Military Wiki
HMAS Sydney (1912)
HMAS Sydney 1914 AWM EN0194.jpg
Sydney steaming for Rabaul, September 1914
Career (Australia)
Namesake: City of Sydney
Builder: London and Glasgow Engineering and Iron Shipbuilding Company
Laid down: 11 February 1911
Launched: 29 August 1912
Commissioned: 26 June 1913
Decommissioned: 8 May 1928
Motto: "Thorough and Ready"
Honours and
Battle honours:
Rabaul 1914
Emden 1914
North Sea 1916–18
Fate: Broken up for scrap
General characteristics
Class & type: Town class cruiser
Chatham subclass
Displacement: 5,400 tons
Length: 456 ft 10 38 in (139.25 m)
Beam: 49 ft 10 in (15.19 m)
Draught: 19 ft 7 in (5.97 m)
Propulsion: Parsons turbines, Yarrow boilers, 4 propellers
Speed: 25.7 knots (47.6 km/h; 29.6 mph)
Complement: 376 standard, 475 maximum

8 x BL 6-inch (152 mm) Mk XI guns
1 x 3-inch anti-aircraft gun
1 x 12-pounder 8-cwt field gun
10 x 0.303-inch machine guns
2 x 21-inch (530 mm) torpedo tubes
2 x depth charge chutes

4 x 3-pounder saluting guns
Aircraft carried: 1 Sopwith Pup

HMAS Sydney was a Chatham class light cruiser of the Royal Australian Navy (RAN). Laid down in 1911 and launched in 1912, the cruiser was commissioned into the RAN in 1913.

During the early stages of World War I, Sydney was involved in supporting the Australian Naval and Military Expeditionary Force, and escorting the first ANZAC convoy. On 9 November 1914, the cruiser defeated the German cruiser SMS Emden at the Battle of Cocos. During 1915 and 1916, Sydney operated on the North America and West Indies Station, before joining the 2nd Light Cruiser Squadron at Greenock, Scotland in November 1916. On 4 May 1917, the cruiser was involved in an inconclusive action against the German zeppelin L43; neither was damaged. During late 1917, Sydney became the first Australian warship to launch an aircraft, and the first warship to do so from a rotatable platform.

After the war's end, Sydney spent a year in reserve before being reactivated to serve as Flagship of the RAN. The cruiser was decommissioned in 1928 and broken up for scrap. Several sections of the ship, including her bow and foremast, have been preserved as monuments, and three of the ship's main guns saw later use in shore fortifications.


Sydney was a Town class light cruiser, of the Chatham subclass.[1] She had a standard displacement of 5,400 tons.[1] The cruiser was 456 feet 9.75 inches (139.2365 m) long overall and 430 feet (130 m) long between perpendiculars, with a mean of 49 feet 10 inches (15.19 m), and a draught of 19 feet 8 inches (5.99 m).[1]

Coal- and oil-fuelled Yarrow boilers were connected to Parsons geared turbines, which provided 25,000 shaft horsepower to the ship's four propellers.[2] Although designed with a maximum speed of 25 knots (46 km/h; 29 mph), Sydney achieved a mean maximum of 25.7 knots (47.6 km/h; 29.6 mph) during trials.[1] Her economical cruising speed was rated at 11 knots (20 km/h; 13 mph) in 1921, and 11.5 knots (21.3 km/h; 13.2 mph) in 1926.[1]

The standard ship's company was 376 strong, but during wartime, this would increase to the maximum of 475; 31 officers and 454 sailors.[2]


Loading of a 6-inch gun at Portsmouth in January 1919

The cruiser's main armament was made up of eight single BL 6-inch Mark XI guns.[2][3] Secondary and anti-aircraft armament consisted of a single 3-inch quick-firing high-angle anti-aircraft gun and ten 0.303-inch machine guns (eight Lewis guns and two Maxim guns).[2] Two 21-inch torpedo tubes were fitted, with a payload of seven torpedoes carried.[2] Two hydraulic-release depth charge chutes were carried for anti-submarine warfare.[2] A single 12-pounder 8-cwt field gun and four 3-pounder Hotchkiss saluting guns rounded out the armament.[2]


Sydney was laid down by the London and Glasgow Engineering and Iron Shipbuilding Company at Glasgow, Scotland, on 11 February 1911.[2] The ship was launched on 29 August 1912 by the wife of Admiral Sir Reginald Henderson.[2] Sydney was completed on 26 June 1913, and commissioned into the RAN that day.[2] The ship cost approximately 385,000 pounds to build.[2]

