- Werner, Arthur
- WWII operations
- RAN Ships
- None noted.
- September 1980 edition of the Naval Historical Review (all rights reserved)
Later we heard that the Hampshire was steaming south along the Chacos-Archipeligo searching for us on the eastern side whilst we were steaming northwards along the island to the western side.
A few days later we were cruising once again in the region of the Colombo-Aden route where we captured seven more ships. These contained stores and supplies that were badly needed. Once again, in accordance with our Captain’s custom, all ships but one were sunk, the remaining one taking all the crews to a British-Indian port. Once again we experienced the thrill of being cheered heartily by the survivors who were happy at their unexpected freedom.
During the whole of our operations none of our prisoners lost their lives and whenever they reached a port of safety, were always full of praise for the Captain of the Emden.
In view of the fact that the ships we had sunk were now overdue at their ports, we decided it was high time to leave the area.
It is the dream of every captain of a warship to sink an enemy man-of-war and in this respect our Captain was no different to any other so it was decided to make a raid on Penang where it was expected that enemy forces could be encountered. The port of Pulu-Penang, Georgetown, was about 1,300 miles from our present position so that on our way we had ample time to prepare ourselves for anticipated action.
At Nicobaren Isle in the Bay of Bengal, we replenished our bunkers from our bunker-ship Buresk, then gave her orders to steam to a new rendezvous near Sumatra. The other bunker-ship, Exford, which we had also captured with 7,000 tons of coal, was ordered to a point near the Keeling-Cocos Isle where we later intended to destroy the wireless and cable station there.
The nights of the 27th and 28th October were spent near Penang, which lies on the west coast of the half-peninsula of Malacca and possesses both a northern and southern entrance.
The southern entrance was out of the question due to the navigational dangers of sandbanks. The northern entrance formed a narrow channel about ten miles long and was especially difficult to navigate in hours of darkness without the aid of an experienced pilot. Our old merchant navy officer, Lieutenant Lauterbach, however, knew the entrance very well, having sailed through it very often in happier days.
The gun-crews were summoned below the bridge from which the Captain made a short speech, the gist of which was that it was intended to carry out offensive action in the harbour of Georgetown in order to seek an engagement with the enemy. It was thought possible that there may be a man-ofwar in the port and once again every man was exhorted to do his duty.
The Paymaster was ordered to issue a tot of rum to each man and decks were cleared for action, all surplus items being stowed below deck or thrown overboard.
At midnight we reached the harbour entrance. As it was a moonlight night we turned away out to sea again in order to await a more opportune moment for entry without recognition by incoming or outgoing ships.
After a wait of two hours the moon was covered by dark clouds and the moment to attack arrived.
We approached Georgetown at a speed of 17 knots.
The entire crew was at action stations, guns were loaded, all exterior lights were covered and smoking forbidden.
Experienced eyes swept the entrance from the bridge and crows-nest and we all knew that action could start at any moment. At times we had to alter course to avoid collision with outgoing fishing boats. The grey shadow of a ship was seen to port, a torpedo boat on guard at the harbour entrance. The ship signalled us but our only reply was to hoist the dummy fourth funnel again, so that we were allowed to pass, probably being mistaken for a British cruiser.
The beacon of Georgetown was lighted and we soon managed to reach our anchorage. As dawn slowly broke we saw the grey contours of a ship about 500 yards away. At first we could not make out the ship’s nationality, but as it became lighter we soon recognised it as the Russian Cruiser Schemtschuck.