HMAS Sydney (III) berthed at Lyttelton
HMS Terrible was one of six Majestic Class light aircraft carriers commissioned for the British Royal Navy during World War II. Laid down in 1943, launched late 1944, she was mothballed for being too late for war service. Acquired by the Royal Australian Navy in 1948 she was renamed His Majesty’s Australian Ship Sydney (III) in honour of the light cruiser HMAS Sydney (II) that sank in 1941 with the tragic loss of all aboard. HMAS Sydney (III) finally sailed from Devonport UK in early 1949 bound for Australia with a complement of Hawker Sea Furies on board.
HMAS Sydney visited New Zealand several times over the next two decades, although the photograph shown here of it docked at Lyttelton Port is somewhat ambiguous as to the date. The reverse of the photo reads “17 G082 / HMAS Sydney berthed at Lyttelton / (about 1946) / photographed by / F.E. McGregor / Z236.” The estimated year 1946 is obviously too early as the carrier remained in the UK until 1949. However, if you look closely, the planes on deck appear to be Sea Furies, indicating she was in active carrier service at the time.
Sydney’s first visit to New Zealand was in February 1950 when she called at Milford Sound, Akaroa, Lyttelton, Wellington, arriving Auckland 15 March. The next recorded visit to our shores was between March and August 1953, but only to Auckland on return from the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II with representatives of all three branches of the Australian and New Zealand defence forces on board. Finally, it appears that it was only after Sydney’s refit as a training ship, minus Sea Furies, that she returned to New Zealand on her first training cruise in May 1955. In the years afterward, HMAS Sydney trained in our fair waters several times, and also served as a troop transport which included transporting the first New Zealand infantry force sent to the Vietnam War in May 1967. Decommissioned in 1973 she was sold for scrap to South Korea.
Given this brief history, it would seem certain then, that the arrival in Lyttelton Port pictured above with the Sea Furies on board would have to date from sometime between February and mid-March 1950. If you can corroborate or correct that date for us then please have a go!
The cruiser HMAS Sydney (D48) berthed at Lyttelton 1946, and in Lyttelton Harbour.
Te Ūaka The Lyttelton Museum ref. 10417.1 & 13426.1