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SYDNEY-EMDEN FIGHT

STORY FROM COCOS. BY A DUXEiDIX MAX. The fullest and moat graphic story of this, fight is contained in a tetter received by Mr G. Burnett, of Dunedin, from his son. The material parts of the letter are as follow : COCOS, November 14Early last week we had very good reasons to believe the H.M.S. Minotaur was going t-o visit C'ocos, and in consequence everyone was on the qui vivo to sight her, and on her arrival give her a fitting welcome. On Monday morning -I awoke about 6 a.m. (a most' unusual thing), and wondered what had caused it. In about a minute I heard steps on the roof and some shouting along tils' verandah, so tumbled out of bed and got on top of the quarters to see, as I thought, the Minotaur at anchor off the end of the island. I dashed down and roused out two of the chaps who were, still asleep, and then went down to the~i>each, wherewe saw a steam pinnace with, two cutters -full-of men, coming up the lagoon. Even then we suspected nothing, until a.' report, came from the. roof that one of her four funnels was only a. canvas wind chute. At the same time it could be seen that each of the oncoming boats was full of armed men, and aLso a machine gun mounted in the bows of each.

Although feeling a little doubtful, some of us walked down to ihe jetty, and it was not until the boats landed t-heir men and all rushed ashore that we knew they were- from the famous Emden. As they passed, one officer turned to me and_ said : " Vere is ze wireless office." I did not

pick it tip, so said " Yes" ; but he had not waited a reply, but dashed on. The native store doors were, the first things tackled, and boot coon opened them. In the meantime the fellows in the office on duty had got information of her landing to all stations, and on the Germans arriving were promptly kicked out. La Xauze was up in the wireless hut sending out the S.O.S. signal, which was being_out up bv the Emdens wireless interrupting. At first thev could not tell whether our signals were" heard or not, but it turned cut thev had been. La Xauze was immediately kicked out of the hut, and after a few minutes an officer came along and requested us all to asr-emble in front of the office, where we were all counted. Tbey then told us to stay there, and put an armed guard over us. It was 'then stated that the wireless mast was to be.upblown, and we were requested to move, further away. v\© finally all took up our station in front of the quarters, and had the machine guns trained on us in case of trouble. All this time there was the constant crash of falling cells and the sound of a tcavN- aso b*i«g tised to its full purpose , in the office, also a few minor explosions. ! We were all watching for the wrrelcss I mast (150 ft high) to go, and suddenly there was a loud explosion, and the wireless mast swung to and fro in almost a semicircle for several minutes, but their charge had not brought it down, ana a fresh charge had to bo, put in. Evcryone_ on the staff was very cheerful, and we just sat round in the boatshed, out of tho sun, joking and yarning with one of the guard, who spoke English fairly well. _ Suddenly there was another explosion, and the wireless mast, slowly at first, but with gathering momentum, fell to the ground. Axes, etc., were still busy m thc office, and men were going all through the quarters ransacking the rooms for firearms, all of which (with ammunition) were commandeered. There were three officers and about 40 men ashore with about another 10 left in the boats picking up the cables. All this time the pinnace was out, and without any trouble she got hold of, as eho thought, one of the cables. A man dived overboard and picked it up. They cut it, and towed the. end about 50 yards, very carefully coiling the piece they had taken on board the pinnace. This was really just a bit of useless spare cable, and "only about one-eighth the thickness of the proper "shore-end" stuff, which is specially strong to resist the coral and rocke.

They next .got hold of a proper cable, and after a deal of chopping managed to cut through. At the same time, a few men with axes got going on the Tongkong (a heavy Chinese boat used for carrying stores, etc., between chip and shore), which had been cut from her moorings. It gave them some work cutting through the huge beams in her'—some about 9m of solid ironwood—'but they finally succeeded, and she now lies on the beach useless. About this time they got some of the boys and made them make us some coffee and sandwiches and bring it down to us. The Chinese boys were in. a terrible state, and the sound of their knees knocking together could be heard shove the ring- of the axes and the crash of falling glass. It was most acceptable, but I had only half a sandwich, the dog the other half, for I was much too excited to eat.