Operational history

Early career and initial war operations

Sydney with AE1 and AE2 in 1914

Sydney arrived in Albany, Western Australia on 19 September 1913, after completing her maiden voyage.[2] The cruiser operated of eastern Australia until March 1914, when she sailed to Singapore to meet the two new Australian submarines AE1 and AE2.[2] The three vessels reached Sydney in May, and the cruiser was reassigned to patrols along the eastern coast.[2]

When World War I started, Sydney was north-bound to join Admiral George Patey and the battlecruiser HMAS Australia.[2] The ships were quickly assigned to protect the Australian Naval and Military Expeditionary Force, which was used to capture German colonial assets in the region; Sydney participated in operations against Rabaul and Anguar Island in September.[2] In October, Sydney and sister ship HMAS Melbourne left Patey's squadron for Sydney, where the joined the escort of the first convoy delivering Australian and New Zealand soldiers to Egypt.[2] The convoy sailed around the southern coast of Australia to Albany, then departed on 1 November for Colombo.[2]

Battle of Cocos

Postcard commemorating the naval victory of Australian light cruiser HMAS Sydney over the German light cruiser Emden at the Battle of Cocos in 1914.

On the morning of 9 November, the communications station at Direction Island, in the Cocos (Keeling) Islands group, was captured by the German light cruiser SMS Emden.[2] Before capture, the station was able to transmit an SOS, which was received by the troop convoy, and Sydney was ordered to investigate.[2] Emden's wireless operators had overheard the distress call and the orders to Sydney, and prepared to meet the Australian warship.[2]

Sydney's first indication of Emden's location was when the German ship began to fire at a range of 6 nautical miles (11 km; 6.9 mi).[4] Fifteen shells hit Sydney, and despite serious damage, only four sailors were killed.[4] The Australian warship was able to fire for effect after two salvos, destroying Emden's three funnels, foremast, wireless and steering gear, and setting the engine room on fire.[4] The German ship beached herself on North Keeling Island, and Sydney went after the supporting collier Buresk, but the ship had already commenced scuttling, and the Australian warship returned to Emden.[4] The Germans were still flying their war ensign, but pulled it down after Sydney transmitted an instruction to surrender, then fired two salvos when no response was forthcoming.[4]

134 German personnel were killed, with the rest of the ship's company were captured by Sydney (apart from a shore party, which commandeered the schooner Ayesha and escaped) and were delivered to British forces at Valletta, Malta.[5] There were no other fatalities from the battle aboard Sydney.[4] After leaving Malta, the Australian cruiser proceeded to join the North America and West Indies Station, arriving in Bermuda on 6 January 1915.[4]

Atlantic Ocean

Sydney spent eighteen months uneventfully patrolling along the west coast of the Americas.[4] On 9 September 1916, the cruiser sailed for the United Kingdom, and after a brief refit in Greenick, joined the 5th Battle Squadron at Scapa Flow.[4] On 15 November, Sydney was reassigned to the 2nd Light Cruiser Squadron at Greenock.[4]

Painting depicting Sydney and L43 in combat

On 4 May 1917, while patrolling in the Humber estuary, Sydney took part in a battle with Zeppelin L43.[6] The airship dropped 10 or 12 bombs towards Sydney which failed to hit the ship, and more over other ships of the patrol.[citation needed] The ships returned fire with anti-aircraft guns.[citation needed] The engagement ended when both sides exhausted their ammunition.[6] The zeppelin was obliged to remain high to stay out of range of the gunfire, but this meant the bombs were dropped from too great a height to strike the dodging ships.[citation needed]

In August 1917, Sydney docked at Chatham for a three-month refit.[6] During this, was fitted with a new tripod mast and a revolving aircraft launch platform; the first fitted to any warship.[6] On 8 December, after acquiring a Sopwith Pup aircraft from sister ship HMS Dublin, Sydney became the first RAN vessel to launch an aircraft.[6] On 17 December, the Pup was launched again, this time with the ramp rotated to face into the wind; the first launch of an aircraft from a ship-mounted rotating platform.[6] The Pup was replaced by a Sopwith Camel in early 1918.[6] On 1 June 1918, the aircraft was launched for its only combat sortie, after two German aircraft were spotted while Sydney and the rest of the 2nd Light Cruiser Squadron were heading to Heligoland Bight for a raid.[6] The Camel chased the two aircraft for 60 miles (97 km) and shot down one, but was then forced to break off when one gun jammed and the other ran out of ammunition.[6] Unable to locate Sydney, the pilot ditched near the destroyer HMS Sharpshooter.[6]

