Monday, September 1, 2008

HMAS Sydney safety drills 'not kept up'

It's clear that the infinitely better management by Capt. Dettmers was what totally reversed an initially huge disadvantage for his ship and crew

A FORMER sailor on HMAS Sydney has cast doubt on the management of the ship in the months before it was sunk by a German raider in 1941.

Francis Sheldon-Collins gave evidence at the first day today of public hearings at the commission of inquiry into the sinking.

The Sydney sank with the loss of all 645 crew off the West Australian coast after a World War II battle with the German raider Kormoran on November 19, 1941. The Kormoran also sank after the battle, but more than 300 of its crew survived.

Speculation has arisen about whether the Sydney came too close to Kormoran before determining her identity.

Mr Sheldon-Collins, who was a cook on the Sydney for more than two years, spent his last two weeks under the command of Captain Joseph Burnett, who was in charge of the ship when it was sunk.

The former cook departed the ship in April 1941 and said it was a daily routine under the previous captain for hands to come to action stations as a preparation drill in case HMAS Sydney sighted unidentified ships, but the routine had not been followed under Captain Burnett.

"All ships were treated as suspicious," he told the inquiry.

Mr Sheldon-Collins' job was to help man a six-inch machine gun magazine.

He said at one time a ship was in the area but he was never called to action stations.

"I don't recall going to action stations at any time under Captain Burnett," he said.

Counsel acting for the inquiry told him the ship's log showed the crew were called to action stations every morning.

"Well, I never went if it was," Mr Sheldon-Collins said.,23599,24274236-29277,00.html

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