- A.N. Other and NHSA Webmaster
- WWII operations
- RAN Ships
- HMAS Sydney II
- December 1998 edition of the Naval Historical Review (all rights reserved)
It is now unlikely that the circumstances of the German intelligence coup will ever be known – nor could it be disproved of course. Probably only Captain Detmers and his communicator were privy to the secret and it would have been vital but simple to withhold the information from the rest of the crew. (Incidentally, while Kormoran had a specialist communications officer, Sydney did not – her navigator doubled up in that capacity, which is the practice in small ships but hardly satisfactory for a cruiser in wartime).
Brief mention is now made of one of the Sub-Committee’s other terms of reference – the body on Christmas Island. Here the Department of Navy may have been guilty of a “cover-up” – but it is suggested that if it was the case, it was probably done for the very best intentions.
A detailed study of the Carley float and corpse appearing off Christmas Island indicates that they were probably from the Sydney. Prevailing winds and currents in that period fit the circumstances, and there is no other damaged or lost ship the float and body could realistically have come from.
Captain George Oldham, Director of Naval Intelligence in the early post-war years would surely have come to the same conclusion – but observing that some of the technical details of the float and the overalls on the corpse did not fit standard RAN patterns – he made his report inconclusive and considered, on balance, that the man was not from the Sydney. Such a decision clearly spared the feelings of hundreds of Sydney’s next-of-kin and was a worthy deed rather than a dishonest one.