From Our Contribution
At commencement of her build she was to be the HMS Phaeton, but she was purchased the following year while under construction by the Australian Government and renamed HMAS Sydney.
Launched on 22 Sep 1934 she was commissioned a year later on 24 Sep 1935. Her armament comprised 8 x 6 inch guns, 54 x 4 inch guns.12 x 50 Calibre machine guns in three quad mounts, 12 x .303 Lewis guns, and 4 x 3 pounder saluting guns. She also carried 8 x 21 inch torpedo tubes in 2 x quadruple mounts.
Even before the Sydney arrived in Australia it was exposed to the looming war clouds when Italy invaded Abyssinia and she was detained on her way home and detached to the the Royal Navy's Second Cruiser Squadron in the Mediterranean. Outbreaks of rubella and mumps required a period of quarantine. Finally on 14 Jul 1936 she sailed for Australia. Between 1937 and the outbreak of war she was busy exercising and training.
At the time war was declared the Sydney had taken up her wartime station in Fremantle, and her crew was boosted. What followed was rigorous training before she took responsibility for convoy escort duties. At the end of 1939 she returned to Sydney for leave and maintenance, before arriving back in Fremantle on 8 Feb 1940.
In May she received orders to join the 7th Cruiser Squadron of the Royal Navy in the Mediterranean, serving with distinction and participating in shore bombardments and several minor naval battels during which she sank an Italian destroyer and later disabled an Italian Cruiser while badly damaging a second one. In return she suffered one minor casualty and a hole in her funnel.
She returned to Australia in early 1941 for a period of repair and leave for her personnel. More convoy escort duties followed, based again in Fremantle. Several voyages to New Zealand followed as convoy escorts before she returned to WA and again undertook escort duties in the Indian Ocean. On 26 May 1941 Sydney relieved HMAS Hobart as the escort for the troop ship Zealandia, arriving in the Sunda Strait on 6 June where Sydney handed over the escort to HMS Danae, and then returned to Fremantle in four days. Convoy work on the west coast was broken up with a quick trip to New Zealand and then Noumea in July 1941. Other convoy escort work kept the Sydney in the Pacific until 28 Aug 1941.
Sydney was the prime escort for Convoy U.S. 12B, escorting it up the west coast to the Sunda Strait where she was relieved by HMS Glasgow. Sydney then returned to Fremantle and undertook exercises off the WA coast. On 1 Nov 1941 she sailed again from Fremantle to again escort Zealandia to the Sunda Strait, arriving there at noon on 17 Nov 1941. Relieved of her escort duty she reversed course and let it be known that she would be in Fremantle late on the 20th. She did not arrive as expected and the District Naval Officer, Western Australia, reported to Naval authorities the following day that Sydney was overdue. When she had not returned by 23 November, she was instructed to report by signal. There was no reply.