Naval History Homepage and Site Search



World War 1 at Sea - Naval Battles in outline





The wrecked SMS Emden (Great War, click to enlarge)





Events and Action in outline
London Gazette Naval Despatch
Royal and Royal Australian Navy Casualties - Killed, Died and Wounded
Royal and Royal Australian Navy Honours and Gallantry awards



Relevant chapter from "History of the Great War - Naval Operations"


Volume 1 by Corbett


XXII. The Eastern Fleet – First Exploits of The Emden

XXIV. Reappearance of the Karlsruhe, Emden and Koenigsberg  

XXVI. Cruiser Redistribution after Coronel and the Turkish Intervention – Fate of the Koenigsberg, Emden and Karlsruhe


including plan, right


Royal Navy Single Ship Action - Sydney v EMDEN 1914

Cocos Islands; Action Between
Sydney and Emden, November 9

(link to chapter in text)






Tuesday 4 August 1914


German Warships at Sea


Shortly detached to Indian Ocean - light cruiser Emden 4,268t, 10-4.1in serving with East Asiatic Cruiser Squadron in Pacific, detached on 14th by Adm von Spee for commerce raiding in the Indian Ocean, sank 15 ships of 66,023grt, one Russian cruiser and a French destroyer.


(only British naval auxiliaries captured are included here)



HMAS Sydney (Photo Ships)


SMS Emden (Cyber Heritage/Terry Phillips)



Saturday 26 September


Indian Ocean


Admiralty collier (and two British teamships) captured by Emden (1), most of the crews transferred to SS Gryfevale:


BURESK (1), Admiralty collier, 4,337/1914, Buresk SS Co, London-reg, Mr Frederick Taylor, Port Said for Hong Kong with 6,000t high-grade Welsh coal. Captured 180 miles W by N¾N true from Colombo (L - in 07.55N, 76.50E; kp - 07.24N, 76.41E), retained as prison ship and collier under command of Lt-Cdr R Klöpper, coaled Emden in Nicobar Islands on 26 October, approached Keeling Island to coal her again, chased by HMAS Sydney after Emden  was destroyed on 9 November and overhauled, but German prize crew were already scuttling her, boarding party found inlet valves opened and damaged (L - sunk by HMAS Sydney at Keeling Island) (+L/Lr/Rn/Mn/D/kp)



Monday 19 October


Indian Ocean


One possible Admiralty collier (and another British steamship) captured by Emden:


Exford, collier (kp - Admiralty chartered), 4,542/1911, Tatem Steam Navigation Co, Cardiff-reg, sailing UK for India with 5,500t Welsh coal. Sighted at 0030 (L - in 08.27N, 74.49E; kp 8.39N, 75.07E), stopped about 0100 using siren and signal lamp, retained as collier. Emden currently in company with British steamships Buresk, Troilus and St Egbert, later that day at 1900, released St Egbert with prisoners. Exford recaptured by armed merchant cruiser Empress of Asia, arrived Singapore 11 December (+L/Mn/kp)






Monday 9 November


Indian Ocean


German light cruiser SMS Emden headed for the Cocos Islands to destroy the cable and wireless station on the smaller Direction Island, appeared at 0550 and a warning was immediately sent out by cable station superintendent. Emden anchored and sent armed party ashore which destroyed the installations over the next two and half hours. Around 0630, the warning signal had been intercepted by light cruiser HMAS Melbourne escorting an Australian troop convoy only 50 miles away to the north, sister-ship Sydney was detached to investigate. Arriving off Cocos at 0915, Sydney sighted Emden which opened accurate fire at 0940 from 9,500yds, Sydney's after control station was soon hit. Making the most of her longer-range guns, Sydney brought down Emden's foremost funnel, foremast, then second funnel and third, the badly damaged Emden headed for the northerly North Keeling Island and ran aground at 1120. Sydney left to pursue the escaping collier SS Buresk, captured some time before. Schooner Ayesha was seized by German landing party after Emden left them ashore to go and fight Sydney, sailed to Padang, Dutch East Indies, and on to Yemen, part of the Turkish Ottoman Empire. The Germans then travelled overland to Constantinople.


