Teachers Notes

HMAS Sydney (II) Education contains five student activities, a selection of website sources, a bibliography and suggested topics for further research.

While the activities are most suitable for upper primary and lower secondary students in Years 6, 7, 8, 9 and 10 (approximate ages between 11 and 15), some research topics will be suitable for older students.

Included in each activity is a number of self-evaluation multiple choice questions.

The activity Codes and Communication has an interactive element built in and is a good one for students to try first. 

The activities also offer a range of research projects, an art activity and creative expression opportunities through writing and drama.

National Curriculum

The Sydney story is most appropriate for the syllabus of years 7 and 10 within the National Curriculum:

  • Year 7: What is History? A study of the nature of historical inquiry.
  • Year 10: The origins of World War II and Australia’s role in events.


The Five Activities Are:

Codes and Communication:

An interactive experience where students learn about Morse code and signalling at sea using signal lamps and international signal flags. The activity simulates the communication between HMAS Sydney (II) and the German Raider HSK Kormoran as they came together on 19 November 1941.

Students read Morse code signals from a flashing signal lamp and answer by choosing the correct international signal flags. The activity is divided into three levels.

View the codes and communications activity


Loose Lips sink Ships – Censorship in Wartime

Students read about the role the Government and mass media played in the aftermath of the battle between HMAS Sydney (II) and HSK Kormoran. The research activities offered include a study of WWII posters promoting censorship, and the design of a poster to combat current global issues such as terrorism. Another research activity encourages students to look at Government censorship in today’s internet environment.

View the loose lips activity


HMAS Sydney (II) Timeline

Students study the timeline of HMAS Sydney (II) from its construction in 1934 to its loss in 1941 and the discovery of the shipwreck in 2008.

View the timeline activity


Whose History?

The battle between HMAS Sydney (II) and the German Raider HSK Kormoran was unusual because only one side survived to tell the tale. There were over 1000 men on both ships but none of the crew on Sydney lived to tell their stories. All the eyewitness reports about the battle since that day in November 1941 have come from German survivors. And with the discovery of the two shipwrecks in 2008, close to where the German survivors reports predicted they would be, those reports have proved to be substantially correct.

In this activity students are provided with information about the battle and a timeline of events and are encouraged to predict what was happening on the bridge of HMAS Sydney (II) as they approached HSK Kormoran. Students are encouraged to give their views in narrative writing and drama using the background information provided.

View the whose history activity


Searching for shipwrecks

Methods of searching for shipwrecks have changed considerably over the last 50 years. Following a brief outline of maritime archaeology in Western Australia - from the finding of the Dutch ship Batavia in 1964 to the discovery of HMAS Sydney (II) and HSK Kormoran in March 2008 - this activity offers suggestions for student research on a wide range of shipwrecks in Australia and around the globe. A timeline of shipwrecks and links to website sources are provided.

View the shipwrecks quiz now