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The Battle of Cocos


Inverleigh RSL Sub-Branch Anzac Centenary
The Battle of Cocos
The Australian Navy continued to be involved in various conflicts prior to our troops arriving at Gallipoli with the Australian Cruiser HMAS Sydney being dispatched from escort duty of the first convoy of Australian and New Zealand Soldiers sailing for Egypt from Albany in Western Australia.

Sydney was responding to a reported attack on a communications station at Direction Island by the German light Cruiser SMS Emden under the Command of Karl Von Muller with a crew of 316 personnel. During a two month period the German Cruiser captured or sank 25 civilian vessels, shelled Madras, and destroyed two Allied warships at Penang.

Early November 1914 the Emden arrived off the Cocos (Keeling) Islands. Karl Von Muller decided to attack the communication station at Direction Island and hamper communications and frustrate the search for his ship.

Around this time the first convoy was leaving Albany and HMAS Sydney under the command of Captain John Glossop and a crew of 434 personnel was dispatched to investigate a distress call from the communication station.

Emden arrived at the islands during the night of 8th-9th November and sent a shore party to disable the communication station, during the attack the station was able to transmit a distress call before it was shut down.

Emden opened fire on Sydney at 0940 hrs scoring hits but was unable to inflict disabling damage to the Australian Cruiser before Sydney opened fire with her powerful main guns. At 1120hrs Von Muller ordered that the Emden beach on North Keeling Island. The Australian warship broke away to pursue the collier Buresk which was with the Emden. This vessel was scuttled by its crew. Sydney then returned to North Keeling Island at 1600hrs. At this point the Emdens Battle Ensign was still flying, and after no resonse to instructions to lower the ensign, Captain Glossop ordered two salvoes shot into the beached cruiser. Sydney had orders to ascertain the status of the transmission station, but returned the next day to provide medical assistance to the Germans.

Of the Emdens crew, 134 were killed and 69 wounded. Sydney suffered 4 killed and 16 wounded. The German survivors were taken aboard the Sydney and then transferred to the auxiliary cruiser Empress of Russia on the 12th November. Sydney rejoined the ANZAC convoy in Colombo then spent the rest of the war assigned to the North America and West Indies Station and then the British Grand Fleet.

Von Muller and some of his officers were imprisoned in Malta and the rest of the German personnel were sent to POW camps in Australia.

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