- Nicholson, Ian
- WWII operations, Letter to the Editor
- RAN Ships
- HMAS Sydney II
- June 2000 edition of the Naval Historical Review (all rights reserved)
Earlier correspondence from a member concerning an important point of ship recognition vis-a-vis Kormoran and Straat Malakka deserves response. He queries how the Dutch merchantman with a distinctive counter stern could be confused with the Kormoran and her cruiser type stern.
Circumstances at the time of the Sydney-Kormoran engagement were not so clear cut. With the raider heading into the western sun as the cruiser approached from astern it would have been difficult for the keenest observer on the latter’s bridge to make out such features clearly until the German was almost abeam and silhouetted. By that time the challenge had presumably been answered – correctly!
Besides Sydney’s latest description of Raider 41 (Kormoran) was probably the Admiralty report in which the stern was said to be somewhat between a half counter and a half cruiser type! Another point for clarification and likely explanation is the report by Detmers and others that Sydney when closing in was preparing to lower a boat (a German engineer said she actually lowered a boat but he probably did not observe this himself being in the machinery spaces and it is likely that he misunderstood his Captain’s report or someone else).
Following the usual practice Sydney would have had a seaboat permanently turned out on its davits and plainly visible to the German crew. With the reported preparations for the Walrus aircraft flight the boat would have been manned as “crash-boat” in case of emergency during aircraft operations. The Walrus flight was evidently cancelled when Sydney became satisfied with Kormoran’s false identity. The boat’s crew would then have been fallen out and action stations relaxed. After that the routine seaboat’s crew of the watch would have manned the boat temporarily to be mustered and check on the boat rope, lashed tiller and plug, etc. Once reported to the OOW this crew would also have fallen out on deck. Thus it is easy to see why the Germans, closely watching their foe’s approach, thought that the boat was being prepared for lowering – when there was no apparent reason for same and no further mention of the boat.