- Werner, Arthur
- WWII operations
- RAN Ships
- None noted.
- September 1980 edition of the Naval Historical Review (all rights reserved)
Early in the morning, the Bosun’s pipes shrilled and the message flashed to all quarters, ‘Landing party prepare, hoist dummy funnel!’ At 5 a.m. we were in position at the entrance to the Direction Islands, not a ship was to be seen, so we dropped anchor. A landing party of fifty men, armed with rifles and machine guns and commanded by our second-in-command, von Muecke, stood on deck, ready for action. Our Captain gave von Muecke special orders that in the event of enemy resistance being encountered, that he was not to land, but to return aboard at once, the station would then be destroyed by gunfire.
The steam-driven pinnace and two boats were then lowered and our comrades sprang into them, being towed by the pinnace to the island.
At this moment the wireless station signalled to us to give our identity. As we ignored this demand, the men of the station became suspicious and at once broadcast the message, ‘Unknown warship at harbour entrance!’ All efforts were made to jam this message, but it penetrated through and was received by an enemy man-of-war. She signalled back to the station, but by this time it had already been occupied by our landing party. Fifteen minutes later we heard a crash and saw the high mast of the station collapse.
The range of the ship which had answered the last message from the station had been estimated by our wireless-operator as 250 miles, but we learned later that she had cleverly deceived us by answering only on half power and that she was actually only 50 miles away. She was escorted by three other men-of-war, all part of a troop convoy of twenty-eight ships bound for Europe from Australia. The Admiral of the Melbourne, the flagship (of our old friend from Tsingtao), had given orders to the Sydney to go to the Cocos Isles to investigate.
It was quite apparent that the Admiral knew that it could only be the Emden that was at the Cocos Isles.
At nine o’clock we saw a cloud of smoke approaching us from the north and assumed that it was our supply ship Buresk, which we had ordered to be at the Cocos Isles at nine o’clock.
As our coal-ship had always steamed showing very little smoke, our Captain’s suspicions were aroused and both he and his Adjutant climbed up the mast to look more closely at the ship that was giving out such an abnormally large amount of smoke. At the same time an urgent message was sent to our landing-party to make haste with their work and to return aboard without further delay. Some seconds later the signalman in the crow’s-nest reported, ‘Enemy man-of-war, with four funnels, in sight!’ Now we knew that the time had come when our hunters had finally tracked us down. In a few seconds our Captain came down and went to the bridge, whilst his Adjutant climbed higher up to the crow’s nest, to his action stations.
(To be continued)