SMS Emden

World War 1 Naval Combat

World War 1 Naval Combat

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Emden Emden before the war.  She sank eighteen merchantman, converted another to an armed merchant cruiser and captured and used three colliers. She had also raided two allied ports and sank a cruiser and a destroyer as well as causing major disruption to shipping and tying down a large number of enemy warships.  Throughout the voyage she had maintained an excellent reputation for "gentlemanly" behaviour, not a single person from the merchant ships she sank was killed, prisoners were well treated and released at the earliest opportunity, enemy wounded were treated as best they could and neutral ships were treated as such.

On August 19 the light cruiser SMS Emden and Markomannia reached the German Palaus Isle but the collier expected to meet them didn't arrive so they carried on to the eastern end of Timor for another collier rendezvous, which again failed to materialise.  The next collier was supposed to be at Tanahjampen but instead they found the neutral Dutch coast defence battleship Tromp.  The Hague Convention only allowed warships to coal for 24 hours once every three months in neutral waters, and so they left.

To enter the Indian Ocean they would pass close to the islands of Bali and Lombok where they could be sighted, so a false fourth funnel was erected to make her look British.  She was sighted and reported as an unknown cruiser and HMS Hampshire was sent to investigate.  The last of the pre-arranged supply rendezvous was on September 4 at Langini harbour, but again the ship failed to show and they were again moved on by the Dutch authorities.  Hampshire had been there a day earlier.

Late on September 9 in the Bay of Bengal the neutral Greek ship Pontoporos with 6,500 tons of coal for the British was inspected.  The Hague Convention allowed the cargo to be confiscated but not the ship so the Germans chartered the vessel which joined the little group as a supply ship.

Over the following couple of days the empty troop ships Indus and Lovat were sunk, usually by placing scuttling charges on them, the Kabinga was captured and used as a prison ship and the collier Killin was captured and later sunk as she was too slow to keep up.  As she was being sunk the Italian (still neutral) Loredano was seen and inspected.  An offer of money and supplies to take the prisoners to port was rejected.

The Italian Captain broke his neutrality by reporting the Emden as soon as he neared port, merchant ships did not carry long range radios, earning himself a gold watch from the Indian government, and causing panic amongst merchant traffic in the area.

On September 14 she sank the Trabboch and then sent the prison ship Kabinga to Calcutta, the prisoners lining the deck and cheering the Germans in recognition of the way they had been treated.  The Trabboch exploded spectacularly which attracted the Clan Matheson to the Emden, only to be sunk.

The Pontoporos was sent to Simeulue to wait for the Markomannia as she was slow. Dovre, a neutral Norwegian ship, was encountered and took the prisoners to port.  Radio transmissions from the Hampshire were intercepted and so it was decided to leave Rangoon area and raid Madras.

On the night of September 22 Emden attacked Madras, a major Indian port, firing 125 shells in ten minutes into the oil storage and destroying 350,000 gallons of oil.  The local forts returned 6in fire but failed to score any hits.  As well as the physical damage this attack did considerable damage to British prestige and caused major disruption to shipping.

On September 25 she sank Tymeric near Ceylon and then captured Gry Fevale for use as a prison ship.  Over the next couple of days the Foyle was sunk and the collier Buresk captured.

On September 28 the Gry Fevale was sent to Colombo with prisoners, who again cheered their German captors in thanks for their excellent treatment.

The following day the Emden coaled from Markannia for the last time, the now empty collier was then sent to find the Pontoporos.

The Emden arrived at Diego Garcia on October 9.  News of the war had not reached the island yet and so the opportunity was taken to scrape some of the crustaceans off the hull.
Her next victims started on October 15, sinking the Clan Grant, Ponrabbel, Benmohr, Trolis and Chilkana and captured the collier Exford over the next couple of days.  An American ship took the prisoners to port and the Emden headed for Penang for her most daring attack yet.

Zhemtchug.  Her captain Baron Cherkassov was found guilty of gross negligence at a court-martial for her loss, being demoted, losing his title and sentenced to three and a half years in prison.  The ship had no lookouts, only twelve rounds of ammunition were available and she was docked so that most of her guns were not able to fire at the harbour entrance. Zhemtchug

The Emden arrived at Penang in the early morning of October 28 and using her false forth funnel and flying the white Ensign slipped past the harbour pilot into the harbour.  There was concern that there may be two French armoured cruisers in port but the only warship they sighted was the Russian light cruiser Zhemchug.  At 0518 Emden raised the German Ensign and at 400 yards launched a torpedo which hit aft of the second funnel, the explosion lifting the stern of the ship out of the water.  Emden opened fire with her 4.1 inch guns then turned to port to bring her other torpedo tube to bear.  Zhemchug returned fire with her remaining 4.7 inch guns but scored no hits.  At 0528 Emden fired her port torpedo at 800 yards, hitting Zhemchug near the bridge and breaking the Russian cruiser in half.

