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Bitter Victory: The Death of HMAS Sydney

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    Available in PDF - DJVU Format | Bitter Victory: The Death of HMAS Sydney.pdf | Language: ENGLISH
    Wesley Olson(Author)

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On November 11, 1941, HMAS Sydney sailed from the port of Fremantle, Western Australia, on a routine escort mission. Though scheduled to return on the afternoon of November 20, it failed to arrive. Three days later, the Australian cruiser was instructed to break wireless silence. There was no response. The following morning, November 24, search aircraft were dispatched. They were unable to locate the ship. That afternoon however, the Navy Office learned that German naval men had been recovered from a raft in the Sunda Strait-Fremantle Shipping lane. They claimed their ship had been sunk by a cruiser. In the days that followed, more German survivors were found, and all told the same story: they had been involved in an action with a Perth Class cruiser on November 19 and their ship, the auxiliary cruiser Kormoran, was set on fire and had to be abandoned. The cruiser they were involved with, later identified as Sydney, was last sighted as a glow on the horizon. Sydney and its entire complement of 645 officers and men were never seen again. The disappearance of Sydney has baffled the Australian government, historians and the public alike for over fifty years, and although many attempts have been made to unravel the sequence of events, three basic questions have always remained: Why did Sydney sink? How did it disappear without a trace? And why were there no survivors? Wesley Olson's book, Bitter Victory, re-opens the case. By examining every piece of available evidence and carefully reconstructing the event through reports and eye-witness accounts, Olson has produced both a compelling narrative and the most persuasive explanation yet for the tragedy of HMAS Sydney.

Olson joined the Western Australian Government Railways in 1977 and completed training to become a locomotive driver in 1983. He left Westrail in 1995 to join the National Rail Corporation. --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

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Book details

  • PDF | 436 pages
  • Wesley Olson(Author)
  • UWA Publishing (December 1, 2002)
  • English
  • 6
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  • By Guest on June 4, 2015

    This a fine, although mistitled, book in which the author has produced a well researched and carefully analyzed account of the engagement between the Australian light cruiser Sydney and the German commerce raider Kormoran. Raiders like the Kormoran were heavily armed, but should never have been able to sink a cruiser (at one point, a stunned naval hierarchy was suggesting two raiders were involved). Yet this encounter resulted in the loss of the Sydney and her entire crew as well as the loss of the Kormoran (most of her crew survived). What happened? Captain Joseph Burnett failed in his most basic duty to safeguard his ship and crew. He foolishly closed to within about a mile of an unknown ship and his ship was woefully unprepared to act quickly. In minutes the raider gained fire superiorty and proceeded to demolish the Sydney. That the Raider was sunk by the few rounds that Sydney was able to get off only emphasizes the absurdity of the result. Confusing Admirality operating orders are offered as mitigation. This will not do. A senior officer is expected to deal with specific situations in the most appropriate way, no matter what the general orders are. The important thing is not to pillory Capt. Burnett ( perhaps in other circumstances on other days he would have performed well), but to insist that public officials accept responsibility for their mistakes. Indeed, the author notes examples of the proceedings of boards of inquiry being hidden away for decades to cover up blunders. This book was written before the wrecks of the two ships were located and examined, but none of the new findings significantly affect Mr. Olson's careful work.

  • By Water Baby on November 7, 2008

    I have always been an avid reader of maritime and naval history but must confess I was totally ignorant of HMAS Sydney and the mystery surrounding her dissapearance. I only became aware of the story of Sydney and her crew when I stumbled on the internet site, "finding Sydney" and seeing the first photographs of her wreck, which was discovered in March of 2008. Reading the history of HMAS Sydney on the web site, I was hooked. Following a violent surface battle with the German Commerce Raider Kormoran, off the West Coast of Australiain, on November 19, 1941, the Australian Light Cruiser HMAS Sydney sank with no survivors from her crew of 645 souls, yet 317 German Survivors from Kormoran were eventually resucued. The Author, Mr. Olson, has done a superb job of researching the loss of HMAS Sydney. As the book was written before the discovery of both sydney and Kormoran, it was more than a little interesting to see just how close many of the authors conclusions were - if not 100% acurate at least close enough - to the evidence provided by photographs of the wreck site. Mr. Olson - working from a veritable sea of original documentation, including transcripts of interrogations with Kormoran Survivors - has carefully pieced together the most logical, and I feel the most likely, explanation of how a superior warship could have placed itself in a position to be surprised and initially overwhelmed, by what should have been an inferior opponent. And, how her entire crew could have perished virtually without a trace. In so doing Mr. Olson, on ballance, vindicates Sydney's Commanding Officer, Captain Joseph Burnett, RAN who, over the years has born the brunt of much criticism for placing his ship in such a vulnerable position. In this age of Terrorism it is worth mentioning that asymmetrical warfare is nothing new. The perspective of asymmetrical warfare and it's consequences, while not a main theme of the book, come across very clearly. In this age of renewed piracy and terrorism this book should be mandatory reading for any prospective naval commanders who will be taking their ships into harms way. It is the final chapter in which the author pays fitting tribute to the crew of HMAS Sydney and quite rightly points out that, "The enduring tragedy of Sydney's death is that its loss has been perceived as something shameful...Sydney's loss, however, was not shameful. Captain Joseph Burnett and the men under his command upheld the proud traditions of the ship and the Royal Australian Navy." The Royal Australian Navy and the Australian People can rightfully take great pride in HMAS Sydney and her Crew. As an American I am thankful and grateful that over many years and many conflicts, Australians have been staunch allies and good friends to my country.


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