Mystery's end brings some relief
By ANDY PARKS firstname.lastname@example.org THE search for HMAS Sydney is over, which is a relief for the family and friends of the 645 crewman who were lost that day, including 90-year-old Kyogle man Ted Reynolds.
I grew up with a lot of the men on board; a lot of close friends were lost. It was a very personal loss, but that's war. I could have quite easily been on her. It was only chance that I was on the corvettes rather than the Sydney."
Ted Reynolds joined the navy as a 15-year-old and was serving as the senior communicator for a group of four corvettes - the Wyrallah, the Yandra, the Bingera and the Kybra, in Fremantle in 1941.
"They were sent to Western Australia to patrol while troops were embarking from there on the Queen Mary and Queen Elizabeth and others. They carried thousands of troops overseas," he said.
"It was our job to protect them day and night while the big ships were in open harbour in Fremantle.
"It was a continuous task patrolling up and down, trying to intercept German submarines.
"We'd been exercising with the Sydney off Fremantle early in November 1941. She'd come back from the Mediterranean.
We were doing an exercise where she was to send a boarding party by motor cutter and we were to act as the enemy. But she was recalled to Fremantle to fuel and store and water and depart north that same day, so the exercise was cancelled. That was the last we saw of her." Mr Reynolds said people couldn't believe the news when they first heard there was a problem with the Sydney. He was on board the Wyrallah when the initial search began.
"It was at least eight or nine days later before we were alerted and instructed to proceed north to search the area around Exmouth Gulf. There had been German survivors picked up by merchant ships coming from Britain to Fremantle. That was the first we'd heard of any problem with the Sydney.
"Wireless silence was imperative. You couldn't touch a key unless you saw the enemy. That was part of the problem."
A British oil tanker, the Trocus, had picked up another 20 German survivors, and one of the Wyrallah's first tasks was to try to glean information from them.
"It filtered through the German prisoners of war that the Kormoran had made false signals indicating they were a neutral Dutch ship and poor old Sydney had fallen for the trap. Unfortunately we lost all those men in one afternoon. We just couldn't believe it."
The Germans believed they had encountered a British cruiser, they didn't realise it was Australian. About sunset on November 19, both ships opened fire on one another. The Kormoran fired a torpedo which hit the Sydney.
Over 300 German survivors were rounded up and taken as prisoners-of-war aboard the Yandra, but no Australians were recovered and the mystery of the final resting place of both ships has been one of the ocean's best kept secrets - until last Sunday.
"My thoughts, when I found out, were of the shipmates whose names I still vividly remember today and their resting place," Ted said.
"Thankfully, at last she's been found."