Thomas Welsby Clark has been named as the unidentified crew member of the HMAS Sydney whose body was found in a damaged lifeboat on Christmas Island three months after the Australian Navy’s crown jewel ship sunk following a battle with German cruiser Kormoran off the coast of Western Australia.
Friday marks 80 years since the ship went down, taking with it all 645 crew members on board.
Able Seaman (AB) Clark was the only person on board to have been found.
Buried by locals in an unmarked grave on Christmas Island, AB Clark’s body remained there for more than 60 years until it was recovered in 2006. 
Able Seaman Thomas Welsby Clark has been identified as the ‘Unknown Sailor’ 80 years after the HMAS Sydney was sunk. Picture: Twitter
The 21-year-old accountant from Brisbane transferred from the Militia to Naval Reserve in 1940 and became a crew member onboard HMAS Sydney on August 19, 1941 where he was shortly after promoted to the rank Able Seaman.
Cruising off the coast of Western Australia on November 19, 1941, the HMAS Sydney was engaged in combat by a disguised enemy gunship.
It is estimated the ship had been hit by 87 5.9 inch amour-piercing and high explosion shells as well as being torpedoed.
Royal Institute of Naval Architects Fellow John Jeremy stated as it sailed away from HMK Kormoran, the HMAS Sydney was a “ship in serious difficulty”. 
“Perhaps 200,000 hot fragments of steel which would have cut cables, pipes, people – in every sense it would have been a scene from hell,” he added.
An account of the deadly battle was provided by survivors from the German vessel who were picked up after the battle.
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Veterans Affairs’ Minister Andrew Gee said AB Clark’s story was one which spoke to the nation’s fierce commitment to its servicemen and women.
Mr Gee said the damaged Carley float AB Clark was found in reflected the “ferocity and the trauma and the devastation of that battle”.
“Tom tragically died at sea and his body was found at Christmas Island some three months later,” he continued.
“It’s testament to modern science and technology that we have been able to identity Tom after all of these decades. And I think it says a lot of about our nation that even after 80 years we are still working so hard to identify and honour our servicemen and women.
“It shows and demonstrates in the clearest possible way that no matter how long ago the conflict, no matter what the circumstances, Australia honours its sacred commitment to remember those who’ve served and sacrificed so much for our nation.”

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