German Auxiliary Cruiser Kormoran - Final Battle and Loss - Aftermath


In Germany, information about the battle was assembled from communications intercepts during the search for survivors, then combined with Allied news articles and published in early 1943 for internal consumption by German officials. A member of Kormoran's crew sent home in a prisoner exchange later that year confirmed the details of the battle, and accounts were published by the German media in December 1943.

Most of the German survivors were taken to Fremantle and interrogated. Attempts to learn what had happened were hampered by the German officers instructing their sailors to obfuscate the enemy with false answers, people describing events they did not witness but heard of later, and difficulty in keeping groups separated in order to check their stories against each other. Despite this, Australian authorities were able to piece together the broad details of the battle, which was verified by German sailors recovered by Aquitania who had been taken to Sydney instead: their interviews showed similar commonalities and inconsistencies as those in Fremantle, and the interrogators concluded that the true story was being recounted.

Initially, the sailors were imprisoned at Harvey while the officers were imprisoned at Swanbourne Barracks, but after interrogations were concluded in December, they were all relocated to prisoner-of-war camps near Murchison, Victoria. Sailors were interned in No. 13 Prisoner of War Camp, which already hosted 1,200 soldiers of the Afrika Korps, and their shipmates rescued by Aquitania, while officers were sent to the Dhurringile homestead. One sailor died in captivity on 24 March 1942 from lung cancer, and was buried in the Tatura war cemetery. On 11 January 1945, Detmers and nineteen other Axis officers broke out from Dhurringile through a tunnel excavated during the previous seven months, although all were recaptured within days of escaping. Detmers was found with a German-English dictionary which included two accounts of the battle (a deck log or action report, and an engineering log) encrypted within using a Vigenère cipher, although these accounts provided little new information. Shortly after returning to the camp, Detmers suffered a stroke, and spent over three months at Heidelberg Military Hospital.

The German officers and sailors were repatriated after the war, departing from Port Phillip with other Axis prisoners aboard the steamer Orontes on 21 February 1947. Ironically, tied up to the opposite pier was the real Straat Malakka. On arrival in Cuxhaven, the prisoners were searched before leaving the ship, and while several written reports were gathered, none provided new information.

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