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Rudd honours HMAS Sydney at memorial -

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Rudd honours HMAS Sydney at memorial

The World Today - Thursday, 24 April , 2008 12:19:00

Reporter: Paula Kruger

(Sound of Bells Ringing)

ELEANOR HALL: The sound of a bell tolling for the 645 crew members who died aboard HMAS Sydney in

More than 66 years after the loss of the Sydney, a national service has been held to remember those
who were killed when the ship disappeared without a trace in World War Two - its wreck only
discovered this year.

More than 1000 people crammed into St Andrews Cathedral in the heart of the city of Sydney for the
service. Most of them were relatives of those who died.

Paula Kruger is at the service and joins us now.

So Paula, what is the mood there at St Andrews Cathedral?

PAULA KRUGER: Well Eleanor, as you can hear the bells are tolling once again outside of St Andrews
Cathedral as the ceremony has drawn to a close. It was quite busy here initially considering it was
a memorial service.

In the minutes before the ceremony was due to start, there was still a huge queue of people trying
to get in. Unlike the service on board HMAS Anzac about a week and a half ago, near the site of the
wreck of the Sydney, today's national service of thanksgiving and remembrance was open to all
relatives of the 645 people who died 66 years ago.

Inside the cathedral there was more than a thousand people. They were just crammed into every
available space and then on the outside, in-between, the cathedral is next door to Sydney Town Hall
and in-between there is a public space and there was another 200 people out there watching the
service on a screen.

For those who are familiar with Sydney, you would know that it is in the middle of a major
thoroughfare. You've got busy St George Street, you've got traffic, you've got pedestrians walking
past and despite that you had 200 people standing outside in silent tribute during the whole

ELEANOR HALL: This is an historic event. Who were the dignitaries there at the service?

PAULA KRUGER: There was, as I said, it was mainly family inside but you had former and current
serving officers from HMAS Sydney. The NSW Governor Marie Bashir represented the Governor-General
and addressed the service.

There was also Rear Admiral Andrew Robertson. Now he is the patron of HMAS Sydney Association. He
was also part of the sometimes emotional service and he described those first moments, 66 years
ago, when they realised that the ship was missing after a routine patrol off the coast of Western

ANDREW ROBERTSON: The Sydney turned back for Fremantle on the 17th of November, 1941. Six days
later, when three days overdue, the naval board ordered her to break radio silence - with no reply.
On the afternoon of the 19th of November, Sydney had sighted what she took to be a merchant ship,
was in fact the disguised German raider HSK Kormoran.

Both ships were lost in a subsequent battle. Sydney was lost will all 645 hands including RAAF

But their tragic sacrifice was not without considerable value for the Kormoran had already sunk no
less than 11 ships. The Sydney like her predecessor had removed a major threat to shipping and it
was on shipping that the whole Allied war effort depended, as it would today.

When thinking of navies, most people naturally think of the loss of ships and not of men and women.
But more men were lost in HMAS Sydney than Australia lost in the Korean War. More than Australia
lost in the Vietnam War and more even than she lost in the terrible Kokoda Track.

PAULA KRUGER: That was Rear Admiral Andrew Robertson from HMAS Sydney Association. He was
addressing people in the congregation that included representatives from both sides of politics -
both state and federal.

The Prime Minister Kevin Rudd also addressed the congregation and he gave this thanksgiving

KEVIN RUDD: We gather today to remember with thanksgiving the men of the HMAS Sydney who gave their
lives in the service of this country and in defence of freedom.

We remember their courage, their determination and their diligence as they gave their all to
protect us from oppression.

Thank you for the love that they had for our nation and for their families.

Thank you for putting such love into the hearts of men and women that they would make such
sacrifice for their friends.

ELEANOR HALL: And that is the Prime Minister Kevin Rudd giving the thanksgiving address at that
memorial service in Sydney.

Paula Kruger, this is the day before Anzac Day, what are the relatives saying about the importance
of today's service?

PAULA KRUGER: Well, it seems that people usually, often respond to tragedy quite differently and
that seems the case today - even despite the fact that what happened to the Sydney was 66 years

Some people this morning, before they went into the service, obviously relatives of those involved,
you could tell that they really wanted to be left on their own with their own thoughts. Some of
them also seemed quite overwhelmed, just by the sheer size of the event and the formality of it and
the fact that there was so much media here, you know, trying to avoid people like me hovering
around the edges.

But then you had people that almost saw this as a celebration. They finally know what happened to
the Sydney and a big event like this is some sort of final recognition of what happened to their
relatives so long ago and the fact that the fate of the Sydney is less of a mystery today will make
tomorrow's Anzac Day commemorations feel unlike any other.

ELEANOR HALL: Paula, thank you. That's Paula Kruger at the memorial service for those who died on
board HMAS Sydney in 1941. That service was held in St Andrew's Cathedral in Sydney.