Monday 9 November 1914 – We Lost 234

by greatwarliveslost

SMS Emden

SMS Emden


At dawn the Australian and New Zealand convoy alters course to bend around the Cocos Islands, which lays out of sight over the western horizon.  Soon many wireless operators in the transports pick up, very loud and clear a short coded signal of a wireless which some of them recognize as Emden’s.  The Coco’s Island wireless is heard asking for the code and then telegraphing, “Strange warship approaching”.  This comes again, with an “SOS” and then silence.  Captain Mortimer Silver at once starts with HMAS Melbourne to make for the Cocos, but immediately afterwards, realizing that his main responsibility is the conduct of the convoy, orders the Sydney to hasten to the assist instead.

At 09:30 a wireless message comes from the Sydney that she has sighted the enemy steaming northward.  At 10:45 she reports “Am briskly engaging enemy”. Captain John Glossop of the Sydney has with his gunnery officer decided to open fire at 9,500 yards, which he believes to be beyond the Emden’s range.  As he closes to 10,500 yards and swings to a parallel course, he sees the enemy open fire and a salvo burst in the sea some 200 yards away, a second salvo lands closer and of the third salvo two shells strike the Sydney.  For ten minutes the Sydney races through showers of shell bursts, the Emden firing with speed and accuracy.

The Sydney takes longer to find the range and her salvoes are less regular, but her heavier shells soon take their toll.  The Emden quickly hit her fifteen times, though only five shells explode. From then onwards she does not score another hit. As the Emden shows signs of suffering the Sydney closes to 5,500 yards and fires a torpedo, which runs short. The Sydney’s 100-pound shells are inflicting much greater damage than the Emden’s 3.8-pounders. The Emden is on fire, two funnels shot down, one ammunition room flooded; the steering gear destroyed and half her crew is disabled.  Only one Emden’s of guns is still firing while the Sydney is virtually undamaged.  Keeling Island, a northern member of the Cocos group is in sight and Emden’s Captain runs his ship at its highest speed on to the coral reef. At 11:10, Captain Glossop reports “Emden beached and done for”. The Sydney’s hull has been hulled in three places but repairs will be easily carried out. Emden’s casualties amount to 134 killed compared to four of Sydney’’ crew.

 Today’s casualties include:

  •  An Olympic hurdler who held the 440 hurdles world record
  • A footballer who player for the Corinthians
  • Multiple sons of clergy
  • A son-in-law of clergy
  • Family that will lose two sons
  • A wife who will lose her son and husband
  • A great grandson of the Chief Justice of Bombay
  • A member of the Cardiff City Council

 Today’s highlighted casualty is

 Second Lieutenant Gerard Rupert Laurie Anderson (Cheshire Regiment) an Olympic hurdler is killed in action at age 25 leading a charge at Hooge. He is the hurdling champion of England and all-round athlete and the 440 hurdles world record holder when he ran 56.8 seconds at the Crystal Palace on 16th July 1910. He is the son of Prebendary Anderson of St George’s Hanover Square.

  •  Captain Thomas Lewis Pritchard(Royal Welsh Fusiliers) dies of wounds received 27th October at age 33. He is the son of the Reverend Thomas Pritchard (Vicar of Amlwch, Anglesey) and had served in the South African Campaign. He is married to the niece of the Chancellor of the Exchequer.
  • Captain Price Vaughn Lewes (HMS Superb, Royal Navy) dies of illness at age 49. His son will die of injuries in the Royal Flying Corps in July 1916.
  • Captain George Bertram Pollock-Hodsoll(Suffolk Regiment attached Cheshire Regiment) is killed leading a counter attack at age 39. He is a well-known football player, playing for the Corinthians and captaining the Army team on occasion, and athlete. He is the son-in-law of the Reverend Dr. Milne Rae of Edinburgh and great grandson of ‘Sir’ David Pollock Chief Justice of Bombay. He is also related to ‘Sir’ Frederick Pollock Chief Baron of the Exchequer and Field Marshall ‘Sir’ George Pollock “of the Khyber Pass”
  • Lieutenant Roland Henry Pank Holme(King’s Own Scottish Borderers) dies of wounds received when he is struck by a shell fragment on 31 October. His brother was killed in Cameroons last September.
  • Lieutenant Walter Francis Graves (Bedfordshire Regiment) is killed at age 29. He is a member of the Cardiff City Council.
  • Private Barnes Usherwood (Grenadier Guards) dies of wounds at age 25. His brother will die on service in the Royal Navy in January 1916.

photo from