If it is not the Sydney, what is it?
Ian Stiles - Saturation Diving Supervisor/Retired
October 13, 2007 at 02:47:10
I have just read your article on us and the "HMAS Sydney".Your source was the Australian who have bagged us as have every media outlet whom we would not talk to. I will give you my side of the story.
I was asked by the Shepherds to help them obtain underwater photos of a site they believed may be the Sydney. I borrowed a divers hat mounted video camera from Pacific Commercial,we taped a strength member and eyes every 7 metres to the 200 metre umbilical.
We then made up a large reef anchor with 12mm nylon rope. After finding the wreck on the sounder we threw over a marker bouy. We snared the wreck and slide the camera down the anchor line, all very primative. The footage we obtained was of a very damaged wreck, I have been diving since the early 60's on many wrecks and have never seen anything as smashed up as this.
We could see lines of bolts coming up from a deck. The Sydney had wooden planks bolted over her armoured deck, the Sydney was burning when last seen by the Germans, these timbers could have burnt or have been degraded away. We could also see a lattice structure which could have been the ships aircraft crane. Also large amounts of wire which could have been HF radio antenea.
Also I, like the Shepherds, did not agree that the battle took place so far out to sea, as stated by the Germans and "the experts". The Sydney on previous occasions sailed past Cape Inscription as did other vessels sailing from the Sundra Strait. Why did the Sydney sail so far out to sea on her last voyage. The Kormorans captain Detmer stated he was going to mine around the area off Cape Inscription.
I rang the Australian War Memorial to ask them what would we do if we recovered a piece of the wreck (thinking they could do forensics on it). I got the hold the line, transfer to other sections etc etc treatment before being told it was none of their business, contact Department of Veterans Affairs. We did not want to make any money off what could be a war grave but we did not want the media to get news for nothing either. We decided the money should go to an ex services organisation.
I am an SAS Vietnam Veteran and was appalled at the treatment received by the widows and families of the lads who were killed in the Blackhawk disaster (17 SAS were killed in a counter terrorism excercise when 2 helicopters crashed). We went to the SAS Trust a fund for families set up after the disaster who arranged that Channel 7, the West Australian, the Melbourne Age and the Sydney Morning Herald donate $20,000 each ($80,000) to the Trust Fund. We signed a confidential agreement with the media group saying we would not talk to anyone else. Kerry Stokes the owner of Channel 7 also agreed to personally fund a second expedition with an ROV, so we could get a better view of the wreck and positivly identify it.
Next day whilst trying to organise the ROV in Perth I received a rude and arrogant telephone call from Bruce Bilson's advisor Cameron Hill accusing us of making money etc out of the Sydney wreck. I could not believe that this person from the Veterans Affairs office, the department that is supposed to be looking after Veterans and their families accusing us of "being unAustralian". At this stage it was not public knowledge that we had found anything. Bilson's office said that the Australian newspaper was onto the story and was ringing (them) for answers. I rang our media and told them about the telephone call.
About 30 minutes later, we were on our way back up north when my mobile rang and asked me to return to Perth to do the story as it was about to be broken by the rival media. We wanted to confirm what we had found by ROV before it went public. The Australian was going to print a story (maybe with Bilson's help?). We did the interviews and it went public. We rushed to get the ROV etc before the others got on site. We got back off Dirk Hartog Island in record time only to find that Bilson had sent a ill equipped Hydrographic ship the HMAS Leeuwin from Darwin to check the site.
Bilson called us "unAustralian" and demanded the lat and longs of the site. These had been given to the West Australian Maritime museum by Marshall Hipper many years before. The Museum had also been given the bolt by Hipper and they had said it was metric thread , we have since checked the tread out and it is Whitworth.
The Navy ship did not have an ROV nor was its Multi beam sonar as advanced as the Fugro equipment on board our vessel. We had technical problems with the ROV (getting electric shocks off the umbilical). We obtained some very good images from Fugro's Multi beam which shows our wreck to be 17 metres wide by 36 metres long. The Empire Grassland "barge" which the Australian Newspaper and the Navy reckon it is, was 50 metres long by 10 metres wide. The other possible boat it could be is the Serena Pearl, a trawler. Trawlers are not 17 metres wide nor 36 metres long.
According to the Germans the Sydney was hit by a torpedo around A and B turrets and Detmer thought the bow was going to break off. If this is not a section of the Sydney what is it?