On 19 November 1941, the Australian light cruiser H.M.A.S. SYDNEY and the German auxiliary cruiser KORMORAN engaged each other in a battle off the coast of Western Australia. Sydney, with Captain Joseph Burnett commanding, and Kormoran, under Fregattenkapitan Theodore Detmers, encountered each other approximately 106 nautical miles (196 km) off Dirk Hartog Island. The single ship action lasted half an hour, and both ships were destroyed.

    From 24 November, after Sydney failed to return to port, air and sea searches were conducted. Boats and rafts carrying survivors from Kormoran were recovered at sea, while others made landfall at Quoba Station, 60km (37mi) north of Carnarvon. 318 of the 399 personnel on Kormoran survived. While debris from Sydney was found, there were no survivors from the 645-strong complement. It was the largest loss of life in the history of the Royal Australian Navy (RAN), the largest Allied warship lost with all hands during World War II, and a major blow to Australian wartime morale. Australian authorities learned of Sydney's fate from the surviving Kormoran personnel, who were held in prisoner of war camps until the end of the war.

    Controversy has often surrounded the battle, especially in the years before the two wrecks were located in 2008. How and why a purpose-built warship such as Sydney was defeated by a modified merchant vessel such as Kormoran was the subject of speculation, with numerous books on the subject, as well as two official reports by government inquiries, published in 1999 and 2009.

    According to German accounts—which were assessed as truthful and generally accurate by Australian interrogators during the war, as well as most subsequent analysis—Sydney approached so close to Kormoran that the Australian cruiser lost the advantages of heavier armour and superior gun range. Nevertheless, several post-war publications have alleged that Sydney's loss had been the subject of an extensive cover up, that the Germans had not followed the laws of war, that Australian survivors were massacred following the battle, or that the Empire of Japan had been secretly involved in the action (before officially declaring war in December). Currently no evidence supports any of these theories.

    Grouping Description

    This grouping belonged to 21369 Able Seaman George James Hobbs who tragically lost his life in the Sydney-Kormoran battle alongside every member of the ships company aboard the Sydney on that fateful day. Hobbs was 22 when he was killed, he had been serving in the Royal Australian Navy for nearly 5 years and was a Anti Aircraft Gunner. The grouping is an important collection of items that had been left at home by Hobbs when he joined the Sydney. This grouping consists of the following items:

    Blue and White tops and trousers named to Hobbs;

    Naval Hat with HMAS SYDNEY tally band;

    Medal Group of Four  consisting of the 1939-45 Star, Africa Star, British War Medal and the Australian Service Medal, all officially named to Hobbs. This medal group is accompanied by an official letter from the Navy issuing the medals after the death of Hobbs to his mother;

    Cased HMAS Sydney, Sinking of the Bartolomeo Colleoni Medal. This medal was awarded to the captain and crew of HMAS Sydney on 11 February 1941by the government of New South Wales and citizens of Sydney when the ship returned to Australia after war service in the Mediterranean. It had recently sunk the Italian cruiser Bartolomeo Colleoni. When sailing off the coast of Western Australia later the same year the Sydney was sunk by a German raider with the loss of all 645 aboard, most of the medals were lost also;

    Rare Parade 1907 Hooked Quillon Bayonet by Enfield dated 11/10. Scabbard fittings painted in original Navy Blue. "N" marked for Navy issue. Scabbard Leather stamped HMAS SYDNEY and Navy issue stamps. I am assuming that Hobbs wore this on duty during a funeral in Sydney as there are photos of a funeral in his photo album with sailors bearing arms, he obviously forgot to return it. This bayonet is a rarity and could possibly be the only provenanced hooked quillon bayonet from HMAS Sydney in existence;

    Sailors Jack Knife named to Hobbs;

    Photo Album belonging to Hobbs with a photo of him on the first page in uniform clearly showing his Anti Aicraft Gunners patch, funeral and action shots more than likely from the Bartolomeo Colleoni action; and 

    White canvas money belt named to Hobbs.


    This grouping would be the most complete HMAS SYDNEY grouping ever to have come onto the market. It tells a story of a young 22 year old Australian sailor who was killed in action with the rest of the entire 645 ships compliment of the HMAS Sydney which was the Australian Navy's biggest disaster in its history. The grouping is historically important on many dimensions in the story it tells and is a must for the serious collector of Australian Naval History and the tragic sinking of the HMAS Sydney.