Day 193 of 366: Blog Challenge 2012
As Geoff and I got off the bus at a war memorial in Geraldton situated on top of a hill, I sighed and thought to myself. “What could we possibly see at yet another memorial from the war?”
The wind was blowing a gale and the people in the tour group hugged their jackets around themselves, some putting up hoods to protect their heads from the cold. I wanted to run back to the safety of the bus but yet something pushed me on. The monuments up ahead looked rather interesting so I persevered.
As the Tour lady began to explain, with strong emotion, the significance of the Memorial I realised we were in for a surprise. It really was a memorial with a difference. By the time the Tour Guide had finished her story a quiet settled over all the people present … and it was because we had been moved so much by what we had heard. Let me share the story with you.
This site is actually the HMAS Sydney II Memorial. My memories of it come from watching the news as the ship ‘HMAS Sydney’ was located in 2008 under the sea north of Geraldton – after many years of searching. I knew nothing else about it but I was impressed by what the brochure said:
“The HMAS Sydney II Memorial is the second nationally recognised Memorial of National Significance outside of Canberra Australia.”
Wow! This was high recommendation for sure. You see, HMAS Sydney was a ship involved significantly in World War II in Europe and it had returned to Australian waters in late 1941.Then on 19th November 1941, the ship became involved in an encounter with the German Raider HSK Kormoran resulting in the lives of all on board HMAS Sydney (645) and 73 out of 290 lives on the Kormoran.
I mean the whole thing was a travesty really because the Kormoran disguised themselves as a Dutch merchant ship and surprising the Sydney which was why all lives on board was lost. But the reason that Geraldton has taken this story to heart is that HMAS Sydney regularly visited the town and in fact, it had been there for three days only four weeks prior to the loss of the ship.
During those three days in Geraldton, the crew put on a concert at the Town Hall and fielded teams for games of cricket and football against the locals. The Geraldton residents really took the crew into their homes and into their hearts and when the Sydney was lost, they were heartbroken and mourned their loss. A bond was formed between the town and the crew of the ship at that time.
Because of this, the Rotary Club of Geraldton raised the money for a memorial on the top of a hill overlooking the sea. The memorial is beautiful and the photos show a dome covered in 645 silver seagulls. The reason for this is very significant. When a Sunset Service was first held on the site on the 19th November 1998, a flock of seagulls flew across the skies as the sun was setting and the Last Post was being played.
Everyone present that day remembers the moment – etched in time – as a very special moment.
Therefore when the Dome of Souls was built years later, it was appropriate to use the symbolism of the seagulls in the dome – one for every man lost on the HMAS Sydney.
Added to the emotion is a sculptured bronze figure of a woman looking out to sea, watching for the men to come home which represents all those left behind. It is called “The Waiting Woman.” She stands closer to the sea, wind shipping her dress and hand on her hat stopping it from blowing off, while she glances out to sea wondering …
Now that the HMAS Sydney has been located it will be kept as a war grave. However, to honour the ‘find’ the Memorial has now built a pool to “close the gap” with a large seagull in the centre pointing the way to the spot where the Sydney is located.
The whisper at the Memorial was: “What a beautiful and moving memorial!” Yes, I think I will always remember visiting Geraldton because of the story of the HMAS Sydney and how I was touched by the it and by the Memorial that I saw here.
If you ever get the chance, take the time to visit the HMAS Sydney II Memorial and spare a thought for the 645 Australians who lost their lives there and lie buried in the sea nearby …