HMAS Sydney II ex HMS Phaeton

March 15, 2011

Dear Sir – I’ve just received some black & white old pictures of my great grand-parents taken in 1938. They appear to be walking back from a dock in Sydney Harbour with the Harbour Bridge in view to the left of the picture and the front or prow of what appears to be a warship by the dock. There are many people including school children walking/rushing the other direction towards the ship. The sharp rising prow of the ship appears fairly high out of the water and the area where the forward turrets should be appears covered by a stretched canvas sail in an inverted V over the area. I’m guessing by the appearance of the bridge(with 5 or 6 square facing windows) and the gunnery/direction range finders that it appears to be a Leander class light cruiser – appears too small to be a destroyer. Would you please be able to hazard a guess which particular ship it may be? – I’m guessing either HMAS Sydney (which was based in Sydney at that time) or HMS/HMNZS Leander which visited in 1938. I’m also aware that Fleet Week was held in Sydney Harbour in 1938 and the landing enactment with elements of the fleet celebrating 150 years also occurred in 1938. I believe HMAS Perth & Hobart would not be options as I understand they were not yet delivered to the Australian Navy until 1939.

Thanking you in anticipation,


I agree that Perth was not in Australia in 1938.

Hobart did arrive in Sydney at the end of 1938.

Here is a photo of Sydney 11 in 1940. AWM Caption: Aerial starboard bow view of the cruiser HMAS Sydney (II) (ex HMS Phaeton). Note the spar projecting forward of the bridge and single 4-inch AA guns amidships, which distinguished the Sydney from her two sisters. Her Seagull Amphibian is embarked.

She is reported as arriving in Australia in August of 1936, and being on that station until April of 1940.

Do you mean she appears too big to be a destroyer, and not too small?

I cannot track HMS Leander in Australia in 1938.

You did not attach ant photos.


Dear Mac – Hi – I knew you would ask for the photo – so please find attached for your perusal!! HMS Leander appears in a picture in Sydney Harbour in 1938 – The picture is located in www.navymuseum.mil.nz or google under HMS LEANDER 1938  and the website should appear. At first blush – the height of the bows and the width of the bridge seems to be too large for a destroyer but now I’m not so sure,ie, the photo may or may not have truncated the apparent length of the ship from bow to bridge??? If the turrets under the shade sail could be seen then identification would prove easier. The beam of the ship seems not really wide enough to belong to a light cruiser I’m beginning to think. Anyhow – I hope the picture offers more revelations than I can discern. Many thanks for you taking the time to look at this!!

Kind Regards,


Thank you for this photo.

To me, this photo of your Mother and Father shows that the ship is alongside, the now Ocean Terminal at Circular Quay, it is where Queen Elizabeth 11 berthed during her recent visit to Sydney.

The sweep of the bow in this photo does not seem to me to be that of any destroyer the RAN had in 1938, nor is it the bridge structure of a destroyer. I do not thinks it depicts HMS Leander, and so for what it is worth, I would come down on the side of HMAS Sydney 11.

Best wishes,

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