnett might have been ready to call the other ship's bluff by firing a warning shot and sending a message, 'stop, do not attempt to scuttle, or I will open fire.'
This question of Burnett seeking to seize what he thought was Kulmerland has been raised in print before. It is certainly a plausible theory - except I think for one detail, which is why I think it wasn't the case. If Burnett wanted the Germans on the supposed Kulmerland to think their Dutch disguise had been accepted, why flash the NNJ challenge at the point he actually did? All it would do is alarm the Germans - who would respond by preparing to scuttle. That doesn't make sense to me.

The British were already aware incidently that warning German merchantmen not to scuttle on pain of being fired on didn't work, the Germans scuttled anyway, it didn't work any more than German threats to fire on Allied merchant ships if they used wireless to report raider attacks....

If boarding was intended by Burnett it would have to be a surprise, rapid boarding in order to stop the scuttling process and give time to retrieve the documented intelligence. There doesn't seem to have been any sign of a boarding attempt being prepared, at least as far as the Germans could see - but then they wouldn't be supposed to see it.....
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Re: Loss of the HMAS Sidney II

Post by RF » Mon Aug 24, 2009 8:49 am

tommy303 wrote:
In most instances where a ship is lost and the captain survives, he must answer for the loss of his ship. Unfortunately, Burnett cannot come to the stand and answer the pertinent questions, explain his actions, or present his own defenvr, so the inquiry has done the right thing of stopping short of convicting him in absentia. As it is, the inquiry has the overall opinion that it would have been better in this instance to err on the side of caution.
Sydney not being at full action stations is certainly implied by Detmers in his book. However note that the main armament was sufficiently manned for the intial return salvo to be made - revealing that the guns were not trained on Kormoran itself.

To be fair to the inquiry, they are in a difficult position, trying to unravel a double conundrum; why did Sydney approach so close, and then with its guns trained on offset to the target? There has to be an explanation, but this is like trying to unravel an unsolvable crime.
Because of the catastrophic result it is easy to blame Captain Burnett - he made the catastrophic wrong decisions. But the blame is made in hindsight. And there are many instances of military commanders making what turned out to be incredibly stupid decisions and paying for it, even though in their minds the decisions were made for the right reasons without the benefit of a hindsight which renders what they did indefensible.

If what I said I thought actually happened in my earlier post is indeed correct, then I would hesitate to blame Captain Burnett too severely. There is always the unexpected - and if you are caught, then you are caught. That is no comfort to the men of Sydney who were killed, and particulary so for their famillies who are left behind, with no closure as to really why it happened. My verdict is ''fortunes of war'' - but that doesn't make the loss of Sydney all right, or its loss any way remotely acceptable. What it can do is serve as a warning to leaders that things can go tragically wrong if they miscalculate, And as I have said above, German ships were approached to close range by Allied warships within months of the loss of Sydney, inviting further disaster - and it happened because the commanders were not suspicious of these ships. These commanders really are at fault, for unlike Captain Burnett they do not have claim of hindsight, they had had a graphic demonstration of how reckless they really were.
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Re: Loss of the HMAS Sidney II

Post by RF » Wed Apr 07, 2010 1:47 pm

I have today, believe it or not, received on another forum yet another claim that HMAS Sydney was sunk by Japanese submarine I-58.

It is perplexing that the fantasies of the conspiracy theory industry continue in the name of screwing as much money as possible out of rewriting history.

The I-58 was actually laid down by the Japanese on 26th December 1942 (more than a year after Sydney was sunk) and didn't enter active service until 1944. But don't let the facts get in the way of a good story......
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Re: Loss of the HMAS Sidney II

Post by Ulrich Rudofsky » Wed Apr 07, 2010 2:06 pm

Ulrich

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Re: Loss of the HMAS Sidney II

Post by RF » Thu Apr 08, 2010 8:16 am

Ulrich, it appears that the page in your link has been removed.
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Re: Loss of the HMAS Sidney II

Post by Ulrich Rudofsky » Thu Apr 08, 2010 11:59 am

Something on Wiki is not working. Try this http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/USS_Indianapolis
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Re: Loss of the HMAS Sidney II

Post by IronDuke » Sat Apr 10, 2010 12:20 am

This has been a subject of great debate here in Australia.

Some of it is now clearer with the discovery of the wreck of HMAS Sydney. Firstly there is no evidence at all of any Submarine, Japanese or otherwise, being involved in the action. Under another Captain, HMAS Sydney had a very fine fighting record with the British Fleet in the Med.

It would seem that the Captain of HMAS Sydney allowed his ship to get much too close to Kormoran. There is no evidence that the crew of HMAS Sydney were not closed up at action stations. At least one and probably two of Sydney's main 6 inch turrets were knocked out very early in the action, the remainder sank the Kormoran. HMAS Sydney had extensive damage and fires following the action and most likely her boats were destroyed. She may well have suffered one or more explosions before she sank.

The Captain of HMAS Sydney died fighting his ship -as did all his crew- however he did get much to close to Kormoran and lost his advantages in firepower and speed in doing so. All the evidence is that the crew of HMAS Sydney fought their ship very bravely from the disadvantageous position they started in. Kormoran may well have fired one or more torpedos, while still pretending to be an innocent merchant ship. By the time in the war that Sydney was sunk her Captain should have been aware of that possibility.
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Re: Loss of the HMAS Sidney II

Post by RF » Fri Apr 16, 2010 5:50 pm

IronDuke wrote:
There is no evidence that the crew of HMAS Sydney were not closed up at action stations.
I believe there is, sourced from Detmers account.
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Re: Loss of the HMAS Sidney II

Post by RF » Fri Apr 16, 2010 6:02 pm

IronDuke wrote: Kormoran may well have fired one or more torpedos, while still pretending to be an innocent merchant ship.
This comment seems to reflect an atitude held by many Australians and hardly anyone else - that the Germans fhad to fight dirty by breaking international law as it was the only way Sydney could have been sunk. This goes with the episode of the ''Japanese submarine.''

Those who break international law, or any law that they regard with contempt, generally tend to be multiple or serial offenders. There is nothing in the conduct of Detmers or his crew, either in the evidence of the merchant ship survivors and prisoners of the merchantmen sunk by Kormoran, or in the conduct of these Germans afterwards, to suggest that they commited war crimes. As I believe that in Australia, as well as in Britain, that no individual can be guilty of a crime until charged, tried in court and found guilty by due process of law. that should apply to these Germans as well. Particulary as there was never any suggestion of charges being brought against them. It is easy and cowardly to slander the dead.
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Re: Loss of the HMAS Sidney II

Post by Ulrich Rudofsky » Fri Apr 16, 2010 7:05 pm

RF: Very well said! Image
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Re: Loss of the HMAS Sidney II

Post by RF » Fri Nov 19, 2010 6:35 pm

Let it be observed that today marks 69 years since this controversial sea battle took place.
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