Australia begins search for HMAS Vampire off Sri Lankan coast

HMAS Leeuwin transits across the Bay of Bengal on its way to Sri Lanka where it will search for the wreck of the lost destroyer HMAS Vampire.

The Royal Australian Navy (RAN) hydrographic survey ship HMAS Leeuwin (pictured) and mine hunter HMAS Diamantina have begun the search for the lost HMAS Vampire, 77 years after the destroyer was sunk in battle during World War II.

The two Australian ships are sailing off the eastern coast of Sri Lanka in the Indian Ocean to scour the seafloor for signs of Vampire, which was destroyed after repeated air attacks by Japanese forces on April 9, 1942.

Leeuwin’s commanding officer said his ship’s capabilities, combined with those of Diamantina, would allow for a thorough search for Vampire’s wreck and the resting place of the lost crewmembers.

Vampire, already battle-hardened from months deployed in the Mediterranean, had been trying to protect the British aircraft carrier HMS Hermes, which was also lost in the engagement.

Despite successfully shooting down at least one Japanese aircraft, Vampire was struck by four enemy bombs, breaking the warship in half.

Nine members of the ship’s company, including the captain, died in the battle or later from wounds while the survivors were rescued by a hospital ship and taken to Colombo.

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