HMAS Sydney II Memorial was constructed in Geraldton, Western Australia, with specific designs of elements and features that symbolised the loss of 645 crewmen on board HMAS Sydney II with no trace in 1941. The path leading to the Memorial entrance is guarded by two old bollards, from the Port of Geraldton, which is believed to be used when Sydney last berthed at Geraldton in 1941. HMAS Sydney II Memorial was constructed with special meanings attached to its design.
The Wall of Remembrance
A curved black granite wall carved with gold wordings, located at the South West sides of the HMAS Sydney II Memorial, represents the ‘encircling arms of the Nation’, welcoming home its Lost Loved Ones.On the exterior side of the wall, the convex side, resembles a ‘wave motif’ that represents the Indian Ocean where the crew of the Sydney now lies.On the inner side, the concave side, it reflects the names, appointments and hometowns of these 645 men.
One of the panels have some composite photographs, which are photoengraved on the wall, depicting the life scenes on board Sydney. The two other panels present the history and artist’s idea of concept and design. These panels have been spaced slightly apart to allow for Poppies to be placed beside individual family names.
The history of Sydney on the panel reads:
HMS Sydney was built at Newcastle-on-Tyne, the keel being laid down in 1933 as HMS Phaeton. She was one of three light cruisers of the British Modified Leander class, but was subsequently purchased by the Commonwealth of Australia and renamed HMAS Sydney. She was launched on 22nd September 1934 and taken over from the builders on 24th September 1935.
HMAS Sydney was ordered to the Mediterranean when the Second World War broke out. Her first action was to bombard the Libyan port of Bardia on the 21st of June 1940.
On the 27th June 1940 she went to sea in company with a cruiser squadron to provide convoy cover. On the 28th June 1940 HMAS Sydney sank the Italian Destroyer Espero.
HMAS Sydney again came under fire on the 9th July 1940, but it was the events of the 19th July 1940, which added to her fame. In a tactical battle HMAS Sydney engaged and disabled the extremely fast Italian Cruiser, Bartolomeo Colleoni. Following this HMAS Sydney set off in pursuit of another Italian Cruiser Giovanni Delle Bande Nere, but was forced to give up the chase when the faster ship was out of range and HMAS Sydney was nearly out of ammunition.
HMAS Sydney returned home to Australia in triumph. She saw further action escorting convoys overseas, and also participated in convoy escort duties in Western, Australia. Geraldton was privileged to host three visits of HMAS Sydney, the last being from 18th – 20th October 1941.
On the 19th November 1941, HMAS Sydney was returning from the Sunda Straits after escorting the Hired Transport Zealandia to a handover with HMS Durban. That evening HMAS Sydney encountered the German Raider HSK Kormoran and became involved in an engagement that would eventually lead to the loss of both ships.
No trace was found of HMAS Sydney or her valiant crew of 645 men. This Memorial is dedicated to their memory and to the great sacrifice they and their families made to ensure the security of Australia.
Dated 19th November 2001
On the final panel of the Wall, the words “ THE REST IS SILENCE” is engraved into the stone.
The Dome of Souls
This inspirational central element lies in the center of the HMAS Sydney II Memorial. Actually, the Memorial was inspired by an incident which took place during the Dedication of the Memorial site on 19th November 1998. When the notes of the Last Post rang at sunset, a flock of sea gulls glide past the assembled crowd. Hence, this inspiring moment was designed and portrayed with 645 sea gulls forming the stainless steel domed roof where each sea gull represents each crew member on board Sydney. It was believed that the souls of drowned sailors have transformed into the sea gulls and, was as if, they flew past during that moment of Dedication to endorse the building of the Memorial and confirm their existence.
The podium floor is circular, which is the reflection of the shape of the dome above, and incorporated with the Nautical Compass design. The inscriptions craved on the black granite circle read as:
“IN MEMORY OF THE MEN LOST ON HMAS SYDNEY II 19TH NOVEMBER 1941. LEST WE FORGET”
And at the center of the podiem lies the alter, represents by the ship propeller, which provides a formal place for wreath.
The Seven Pillars
The dome is supported by seven pillars, representing the Seven States and Territories of Australia. They are also symbolic of the Seven Seas. These pillars support the ‘crown of birds’, and traditionally, the bird itself on a pillar, is symbolic of the union of spirit and matter.
“The Waiting Woman” and the Stele
On the left side of HMAS Sydney II Memorial, a woman bronze sculpture stands at the edge of the cliff gazing over the horizon anxiously, waiting and yet grieving for her lost father, husband, brother, son. This sculpture represents the pain of loss and the forever waiting of those who did and of those who still do. She is also here for those who will at least find comfort hoping that the ship will be found as well as honours and remembers those who have sacrificed to make Australia safe and free for the people to live today.
The Stele has a distinct vertical shape marked with water depth markers (similar to Sydney) to represent the concept of a towering symbolic grave marker, a tall upright column in its own right and able to be seen visible from many miles in all directions.
A beautifully constructed significant war memorial to remember the fallen. This is also a place for great photo opportunity in Geraldton but try not to ruin the serenity of the memorial for those who care and understand its meaning. HMAS Sydney II Memorial resonates well with me, the fact that I was once a sailor, and it holds great meanings with moving experiences that touched my heart.