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EMDEN’S END

GRAPHIC DETAILS OF THE FIGHT. TERRIBLE EFFECT OF GUN FIRE. THE VALUE”9F SPEED. The ‘ Sydney Morning Herald ’ of Wednesday or boat week contains tho first tiequato account of tho fight between tho Sydney and the Emdon. The account is from Captain Bean, tho official Press representative with tho Australasian Expedition, which the Sydney was escorting when she was sent away to deal with the Emden. Apart from the Australian interest of tho story, the narrative is of much value as the first long account of a cruiser duel in tho present war. The Sydney was only 50 miles from Cocos when, she picked up a message from the station there, stating that an unknown warship had arrived at the islands. Of the opening of the action Captain Bean says : “As the Emden had 4in guns and the Sydney a fewer number of 6in, the Emden’s game was naturally to close and use her guns at a short range, at which they were most effective. This she tried to do again and again during tho first part of the action, but the Sydney would never let her manage it. The Sydney’s engines were in perfect condition; during part of the fight when speed was called for she probably attained her full trial speed. The Emden was never a match for her in this respect, even before tho event took place which placed her entirely at tho Sydney's mercy, as will be explained presently. “As the Emden came ont tho distance rapidly decreased, and the range was rapidly reached at which the Sydney expected to begin the battle. She swung round on to a parallel course, and the order had been actually given to fire when the Emden surprised onlookers by firing the first shot. It went whistling overhead, exactly where the first broadside ought to go, and it is described as a piece of perfect shooting. The Sydney’s first broadside, or salvo, which followed immediately afterwards, also went well over the Emden. The Sydney’s second salvo, which was a trifle irregular, foil short-. Her third clearly hit the enemy, although the bursting of her shells in the enemy’s heart could not yet be seen. “The Linden’s fire was so fast that she must actindly have had at times no less than three salvos in the air at once, each on its way towards tho Sydney. The water around the Sydney was lashed as with a flail, the spray being thrown all over her, and for the first 10 minutes or so the hits were fairly frequent. It was about the Linden’s fourth (which means in her case a discharge of five guns at once) which did the first damage to the Sydney. A shell entered a certain station which contained several men and an officer. It almost brushed the arm of one of the men, scored a- deep groove along the whole of one wall, and passed through to glance harmlessly off the deck below. This shell hit nobody, but its impact shook the structure to such an extent that all the men in it were thrown down. They were just clambering up on their hands and knees when a second shell, coming from precisely the same direction, burst just beneath tno floor. Every man in the structure was wounded. By this time the Sydney’s shells were undoubtedly hitting’the Emden, but the bursting* of a shell inside the enemy’s ship can only bo told when something 1 falls. The first sign which those on board the .Sydney saw of their own lire , was when the Emden’s foremost funnel ; was seen to fall overboard. Shortly afterwards the Emden’s foremast lurched over | the side of the ship. Part of it remained there, sticking out horizontally like a boom ; the rest wont into the sea. The Germans set their main fire control position on a platform liigh up on this mast, and the men in it wore all thrown into tho sea. “It was just alter this, about a quarter of an hour after the first slihot was fired, that a salvo from the Sydney entered the stern of the Emden, and burst just before her after-deck. The effect of this shot was astonishing. The deck itself was lifted and tom from its beams, and left with a surface liko that of the sea wave. Tho after-gun upon it was instantly put out of action. Seventeen —probably the greater part of one gun j crew—were blown alive overboard into the sea, where they swam about, with no wreckage to help them, and most of them wounded, until tho Sydney happened to i come across several of them at various periods from seven to eight hours later, and picked them out of the water alive. The same salvo set the Emden furiously on fire aft—a lire which could not be and was not put out. And. most serious of all, the same shot destroyed her steering gear.” The Emden made two attempts to close with the Sydney, but the latter easily kept at her favorite range. After a quarter of an hour tho Emden made no bits. “Gun after gun on the Emden ceased firo. Again and again dreadful wreckage was seen flouting in the sea. An explosion had made havoc of the deck iust aft of the bridge. The se.cond funnel fell over tho port side, and hung as it dragged from the ship’s gunnage, with the inner rasing lolling out of its mouth into the water. The last and only remaining funnel subsided, and lay across the second one, the smoke of all three , streaming along the deck. From the bridge aft she seemed to be one continuous fire. At last only a little gun was left—-a gun forward on the port side—which spat occasionally. . . . With every portion of her on five exeunt the forecastle, with her stern actuary growing red hot, and tho smoke from the stokehold escaping from three holes in the deck where once tho funnels had been, the Emden was turned towards North Keeling Island to save her from sinking. The German colors—the white ensign with a black cross —was still flying from the mainmast; those on the foremast hud, of course, been shot away. Almost to the end the one gun still harked at intervals. Then tho ship ran high into the coral. Her nose was lifted almost clear of the sea. .V short stretch of seething surf separated her from the shore. The Sydney gave her two more broadsides as she passed her stern, and then stood <iff at once to hunt down the merchant shin.” Of the sight related when the Sydney returned to the Emden next day to take off the wounded, Captain Beau says ; “No one could describe or could wi.sk to describe tho state of affairs on the cruiser herself. Her stern was simply unrecognisable. Tho greater part of the i shin was nothing more than a mass of i tangled steel. fr was difficult even to get about her. Her survivors were all in i the forecastle—one fire had started there, and had burnt itself out or been extinguished. Thorn was not a drop of fresh water in the shin, and it is doubtful if any stores at all remained, except perhaps a few biscuits. The survivors had probably had nothing either to eat or drink since the action started, tho day before. Heavy seas washed past the ship and made it almost impossible to attempt to roach tho land. In spite of this, some men, mostly hadlv wounded, had struggled to the snore. It is almost certain that some must have boon drowned in doing this, although tho exact facts of this part of the storv will probably never be known, simply because the survivors were not in a condition to tell or remember them.” The first quarter of an hour of the action was witnessed by the staff of the cable station and by the Emden’s landi ir.g party. As soon as the Germans on the island realised that the Emden was going to be beaten thov hurried the staff off the roof and kept them in a room where they could not see the fight. The Germans then busied themselves with I seizing everything useful and loading it ; on a schooner, in which they made their | escape.

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Permanent link to this item

https://paperspast.natlib.govt.nz/newspapers/ESD19141212.2.92

Bibliographic details

EMDEN’S END, Issue 15674, 12 December 1914

Word Count
1,390

EMDEN’S END Issue 15674, 12 December 1914

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