Shortly after this a few of us were allowed to return to the quarters, where we got some beer, et:., and took down to those on tho beach. Many of thern knew nothing of the landing until their rooms were buret into by the Germans', and nobody had hftd breakfast. The Germans told us they had been near the islands for two day.?-, and had jnst dodged the Newcastle, bub whether that wag so or not I don't know, for I doubt if the Newcastle is in these waters. About 8.20 a.m. we heard a siren from the. Emden, but the first officer ignored it at first, and it was not until another violent exploeion had blown up the store in which was some spare cable that he paid any attention to hj. In tho meantime the store blazed furiously, but, being well away from other stores, did not do any further damage besides, leaving itself a heap of ruins.

Suddenly all was whistling and shouting, and the men poured out. of the office - with bundles of messages, papem, and all manner nf stuff, which was all put on board the pinnace and cutters. The Kmden was then seen to have a signal, vrhicb. was. evidently an urgent recall, and all was haste to gc*t away. A splendid, feeling seemed to exist between captors and captives, and the officers apologised for any inconvenience they had caused us, and after a friendly good-bye they started off for the Emden, which already had m> her an chor. As soon as they left the jetty I grabbed a, couple of the company's Colt revolvers, and started off to the office to return them. (They left- all guns, etc., taken on the jetty.) I just had time to &eer the havoc in the office wiien Gollhard called cut from the roof that there was another cruiser coming up fast. I flung the revolvers into my room and climbed up on to the roof, where, euro enough, about a mile and a-ha-lf from the island was a cruiser going for the Emden. Bill Lonthall was with me, and we shrieked and yelled and shook hands, flopped into each other's arms., and generally went mad. The others saw us and immediately lushed to the barrier and up on the roof. All this time the boom of the guns was being wafted to us. First we would see the flash from a gun, thrni stroke, then, the larding of the shell, which threw up huge columns of water. Both beats were travelling at a great speed, and the boom of the guns was. almost incessant. AH around the Sydney (as we afterwards found hoi' to he) ths hhr.den's shells seemed to be landing, whilst our fellows seemed unable to get the range, and were- firing right over her. Of all the wonderful flights I have »cen or will ever see this- was the most marvellous.

Volumes of smoke were pouring from the Sydney, and we half thought she was on fire, whilst the Emden seemed undamaged. In the meantime the pinnace and cutter.*, which had only got halfway to the Emden. heard the firing and returned, once again landing. We were peremptorily ordered down from the roof and ones again put in the boatshed under guard, whilst all firearms were again confiscated. Five fellows had not come in from the barrier and were hurriedly sent for. .Only four returned ; the fifth was nor to be found. Whilst they were searching for the missing ones the German flag was planted, and w5 were told we were under martial law, a,nd any attempt to communicate with, 'our ship or assist her in any way or resist, German ftuilio.ri£y_ fc& * unu E ari U'

dealt with. Shortly afterwards one officer came down from the roof and told me the'limdcn had lost one funnel and one mast, and was on firo aft, but still fighting, and the result still indecisive. You can imagine how we felt, not knowing what was happening to our men. However, it was just then that four of tho five missing appeared and confirmed the German officer's report, so we were all rather bucked, and shortly afterwards the photo showing us as "prisoners ol war" under the German flag was taken, a copy of which I hope you will receive later. The first officer then came along and said that in tho event of the Emden's non-return he would take the schooner (the Ayesha) and make a dash if possible before the British ship came in. He then asked .what stores we had, and on being told four months' said he must take half of them, but should he reach port safely his first consideration would be to return what he had taken, which was. considering the fix we were in, very decent of him. He then asked for some old clothes, and on everyone expressing his willingness to contribute his little whack allowed us to depart from where we were guarded and go where we liked. He, of course, required all his men to refit the Ayesha for sea. get water and stores aboard, and bend on the sails.

I was called along to the store by the officer, and had to explain what everything was. He then told me they had left us one cable (which I had stated to tho superintendent before, and been laughed at), and said he would take only half of our stores.. As things turned out, however, they took a good bit the better half, and, in tact, told us so before they left. Had a British cruiser come in they intended to make a fight for it, and had their machine guns and sentries all in position around the jetty, for they had evidently the idea that no one would or could land anywhere else, whereas men could land from anywhere, though thev could have put up a ripping fight from their position. They were all working hard getting stores *on board, but, of course, had several sentries stationed around watching us and a look-out on the roof.

