- Swinden, Greg
- Biographies and personal histories, History - WW2, History - Between the wars
- None noted.
- RAN Ships
- HMAS Sydney II
- June 2011 edition of the Naval Historical Review (all rights reserved)
When war with Germany broke out in September 1939, Louis was still serving in Sydney which was operating in Australian waters. In May 1940, however, the cruiser was dispatched to the Mediterranean war zone. On 28 June 1940, while escorting a convoy, Sydney sank the Italian destroyer Espero and a few weeks later on 19 July 1940 destroyed the Italian cruiser Bartolomeo Colleoni. Sydney became the glamour ship of the RAN and her crew was treated as conquering heroes. The cruiser remained in the Mediterranean until January 1941 and was involved in several actions, against the Italian navy and air force, before she finally returned to her home port of Sydney in February 1941.
HMAS Sydney’s crew were treated to a rousing reception including being given the honour of marching through the streets of Sydney and all crew members were presented with a medallion by the Lord Mayor commemorating her triumph. But after a short refit the cruiser was back at sea on convoy escort duties. In September 1941 she was deployed to Western Australian waters and commenced escorting troopships to South East Asia as Australia began to build up the 8th Division (AIF) in Malaya and Singapore.
Louis Sampson was a dedicated family man who also enjoyed fishing, gardening and Rugby Union. He was also an accomplished sketch artist and during a visit by HMAS Sydney to Geraldton, in mid October 1941, he produced a chalk drawing of the ship which was presented to the Sergeants Mess at RAAF Geraldton with the caption Good Luck to the Air Boys and signed by Sam. This drawing is now on display in the Australian War Memorial and is one of the last tangible links with HMAS Sydney.
On 19 November 1941, Sydney was returning to Fremantle after escorting the troopship Zealandia to Java when she encountered the disguised German raider Kormoran some 100 miles off the coast of Western Australia. In circumstances yet to be fully explained Sydney approached Kormoran to within one mile and then the German ship opened fire on the Australian cruiser. Sydney returned fire and in the ensuing battle both ships were badly damaged and later sank. In this bitter victory all 645 men from Sydney were killed including Supply Chief Petty Officer Louis Sampson.
In the grim irony of war Sydney had endured several months of combat in the Mediterranean without the loss of a single life. But in stark contrast in her final action with the Kormoran not one man survived.