Where is the original ships bell from HMAS Canberra? and...

October 16, 2009
Subject: original bell hmas canberra

Dear Mac.

I have a couple of queries for you concerning naval history.

Where is the original ships bell from HMAS CANBERRA?

Regarding the mystery of the sinking of HMAS SYDNEY, i have read that the British Army spy, Captain Heenan was in a position to pass on to the Kormoran the code for Straat Malaka, thus luring Sydney into close range. I would be very interested in your thoughts on this matter. ( please excuse my lamentable spelling )

I have just been reading an account of the battle of the Sundra Straight, wherein it was stated that Canberra sunk some incredible number of Japanese ships. Could you please tell me the right story.

I would also like to read about the minutia of the every day running and fighting of 1940-1960 warships. ( communications, armament, propulsion etc. ) Can you recommend any such literature ?

Also during WW2, my brother in law was on HMAS HOBART and he used to write to me. On the envelope were coloured Disney Characters. Would these have been common ?

God, I am getting my money’s worth now! Round the period 1945-1950, i was attending my school swimming  class at the North Sydney Olympic swimming pool, which is under the Sydney Harbour Bridge, when i looked up to see A Jap destroyer (with Jap insignia painted on the hull ) sailing up the harbour in the direction of Cockatoo Island Shipyards. However despite my best efforts, i can’t find any reference to it. Can you through any light on this mystery?

Thanking you in advance, 

Eddie Doyle


The bell for HMAS Canbera would still be onboard the ship's wreck in Iron Bottom Bay in the Solomons, as the wreck is at a depth of 2,500 feet it is safe from diving predators as one would need a remote controlled vehicle to reach her.

Regarding Sydney 11, I believe that Captain Burnett thought he was dealing with a harmless Merchant Ship, rather than standing off at a distance of say 10,000 yards, and sending off his Walrus aircraft to overfly the Kormoran, he chose to close her.

Straat Malakka's Secret call sign was IIKP, the proceedure is: the challenging warship sends off the two middle letters, in this case IK, the merchant ship responds with the two outer letters namely IP.

Now, if Detmers in Kormoran had the secret call sign of Straat Malakka, he surely would have used them, and got away with it, Sydney would have been satisfied, and Kormoran would be free to proceed.

But when Kormoran was challendged with the IK signal hoist, Detmers knew it was time to fight, and his anti tank gun cleaned up Sydney's bridge personnel, and the torpedo fired by Kormoran struck home under Sydney's A Turret.

Our cruiser was doomed.

HMAS Canberra did not take part in the Battle of Sunda Strait, the two Allied cruisers were HMAS Perth and USS Houston, both sunk by the Japanese. So that report is sheer nonsense.

It is difficult to recommend a book that covers the topics you want, but Destroyer. An Anthology of First Hand Accounts Of The War At Sea, edited by Ian Hawkins, Conway Maritime Press, London. 2003. may help in this regard.

Len Deighton in his review says: " I shall never forget some of the stories in this work. Here is a book which matches and complements that best seller of the post war years, THE CRUEL SEA.

The use of Disney Characters to decorate envelopes ex HMAS Hobart would be unusual, and probably unique.

I can find no reference to a Japanese warship visiting Sydney in the post war period.

I trust I have coped with your questions in the main to your satisfaction.


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