The HMAS Sydney Memorial, sitting high on the hill overlooking the Indian Ocean in Geraldton, is one of the most imaginative memorials in the State. The memorial took the well renowned Smith Sculptors Studio almost three years to design and create and stands as a fitting memorial to the 645 crew members who lost their lives defending our State and country.
One Fateful Evening
On November 19th, 1941 somewhere west of Carnarvon the light cruiser H.M.A.S. Sydney II encounter what appeared to be a foreign merchant ship. As the Sydney approached the ship, it signaled that she was the Dutch merchant ship ‘Straat Malakka’. The Captain of HMAS Sydney, Joseph Burnett, requested that the ship hoist her secret signal. The merchant ship hoisted the German Ensign revealing that it was not a merchant ship at all, but the German raider ‘The Kormoran’. A battle ensued with Sydney being struck by a torpedo within minutes of the battle, she was, however, able to hit the Kormoran three times. The battle would end with both ships sinking, 300 men from the Kormoran made it to shore but unfortunately, all 645 souls of H.M.A.S. Sydney II perished.
A Fitting Memorial
In January 1999, Joan, Charlie and Joanne Smith (in collaboration with the Rotary Club of Geraldton) began work on designing and creating a fitting memorial. The memorial was designed around a circular theme “symbolic of eternity and the circle of life”.
The Dome of Souls
The “Dome of Souls” structure, comprises of a stainless steel dome, made up of 645 silver gulfs, a polished bronze propeller in the centre of a granite ceremonial area and an “Eternal Flame” that hangs above an altar.
The “Stele”, overlooking the Indian Ocean, is a 19m high sculpture made from stainless steel and was designed to represent the prow (forward part of a ship) of the HMAS Sydney II. The sculpture is also symbolic of a stele, which is an inscribed upright stone used as a grave marker.
The Waiting Woman
Capturing the personal despair of the many families, especially the wives and mothers who lost a sailor in the tragedy, the Waiting Woman stares out to sea in vain hope of glimpsing the return of her loved one. Sadly the sculpture not only represents the great loss of the time but also symbolises the continued disparity of families that still wait for closure from the incident. The Waiting Woman was designed and sculpted by Joan Walsh-Smith with the aim to create a “humanising feature” to the memorial.
The memorial was officially opened on the 18th of November, 2001 and an eternal flame was lit on the 19th November 2001, sixty years to the day of the tragic event. The flame was lit from the “Eternal Flame” at the War Memorial in King’s Park.