At 1340 on 11 September 1941, Armistice Day, HMAS 'Sydney' sailed from Fremantle on a routine escort mission. 'Sydney' should have returned on the afternoon on 20 November, but the Australian cruiser failed to return.
On the evening on Sunday 23 November, 'Sydney' was instructed to break wireless silence and report its estimated time of arrival .... nothing was received.
Search aircraft were despatched on 24 November but were unable to locate the ship. That afternoon, the Navy Office learned that German naval men had been recovered from a raft in the Sunda Strait-Fremantle shipping lane. They claimed that their ship had been sunk by a cruiser.
In the days that followed, more German survivors were found. All told the same story. They have been involved in an action with a Perth class cruiser on the afternoon of 19 November. Their ship, the auxiliary cruiser 'Kormoran' was set on fire and had to be abandoned. The cruiser, later identified as 'Sydney', was last glimpsed as a glow on the horizon.
'Sydney' and its entire complement of 645 officers and crew were never seen again.
The disappearance of 'Sydney' is one of the greatest maritime mysteries in Australian history. Many attempts have been made to unravel the sequence of events and answer the questions raised by this extraordinary episode. But no account has so far managed to cope convincingly with the problems and puzzles. Why did 'Sydney' sink? Why was it lost without trace? And why were there no survivors?
Wesley Olson has reopened the case with great flair and passion. Reading and thinking his way into the mystery of 'Sydney's' loss, Olson has come up answers that have eluded his predecessors.
'Bitter Victory' is intense and compelling reading as is approaches, clue by clue, step by step, the most persuasive explanation proposed yet for the tragedy of HMAS 'Sydney'.
1. HMAS Sydney
2. The Search
3. An Open Wound
4. The Tonnage War
5. The Interception
6. The Action
7. Possible and Probable Causes
9. With All Hands
10. An Honourable Death
Appendix 1: Roll of Honour
Appendix 2: German Admiralty Account of the Sinking of HMAS Sydney
Appendix 3: Destined to Die?