HMAS Sydney's unknown sailor.

Discussion in 'History' started by Como83, Jun 23, 2007.

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  1. Article copied from today’s Sydney Morning Herald.

    HMAS Sydney's unknown sailor.
    Helen Gilmore and Frank Walker June 24, 2007
    HELEN Blackburne's DNA might solve one of the nation's most enduring military mysteries - the identity of the only body found after the sinking of HMAS Sydney.
    There were 645 men on board the Sydney when it was sunk by the Germans off the West Australian coast at the start of World War II.
    Now, after an extraordinary forensic elimination process, the Federal Government has determined the unknown sailor can be one of only three men - including Mrs Blackburne's brother, Allen James King.
    Last week, assistant Minister for Defence Bruce Billson asked relatives of two of the sailors - Sub-Lieutenant Frederick Harold Schoch, 22, from Western Australia, and Sub-Lieutenant King, 26, from Adelaide - to supply DNA in a bid to end the six-decade old mystery.
    Officials have been unable to locate relatives of the third man - Allan Wallace Wilson, 31, home town unknown. Mrs Blackburne, 84, agreed readily to provide a sample as she and her larrikin brother - he was a champion rower and a daredevil with cars - were very close in their youth. He had called her "Bob" because he didn't want another sister. Now she is his only surviving sibling.
    Speaking on behalf of his mother, Allen Blackburne - who was named after his dead uncle - said it was "wonderful" that forensic science had brought his family so close to an answer. He told The Sun-Herald, "This is the settling of a question for us, a question that has gone on through our entire lives. We may have the opportunity to bury him in the true sense. This is an enormous thing for us. "We don't have any hopes that it is him. There is only a 33 per cent chance. If it's him, it's quite remarkable. If it's not, I'm glad for someone else. This is wonderful it's been resolved in one way or another."

    The light cruiser HMAS Sydney was sunk on November 19, 1941, after a battle with a German armed raider. Three months later, a badly decomposed body in a raft was washed ashore on Christmas Island. The man, identified as an HMAS Sydney sailor, was buried in an unmarked grave.
    In October last year, a navy-led expedition team to Christmas Island located the body.
    The remains were removed from the grave and repatriated to Australia for detailed examination and analysis by forensic experts.
    A post-mortem dental examination was conducted. While no positive match was achieved, this analysis excluded 300 of the crew. The next stage involved an anthropological examination of the skeleton. This effectively excluded a further 200 crew members through indicative age at death, and height.
    Further analyses conducted on artefacts found with the remains took place. Australian War Memorial analysis of cloth fragments caught within press-studs led to the conclusion that the man had been buried wearing white coveralls.
    Historical research concluded that the sailor was most likely to be an officer or warrant officer from one of the technical categories.
    Royal Australian Navy forensic team leader Commander Matt Blenkin said that, while the dental, skeletal and clothing analysis had considerably reduced the number of potential matches for the unknown sailor, more information was required.
    "DNA testing may provide the breakthrough the team is looking for," he said.

    RIP. Como
  2. Did a very comprehensive study of the loss of the SYDNEY when I worked in MoD 1989-2003 from all the sources available to me, including the internet. I found that theories about a Jap submarine doing the dirty deed were very improbable, due to the invasion of Malaya and the Pearl Harbor operation, and the steamong diatances involved. I left all my files to Jenny Wraight in the Admiralty library, who are now resident in Pompey Dockyard: you might let her know about this, or she may be able to give you some more gen - SYDNEY was one of her specialist subjects.

  3. Perhaps the truth will be known if the wreck of HMAS Sydney is ever located but until then many will puzzle as to why it was lost with no survivors . With the submarine bit , possible, but would have meant killing any of the crew who escaped from the vessel . I have often thought of a direct hit on a magazine which may account for the complete loss of life . Whatever took place a tragedy for such a fine ship and crew .

  4. From what I could gather, after SYDNEY came home from the Med, there were wholesale crew changes from top to bottom, to give a bit of R & R to a crew which had gone through a lot of aerial attack : perhaps in the encounter with the German raider, a bit of complacency crept in - in Aussie waters, a merchantship that gave out all the right signals (don't forget the Germans had captured the British codes from the AUTOMEDON before they sank it. I believe that after the action, the two ships parted - the German raider was abandoned, on fire, and ultimately blew up: SYDNEY left the area, on fire, but under some degree of control, and later blew up that night or the next morning, out of sight of the German survivors. I cannot believe that any SYDNEY survivors were machine gunned in thr water - no matelot could keep quiet about such an incident for 60 odd years - it just ain't in a matelot's nature not to cackle.......... I did see a report that a MAD survey of the area did reveal some fairly promising sites, but haven't followed it up yet - must retrace this one if I can. Brave men, sadly missed RIP
  5. RIP Digger! xx
  6. Report in yesterday's Times stated that the identity of the body had been narrowed down to one of three men. The only three that would have been wearing white ovies.Also that DNA samples were being sort after from the three men,s familys. Just a thought. Did naval overallls have press stud fastenings in the 1940s? I doubt it. Surly they would have had buttons? AWDs still had button flys untill the 1990s. Any one care to comment? Perhaps he was a gunnery officer with a pair of ovies he had bought himself. A private initiative precursor to the modern action coverall. I have heard, from an old gunner, that it was the practice to wear best whites (ice-cream suits) in action because of their supeirior anti flash properties. May be this was a cheaper option.

    What ever the result I hope his identity is discovered and he is finally layed to rest in a fitting and proper manner.
  7. Isadirty raises the old question of 'How Sydney was lost'.
    - Covered pretty well in this thread started by Hobbit.
    Not wishing to be unkind, but having served in that area, around that time; I still incline to Sydney too close in plus trickery on their part.

    Apparently it's down to 3 men; strange how Hood had the magic 3 too, but of course they survived.
    Deckhead' s got a point on press studs, but Overalls could have been a private buy on shore. Press studs were used in Oz before War.
  8. Isadirty,

    Recalling your study of HMAS Sydney, can you remember seeing an autopsy report for the Unknown Sailor?

    At the time he was brought to shore in 1942 Christmas Island was under British rule, and the autopsy report is thought to have been sent to Great Britain by the Island's Commissioner - although this is unclear.

    Things got very hectic around that time due the Japanese invasion of the island.

    If so, I'll address some inquiries to Jenny Wraight who may have it in the files you compiled.
  9. Can't remember off hand - I'm sure it was mentioned in a book "Who sank HMAS SYDNEY" (or something similar, written by the son of one of the RN officers on board at the time) - extremely good read.
  10. Thanks.
  11. Did any of these three match sailors DNA?
  12. I did wonder if the extensive and hi tech search for MH370 would have turned up anything on the HMAS Sydney wreck.
  13. The wreck of the Sydney has been located and surveyed and it is fairly certain it was gunfire from the raider that did a lot of damage followed by a fire.

    The captain of the Sydney had previously been criticised for getting too close to vessels they were trying to identify and the German prisoners admitted to drawing the Sydney in close before dropping the gun covers and opening fire at near point blank range. They said the last sight of her was on fire moving slowly south east. She sank due to her bow breaking away where it had been struck by a torpedo.
    Last edited: Jan 17, 2017

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