- Werner, Arthur
- WWII operations
- RAN Ships
- None noted.
- September 1980 edition of the Naval Historical Review (all rights reserved)
IN THE YEAR 1913 the German Transport Koenigin Luise put out to sea from the port of Bremerhaven with a detachment of naval men, including myself as an able-bodied seaman. We were destined to relieve part of the crews of a Squadron then stationed in the Far East Territory of Kiaotchao.
After a voyage of forty-two days we arrived at the port of our former colony, Tsingtao. The Squadron, consisting of the armoured cruisers, Scharnhorst and Gneisenau, the light cruisers Leipzig, Nuernburg and the Emden, together with several gun-boats, was lying at anchor ready to receive the replacements and to disembark the veterans.
I was ordered aboard the Emden, a small ship of 3,650 tons displacement, 342 feet in length and with a crew of 360 officers and men. Her speed was twenty knots and her armament consisted of ten four-inch guns and two underwater torpedo tubes. She was commanded by Captain Karl Von Mueller.
Immediately the transfers had been completed we left the port of Tsingtao for a most interesting training cruise in the Pacific. We visited many islands, including the beautiful one of Samoa, the renowned Paradise of the South Seas. Much to our regret, however, we were soon recalled to Shanghai.
On China becoming a Republic, the Southern Provinces rebelled against the North and terrific fighting broke out.
After a voyage of five days we reached Shanghai. Men-of-war of all nations were present and we dropped anchor close to the British cruiser Hampshire, under the command of Captain Grant. Our Captain visited the Hampshire and a close friendship developed between the two Captains, who often played tennis together.
The two crews also become friendly, football matches and rowing events took place, whilst invitations to entertainments aboard each ship were exchanged. This cordial relationship continued until we were eventually ordered to proceed to Nanking.
As we steamed up-river close to the shore, we were suddenly attacked by rebels armed with rifles. Our Captain immediately gave the order to ‘Open Fire’ and a four-inch shell landed amongst them, causing them to flee. The Fort of Wuhu, which had observed this incident, opened fire but their rounds fell short of our bows. We returned the fire at once, completely destroying the fort in twenty-six rounds. This captured the imagination of the Press and even foreign journalists commented on the energetic and correct intervention of Captain von Mueller. (This incident found its parallel in 1949 in the Yangtse, involving the British Cruiser London, the destroyer Consort and the frigates Black Swan and Amethyst.)
In June 1914 we were ordered to return to Tsingtao. A few days after our arrival there the British Cruiser Minotaur dropped anchor. The two German Cruisers Scharnhorst and Gneisenau, under their famous Admiral Graf Von Spee, were present and a twentyone gun salute was fired in honour of the British Admiral Jerram. Invitations to entertainments, balls and other social functions were exchanged between ships. A great sports meeting took place on the local racecourse. The British were unbeatable at football but the German crews more than held their own in athletics. After the meeting we were invited on board the Minotaur and spent many pleasant hours there. After a sixday stay at the port the Minotaur set sail again, flying from her masthead the signal, ‘Friends in the past and friends forever!’ All crews concerned stood to attention and three cheers rang out from all sides, a moment full of emotion and friendship.
On the 28th June 1914 we received the news of the murder of the Austrian Arch-Duke and his wife at Sarajevo and like a bolt out of the blue, we heard only four weeks later that great danger of war existed between Germany and the Allies, Russia and France.
Our Captain gave orders for all superfluous material to be dumped overboard, ammunition was loaded, coal and provisions stocked. A fortnight earlier the Scharnhorst and Gneisenau had left Tsingtao for a cruise in the Pacific. A wireless message was received from the Admiral that all merchant ships lying in the port of Tsingtao or arriving there should be loaded with coal and provisions and sent out to the two cruisers.
On the 1st of August we left the port to avoid the possibility of future enemy blockade, and proceeded to cruise in Chinese waters. Hour after hour we listened to the wireless for news of what was happening in Germany. After Divine Service on a Sunday morning, the 2nd of August, we were ordered to the quarterdeck for roll-call. We all knew that this could only mean that the Captain had an important statement to make about the situation and profound silence reigned as he appeared on deck. He stood there, a fine manly figure, almost six-foot tall, with a serious look in his deep blue eyes. He began, ‘I have just received news that Germany has ordered full mobilisation of its army and navy for action against Russia and France’, and ended by quoting those immortal words of Nelson before Trafalgar, ‘I expect every one of you to do your duty’. Hardly had he finished when the crew broke out into loud cheering for the Captain in whom we all had the greatest trust and confidence.