Sydney, Royal Australian Navy, light cruiser, Chatham-class, 6,000t, 8-6in/4-3pdr/2-21in tt, Capt John Glossop, Australian Fleet. Slightly damaged; 3 ratings killed, 1 DOW and 12 wounded (Rn/Cn/D/dk/kp)


(click for source abbreviations)




With thanks to the London Gazette



Gazette No. 29025 - 29 DECEMBER 1914


Admiralty, 1st January, 1915.


The following despatch has been received from Captain John C. T. Glossop, reporting the capture of the German Cruiser ''Emden'' by H. M. A. S. "Sydney."


A memorandum is also appended by the Director of the Air Department, Admiralty, containing a report on the aerial attack on the airship sheds and factory at Friedrichshafen.


 To the Secretary of the Admiralty.


Despatch from Captain Glossop.

H. M. A. S. "Sydney" at Colombo, 15th November. 1914.



I have the honour to report that whilst on escort duty with the Convoy under the charge of Captain Silver, H. M. A. S. "Melbourne," at 6. 30 a. m., on Monday, 9th November, a wireless message from Cocos was heard reporting that a foreign warship was off the entrance. I was ordered to raise steam for full speed at 7. 0 a. m. and proceeded thither. I worked up to 20 knots, and at 9. 15 a. m. sighted land ahead and almost immediately the smoke of a ship, which proved to be H. I. G. M. S. "Emden" coming out towards me at a great rate. At 9. 40 a. m., fire was opened, she firing the first shot. I kept my distance as much as possible to obtain the advantage of my guns. Her fire was very accurate and rapid to begin with, but seemed to slacken very quickly, all casualties occurring in this ship almost immediately. First the foremost funnel of her went, secondly the foremast, and she was badly on fire aft, then the second funnel went, and lastly the third funnel, and I saw she was making for the beach on North Keeling Island, where she grounded at 11. 20 a. m. I gave her two more broadsides and left her to pursue a merchant ship which had come up during the action.


2. Although I had guns on this merchant ship at odd times during the action I had not fired, and as she was making off fast I pursued and overtook her at 12. 10, firing a gun across her bows, and hoisting International Code Signal to stop, which she did. I sent an armed boat and found her to be the S. S. "Buresk," a captured British collier, with 18 Chinese crew, 1 English Steward, 1 Norwegian Cook, and a German Prize Crew of 3 Officers, 1 Warrant Officer and 12 men. The ship unfortunately was sinking, the Kingston knocked out and damaged to prevent repairing, so I took all on board, fired 4 shells into her and returned to "Emden," passing men swimming in the water, for whom I left 2 boats I was towing from "Buresk."


3. On arriving again off "Emden" she still had her colours up at mainmast head. I enquired by signal, International Code, "Will you surrender ?"and received a reply in Morse "What signal? No signal books. " I then made in Morse "Do you surrender?" and subsequently "Have you received my signal?" to neither of which did I get an answer. The German Officers on board gave me to understand that the Captain would never surrender, and therefore, though very reluctantly, I again fired at her at 4. 30 p. m., ceasing at 4. 35, as she showed white flags and hauled down her ensign by sending a man aloft.


4. I then left "Emden" and returned and picked up the "Buresk's" two boats, rescuing 2 sailors (5. 0 p. m.), who had been in the water all day. I returned and sent in one boat to "Emden," manned by her own prize crew from "Buresk," and 1 Officer, and stating I would return to their assistance next morning. This I had to do, as I was desirous to find out the condition of cables and Wireless Station at Direction Island. On the passage over I was again delayed by rescuing another sailor (6. 30 p. m.), and by the time I was again ready and approaching Direction Island it was too late for the night.


5. I lay on and off all night and communicated with Direction Island at 8. 0 a. m., 10th November, to find that the "Emden's" party consisting of 3 officers and 40 men, 1 launch and 2 cutters had seized and provisioned a 70 tons schooner (the "Ayesha"), having 4 Maxims, with 2 belts to each. They left the previous night at six o'clock. The Wireless Station was entirely destroyed, 1 cable cut, 1 damaged, and 1 intact. I borrowed a Doctor and 2 Assistants, and proceeded as fast as possible to "Emden's" assistance.


6. I sent an Officer on board to see the Captain, and in view of the large number of prisoners and wounded and lack of accommodation, &c., in this ship, and the absolute impossibility of leaving them where they were, he agreed that if I received his Officers and men and all wounded, "then as for such time as they remained in "Sydney'" they would cause no interference with ship or fittings, and would be amenable to the ship's discipline." I therefore set to work at once to tranship them a most difficult operation, the ship being on weather side of Island and the send alongside very heavy. The conditions in the "Emden" were indescribable. I received the last from her at 5. 0 p. m., then had to go round to the lee side to pick up 20 more men who had managed to get ashore from the ship.