Only smoke could then be seen on the horizon, though an occasional splash showed the firing was still going on. I shorld say that never before has suA a strange sight been witnessed as the quarter's roof lined with Germans and Britishers intermingled, whilst an action between the two Powers was being fought just under our noses. JCo personalities were exchanged, and the mutual feeling that both were in an uncomfortable position was felt, and the treatment meted out to us as captives could not have been surpassed by even the anti-militarists. Sitting on the roof side by side with a German watching the fight between cruiser? must surely be an experience that few have had. Smoking our cigarettes and friendly, and the best of feeling prevailed. There wis practically no looting of private property, and barring the loss of a tew clothes, wrist watches, and revolver-: no personal belongings of the staff were interfered with. Thev would not have a drink or cigarette unless asked, and on the whole behaved in a most splendid manner. About o p.m., although the cruiser could ho seen in. the distance manoeuvring, thev decided to start off in the Ayesha. Everything was ready, and we all assembled on the jetty to see them off. The utmost good-feeling prevailed, and the three hat ribbons bearing "S.M.S. Emden" were given to three of the luckier members of the staff, and two others secured buttons, but I.was one of the unfortunates. Many of the fellows left addresses to be written to and photos sent, and on the departure of the officers we shook handjs all around and wished them luck. Tt may sound strange, hut since the Emden started her career we have followed her expectantly, and always admired her for the things she has done and the way they were carried out. The treatment we received at their hands was also so good that wo could do no more than wish them luck.

As the boats shoved off to go to the Avesha we gave th-em three good cheers, which were returned by "Hochs" from the boats. They said they would like to have left us their steam pinns.ee, but required her themselves, ateo two of our dinghies, which they said they must take. My dinghy was one, and the other a staff one, so I suggested mine might easily be let go as being too light and useless for any purpose, they wanted her. The officer laughed, and said nil, but as soon as he got off my dinghv was let go, and we went out and got her.

Just as the Ayesha was getting under way the officer in command lined the side of her with all hands, mounted the rigging, and with helmet in hand cried " Three cheers for Direction Island " ; and although they say none can cheer as a Britisher, those Germans went very close to equalling it. We responded in style, and watched them tow down the lagoon, went back to the quarters, and after a 24 hours' fast (save for half a sandwich) had dinner. I never felt hungry the whole day, and just forced myself to eat, as I knew there would be heaps to do in the morning.

The next morning we all turned out at 6 o'clock, and were all drafted off into clearing squads. I was delegated to the electrician's workshop, and was busy carting stuff outside when a. cruiser was sighted making for the island. There was great excitement, for we knew it was a, British beat, and were all anxious to know the result of the previous day's fighting. As she passed, from the- roof of the quarters, with the glasses, we could see the Australian ensign, and shortly afterwards made out the name Sydney. Everyone went off his head, and I rushed down with some others to the end of the- island, and watched her anchor and send off two boatloads of armed men. I then rushed back to the quarters, bad a, quick shave, and dressed, and was just out in i>ime to see one of the Bvdney's boats approaching with a white flag up, and the other standing off awaiting developments. As the boats approached all the staff on the jetty gave vent to their feeling in cheers, ana on the officer learning that the German party had left the island the other boat came ashore, and soon we were all talking with the landing party. Of course, there were more cheers when we found it was the Sydney which had managed to fix the Em-den. and it was a great relief to know that she was practically undamaged and her lofi.se* only amounted to three killed and thirteen wounded—eight seriously.