The Australian cruiser was present at the surrender of the German High Seas Fleet on 21 November 1918.[6] Sydney left England for home in April 1919.[6] Initially, the cruiser only received one battle honour, "Emden 1914", for her wartime service; this was one of only three single-ship action honours awarded during the 20th century.[7] Following an overhaul of the RAN honours system in 2010, Sydney was retroactively awarded two more battle honours: "Rabaul 1914" and "North Sea 1917–18".[8][9]


Sydney was paid off into reserve on 13 April 1923.[6] She was recommissioned on 29 September 1924 to serve as Flagship of the RAN.[6]

Decommissioning and fate

Sydney's tripod foremast at Bradleys Head

Sydney paid off at Sydney on 8 May 1928 and arrived at Cockatoo Island, Sydney, on 10 January 1929[citation needed] where she was broken up.[6] After scrapping, the ship's foremast was retained, and in 1934, it was erected at Bradleys Head by the floating crane Titan.[10][11] This initially served as a monument to the engagement against Emden, but was later[when?] rededicated as a monument for all Australian ships lost and all sailors killed in the line of duty.[12][citation needed] Part of the bow, including the stem head, jackstaff, and fairleads, was set into the seawall at Milsons Point, under the Sydney Harbour Bridge.[10] One of the cruiser's derricks is on display in the Victory Memorial Gardens in Wagga Wagga, New South Wales, and a compass stand is located at Port Macquarie, New South Wales.[citation needed] The main top-mast was erected at Environa, New South Wales, but rotted at the base and collapsed.[13] It was later moved to Jervis Bay.[13]

During the 1930s, two of the 6-inch guns were transported to Western Australia, and in 1938 were installed at Buckley Point on Rottnest Island.[10] These were withdrawn from service and placed in storage in 1944, then were sold to a scrap merchant in 1963.[10] However, the dealer never collected, and the guns remained on site until 1980, when army reservists retrieved and refurbished them, with one on display outside the Army Museum of Western Australia.[14] Another of the ship's guns was used on Thursday Island from 1940 to 1987.[14]


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 Cassells, The Capital Ships, p. 138
  2. 2.00 2.01 2.02 2.03 2.04 2.05 2.06 2.07 2.08 2.09 2.10 2.11 2.12 2.13 2.14 2.15 2.16 2.17 2.18 2.19 2.20 Cassells, The Capital Ships, p. 139
  3. 6-inch BL Mk XI guns on mounting P Mk VI. The Sight Manual. Admiralty, 1916. ADM 186/216
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 4.4 4.5 4.6 4.7 4.8 4.9 Cassells, The Capital Ships, p. 141
  5. Cassells, The Capital Ships, pp. 140–1
  6. 6.00 6.01 6.02 6.03 6.04 6.05 6.06 6.07 6.08 6.09 6.10 6.11 6.12 6.13 6.14 Cassells, The Capital Ships, p. 143
  7. Cassells, The Capital Ships, pgs 143, 207
  8. "Navy Marks 109th Birthday With Historic Changes To Battle Honours". Royal Australian Navy. 1 March 2010. Archived from the original on 13 June 2011. Retrieved 23 December 2012. 
  9. "Royal Australian Navy Ship/Unit Battle Honours". Royal Australian Navy. 1 March 2010. Archived from the original on 14 June 2011. Retrieved 23 December 2012. 
  10. 10.0 10.1 10.2 10.3 Cassells, The Capital Ships, p. 144
  11. Lucas, Alan (February 2011). "Death of a Titan". p. 23. 
  12. Australian Associated Press (1 May 2013). "Sydney naval monument gets facelift". News Limited. Retrieved 3 May 2013. 
  13. 13.0 13.1 Mortlock, Allan J.; Anderson, Bernice Anderson (1978). Undiscovered Canberra. Canberra: Australian National University Press. pp. 42–47. ISBN 0-7081-1579-9. 
  14. 14.0 14.1 Cassells, The Capital Ships, p. 146


Further reading

  • Drummond, Barb (2010). Fine Ships and Gallant Sailors - The Sydney-Emden Battle. B. Drummond. ISBN 978-0-9562900-4-5. 

External links

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