- Book reviewer
- Ship histories and stories, WWII operations, History - WW2, Book reviews, Naval Engagements, Operations and Capabilities
- None noted.
- RAN Ships
- HMAS Sydney II
- March 2003 edition of the Naval Historical Review (all rights reserved)
Lost but not forgotten – a bitter sweet victory
HMAS Sydney II – in memory of the 645.
by Keith Shegog
Reviewed by Peter Colthorpe
This book is no light read, nor could it be, given its subject, the story of the crew of HMAS Sydney II. There are many books on the life and death of Australia’s most famous ship but this one bypasses the controversy and gets to the heart of the matter. Six hundred and forty five sailors lost their lives that fateful day and a lot more people in Australia lost someone dear to them. Keith Shegog has painstakingly researched stories about the crew and then presented them alphabetically.
The book lists the crew, complete with any stories, and as such is ideally laid out for subsequent editions as people remember the stories of other crewmembers. Photos of the various members of the crew are placed near the person’s name, as well as many photos of the ship herself, the memorials to her and her valiant dead and group photos that form part of any ship history.
The book touches the sailor’s heart and the heart of the sailor’s family in that it records memories of the ordinary folk who did extraordinary deeds and paid the supreme sacrifice at sea in the defence of our nation.
Take, for example, the story under the name of CPO Albert Fraser Macleod-Smith who was married to Elsie May, and had two children. Before the war he was in the Naval Reserve and in his spare time loved training horses and fishing. When war broke out he was called up and served on HMAS Yandara before drafting to Sydney. After the loss of Sydney, the family was devastated and Elsie was suddenly thrust into becoming the sole breadwinner. She never remarried but she never forgot her sailor, and when she passed away her ashes were scattered at sea off the coast where Albert had died.
Some stories are short, others fill several pages, some are yet to be written but all are worth reading. It reinforces what is so marvellous about our country, that our heroes are really very ordinary people and perhaps that is why we have so many.