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H.M.A.S. SYDNEY II, GIBRALTAR to BELMORE, SYDNEY 1936

The red Three Half Pence Gibraltar stamp showing the Rock of Gibraltar is postmarked with a roller cancel made up of GIBRALTAR/ 9-AM FEB 24 36./ 25 and a boxed GIBRALTAR/ THE TRAVEL KEY/ OF THE/ MEDITERRANEAN as well as a separate boxed (DO NOT TAX)/ SPECIAL NAVAL RATE. It is addressed to Belmore, Sydney, Australia (Figures 1, 2 & 3).

 
 
 
 

The reverse has a blue insignia composed of a star over an anchor with a crown at its centre, and an inscription below of ‘H.M.A.S. SYDNEY’ (Figure 4).

After being laid down in 1933 for the Royal Navy as HMS Phaeton , Sydney was purchased (before launching) by the Australian Government in 1934 and renamed in memory of the earlier Sydney that destroyed the German cruiser Emden in 1914. The ship was commissioned at Portsmouth on 24 September 1935, under the command of Captain John FitzGerald, RN, and spent the early part of her career on the Mediterranean Station, particularly Gibraltar, taking an active role in the Abyssinian crisis.

Arriving in Australia on 2 August 1936, Sydney remained in home waters until the outbreak of World War II and was in Fremantle on the day war was declared. On 16 November Captain J.A. Collins RAN, assumed command from Captain John Waller RN, who had succeeded Captain FitzGerald in 1937.

The HMAS Sydney’s statistics were as follows:


Type: Modified Leander Class Light Cruiser;

Displacement: 6,830 tons

Length: 562 feet 3 inches;

Beam: 56 feet 8 inches;

Builder: Swan, Hunter and Wigham Richardson Ltd,
Wallsend on Tyne, England;

Laid Down: 8 July 1933 (as Phaeton);

Launched: 22 September 1934 (as Sydney),
by Mrs Bruce, wife of the Australian High Commissioner,
United Kingdom;

Horsepower: 72,000 Speed 32.5 knots;

Armament: 8 x 6-inch guns;
4 x 4-inch guns;
12 x 0.5 (inch) machine guns, in three quad mounts;
12 x .303 (inch) Lewis Guns;
8 x 21 inch torpedo tubes (in 2 quadruple mounts);

Complement: 645.

The Sydney sailed from Fremantle on 11 November, 1941 to escort the troopship Zealandia to the Sunda Strait where she was to be relieved by the British cruiser HMS Durban for the last leg of the voyage to Singapore. The voyage was without incident and on the 17 November, the Zealandia was turned over to the Durban and the Sydney then proceeded back to Fremantle where she was expected to arrive on the afternoon of 20 November 1941. She did not arrive and the District Naval Officer, Western Australia , reported to the Naval Board at 11 a.m. the following day that Sydney was overdue. The Naval Board had been advised that Zealandia had arrived later than anticipated and it was assumed that Sydney too had been delayed. When however, she had not returned by 23 November, she was instructed by the Naval Board to report by signal. There was no reply.


The loss of HMAS Sydney in November 1941 with all hands in an engagement with the German raider Kormoran, (Commander Theodor Detmers) disguised as the Dutch merchantman Straat Malakka, came as a tremendous blow to the Royal Australian Navy and the entire Australian community. Her achievements and proud fighting record are perpetuated in the warships named Sydney that have followed her and on memorials and cenotaphs throughout Australia.


The motto 'I take but I surrender'. There are all manner of interpretations for this but perhaps, 'I take but you surrender' would have been more apt! A picture of the Sydney with the same design blue insignia as on the cover’s reverse is seen in Figure 5.

 

 
This paper is abstracted from the website www.navy.gov.au/spc/history/ships/sydney2.html

 
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