Remembering HMAS Sydney and the Unknown Sailor

A message from the Naval Association of Australia

Able Seaman Thomas Clark and the crew of HMAS Sydney will be remembered at the final Naval Association of Australia Ceremony of the year on Thursday 24 November at 11am at the Jack Tar Memorial, in Southbank Memorial Park, South Brisbane.

Five sailors from HMAS Moreton who have also served on three later ships bearing the name HMAS Sydney will be attending the annual ceremony in Brisbane to honour the Navy’s worst tragedy – the death of 645 sailors who died on HMAS Sydney II in November 1941. The ceremony will also be attended by 94-Year-old Madeline Blyth whose brother was lost when Sydney was sunk.

Sydney met her fate in a battle with the German raider HSK Kormoran in the Indian Ocean off Western Australia. Both ships were sunk and Sydney’s entire crew, and 82 men from Kormoran, were lost. The ships came to rest 12 miles apart on the seabed, but the exact location of the Sydney was unknown.

The Navy never stopped looking for Sydney. Eventually in 2006, she was located and the pieces of the puzzle started to come together.

The only crew member known to have survived Sydney’s sinking escaped in a Carley (life raft) Float but died of a shrapnel wound to the head, and was later washed up on Christmas Island.

The unknown sailor’s name was released by the Navy only last year on the anniversary of the sinking of Sydney.

Thomas Welsby Clark was born in New Farm in Brisbane in 1920 to a well-to-do family. His father was a successful grazier in western Queensland and Thomas was educated at Slade Anglican school in Warwick. After school, he studied to be an accountant and worked for a firm in Mary Street in Brisbane. When the Second World War broke out, he joined up as a Naval Reservist, then moved to full time service as an Able Seaman on Sydney.

Earlier research had showed some clues to his identity. His teeth had gold fillings, a sign that he had been able to afford this kind of dental care. Thomas’s bones showed a life of horse riding, so a country upbringing was assumed and his identity narrowed down. Finally, after 15 years of researching his identity, DNA revealed his name and the existence of a handful of living family members from all over Australia.

Clark’s grave on Christmas Island was exhumed and his remains investigated further, prior to his burial with full military honours at Geraldton. On 24 June this year he was given his own gravestone.

Portrait photo of sailor

For more information, please contact Jayne Keogh at media [at] or phone 0418 882 408.