HMAS Sydney: DNA reveals identity of Australia's famous 'unknown sailor'

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Thomas Welsby Clark has been identified as Australia's famous 'unknown sailor'

Australia says it has identified the body of the only sailor recovered from a ship sunk during World War Two.

Thomas Welsby Clark, 20, joined the HMAS Sydney just four months before it was ambushed by a German raider in the Indian Ocean in 1941.

All 645 men on board the ship died - one of Australia's best-known wartime disasters.

Three months after the sinking, a body washed up in a life raft on Australia's Christmas Island.

Dressed in navy overalls that had been bleached white from the sun, he became known as the "unknown sailor".

He was buried first on the island, a territory 1,500km (930 miles) off Western Australia. Decades later, he was reburied on the mainland with military rites.

No other bodies were ever recovered, even after the ship's wreckage was discovered in 2008.

On Friday, after years of DNA testing, Australia revealed the unknown sailor as Mr Clark.

Image caption,
The loss of the HMAS Sydney is one of Australia's worst naval disasters

Historians said the able seaman had come from a wealthy grazing family and trained as an accountant. Both of his brothers had also served in the war.

Tests from his teeth matched the genetic material of his surviving descendants. His family was informed of the news last week, officials said.

"It's a testament to modern science and technology that we have been able to identify Tom, after all these decades," Veteran Affairs Minister Andrew McGee said.

"Even after 80 years, we are still working so hard to identify and honour our servicemen and women."

The Australian War Memorial in Canberra said it would dedicate its daily Last Post ceremony to Mr Clark on Friday. Some of his relatives would lay a wreath at a shrine, it said.

His grave in Geraldton, Western Australia, will also get a new headstone. Currently the inscription reads: "A Serviceman of the 1939-1945 War HMAS Sydney."

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