HMAS Sydney II sailor Thomas Welsby Clark laid to rest at Geraldton War Cemetery with grave re-dedication
An 80-year-old wartime mystery was finally laid to rest on Friday at the Geraldton War Cemetery, as the grave of the HMAS Sydney II’s previously unknown sailor was re-dedicated to Able Seaman Thomas Welsby Clark.
Around 50 people turned out for the solemn ceremony held by the Royal Australian Navy, including Colin Clark, nephew of AB Thomas Welsby Clark.
The 21-year-old was the only man of 645 to make it off the HMAS Sydney II and on to a life raft after German raider the Kormoran opened fire within one nautical mile of the ship during World War II.
His nephew’s DNA proved to be the final piece of the puzzle as AB Clark’s identity was finally solved last year following extensive research.
Colin Clark thanked everyone who had worked on identifying his uncle over the years.
“It’s incredibly significant to have actually identified the unknown sailor and the fact that it was my uncle, was just mind boggling,” he said.
“A lot of people have put in an incredible superhuman effort to get to this result. They met so many dead ends, never gave up, and they just kept going until they got there.”
Chief of Navy, Vice-Admiral Michael Noonan, paid his respects to AB Clark and the other 644 men who lost their lives on the HMAS Sydney II.
“After 80 years, we’re finally able to not just identify him, but have a grave that has his name on it. It represents every one of the 645 men who were lost in 1941, when Sydney sank after the battle with the Kormoran,” he said.
Vice-Admiral Noonan outlined the incredible story behind Friday’s ceremony in his speech.
“We’ve been on a voyage of discovery since 1942, to find the grave site, to exhume the body, to identify the remains, to have the body interned here in Geraldton.
“Then finally to have the Commonwealth War Graves build a new headstone that we’ve been able to unveil today.”
Federal Minister for Veteran Affairs, Matt Keogh, also participated in the proceedings, laying a wreath on AB Clark’s grave.
“The Government, primarily through the Defence Force, as well as the ADF have supported this process of being able to do the DNA analysis working with the families of those crew that were lost in the HMS Sydney incident,” Mr Keogh said.
“By being unrelenting in pursuing this, it’s enabled this great day to occur.”
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