Australian searchers release images of Germany's Kormoran

Sydney  - The first pictures of HSK Kormoran confirm the testimony of Captain Thedore Detmers that his German warship was scuttled after it sank the cruiser HMAS Sydney off the west Australian coast in 1941.

Video footage of the Kormoran posted on the website of the Finding Sydney Foundation on Tuesday show the ship broken in two where the crew would have set charges to blow up the mines on board.

The wrecks of the Kormoran and the Sydney were found last month in the Indian Ocean about 250 kilometres off the coast and at a depth of 2,500 metres.

Finding Sydney Foundation director Keith Rowe said the video footage taken by a remotely operated submersible showed that explosions from the scuttling charges laid by the Germans to sink their ship to save as many lives as possibe as a fire approached the mine storage area sent it to the bottom.

"It continues to confirm the record as it sits that the Germans scuttled the vessel, as they said they did, you know that's what we've seen," Rowe told national broadcaster ABC. "The vessel's certainly broken her midships. It's clearly in pieces and you can see the wreckage quite clearly."

More than 300 Germans out of a crew of 397 survived the sinking of the Kormoran but not a single member of the Sydney's 645 crew lived to give an account of the battle.

Detmers always maintained that Australia's worst maritime disaster was self-inflicted because Captain Joseph Burnett pulled the Sydney parallel to the Kormoran and presented Detmers with a point-blank target for his six 150 millimetre guns.

The first shell from the Kormoran tore away the bridge and left the ship leaderless. Subsequent hits toppled gun turrets and set the ship alight from stem to stern.

"Her damage matched perfectly to what we expected from the side-scan sonar imagery and from the German accounts of the battle," acclaimed wartime shipwreck hunter David Mearns from the Finding Sydney Foundation said of the Sydney wreck.

A 1999 parliamentary inquiry found that the "endurance of German accounts over time lends weight to the survivors' recollection of events."

Most important for the German survivors, the inquiry discounted speculation that there was not a single survivor of the Sydney because its crew had been machine gunned in their lifeboats. (dpa)