The aircraft carrier HMAS Sydney

HMAS Sydney was one of a class of relatively small and uncomplicated light fleet carriers which in Korea operated 24 Hawker Sea Fury and 14 Fairey Firefly fighter bombers...

The Americans lent Sydney a Sikorski helicopter for pilot rescue duties. After initial reluctance, based on concerns about committing Australia's main fleet unit in a deteriorating world situation, the Australian Government agreed to deploy the carrier for a short period to allow the Royal Navy to refit its carrier HMS Glory. Sydney was well prepared for the deployment, being given priority for men and stores but, with other commitments to Korea, this was a strain on the RAN's limited resources.

Sydney commenced operations on 5 October 1951 under command of Captain D. H. Harries. On 11 October she flew a record 89 sorties, an effort bringing praise from American and British authorities, USS New Jersey stating that Sydney's gunnery spotting was 'the best she has yet had'. On 25 and 26 October three aircraft were lost, the last involving a dangerous pickup of shot-down aircrew by the ship's helicopter. Enemy infantry attempting to capture the aircrew were suppressed by fire from other Sydney aircraft.

Normal daily operations aimed at 54 sorties although this was often difficult to achieve on an axial deck carrier requiring a constant movement of aircraft around the deck, often in foul weather, especially as a freezing winter set in. In October, Typhoon Ruth caused damage to the carrier and the loss of aircraft.

While no match for Chinese jets, Sydney's piston engine aircraft were invaluable for ground attack duties. Normally the Fireflies carried bombs and the Sea Furies rockets. Both types mounted four 20mm cannon. Targets attacked included troops, gun positions and transport infrastructure. Sydney's aircraft were credited with causing 3000 communist casualties as well as the destruction of 66 bridges, seven tunnels, 38 railway sections, seven sidings, five water towers, three locomotives, 59 wagons, 2060 houses, 495 junks and sampans and 15 guns. They also carried out target spotting and reconnaissance, for which the two-seat Firefly was particularly well suited, as well as combat air and antisubmarine patrols around the carrier and her escorts.

Enemy anti-aircraft fire was the main danger. Sydney had 99 aircraft hit and nine were shot down. Casualties were three aircrew killed and six wounded.

After seven intense nine-day operational periods, Sydney departed for Australia on 29 January 1952.

Type Majestic Class Aircraft Carrier
Builder HM Dockyard, Devonport, England
Laid down 19 April 1943
Launched 30 September 1944
Commissioned 16 December 1948
Displacement 15,740 tons standard
Length 698 feet (212.75m) overall
Beam 80 feet (24.384 m)
Draught 25 feet (7.62 m)
Main Machinery Parsons geared turbines 40000 hp 24 knots
Armament 35 aircraft; 24 40mm Bofors

Last updated: 12 January 2019

Cite this page

DVA (Department of Veterans' Affairs) (2019), The aircraft carrier HMAS Sydney, DVA Anzac Portal, accessed 4 October 2022, https://anzacportal.dva.gov.au/wars-and-missions/korean-war-1950-1953/events/china-intervenes-korean-war/aircraft-carrier-hmas-sydney
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