Researchers help identify the Unknown Soldier 80 years on

A mystery from World War II has finally been solved by the ACAD team at the University of Adelaide.

HMAS Sydney II was destroyed off the West Australian coast in World War II. The 19th of November 2021 marked the 80th Anniversary of the sinking. All 645 Australians on the ship died, but one body was recovered three months later and subsequently buried on Christmas Island.

The Australian Navy recovered the skeletal remains of the sailor in 2006, and in 2007 they contacted Professor Alan Cooper and Environment Institute member, Professor Jeremy Austin to see if the reseach team were able to apply ancient DNA techniques to help identify the sailor. ACAD stepped up to the challenge and commenced a 14 year search for the name of the sailor.

The Australian Federal Police National DNA Program for Unidentified and Missing Persons working alongside many current and former University of Adelaide staff and students, contributing to the DNA analysis along with the Australian National University, Australian War Memorial, University of Sydney and Able Seaman Thomas Clark’s family.

ACAD used aDNA expertise, human evolution expertise, and “new method development” expertise and obtained a DNA profile from the remains. Over 200 living relatives of HMAS Sydney sailors were tested to find a match, without success.

With sheer persistence, in 2019 researchers found a DNA match to a living relative. Since then additional DNA analysis has helped confirm the match to the satisfaction of the Navy Casualty Board.

The sailor was Able Seaman (AB) Thomas Welsby Clark from New Farm in Brisbane with two living, direct relatives having been identified.

For more information, see Department of Defence.

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