HMAS Sydney II – About

HMS Sydney was built at Newcastle-on-Tyne, the keel being laid down In 1933 as HMS Phaeton. She was one of three light cruisers of the British Modified Leander class, but was subsequently purchased by the Commonwealth of Australia and renamed HMAS Sydney II. She was launched on 22 September 1934 and taken over from the builders on 24 September 1935.

Photo (above): HMAS Sydney (II) berthing in Sydney Harbour, NSW. (source: RAN)

HMAS Sydney II was ordered to the Mediterranean when the Second World War broke out. Her First action was to bombard the Libyan port of Bardia on the 21st of June 1940.

On the 27th June 1940 she went to sea in company with a cruiser squadron to provide convoy cover. On the 28th June 1940 HMAS Sydney II sank the Italian Destroyer Espero.

HMAS Sydney II again came under fire on the 9th July -1940, but it was the events of the 19th July 1940, which added to her fame. in a tactical battle HMAS Sydney II engaged and disabled the extremely fast Italian Cruiser, Bartolomeo Colleoni. Following this HMAS Sydney II set off in pursuit of another Italian Cruiser Giovanni Delle Bande Nere but was forced to give up the chase when the faster ship was out of range and HMAS Sydney was nearly out of ammunition.

HMAS Sydney II returned home to Australia in triumph. She saw further action escorting convoys overseas and also participated in convoy escort duties in Western, Australia. Geraldton was privileged to host three visits of HMAS Sydney, the last being from 18th – 20th October 1941.



Type Modified Leander Class Light Cruiser
Displacement 6,830 tons
Length 562 feet 3 inches
Beam 56 feet 8 inches
Builder Swan, Hunter and Wigham Richardson Ltd, Wallsend on Tyne, England
Laid Down 8 July 1933 (as PHAETON)
Launched 22 September 1934 (as SYDNEY), by Mrs Bruce, wife of the Australian High Commissioner, United Kingdom
Horsepower 72,000
Speed 32.5 knots
Armament 8 x 6-inch guns,
4 x 4-inch guns,
3 x 5mm machine guns,
12 Lewis Guns,
8 x 21 inch torpedo tubes (in 2 quadruple mounts)
Complement 645 (click here for downloadable Honour Roll List)


Commanding Officers
24 September 1935 Captain J.U.P. Fitzgerald RN
9 October 1937 Captain J.W.A. Waller RN
16 November 1939 Captain J.A. Collins RAN
14 May 1941 Captain J. Burnett RAN

Service History


After being laid down in 1933 for the Royal Navy as HMS Phaeton , Sydney was purchased (before launching) by the Australian Government in 1934 and renamed in memory of the earlier Sydney that destroyed the German cruiser Emden in 1914.

The ship commissioned at Portsmouth on 24 September 1935, under the command of Captain John U.P. FitzGerald, RN, and spent the early part of her career on the Mediterranean Station taking an active role in the Abyssinian crisis.

Arriving in Australia on 2 August 1936 Sydney remained in home waters until the outbreak of war and was in Fremantle on the day war was declared. On 16 November Captain J.A. Collins RAN, assumed command from Captain John W.A. Waller RN, who had succeeded Captain FitzGerald in 1937.

Sydney remained on local patrol duties until April 1940 when she sailed from Fremantle as part of the escort for a large Middle East bound convoy. Parting company in the mid-Indian Ocean, the cruiser arrived in Colombo on 8 May 1940.


Ref: Finding Sydney Foundation