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Search for HMAS Sydney Sailor

Posted: Sat Sep 09, 2006 7:10 pm
by Daniel Leahy
Hi All,

I received this Dept of Defence news release E-Mail on Friday:
Friday, 8 September 2006


On 23 September 2006, a Navy team will arrive at Christmas Island in an attempt to locate the remains of an unknown sailor thought to be a crew member from HMAS Sydney that sank with all hands on 19 November 1941, announced the Minister Assisting the Minister for Defence, Bruce Billson.

Announcing this archaeological expedition, Mr Billson said that since an earlier expedition in 2001, additional evidence has come to light warranting a further investigation of the possible site of the grave in the Old European Cemetery on Christmas Island thought to contain the unknown sailor.

A Navy team composed of experienced and well-respected experts including an archaeologist, a physical anthropologist and two forensic odontologists will visit Christmas Island in an attempt to identify the grave site. If evidence of the grave is found it will be further investigated and an attempt made to exhume any remains. If remains are found, they will be brought to Sydney where a forensic pathologist will join the team to assist with identification.

"As with any undertaking of this type, the likelihood of positive identification of the remains, if in fact any are found, are low," Mr Billson said.

The Royal Australian Navy's cruiser HMAS Sydney was lost, with its crew of 645 men aboard, following an action with the German raider Kormoran. Early in February 1942, a carley float life-raft containing a body was recovered close inshore at Christmas Island. There were no personal effects or identifying items on the body although the clothing was consistent with that worn by Naval sailors. The body was examined by a medical practitioner and formally buried with military honours, in the old European Cemetery on Christmas Island.

"For over 60 years people have speculated over who occupies this unmarked grave and indeed, where the grave is precisely located," Mr Billson said.

A Senate Committee report to Parliament in 1999 on the loss of HMAS Sydney concluded "...on the balance of probability, that the body and the carley float found off the shore of Christmas Island in February 1942 were most likely from HMAS Sydney."

In 2001, a Navy team assisted by an anthropologist and other forensic experts excavated a site identified by a resident of the Island in the post-war period. However, despite a large excavation, this search was unsuccessful.

"Evidence in the form of a photograph taken by Mr Brian O'Shannassy in 1950 that may pinpoint the grave site location provides sufficient reason for the search to be resumed," Mr Billson said.

As one of only two witnesses remaining who have seen the actual grave site, Mr O'Shannassy will accompany the Navy team to Christmas Island to undertake this expedition.

"Mr O'Shannassy's ability to identify the grave location at the Ceremony may prove invaluable," Mr Billson said.

Posted: Sat Sep 09, 2006 10:18 pm
by norge
Very interesting Daniel. I am curious why he was buried in a unmarked grave. Even just a marker would do the job. I have it arranged that when I pass away (I am 77 years old) I will be cremated and my urn will be shipped to the Naval base at Norfolk, Va and when they have enough urns they will be put on a Naval ship and go out 35 miles at sea and have a military ceremony then dropped in the ocean. Not many Navy people know this is available to all that received an honorable discharge
Again good article and best regards

Posted: Sun Sep 24, 2006 4:54 pm
by norge
Das ist alles

Posted: Fri Oct 20, 2006 6:27 pm
by Colin C Tigwell
My understanding is the remains have been recovered



Posted: Sun Oct 22, 2006 5:23 pm
by Colin C Tigwell
Yesterdays WA paper indicates remains have been flown home.

Also indicates that a small arms bullet was found in the skull.

So a bit more of the mystery starts to come out.




Posted: Sat Jun 23, 2007 4:44 pm
by PF
What was the composition of the HMS Sydney Crew-all Australian?
WOuld it be possible to impose a photograph of Sydney crewman on skull fo unknown for ID?
Even if ID only as an Sydney Crewman--would remains be buried in a CWGC cemetery in Australia?

Posted: Sat Jun 23, 2007 7:10 pm
by Colin C Tigwell
Yesterday it was indicated that the RAN may have it down to three guys.

All from the engineering branch, hence the white overalls.

Are now seeking DNA samples fron relatives.