7. Darkness came on before this could be accomplished, and the ship again stood off and on all night, resuming operations at 5. 0 a. m. on 11th November, a cutter's crew having to land with stretchers to bring wounded round to embarking point. A German Officer, a Doctor, died ashore the previous day. The ship in the meantime ran over to Direction Island to return their Doctor and Assistants, send cables, and was back again at 10. 0 a. m., embarked the remainder of wounded, and proceeded for Colombo by 10. 35 a. m. Wednesday, 11th November.


8. Total casualties in "Sydney": Killed 3, severely wounded (since dead) 1, severely wounded 4, wounded 4, slightly wounded 4. In the "Emden" I can only approximately state the killed at 7 Officers and 108 men from Captain's statement. I had on board 11 Officers, 9 Warrant Officers, and 191 men, of whom 3 Officers and 53 men were wounded, and of this number 1 Officer and 3 men have since died of wounds.


9. The damage to "Sydney's" hull and fittings was surprisingly small; in all about 10 hits seem to have been made. The engine and boiler rooms and funnels escaped entirely.


10. I have great pleasure in stating that the behaviour of the ship's company was excellent in every way, and with such a large proportion of young hands and people under training it is all the more gratifying. The engines worked magnificently, and higher results than trials were obtained, and I cannot speak too highly of the Medical Staff and arrangements on subsequent trip, the ship being nothing but a hospital of a most painful description.


I have the honour to be, Sir, Your obedient Servant,

JOHN C. T. GLOSSOP, Captain.




With thanks to Don Kindell


Monday, 9 November 1914




 BELL, Robert W, Ordinary Seaman, RAN, 1964

 HOY, Albert, Able Seaman, RAN, 7912 (RN 216421)

 LYNCH, Thomas, Petty Officer, RAN, 7902 (RN 17653)

 SHARPE, Reginald A, Able Seaman, RAN, 8003 (RN 239494), DOW




 Butcher, John, Able Seaman, RAN, 193, severely

 Crosby, Albert, Able Seaman, RAN, 2835

 Gascoigne, Thomas, Able Seaman, RAN, 1950, severely

 Green, Bertie, Able Seaman, RAN, 2511

 Hampden, Geoffrey Cromwell Edward, Lieutenant, RN

 Harvey, Mark Beer, Petty Officer, 180996, slightly

 Hooper, Arthur, Able Seaman, RAN, 1677, slightly

 Horne, Richard, Able Seaman, RAN, 1540, severely

 Kinniburgh, James, Able Seaman, RAN, 2907

 Meldrum, William, Ordinary Seaman, 113650, severely

 Stevenson, Thomas, Ordinary Signalman, RAN, 1871, slightly

 Williamson, Thomas, Ordinary Seaman, RAN, 2329, slightly




With thanks to the London Gazette


Gazette No. 29024 - 29 DECEMBER 1914


The KING (is) pleased to give orders for the following appointments to the Most Honourable Order of the Bath:


To be Ordinary Members of the Military Division of the Third Class, or Companions, of the said Most Honourable Order:

 Captain John Collings Taswell Glossop, R. N. (H.M.A.S. "Sydney").



The following promotions have been made:


 Engineer Lieutenant-Commander Arthur Wheatley Coleman to be Engineer Commander, in recognition of his services in His Majesty's Australian Ship "Sydney." Dated 9th November, 1914.



29123 - 9 APRIL 1915


To receive the Distinguished Service Medal:


For services in the action between H.M.A.S. "Sydney" and the German Cruiser "Emden" on the 9th of November, 1914:

 Arthur W. Lambert, Chief Petty Officer; R.A.N. 7899.

 Bertie Green, Able Seaman, R.A.N. 2511.

 Joseph Kinniburgh, Able Seaman, R.A.N. 2907.

 Harold M. Collins, Able Seaman, R.A.N. 3157.

 William Alfred Taylor, Able Seaman, R.A.N. 2820.

 Thomas Edward Mullins, Sick Berth Steward, R.A.N. 1606.


back to Naval-History.Net


revised 1/3/13