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Battle of the Cocos (Keeling) Islands - HMAS Sydney - HIMS Emden


Royal Australian Navy
Battle of the Cocos (Keeling) Islands
HMAS Sydney I engaged and destroyed HIMS Emden off Cocos (Keeling) Islands on 9th November 1914 in the RAN major naval engagement

Postcard black and white background show Direction Island were the cable station attacked and wrecked by HIMS Emden was located
Top of card show commemorative road signs located on Cocos West island and old photograph of both ships involved in the battle (Sydney Highway - Emden Walk)
Bottom of the card show the memorial to Cocos (Keeling) battle located on West Island (left), the mast of HMAS Sydney I located on Sydney Harbour foreshore (center), one of HIMS Emden 104mm (4.1 inch) guns located in the corner of Hyde Park in Sydney (right)

More info:
The Battle of Cocos took place on 9 November 1914 during World War I off the Cocos (Keeling) Islands, in the north east Indian Ocean. The German light cruiser HIMS Emden attacked the British cable station on Direction Island and was engaged several hours later by HMAS Sydney I, an Australian light cruiser. The battle was the first single ship action fought by the Royal Australian Navy.
The Emden was launched in 1908; it became the representative of the Kaiserliche Marine at the German colony of Tsingtao, in China and was part of the German East Asia Squadron. After war broke out on 4 August 1914, the squadron was ordered to avoid the superior Allied naval forces in the Pacific, and it headed for Germany, by way of Cape Horn. The sole exception was the Emden, under Korvettenkapitän (Lt Commander) Karl von Müller, which headed towards the Indian Ocean with the objective of raiding Allied shipping. Müller frequently made use of a fake fourth smokestack, which, when the ship flew the Royal Navy ensign, made the ship resemble the British cruiser HMS Yarmouth and certain other vessels.
Within three months, Emden had sunk 28 Allied merchant vessels and two warships. She had also shelled and damaged British oil tanks at Madras, in British India. A collier named Buresk, was captured with her cargo intact, and was re-crewed with German seamen to accompany the Emden as a supply vessel. Naval victims of the Emden were an obsolescent Russian heavy cruiser and a French destroyer off Malaya, at the Battle of Penang on 28 October. By the end of that month, no fewer than 60 Allied warships were hunting the Emden.
Coincidentally, on November 1, a convoy carrying the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps (ANZAC) to Egypt, left Albany, Western Australia. Four cruisers escorted the convoy: the Australian Sydney and HMAS Melbourne, the British HMS Minotaur, and the Imperial Japanese Navy's Ibuki.
The cable and radio station at Direction Island was a critical component of Allied communication in and across the Indian Ocean. Müller decided to destroy the station's radio tower and equipment.
When Emden reached the island at 6am on 9 November, the Eastern Telegraph Company staff quickly realised they were under attack and sent a message saying "Strange ship in entrance" and "SOS, Emden here". A German shore party of 50 seamen with small arms, under Kapitänleutnant Hellmuth von Mücke was quickly landed. The civilian staff on the island offered no resistance, and Mücke even agreed to take care that the 54 metre (176 ft) tall radio tower did not fall into the island's tennis court when its base was blown up. Emden signalled the Buresk to join it.
The ANZAC convoy happened to be only 50 miles (80 km) away and it was decided to detach a vessel in response to the SOS signals. Despite intense lobbying from the commander of Ibuki, the Sydney was dispatched at 7am. The RAN ship was a state-of-the-art Town class light cruiser, commissioned in 1913 and commanded by Captain John Glossop, an Royal Navy officer.
When lookouts on Emden spotted Sydney approaching, Müller had no choice but to raise anchor and engage the Australian cruiser, leaving Mücke and his landing party on Direction Island.
Sydney was larger, faster and better armed — 6 inch (152mm) guns — than Emden, which had 104mm (4.1 inch) guns. However, the German gunners fired first at 9.40am from 10 km away and scored hits soon afterwards, knocking out Sydney's rangefinder and one gun. After that, Glossop used his speed and the superior range of his guns to stay out of reach of the German guns and avoided further damage and casualties. Meanwhile, his own gunners gradually found their marks, inflicting sustained and increasingly accurate fire on Emden.
By 10.20am the Germans had lost their steering, electrics and radio. Nevertheless, the battle went on for almost another hour. After taking extremely heavy damage from almost 100 hits, and suffering dozens of casualties, Müller decided to beach Emden on North Keeling Island to avoid sinking at 11.15am. Sydney then pursued Buresk, which was scuttled to avoid re-capture. Müller had neglected to strike his colours after beaching and when Sydney returned, Glossop signalled Emden to surrender. As no reply was received, he ordered his gunners to resume firing, after which a white flag was run up.
The survivors from Emden were captured and Emden was destroyed. Emden's crew suffered 131 killed and 65 wounded, from a total complement of 360. Sydney had three killed and eight wounded. Glossop later said that he "felt like a murderer" for ordering the last salvoes at the helpless ship, but had no choice under the circumstances. Some 230 of the Emden survivors were transferred from the Sydney to the SS Empress of Russia for transport to Colombo.
In the meantime, von Mücke and his men had seized the 123-ton three-masted schooner Ayesha—which was moored in the lagoon—and some supplies. Afterwards, they made for Padang on Sumatra, in the neutral territory of the Dutch East Indies. There they rendezvoused with a German merchant vessel on 13 December. Mücke's party made their way to Turkey by way of the Red Sea, arriving on 5 May 1915. They then traveled overland, eventually reaching Germany.

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  • Model Number: navS03
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This product was added to our catalog on Friday 21 January, 2011.

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