Posted: Sun Jun 24, 2007 5:36 pm
by Daniel Leahy
I received this E-Mail when I got to work this morning:

The bid to identify the remains of an unknown sailor, almost certainly from HMAS Sydney II, has reached a critical stage, the Minister Assisting the Minister for Defence Bruce Billson said today.

HMAS Sydney II was lost in November 1941 off the West Australian coast following an engagement with the German raider Kormoran. All 645 crew members were also lost.

The sailor's remains were recovered from Christmas Island last November.

Since that time the Royal Australian Navy has overseen a painstakingly thorough and methodical forensic and historical investigation in an attempt to identify the remains.

Mr Billson said that as a result of this extraordinary work, the field of potential matches has narrowed considerably. An initial short-list of three possible HMAS Sydney II crew has emerged as potential matches:
* Lieutenant Allan Wallace Wilson,
* Sub-Lieutenant Allen James King and
* Sub-Lieutenant Frederick Harold Schoch.

All three were Engineering officers.

"While this is an exciting development, I must stress that the short-list is by no means definitive, and we are not ruling out other possibilities. The three sailors identified are simply the most likely prospects for a match based on the research conducted to date," he said.
"It is still quite possible that we will never know the identity of the sailor."

The next phase of the investigation involves seeking additional biographical, physiological or medical information on the short-listed officers that may assist the identification process. To this end, surviving relatives of Sub-Lieutenants King and Schoch have been contacted by phone, and Minister Billson has written to them to seek their assistance. The investigating team is yet to locate relatives for the third officer, Lieutenant Allen Wallace Wilson. Mr Billson said he was very keen to hear from any surviving relatives of Lieutenant Wilson or anybody else who may be able to provide information.

The identification process to date has been a complex undertaking, conducted in a number of phases. Firstly, a post-mortem dental examination of the remains was carried out. Regrettably, only half the crew dental records are available, the remainder having been lost with the ship.

While no positive match was achieved, this analysis resulted in more than 300 of the crew being excluded.

The next stage involved an anthropological examination of the skeleton.

This effectively excluded a further 200 crew members on the bases of indicative age at death and height. This left about 100 of HMAS Sydney II crew as potential matches for the remains.

In attempting to reduce the number of potential matches to a manageable level for the purposes of possible DNA testing, the outcomes of analyses conducted on artefacts found with the remains in the grave were also considered.

In particular, Australian War Memorial (AWM) analysis of cloth fragments found within press-studs resulted in the assessment that the man had been buried wearing white coveralls.

Historical research by the AWM and the Navy's Sea Power Centre-Australia concluded that the sailor was therefore most likely to be an Officer or Warrant Officer from one of the technical categories.

Mike Cecil of the Australian War Memorial said this conclusion is based on the assumption that the sailor was dressed in accordance with Naval regulations and was indeed wearing his own coveralls.

"It must be noted that it remains quite possible that these assumptions may prove to be incorrect," Mr Cecil said.

RAN forensic team leader Commander Matt Blenkin said while the clothing analysis has considerably reduced the number of potential matches for the unknown sailor, more information is required to achieve positive identification. DNA testing of the remains will be conducted over the next two weeks, and if successful, will enable a DNA comparison against any surviving relatives to be made.

"DNA testing may provide the breakthrough the team is looking for, however, it is possible that we won't be able to extract viable DNA from the remains," he said.

Mr Billson said despite the progress to date it must be stressed that an individual identification still remained a long-shot.

"The process to date has been extremely thorough in order to ensure the integrity of the findings, and to provide the greatest possible chance of success in finally identifying the unknown sailor. It is my sincere hope that we will be able to identify him, and bring a sense of closure to his family," Mr Billson said.

