The author of this book, von Mücke wrote two accounts of his naval experiences in the Imperial German Navy during the First World War and both are brought together in this special Leonaur edition. Mücke was the executive officer and first lieutenant on the light cruiser SMS Emden. The Emden raided commercial shipping from her base at Tsingtao, China, into the Indian Ocean. After a four month raiding spree she was finally discovered and destroyed by the Australian Navy light cruiser Sydney. Prior to the arrival of the Sydney, von Mücke, commanding a 53 man landing party had gone ashore on Direction Island in the Cocos group to disable a wireless station and from there witnessed his ship’s demise. Upon realising his small command was cut adrift, von Mücke seized the schooner Ayesha and began an epic 11,000 km journey of escape across sea and land. Mücke’s writings are essential reading for anyone interested in the Imperial German Navy and true stories of high adventure at sea.
Leonaur editions are newly typeset and are not facsimiles; each title is available in softcover and hardback with dustjacket.
Suddenly, lying at anchor among the merchantmen, and half hidden from our view by them, we discovered the French gunboat D’Iberville. It must have been from her that some of the shots fired at us had come. Our commander had just ordered the Emden to turn to port, and, passing by the wreck of the Schemtschuk, to go to the attack of the D’Iberville, when the lookout at the mast head reported a hostile destroyer running into the harbour from out at sea. This was an enemy it would not be safe for us to meet here in the narrow entrance to the harbour, as it would be quite impossible for us to execute any manoeuvre by which we could avoid the torpedoes that would be fired at us.<br>
Our commander decided therefore to run out toward the destroyer at the top notch of our speed, so as to meet her in the broader expanse of the outer harbour. We saw the ship very plainly as we approached each other. There was the high, pointed forecastle with the low, wide funnel behind it, and a course at high speed directly toward us,—the typical appearance of one of the large English destroyers.<br>
At a distance of 4000 metres our first shot went whizzing over to her. All around her we could see high columns of water raised by the shells as they struck the sea. Hereupon, the vessel quickly turned hard about to starboard. It was then that we discovered that she was only an English Government steamer of medium size. It was due to the refraction of the rays of light which is so common in tropical regions, and especially at sunrise, that the ship’s outlines had been so distorted as to lend her the appearance of a destroyer. We ceased firing. <br>
But again, just as we were about to turn and get after the D’Iberville for the second time, there came a report from the lookout announcing that another large ship had been sighted running into the harbour. While we were still at a great distance from her, it was plainly to be seen that this time we were dealing with a merchantman. Our commander determined first of all to make sure of this latest arrival. The D’Iberville could not get away. Our cutter was rushed down to the water. We gave the steamer the usual signal: “Stop! We are sending a boat.” But hardly had our cutter arrived alongside the ship when again a war vessel of some kind was seen approaching through the entrance of the harbour. So the cutter was quickly recalled and hoisted aboard, and then we drove toward this latest comer.<br>
The illusions due to refraction were most unusual on this morning. Every few minutes the outlines of the approaching ship seemed to change. At first she appeared to be a large black ship with funnels fore and aft. Beyond a doubt, therefore, this must be a man-of-war. Then suddenly her dimensions shrank together. Half of the funnels we had seen, disappeared altogether, and she now looked like a merchantman, painted gray, and with black bands around the funnels. Only a few minutes later the vessel had changed her appearance again. She had grown smaller, was black, and had two funnels. From this we concluded that she must surely be a French torpedo boat destroyer. So, at her at once! <br>
The Emden was not flying her flag at the time, nor was the ship that was approaching showing her colours. When about 6000 metres distant from us, she ran up the tri-colour. A Frenchman, therefore! She was coming at us at right angles to our course, and apparently did not know just what to make of us. By what the Frenchman’s attitude was determined is a mystery to me. Our shots and the detonation of the bursting torpedoes must have been heard afar, and one would suppose that any cruiser leaving the harbour immediately afterward would have been viewed with suspicion, to say the least. Nevertheless, the ship kept on her course toward us. When we had reached the 4000 metre range for our shots, up went, our battle flags. The Emden turned easily to port, presented her broadside to the enemy, and our first shot went humming over to her.<br>
Now the Frenchman realized who we were. She turned hard about to port, put on all steam, and tried to run away from us. It was too late. The Emden’s third salvo had lodged five shells astern in her opponent. A detonation followed, apparently an explosion of ammunition; then a great cloud of black coal dust, mingled with white steam, shrouded the whole stern end of the fleeing ship. It must be conceded that, in spite of the hopelessness of their position, the Frenchmen set vigorously to work to defend their ship. They shot two torpedoes at the Emden, and the forward guns of the destroyer opened fire upon us. The torpedoes failed of their mark, however, for the Emden maintained a distance beyond the range of a torpedo. They dropped into the water about 900 metres off from our starboard side. Nor did the Frenchman’s guns continue their fire long, for soon they were silenced by the hail of shells we fired into the destroyer. Mast, funnel, forward tower, superstructure, ventilators,—everything on the Frenchman was shot away. In a few minutes more the ship had sunk. It was the French destroyer, Mousquet.