- Bywater, G (Naval Archives)
- Biographies and personal histories, RAN operations, WWI operations
- RAN Ships
- HMAS Sydney II
- June 1987 edition of the Naval Historical Review (all rights reserved)
Locating the Letter:
As part of a general clean up and rationalisation of cabinets belonging to the Naval Historian, the Navy Archives staff dug through a number of filing cabinets located in two vaults. A large number of preparatory pencil notes and general documents, pamphlets, photographs and books were located and set aside for transfer to the Australian War Memorial and Australian Archives.
In amongst the many papers and folders was an envelope containing the attached letter and sketch. There is no indication as to how or when it came to be in the Historian’s collection of paraphernalia.
The letter is from Lieut Witthoeft (Emden) to Dr. Darby (Senior Surgeon Sydney). The sketch is dated 1915, and signed by Albert M. Barker.
A transcript of the letter is included at the end of this article
Some Details of the People Mentioned:
Lieut zur See Robert Witthoeft, born in August 1886 in Marienwerder, Prussia, died in December 1960. He joined the Imperial German Navy in April 1904, and was commissioned on 13 July 1909; posted to SMS Emden as Lieutenant (Oberleutnant zur See) as torpedo officer and combat maneuvering officer. He was wounded on the chin by a shell splinter during the action, and remained a Prisoner of War until the end of the war.
In 1919 Lieut Witthoeft was promoted to Lieutenant-Commander (with effect from 17 October 1915). He changed his name to Witthoeft-Emden as the Prussian Government granted permission to all officers and crew of the SMS Emden to do so. After the war he went on to be:
- Commandant of the Naval Petty Officer School Friedrichsort (Kiel);
- C.O. of the cruisers Konigsberg and Emden III;
- Chief of Staff to the Admiral of North Sea Command;
- Naval Attache in Washington (1936-1941) – promoted to Vice Admiral in 1937;
- Supreme Naval Command (Ober- kommando der Kriegsmarine), Berlin (1942); and
- Commanding Admiral, Black Sea (1942- 1943).
He retired to the Active Reserve in 1943.
Dr Johannes Luther, born in October 1874. Joined the Imperial German Navy in October 1896, he saw service as the ship’s surgeon on the SMS Emden and was interned in the UK till May 1916. He also saw service as a surgeon at the Naval Hospital Hamburg, on the battleship Rheinland, the cruiser Hamburg, and on the staff of the Commander of the Minesweepers. He retired in November 1919.
Surgeon Leonard Darby, CBE, MB, CH.B, RAN was born in Georgetown, Tasmania in January 1889. He joined the RAN on 23 September 1912 as a surgeon and in March 1913 he was loaned to the RN Hospital Haslar at Portsmouth, UK. He was posted to HMAS Sydney on 21 June 1913 and served on her until 16 January 1918. He received prize money totalling £156/15/- for the action against the Emden.
Surgeon Darby retired from the Navy in 1946 with the rank of Surgeon-Captain. His career included appointments both in Australia and the United Kingdom some of which were:
- Director of Naval Medical Service (1927-1932);
- Honorary Surgeon to the Governor-General (1932-1940), and
- Honorary Surgeon of the King (1940- 1946).
Leut Frederick Langton Cavaye, RN was born at Langton Downs, Clermont, in Central Queensland. He went to England as a young man and joined the RN. In June 1913 he was lent to the RAN as part of the commissioning crew of HMAS Sydney as a Sub-Lieutenant, and stayed with her until 14 February 1916. He was promoted to Lieutenant in December 1913. There is no record to show that he received any prize money from the Emden action. In March 1916 he returned to the RN for service. In April 1919 he was again lent to the RAN, and reached the rank of Lieutenant-Commander in 1921. He was appointed to the Emergency List in 1922. In September 1939 he was recalled to Active Service and joined HMAS Penguin. He was appointed acting Commander in October 1939, and commanded a number of establishments during the period 1939- 1945. For a period during 1942 he undertook the duties of Commodore-in- charge of Convoys. Commander Cavaye retired in October 1945.
Leut Rupert Clare Garsia, RN was born in Christchurch, New Zealand in October 1887. He joined the RN as a Midshipman in May 1904, and was lent to the RAN for the period 4 August 1914 to 30 January 1919. He joined HMAS Australia in England on 4 August 1914 when she was accepted into the RAN. He was posted to HMAS Sydney for the period 1 October 1914 to 31 July 1919. There is no record to show that he received any prize money from the Emden action. Garsia retired from the RAN to the Emergency List in 1933 with the rank of Commander. During the period 1920 to 1933 he was Commanding Officer of a number of ships, and in 1928 was appointed as Honorary Aide-de-camp to the Governor-General, holding this post until August 1942. In March 1940 Commander Garsia was reappointed to the active list, and between March 1940 and March 1943 he carried out the duties of Commodore of Convoys as Acting Captain. He also commanded HMAS Penguin and Leeuwin; he retired again to the Emergency List in September 1945, and in January 1946 was transferred to the Retired List with the rank of Captain. Captain Garsia served a total of 45 years with the RN and RAN.