The boat came ashore with the flag of truce with the intention of taking us off the island should the Germans still have been here, and intended putting up a fight. Instead of that, however, we had both boatloads of men up to the quarter? and supplied them with beer—tie first they had had for a very long time. The first lieutenant was ashore, and had commandeered the doctor to go back to North Keeling with them to. pick up the German wounded and prisoners where the Emden had been driven ashore, and shortly afterwards the boat left with I ha doctor, Caxdwell, and Cosmo Rosa. Cardwell took his camera and got some very fair photographs. They intended returning the same day, but did not appear before dark, and did not arrive before the next morning at 8 o'clock, when they landed out three residents, and once again returned to North Keeling to pick up two wounded Germans they bad left there, and then to proceed on their way. From the sailors' accounts the actual action'lasted eighty minutes. The Emden came out of our lagoon at 24 knots, and the" Sydney, doiug 26, thought she was going to run for it. As soon as the Emden cleared this island she dispelled this idea, for she fired first shot, and headed straight at the Sydney. The first few shots from the Emden were the only ones to do any damage, one of the very first carrying away a rangefinder, which accounted for the poor shooting of the Sydney at the commencement. Another'' shell did a little damage in her ' forecastle, where the bunks were knocked about, and another carried away a man ' who was standing in the open cheering the effect of the Sydney's previous shots, but this shell did not explode. A few others hit the Sydney, but were of very inferior quality and did not explode, only i leaving a dent in the armor. When the Sydney got the range her fire was very J

' deadly. One shell landed right under a gun, and threw gun and gun crew right overboard. One of the Emden's first shells came inboard the Sydney, and exploded in a gunshelter of the non-engaged side. It wa3 this shell which did most of the damage. When she (the Emden) was driven ashoro the captain of the Sydney asked her to surrender, but the only reply was the running up of a red flag and nailing :t to the mast. The Sydney then went after the Emden's collier, which had been waiting behind the island, and on capturing her found that the seacocks had been opened, and there was four feet of water in the hold, consequently they had to gink her. They returned to the Linden, which still had her flags flying, and after a few shots a man went aloft and lowered the flag. From then until dark the Sydney cruised around picking up survivors, and first thing the next morning came in to our island to see how we had fared. By the time she arrived we were through to Batavia. and Rodriguez, the Perth cab la being the only one cut. In the afternoon this was picked up and joined through, being buoyed on to a boat the Sydney had brought from the Emden's collier and presented to us. The London board of the- company have wired to us their deep appreciation of our efforts during and after the visit of the Emden, and have also congratulated us on the rapiditv of our restoration. Our wireless man, La Nauze. lias been mentioned in despatches to the Admiralty, and we expect nothing less than a Victoria Cross or a dukedom for him. Wires of congratulation to the staff have also come from Durban, Zanzibar, Rodriguez, Batavia, Perth, Adelaide, etc., a-nd we all feel heroes through doing nothing and seeing such a. lot. The Germans have left us about one month's stores, and I don't know when they will replace tit© stuff they took; but I suppose it is the fortune of war, and we must hope for the company to make good our loss.

Last night a raid was planned for seven of us to go over to North Keeling, view the wreck, and obtain soma trophic*. This morning (18th) we all arose at 5 o'cWk and sneaked oft* in the staff boat, with the hopes of obtaining some gear for the wireless, an well as the Emden's name-plate, etc. We took four Malays with us and set off with a pood breezo. After about three hours' sailing, when nearly out of sight of home (could just be seen from the masthead), wo were unablo to pick up either North, Keeling or the Emden's mast, and as it was serially, with rain, we decided it would be best to return before we lest our island entirely. We had a compass and several days' provisions, but everyone was more or leas sea-siok (including the Malays), so we turned back, and reached home about noon, after an unsuccessful "quest. We knew it would be no picnic, for no | boat, from "here laa-s over "been, tliero V>efoi:e > and it is seven years sine© the- Horn© Island I people went across; but we had great ideas of flags and name-plates for the I megsroom, as well as personal mementoes for ourselves. We are now endeavoring to arrange that the Patrol should take us across wnilst down here, but what the outcome will bo I don't know. It certainly will not be a pleasant sight, for, as far as we know, many dead have been left where they fell. Should we finally micceed you will, of course, hear everything. This account has undoubtedly been very disjointed, and possibly a lot has< been missed out ; but 1 will now proceed with a few remarks from notes I made whiLst things were still fresh in my memory. La Nauzo's call on the * wireless was being cut up by signals from the Emden and her collier, but reached the Sydney and let them know the whereabouts of the Emden. She came up at 25 knots, and when ehe sighted her enemy rushed herself still more. The Emden opened fire at 11,000 yards, but most cf the action was fought at about 6,000 or 7,000 yards, j the- Sydney keeping- as far away as possible, as she had the heavier guns. Her crew are mostly voung Australians, and from all accounts "behaved splendidly, being heartily commended by the commander after the action for their splendid work. The first lieutenant of- the Emden was on shore in charge of the landing party, and whilst the fight was ou spent most of his time stamping up arid down on the roof, cursing because he did not get, back. Had they left the island immediately the recall was sounded, they would have got on, hoard in time, and we could have watched the whole action instead of missing the finish. However, we saw ail there was to be seen whilst we were on the roof, and we are not likely to forget the. sight. Five of our men were missing when wo were reassembled by the. Germane. Four turned_ up shortly" afterwards, but the fifth did not appear till about two hours later, when he said he had been a.«leep on the beach ! We didn't ■believe him, but it might be true, for he was a pretty cool customer, and slept most of his' time. There was a great scurry when they decided to take the Ayesha. They went'off to her in the launch and took charge—gave the captain on. board 20 minutes to collect his goods and get off, confiscated his charts and navigating instruments, as well as all his whits clothes. Poor old chap, he was terribly upset, and is now living over at Homo Island.

