Officers and Crew of SMS Emden, A Jose, The Royal Australian Navy 1914-1918, 1933

[see part onepart threepart fourpart five for the entire history of its exploits and sinking by HMAS Sydney] … Meanwhile having caught a Norwegian steamer and sent her to Rangoon with the prisoners the German cruiser Emden went across the Bay of Bengal to port of Madras, where on the night of the 22 September she bombarded the oil tanks and fired upon vessels in the harbour.

On the 25th three cargo vessels were captured and two days later she captured the coaling ship Buresk which was picked up about half-past one in the morning. The high grade coal on board proved a great boon for the Emden and German prize crew boarded her and she was used from this time on to support the Emden’s operations. It was also at this time that Muller decided to abandon his raiding for a time, and disappear into unfrequented Ocean areas.

The last days of September were spent in the Maldives and in the shelter of one of the atolls the Emden emptied her own collier and sent the Markomannia to Padang to purchase provisions and stores. Meanwhile the Emden herself, taking the Buresk with her, ran for five days southward till she was well past the Chagos Archipelago, and zigzagged about in that neighbourhood for another three days. He did not expect at this stage to find the convoys en route to England, but thought that the ships which had taken Indian troops to the Mediterranean might be returning from Suez to bring the Australians, and hoped to catch this empty convoy on its outward voyage

But luck was running out for this lone raider and the first blow to fall was on her collier the Markomannia. On 6 October it was engaged in the transference of coal from the Pontoporros. But it turned out to be slow work as the Greek vessel’s crew had to be kept at work … at the point of the pistol, and the Germans did not expect to get the coaling over before the 13th. About 5 pm that night the sky was lit up for a long time with searchlights and about six cloud of smoke was spotted on the horizon.

One of the German seamen on board the Pontoporros described the events which followed … anticipating no good, I reported it on the bridge, where the captain was. The answer “Oh, let be, man; when it gets nearer we shall find it’s a Dutchman. “Right oh!” said I to myself, “if you’re in that sort of a temper . . . ” and I went back to my work. But it struck me that the ship was coming along frightfully fast, and then I saw by the type of it that it must be an English, or a Japanese ship. I dropped my work and woke our lieutenant, who was still asleep. By the time he came on deck everyone could see that she was an enemy ship. Now came the order to cast off. We stopped coaling and got our side-arms. Casting off was done at last, but there were many hindrances, for one of the stern-lines got entangled in the screw, so that for five minutes we couldn’t move.

We were trying to get into neutral waters before the warship could reach us … suddenly the warship made the signal “Stop at once or I fire!” Shortly afterwards a shot was fired, then two more, that made the Markomannia stop. At that we in the Ponotoporros had to stop too. The Yarmouth, an English cruiser, laid herself between the two vessels, and gave the Markomannia’s crew ten minutes to abandon ship and transport themselves in their own boats aboard the Yarmouth. We ‘Emdenites’ tried to get a boat clear of the Ponotoporros, but soon saw that any attempt to escape to land was useless, so we yielded to our fate. Soon we saw a boat coming off to us to take aboard the ‘Emdenites’ also; then we threw overboard our arms and all the ammunition, so that the English should not get them. (Here I must leave out altogether some things that happened at this time, for it is possible that this book will fall someday into English hands. When everybody was aboard the Yarmouth, she approached the Markomannia and sank her by gunfire. . . .

Oblivious to these events the Emden continued raiding merchant vessels and on the 14 October not far from Minikoi, off the west coast of India, she stopped the British steamer Clan Grant (3948 tons). On board were some … most necessary articles, provisions, flour, potatoes, soap, tobacco, and soda water, as well as firebricks for the chief engineer. While engaged in this work the dredge Pourabbel fell in her way and towards evening she picked up he Benmohr (4806 tons) on her way out from England. These three vessels were sunk.

18 October the Emden made another rich haul. While a discussion was going on as to the form of parole to be required of the prisoners they had taken the British vessel Troilus (7562 tons) was sighted and caught. She had aboard 10,000 tons of general cargo, as well as 900 tons of spare coal. In a rather unthinking tirade the Captain of the Troilus vented his fury at the British naval intelligence officer at Colombo who, he said, had told him that a course 30 miles north of Minikoi would be “dead safe.”ii Of
course this was of the utmost interest to Muller who realised immediately he was now in course this was of the utmost interest to Muller who realised immediately he was now in the proper hunting ground. Around 9 pm the cargo steamer Saint Egbert (5526 tons) fell to the Emden and then at 12 pm the collier Exford (4542 tons), with a cargo of 5,500 tons of Welsh coal, fell victim also. Early the next morning the Chilkana was taken.

Muller sank some of the ships but the Saint Egbert he chose to send with its captain and the Emden’s prisoners to port. The Exford with its coal supply was drafted into use as a collier and sent to a rendezvous point in the Cocos (Keeling) Islandsiii, about midway between Australia and Sri Lanka. Here she had orders to wait until the 15 November.

However time was running out for this Lone Wolf of the Pacific although she would make one more daring raid which will be the subject of the next installment on 28 October


by-saCompiled from A Jose’s, Royal Australian Navy 1914-1918, by Geoff Barker, Collections and Research Services Coordinator, Parramatta Council Heritage Centre, 2014

ii writes von Witthoeft