ALTHOUGH HER DAYS WERE NUMBERED, the shock announcement on July 20th ‘The transport HMAS Sydney is to be paid off. She will be withdrawn from the Australian Fleet and will go into reserve pending disposal’ surprised and dismayed many Australians. The 25 year old carrier, maid of all work, was to be scrapped. Latest information indicates Sydney will pay off in October and be advertised for sale in the early New Year.
Sydney, the third warship in the Royal Australian Navy to carry the name, has carried out four roles – aircraft carrier, training ship, fast troop transport and her present role as amphibious support vessel.
She was launched as HMS Terrible on September 30 1944, but shortly afterwards construction was suspended.
It was resumed when Terrible and her sister ship HMS Majestic (renamed Melbourne) were acquired by the Commonwealth Government when it was decided in 1947 to establish an RAN Fleet Air Arm.
On December 16 1948 Sydney was commissioned under the command of Captain R.R. Dowling, RAN.
In December 1950, Sydney completed the task of ferrying home her four squadrons – 805, 808 (Sea Furies) and 816, 817 (Fairey Fireflies).
Then came the training and work up period for the most demanding task – that of a frontline carrier on active service in the Korean theatre.
In September 1951 she arrived in Japanese waters and relieved HMS Glory, thereby becoming the first carrier of a Dominion Navy to go into action.
Her initial performance was inspiring. On the second day of attacks on the Kojo area of the east coast, 89 sorties were flown in 24 hours, a record number of sorties for the Korean theatre. This high performance was maintained throughout the war, and the destruction of numerous enemy bridges, railway tunnels, and junks were recorded.
Sydney left the Korean theatre on January 25 1952, after completing 64 days in the operational area, during which time she steamed more than 40,000 miles and flew 2,366 sorties.
Ammunition expended totalled 269,249 rounds of 20mm armament, 6,359 rocket projectiles and 902 bombs (1,000 and 500lbs).
In March 1953 she left Australia for England via the Suez, with the Coronation (Elizabeth II) contingent (Navy, Army, Air Force) embarked. She returned to Australia via the States, thereby circumnavigating the world.
Her role as aircraft carrier ended when she paid off into special reserve in Sydney on May 30 1958, after steaming 312,004 miles since her commissioning.
Australia’s involvement in the Vietnam War saw the recommissioning of Sydney as a fast troop transport vessel on March 7 1962.
She made 24 successful trips to Vietnam before resuming her role as a training ship with the withdrawal of Australian troops from Vietnam. Since her commissioning in 1948 she has steamed 395,591 miles.
Emden 1914 – Calabria 1940 – Spada 1940 – Mediterranean 1940 – Kormoran 1941 – Korea 1951-1952
Odd Proposals for Ship
A number of bizarre proposals have been put forward to save the ship from the breakers. A syndicate in Corio, Victoria, wish to purchase Sydney and convert her to a gambling casino and tourist museum. Another syndicate in New South Wales aims to convert the vessel into a floating parking station for the new opera house. Navy officials estimate Sydney’s scrap value at $200,000.