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EMDEN and Captain Karl von Muller

Date: 1914
Overall: 3 x 34 mm
Display Dimensions: 34 x 34 mm, 4 mm
Medium: Silver
Credit Line: ANMM Collection
Classification:Coins and medals
Object Name: Medallion
Object No: 00005564

User Terms

    This medal was struck in honour of the German Imperial Navy light cruiser EMDEN that was wrecked off the Cocos Keeling Islands in the Indian Ocean after an engagement with HMAS SYDNEY (I) on 9 November, 1914. Its inscription reads 'A New and Stronger Emden will Arise'. One side of the medal depicts the EMDEN, whilst the other side bares a portrait of the ship's captain, Lieutenant Commander Karl von Müller.
    SignificanceThis medal represents the pride of the Germans in their World War I cruiser EMDEN, gallant in defeat at the hands of the newly formed Royal Australian Navy.
    HistoryOn 14 November 1914, the council of the German city Emden met to honour the vessel that had shared its name. They sent a telegram to the Kaiser stating that they were "deeply grieved by the destruction of Your Majesty's glorious ship". The Kaiser answered the telegram the next day stating that "A new and stronger EMDEN will arise, and on her bow we will place the Iron Cross as a remembrance of the glory of the old EMDEN." All four of the subsequent EMDENs that have been commissioned by the German Navy have carried large symbols of the Iron Cross on their bows or forecastles.

    SMS EMDEN was a German light cruiser, launched on 26 May 1908, and commissioned into the German Imperial Navy on 10 July 1909. As a light cruiser it was designed to disrupt merchant shipping.

    On 31 July 1914 EMDEN left Tsingtao (a German colony between 1898 and 1914 that is now known as Qingdao and is a part in Shandong Province, China). It was at sea when it learnt of the outbreak of war on 2 August 1914. It was captained by Lieutenant Commander Karl von Müller, a shy and withdrawn man who was, nevertheless, regarded with great reverence by his crew. He spent most of his time on the bridge and comfortable chairs were placed there for him to sleep and rest in between action and emergencies. He maintained a constant state of readiness aboard his ship, adding extra lookouts after darkness and ordering gun and torpedo crews to be stationed at their posts around the clock. Also on board was the Kaiser's nephew, Prinz Franz Joseph of Hohenzollern, as second torpedo officer.

    It took EMDEN some time to reach its destination in the Indian Ocean, and once there its fighting career was short, lasting barely two months. On 10 September 1914 it captured her first prize, the Greek steamer PONTOPOROS. Though an officially neutral ship, PONTOPOROS was ferrying Allied coal supplies to India. To solve the dilemma von Müller persuaded the Greek captain that German money was just as good as British and that he should now consider himself under charter to the German Government. The PONTOPOROS, together with EMDEN's stalwart collier the MARKOMANNIA, would stay in regular contact with EMDEN until 12 October 1914 when the former ship was captured and the latter sunk by HMS YARMOUTH.

    Although its fighting career was relatively short-lived, the EMDEN quickly built up a fearsome reputation around the Indian Ocean's shipping lanes. The ship was disguised by fashioning a false funnel out of sail-cloth canvas and bamboo stakes that was capable of spewing chemically-produced smoke when necessary. Whereas the German cruiser only had three funnels, British cruisers had four and the EMDEN was now able to pass itself off as the YARMOUTH, which was also known to be in the area. It was a ruse that proved effective time and time again. On 10 September 1914, the 4000 ton passenger-cargo ship INDUS was captured and sunk en route from Calcutta to Bombay; the 6000 ton LOVAT suffered the same fate not long after.

    The EMDEN successfully captured and/or sunk around twenty seven ships during its wartime service. The crew often had the luxury of enjoying many of the spoils of their raids and the prisoners they took were treated well and usually set free. By late September there were known to be seven British ships, three Japanese vessels and a Russian cruiser combing the Indian Ocean in search of the EMDEN.

    In October 1914, HMAS SYDNEY formed part of the escort for the first ANZAC convoy. This convoy of 38 transports carrying 20,000 men and 7,500 horses was escorted by SYDNEY, MELBOURNE, the British armoured cruiser HMS MINOTAUR and the Japanese battlecruiser IBUKI. The convoy left Albany, Western Australia on 1 November 1914.

    At 0620 on 9 November, wireless operators in several transports and in the warships picked up signals in an unknown code, followed by a query from the Cocos Island Wireless Station asking 'What is that code?'. It was the German cruiser SMS EMDEN, ordering her collier BURESK to join her at Point (sometimes called Port) Refuge (part of the Cocos Island Group). After some debate between the vessels over which of the escorts should be dispatched, it was decided that SYDNEY, as the warship nearest to Cocos, should be sent. Detaching itself from the convoy at 0700 SYDNEY was able to exceed her designed speed, arriving at Cocos at 0915 and spotting EMDEN some seven or eight miles distant. At a range of 10,500 yards, EMDEN opened fire and SYDNEY was soon under heavy fire. SYDNEY was, however, faster and better armed than her German opponent and by 1115 EMDEN lay wrecked on North Keeling Island, although it continued to resist. SYDNEY then left the scene to pursue the BURESK and, having forced the collier to be scuttled by its crew, returned at 1300 to secure EMDEN's surrender. Four members of SYDNEY's crew were killed, whilst twelve were wounded.

    Von Müller had run EMDEN aground on North Keeling Island in a bid to save his crew members who were still alive. Captain Glossop estimated that SYDNEY had scored around a hundred hits on the EMDEN by the time it ran aground. 134 of the EMDEN's crew were killed in the battle. Some of the German survivors were sent to Australian POW camps but the majority, including Müller, were imprisoned on Malta.

    EMDEN, wrecked but still somewhat intact, was left to disintegrate on North Keeling Island. Remnants of the ship still lie beneath the waters.

    Related People
    Designer: H Ziegler

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