The 19th of November will mark the 67th anniversary of the sinking of HMAS Sydney (II) and several commemorative services will be held around Australia.
Two days ago, the Ministerial Support and Public Affairs section of the Department of Defence issued this media release ( my commentary follows):
" ... the investigation of the sailor's identity will cease this month, ..."
The RAN's efforts to identify the remains have relied upon a combination of forensic examination of remains, relics found in the grave, and DNA testing of what they believe to be likely surviving relatives. As I've pointed out several times, I believe they have concentrated their search amongst the surviving relatives of the wrong group of crew members. The identification team has concentrated upon officers and canteen staff members instead of the engineering section ratings I believe would have been more fruitful.
I have been following closely the proceedings of The HMAS Sydney II Commission of Inquiry into the loss of the ship. All transcripts of hearings are being posted on the Commission's website along with images of all exhibits, witness statements and submissions (including those by the general public).
Witness statements and testimony includes that from surviving members of the HMAS Sydney (II)'s crew who did not make the last voyage for various reasons. Amongst a wide range of matters being examined by the President of the Inquiry and Counsel Assisting have been questions relating to the clothing worn by various personnel on board ship in the course of their normal duties and at their action stations. I infer from this that the President and Counsel Assisting are attempting to determine from which group on board ship the Unknown Sailor of Christmas Island may have originated.
It is apparent that they are trying to determine who may have worn blue coloured boiler suits of coveralls. It appears that the wearing of such was not confined to the engineering section, as I had supposed.
The thoroughness of the inquiry and the depth of evidence and testimony brought before the inquiry is very impressive.
I look forward to the findings of the Commission of Inquiry.
The re-interment of the remains of the Unknown Sailor of Christmas Island is premature. This ceremony should await the identification of the remains and consultation with any surviving family.
Certainly, the cessation of the investigation into the sailor's identity is premature - and I am certain that that investigation will be reviewed by the Commission of Inquiry.