Posted: Wed Jun 27, 2007 3:28 pm
by Daniel Leahy
In response to PF's previous question, here are the details of those who made up the crew of HMAS Sydney - There were a total of 628 Royal Australian Navy personnel on board (36 officers and 592 ratings). In addition to these the following personnel were also lost:

Commander Edmund Wybergh Thruston, DCS
Lieut Commander Clive Alexander Craig Montgomery
Lieut Commander Michael Morgan Singer
Lieut Commander Jack Cawston Bacon
Gunner Frank Leslie McDonald
Petty Officer William Railton Oliver Frith, P/JX 136323
Able Seaman Hector MacDonald Mutch, C/J 91191

F/O Raymond Barker Barrey, 407000
Cpl Arthur John Clarke, 7143
LAC Richard Dodds, 15452
Cpl Roy Ebenezer Foster, 9347
LAC Keith Homard, 35338
Sgt Sidney Marley, 3967
(Supermarine Walrus L2177 was lost when HMAS Sydney was sunk).

Duncan McCallem (Canteen Assistant)
Samuel Psaila (Canteen Assistant)
Maurice Opas (Canteen Manager)
Salvatore Zammitt (Canteen Manager)

Posted: Sat Aug 11, 2007 6:50 pm
by Daniel Leahy
I just came across this on the NEWS.COM.AU website:,23599,22 ... public_rss
DNA test fails to identify WWII sailor's remains
By David Kennedy
August 07, 2007 02:00am

AN initial bid to identify by DNA testing the World War II sailor believed to be from HMAS Sydney has failed.

But a search is under way for relatives of 13 other prime candidates among 100 of the crew, who have not been excluded on scientific grounds, from the total of 645 killed in November 1941.

Minister for Veterans Affairs Bruce Billson said yesterday that tests on relatives of three short-listed men had not produced a match but because useable DNA had been extracted from the sailor, further testing could be conducted.

Australian War Memorial and Sea Power Centre tests on the remains exhumed from Christmas Island a year ago narrowed the search to three engineer officers who would have worn white overalls.

Forensic team leader Commander Matt Blenkin said: "The next phase of the search will concentrate on the 11 officers and warrant officers not already excluded on dental or anthropological grounds.

"Only officers and warrant officers were entitled to wear white coveralls but two civilian canteen workers will be considered due to uncertainty as to what they would have been wearing during battle stations."

Of the 13 families sought, The Australian has established that relatives of decorated gunnery officer Michael Morgan Singer are in Britain. Family of canteen manager Salvatore Zammitt are in Malta.

The short-listed officers excluded after DNA testing were lieutenants Allen King of South Australia and Allan Wilson of NSW and sub-lieutenant Frederick Schoch of Western Australia.

The body was washed to Christmas Island in February 1942 from the area off Shark Bay where light cruiser Sydney and disguised German raider Kormoran sank each other. There were 318 Kormoran survivors but the Christmas Island body is the only one found believed to be from the Sydney.

Re: Search for HMAS Sydney Sailor

Posted: Sun Apr 27, 2008 11:46 am
by PF
Known or Unknown-
1) Would he be buired in a Australian CWGC cemetery?
2) Would branch of service be listed as Royal Australian NAVY?

Re: Search for HMAS Sydney Sailor

Posted: Mon Aug 18, 2008 7:53 am
by PF
WHite overalls-worn by an NCO/other ranks-such as an oiler?

Re: Search for HMAS Sydney Sailor

Posted: Sat Nov 01, 2008 6:57 pm
by Daniel Leahy
Details from Sydney Morning Herald: ... -58th.html
HMAS Sydney sailor to be laid to rest
October 26, 2008 - 11:42AM

The remains of a sailor who is believed to have been killed when HMAS Sydney was sunk 67 years ago will be reburied in Geraldton next month.

The unidentified remains are believed to be those of a crew member of HMAS Sydney, which sunk off the West Australian coast on November 19, 1941, following enemy action, the Defence Department said in a statement on Sunday.

The entire 645 HMAS Sydney crew died.

The sailor's remains were exhumed from Christmas Island in October 2006, and will be laid to rest on November 19 in Geraldton, on the Western Australian coast.

The Royal Australian Navy will hold a DNA sample so the sailor may be identified in the future.

© 2008 AAP

Re: Search for HMAS Sydney Sailor

Posted: Thu Jan 15, 2009 6:35 am
by PF
Buried as ?:
Unknown Seaman
HMAS Sydney
19 November 1941