German survivor tells how pride of Australia was sunk
Wednesday 02 April 2008
Edmund Büttner vividly remembers seeing shells from his ship smash into the bridge of the Australian cruiser HMAS Sydney, killing nearly every officer before the crippled and burning warship sank with the loss of all 645 hands.
The Second World War wreck of Australia's worst naval disaster was found only last month, 2,560 metres down in the Indian Ocean, prompting the Australia government to open an investigation into the sinking. But for Mr Büttner, who says he is the last survivor of the engagement that cost his own ship too, there is no mystery.
"Sydney went down because we hit it with one of our torpedoes and because it was burning fiercely," the 87-year-old said. "Her chances of staying afloat were zero."
Mr Büttner was on the 8,700-tonne auxiliary cruiser Kormoran, disguised as a Dutch freighter but armed with six hidden 5.9in guns, torpedoes and seaplanes, when she encountered the 6,800-tonne light cruiser Sydney on 19 November 1941. The Kormoran lured Sydney, armed with eight 6in guns and four 4in guns, to a point-blank 1,000-yard range, raised the Nazi flag, dropped the fake bulwarks and opened fire. "We took them completely by surprise," Mr Büttner said. Kormoran's guns pounded Sydney's bridge, hull and turrets. But Sydney returned fire, several salvoes crippling the Kormoran in the three-hour battle. Sydney withdrew on fire, then exploded and sank.
Hours later, Kormoran was scuttled. More than a fifth of the 371 crew were killed but the rest took to the boats. Mr Büttner was picked up six days later by the Australian troopship Aquitania and spent the rest of the war as a PoW.
- 1 King Salman: Just five days in, Saudi Arabia's new king has already overseen a beheading
- 2 The BBC has just done more to eradicate ‘terrorism’ than all our wars since 9/11
- 3 Saudi preacher who 'raped and tortured' his five -year-old daughter to death is released after paying 'blood money'
- 4 Presidential optical illusion offers clues to how brain processes faces
- 5 Grumpy Roald Dahl letter warning student to 'eschew beastly adjectives' rediscovered after 35 years
King Salman: Just five days in, Saudi Arabia's new king has already overseen a beheading
Auschwitz liberation 70th anniversary: Woman sent to three Nazi death camps describes surviving gas chamber
Saudi preacher who 'raped and tortured' his five -year-old daughter to death is released after paying 'blood money'
Ukip Jelly Babies cause uproar on Amazon
Chilling drone footage captures Auschwitz ahead of 70th anniversary of liberation
'We would evict Queen from Buckingham Palace and allocate her council house,' say Greens
French court convicts three over homophobic tweets, in case hailed as a 'significant victory' by LGBT rights campaigners
Greece elections: Syriza and EU on collision course after election win for left-wing party
British Muslim school children suffering a backlash of abuse following Paris attacks
British grandmother Lindsay Sandiford faces execution by firing squad in Indonesia
Liberal Democrat minister defends comments suggesting immigration causes pub closures
£25000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Front End Web Developer is re...
£250 - £300 per day: Investigo: Growing international marketing business requi...
£18000 - £22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An ORM Consultant is required t...
£21000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This leading provider of educat...