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Date: 1942
Overall: 270 x 160 x 4 mm
Medium: Canvas and thread
Credit Line: ANMM Collection
Object Name: Pennant
Object No: 00044580

User Terms

    This pennant was hand-stitched by a German sailor at the Murchison prisoner-of-war camp in Victoria. One side features an image of HSK KORMORAN, while the other side has the text Lager Stortebecker (Camp Stoertebecker). The POW camp held 341 German survivors of the HSK KORMORAN, rescued after the naval battle with HMAS SYDNEY (II) on 19 November 1941. The tragic battle was a great shock to the Australian public as SYDNEY and all 645 crew were lost. This pennant was given to Tom Corrigan, who was a prison guard stationed at the camp.
    SignificanceThis rare object was made by a survivor of the World War II naval battle between HMAS SYDNEY and HSK KORMORAN. It highlights the loss of SYDNEY, which is still today the greatest naval disaster in Australian history.
    HistoryHMAS SYDNEY was welcomed into Sydney Harbour by thousands of people in February 1941, returning from the Mediterranean after defeating the Italian cruiser BARTOLOMEO COLLEONI only months before. On 19 November 1941, while conducting patrol duties off Western Australia HMAS SYDNEY went into battle with the German raider HSK KORMORAN. Unbelievably, SYDNEY was completely destroyed and the ship with all its 645 crew lost. This incident is still Australia's worst naval disaster and was a significant shock to the Australian public and Navy.

    Over 300 German sailors and officers were saved from the KORMORAN, many of them washed up on the shores of Western Australia, while others were picked up by allied ships and later handed over to Australian authorities. Most of the prisoners were taken by sea and land to Carnarvon where preliminary interrogations took place. They were then transported to Fremantle where 19 men were taken to hospital and the remainder distributed between Fremantle Detention Barracks, Swanbourne Barracks, and the internment camp at Harvey, 137 kms south of Perth.

    After further interrogations the men were transferred to internment camps in Victoria. The officers were transported on the liner DUNTROON on 13 December, while the sailors were moved by train in two groups, the first leaving on 27 December 1942 and the second in early January. Upon arrival in Melbourne, all the prisoners were taken to Murchison prisoner-of-war camp in northern Victoria. The officers were later transferred to Dhurringile, a homestead property about 16 kms from Murchison camp that was converted into a detention camp.

    In 1943 some of the officers were transported to a timber felling camp at Graytown while others were transferred to Tatura internment camp. The German prisoners were held in Australia until 1947 when they were returned home. One of the survivors Heinz Messerschmidt recalls giving away some of his possessions as mementos of the KORMORAN/SYDNEY engagement to prison guards before leaving Australia in January 1947. It is likely that other German prisoners may have done the same. Many of the prisoners built up cordial relationships with the Australians during their time in the camps.

    The unknown maker of this pennant has chosen to depict the HSK KORMORAN on one side and a sailing ship with the words Lager Stortebecker (Camp Stoertebecker) on the back. Klaus Stortebecker was a pirate known for plundering merchant ships; he left Hamburg and sailed in the Baltic and North Sea during the 15th century. Over the years Stoertebecker became a folk hero with tales of his exploits, bravery and superior seamanship being popular stories in Germany. The most famous tale was that he freed seven of his fellow captured pirates by running past them after he had been beheaded.

    It seems likely that the German prisoners adopted the name Camp Stortebecker for their barracks at the Murchison prisoner of war camp, meaning Camp of Pirates. They may have viewed themselves as pirates that had managed to sneak up on HMAS SYDNEY or Camp Stortebecker may have been a shared joke between prisoners or simply a name created by the unknown maker of the pennant.

    Additional Titles

    Assigned title: HSK KORMORAN pennant

    Web title: HSK KORMORAN pennant

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