The office and engine sheds, as well as the wireless, were left in a terrible mess, and the damage is at present impossible to estimate. Several of the instruments cost £IOO or ot'or, and I think the damage done in the few hours would be well into five figures. Every instrument was smashed with huge, axes" and tha artificial lines, which are valued at thousands of pounds, were smashed into matchwood. Very little escaped them, and had it not been for some instruments, etc., which were hidden away on the declaration of war, we would have been unable to work yet. Papers on the notice board in. the office were untouched, excepting the " Prince of Wales's Fund" list, which ' disappeared, and was, I suppose, ripped into fragment*, hi the qaavVera J it tie was taken save a few wrist watches, pocketknives, clothes, -and newspapers—all papers dated after the declaration of war were taken from my room, and ones previous to it- left behind. They broke into all the stores, and also into* the seismograph room ; in (She latter they evidently ■expected the instrument was from the office, for they destroyed it irreparably, so we can't have any more earthquakes till a new one arrives, I suppose. 1 forgot to mention that nearlv all oar fresh eggs were taken and eaten, on the spot, als-j tins of milk v;ere grabbed in the store and gulped down. One of tho (German nitkers told me that they would tight if a British boat camo in whilst they ware still on the island. I. asked auotox-r map what hj« thought about it. He seemed very tiled of the war, and said he did not know what it wa(= about. He did not want to light, but i'' he did not he would be cut down by the officers. All he wanted was a cigaietto before- ho died, for they never expected to get off the island. Another man wrote a letter to his mother, and It is waiting to g:) when, the war is over and mails are once mors aihy.ved. into Germany. Wa have been too busy to gist any news since we got through on the cables, but hope all J6 going well. We told the Germans about the fall of Tair.jr-tao, which they did not like too w«U, And they informed tia that Germany Lad occupied Calais, which caused us a amiie. We asked from whero th*y g-ot their news, and they told us Sabang (a wireless /station in Surnatsa). \ We were the first t-t tell them they had been given the. Iron Cross by the Kaiser., but that did not seem to interest them greatly. To my mind, they seemed tired out of the whole business, and many of the men were quits pleased to be out of the fight and to know that their career had come to an end. They all expressed a great admiration for their captain, and never epoke of hinr without saluting. All of them wore very dirty, tmi their clothee absolutely filthy, and what they wanted mo?t, so they eaid, was tome ooap, so we got them some. When they were preparing to refikt the possible British landing, we were discussing our cluncee of obtaining their flag for the m«s room, but aa events turned out that, was not to be. It was 6 p.m. when they left the J .stand, »nd we were able to j;et to voik at the office* uud bj

7.30 p.m. we had Batavia, eent word w< wer* all well, end shut up for the night. Firet thing, rj«rt morning we got Rodriguez—we really hs<l him the previoue evening, but he did. not sa© our call. Perth was raised alout -4 p.m. in tho afternoon. So vre did pretty well. Wo £jt« now working OK, but slowly, as wo have only got improvised instruments. Evert after the Patrol com-ee down it will not be quite right, for many things must be specially made in England. A nephew of the lvaiper was on the Emden, and ha and the commander both escaped tinwounded.

