H.M.A.S. Sydney II & The Unknown SailorPrint Page Print this page


Photographs supplied by Heather Saunders

A monument commemorates the unknown sailor, and the crew of H.M.A.S. Sydney (II).

On 20 November 1941, following a battle with the German raider HSK Kormoran in the Indian Ocean about 900 miles south of CI, the light cruiser HMAS Sydney disappeared almost without trace. The loss of the Sydney with its full crew of 645 remains Australia’s worst naval disaster and one of its greatest wartime mysteries.

On the 6th February 1942, a little under three months after the HMAS Sydney sank, a battle damaged life raft, known as a Carley float, was found off Christmas Island in the Indian Ocean, 2500 kilometres from the scene of the battle. The float, which was identified as Australian, contained the body of a white male clad in a boiler suit. Marine growth on the underside of the float suggested it has been in the water for some months.

After examination by the island’s doctor, the body was interred with military honours in an unmarked grave in the old cemetery.  In 1944 a cross and plaque were erected over what was believed to be the grave site, but later it was discovered that it was in fact the resting place of Norman Howard, a British Phosphate Commission overseer who had died in 1924.

In 2001, a team of naval archaeologists and forensic scientists spent two weeks in the cemetery trying to locate the grave as new DNA technology may allow positive identification of the corpse and confirmation that the sailor was- or was not- from HMAS Sydney.  But a combination of steep ground , natural soil movement and annual heavy rains means that this grave remains undiscovered, at least for now.

The sailor's remains were exhumed from Christmas Island in 2006 and reinterred in Geraldton in 2008 after forensic tests were made in an effort to determine the identity of the victim. It is believed that the sailor was a member of the crew of the HMAS Sydney which was torpedoed and sunk in 1941 but he still has not been identified.


Address:Gaze Road, Old European Cemetery, Christmas Island, 6798
GPS Coordinates:Lat: -10.429458
Long: 105.670865
Note: GPS Coordinates are approximate.
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Monument Type:Monument
Monument Theme:Conflict


Actual Monument Dedication Date:Saturday 7th February, 2009
Front Inscription

Commemorating HMAS Sydney II and her crew

Following a battle with the German raider HSK Kormoran on the evening of 19 November 1941, HMAS Sydney II was lost with all 645 officers and men.

This memorial was erected by the Royal Australian Navy and the Shire of Christmas Island to mark the location where an unknown sailor was buried in February 1942.  The sailor was recovered from a Carley Float by Chinese and Malay coastwatchers at Christmas Island on 6 February 1942.  It is believed that the unknown sailor was a member of the crew of the HMAS Sydney II and he is now buried in the Geraldton War Cemetery, Western Australia.

Source: MA
Monument details supplied by Monument Australia - www.monumentaustralia.org.au
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