Emden sprinted for the harbour exit and saw an unidentified vessel which she opened fire on.  Emden immediately ceased fire, and later apologised, when it was realised that the vessel was an unarmed patrol vessel.  Soon after Glenturret, a merchant ship carrying explosives, was sighted and boarded (still inside the harbour) but almost immediately the boarding party had to be recalled as the French destroyer Mousquet was sighted.  Emden opened fire as the French ship tried to turn and run, hitting her with the third salvo, one shell exploding in the destoyers boiler room.  Mousquet fired a torpedo and her forward 9 pounder gun but missed.  Emden fired another nine salvos before ceasing fire, the destroyer being covered in smoke and steam but not sinking so Emden fired again until she started to sink.  Emden rescued thirty six crew, most of them badly injured.

As Emden left Penang Pistolet, a sister ship of Mousquet, arrived and started to shadow Emden, fortunately a rain squall blew up and the two ships became separated.

The raid badly damaged Allied prestige and caused shipping to come to a halt in the region.  The sailing of the great Anzac troop convoy was also delayed for a third time, the previous delays owing to Emden and Graf Spee, whilst the escort was befed up.

Emden had port engine trouble and had to stop to repair it at the Nicobar Islands.  The British freighter Newburn was stopped and the surviving French sailors put on her and sent to port.
Emden rendezvoused with Buresk and coaled from her.  Both ships sailed down Sumatra for a November 7 meeting, north of the Cocos Islands, with the collier Exford which was a day late.

Sydney HMAS Sydney was one of three Chatham class light cruisers built for the Royal Australian Navy, the first two being built in Britain, the last in Australia.  Like many Australian warships she started the war hunting German raiders in the Pacific and Indian oceans and then spent a large part of the war serving with the British Grand Fleet at Scapa Flow.

Emden then set of to raid the important wireless/cable station at the Cocos Islands, arriving at 0600 on November 9.  A forty man landing party was put ashore unopposed and the Buresk was signalled to join Emden.  Buresk did not reply but the the island started to transmit "S.O.S. Emden is here" both by wireless and cable.  Only fifty miles to the north east the was the Anzac convoy which intercepted the transmission.  HMAS Sydney (Captain Glossop) was detached from the convoy.  Sydney was a modern light cruiser, her 6 inch main guns outgunning the 4.1 inch armed Emden.  She left the convoy at 0700 and by exceeding her designed speed arrived at the Cocos after 0900.

At first Emden's lookouts thought Sydney was Buresk but when she was identified as a cruiser the landing party was recalled but were too slow and so at 0930 Emden pulled out of the lagoon without them.

Ten minutes alter Emden opened fire with her starboard guns at 10,000 yards, hitting with her third salvo, knocking out Sydney's range finder.  Emden continued to score hits, knocking out a gun and starting a fire but by 1000 Sydney had found Emden's range.  By 1020 Emden had lost her wireless station, a forward gun, her electrics and steering.  She then received damage to her shell hoists and her firing became ragged.  Sydney was a faster ship than Emden and throughout the action maintained a range best suited to her heavier guns.  Emden's forward funnel fell across deck causing her to be shrouded in smoke and to reduce speed below twenty knots.  For the next half an hour Emden was hit repeatedly, over 100 times during the entire action, and Captain Muller decided to beach her before she sank.  At 1115 she was beached, Sydney ceasing fire five minutes later and setting off after Buresk which had just arrived.  Buresk scuttled herself to prevent capture and Sydney returned to the Emden.  She signalled Emden to ask for surrender but received no reply and as Emden was still flying her battle flag she opened fire again.  Emden hauled down her battle flag and raised a white flag, ending the battle.

Sydney dropped off medical supplies then headed back to the main island to capture the landing party but when she arrived they had left in the commandeered schooner Ayesha.  They eventually made it to Turkey in May 1915.
Emden lost 131 killed and sixty five wounded whilst Sydney suffered three killed and eight wounded.  Karl von Muller was the last to leave Emden and spent the remainder of the war as a P.O.W..

Emden beached after her battle with Sydney.  Her forward funnel was the first funnel to be toppled.  It fell after receiving a single hit as the funnel stays he been disconnected to allow for coaling when Buresk arrived.  There had been no time to reconnect them before the battle started.  The loss of this funnel caused Emden to be shrouded in so much smoke that at one point Sydney lost sight of her, and it made it hard for Emden's gun crews. Emden

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