The total death roil was about 200, but of corcr.se these- figure* are rot very trustworthy, and it may be nnsr* ot '\«ss. They »H all very proud of their Penanz *?5sode, for they were y©en an hour before, n.r.d when th*y went th;y;-gh netriy ft.il ih.fi men on the- Cuseian cruiser were asleep whan. ih«v torpedoed fhpm. l>n« ir.*n from the Erndc-n was picked up by the Sydr.«y fifivsr s-?.vea ar-d a-lialf hot:: is in the water !eo I heard*. *r.d stated Ib-nt he was overcome by tho famiw of tho sh*lis (ind Ml overboard. Sflvwel roernbert of the Sydney's crew stated that many Germans Vers shot bv their own effcirs because thcr wished to surrender, tc.it all these vsti-s must be taken with a pinch •>; ar.lt. An attempt wan being made to destroy the cables on the laud, but they did not 'have timo to dig de*p enough, and ju*t left a huge hole. The pinnae* that towed them Abhors wb|4 hjs.avil- armored, Had abowt 18'n. freeboard, and drew abc-nt sft of water. The German officers, when entering tha private rooms, w?tb all very polite, and alwavs removed their heltu*«.

In taking the Av»sha I lra&glr><i their idea was just to nytob. their -collier, which tliey know was waiting th-em, c-aa «**- cape to some neutral port; howevar, the collier being sunk, they are pretty wtse to make for Java or Sumatra, and will prob-a-blv b» caught before they get there. The only charts' on board are from Cocos to ,!r.-.p. tn-.l C-t-lou to ?3uez, so they ar* not "likely <-o make off towards Africa,. They h».ve* their fo'-jr maxims and fill their • rifles with, them, and may intend collaring a steamer. The Chinese boys are now recovering from their fright, but t-h* day after th G fight they all eent, in their paper? and asked to go back next boat. Immediate!v after th* fight tha Admiralty d*£rw.teh*d the Empr*Ks of A si* with full speed to pick up the uounded t>r;sr,rj«r* imn i'--e tsydney. As the Sydney left here th-a vext "day, I presume they transhipped in mid-ocean, though at on* time v/e ;.\'o'Jtvf:i nowe >jf tae ivr,vndeJ would be quartev«d on as.

Sunday, November 15. Yesterday I was sitting out on the verandah during the morning, when my boy | rushed along to me in a terrible fright, and said there was another ship coming in. It turned out to be the Empress of Asia, which is now a merchant cruiser. She ■was vigUt w alongside the island, and sei'6 a boat ashore for telegraphic instructions. She was supposed to have taken the Sydney's wounded and prisoners on boari, but, of course, tha Sydney had left. She is new patrolling these islands until tb-j arrival of a small gtmboat, the Cadmus, which is to be stationed here, at lea.-t until the Ayesha i<s caught. The Empress is a huge steamer of 18,400 tens, and about as big as this island, has three funnek, momts eight 4.7 guns ibeavier than the Emden), and is painted the usual grey of a warship. Her crew is a very moils'y cno, composed of five nationalities with eight different religions. Sikhs, Chinese, Malays. British, and French have been drafted to her, and her skier ship, tha Empress of Russia, is similarly manned. The Chinese here made a wild rush to th{ landing boat when they discovered Chink* on board, and gabbled away the whotj time. They afterwards told us the visiting Chows had told them that England was doing well, ro are now more inclined to believe the little they pick up from us. She left at midday yesterday, end wa» back again this morning about 9 o'clock. Should there be a telegram for her sha sends a boat ashore, but will not come in further than the lagoon entrance, for shs is so huge. The Patrol may get in her* this afternoon, but I think to-morrow morning is more likely. When the Cadmnt arrives it will be sis boats have visited Cocos in less than three weeks—the Islander, Emden, Sydney. Empress of Asia. Patrol, and Cadmus—not a bad record for cur shipping, and the Ayesha's departure makes ?even.

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Bibliographic details

SYDNEY-EMDEN FIGHT, Issue 15690, 2 January 1915

Word Count
5,408

SYDNEY-EMDEN FIGHT Issue 15690, 2 January 1915

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