On the 9th of November 1914, Australian light cruiser HMAS Sydney sunk the German light cruiser SMS Emden off the coast of Cocos Island in what would later become known as the Battle of Cocos.
During the night of the 8-9 November, Emden reached Direction Island and disembarked a small force to disable the communications station there. Sydney, responding to reports of the cruiser from the station before it was shut down, steamed to the island with all speed, arriving at 0915 on the 9th and was spotted by Emden.
Both ships prepared for combat, with Emden firing at 0940. She was able to land a few rounds on Sydney, surprising the crew as the range was greater than expected. Despite this, Emden was unable to inflict disabling damage on Sydney before Sydney came in range and was able to open fire with her more powerful guns.
At 1120, the captain of the Emden ordered the heavily damaged ship to be beached on North Keeling Island to avoid further damage. Despite this, the ship’s battle ensign remained flying and she did not respond to instructions from Sydney to lower her ensign and surrender. As a result, Sydney fired two further salvoes into the beached cruiser before being ordered to ascertain the status of the communications station on Direction Island. She would return the following day to provide medical assistance to the Germans.
During the battle, 4 Australians were killed and 6 wounded aboard Sydney. 134 Germans were killed and 69 wounded aboard Emden. The German survivors were taken aboard the Australian cruiser, with most transferred to auxiliary cruiser Empress of Russia on 12 November. Sydney rejoined the troop convoy in Colombo, then spent the rest of the war assigned to the North America and West Indies Station, then the British Grand Fleet.
The defeat of the last German ship in the region allowed RAN warships to be deployed to other theatres, and troopships were able to sail unescorted between Australia and the Middle East until renewed raider activity in 1917.
Image: The wreck of the Emden some years after the battle.