Since there were no survivors on the Sydney, the
record of what happened that day comes from the surviving German sailors who participated in the battle.
The Sydney was the larger of the two ships and
many thought it had the advantage of superior fire power. At 562 feet, she was over 30 longer than the 535-foot raider. Her
eight six-inch guns had a longer range over the Karmoran's 5.9-inch armament. Both ships were carrying smaller armament, machine
guns and torpedo tubes. The Sydney also was equipped with a seaplane and launcher, while the Karmoran was carrying a small
fast-attack LS3 vessel.
The Karmoran, under the command of Commander Theodor
Detmers, was a converted freighter posing as a Dutch freighter with her guns and identity concealed. It was the largest of
the German raiders operating on the high seas that fall. As it turned out, Commander Detmers also had the advantage of stealth.
The two vessels approached each other as the two
masters exchanged signals, the new and inexperienced Captain Joseph Burnett on the Sydney desperately attempting to learn
the true identity of the vessel he was encountering, and Commander Detmers cleverly playing his well orchestrated game of
pretending to be something he was not.
It was not long before the Sydney lost its advantage
of gun range. When Detmers at last raised the German flag and opened fire, the two warships were steaming alongside one another,
only about a mile apart. The German salvo struck first, blasting away the bridge, obviously killing Burnett and other top
officers on the cruiser, and putting control of the ship out of commission.
Sydney's guns opened fire but that first salvo
passed over Kormoran, allowing the raider an opportunity to inflict even more severe damage to the Sydney with two more salvos,
again striking her bridge and amidships section. The Germans said the Kormoran's guns concentrated on the bridge, torpedo
tubes and anti-aircraft batteries. The German guns also knocked out the Sydney's forward A and B turrets, leaving only the
after turrets firing. One of those guns finally struck the Kormoran in the funnel and engine room, causing so much damage
that the raider's engines soon failed.
The Kormoran fired off torpedoes and one of these
struck Sydney and left the warship ablaze and mortally wounded, but still under power.
With her stern now low in the water, Sydney turned
sharply toward Kormoran in what appeared to be an attempt to ram. As she turned, a salvo from the raider blew the top of B
turret away. The ramming attempt failed and the blazing cruiser passed under Kormoran's stern. It was after that the Sydney
steamed southward, her aft guns still firing and the Kormoran firing back, even though she was now standing dead in the water
and in a sinking condition.
The battle lasted no longer than about half an
hour, with Kormoran firing an estimated 450 rounds from her main armament. The sailors said as the sun sank that evening the
Sydney continued steaming off to the south-southeast until all that could be seen was a distant glare from the fires over
the horizon. After that the Sydney was seen no more.
With his own command in a sinking condition, Detmers
gave the order to abandon ship. Rather than allow the raider to be possibly taken by enemy ships and salvaged, he also ordered
the vessel scuttled. Thus the Kormoran also was lost in the battle.