World War I saw a surprise naval attack on 28 October 1914 when the German cruiser SMS Emden attacked and sank Allied warships off the harbor of Penang, among them the Zhemchug. This incident aside, the war had relatively little affect on Penang. On the Esplanade there is war memorial commemorating the soldiers who fell in the war.
This may be the story long ago, but it was the only incident happen in WW1, when Penang people were still living peacefully under the Strait Settlement. May be the first taste of war, and it was a naval war, suddenly from outside. May be a great awakening of the global event, that had affect the peace of betel nut island....
You no longer can lived in the island, isolated from the world affairs; the message was clear when come to WW2.... when German come again to built a submarine base in Penang. Not only Japanese, also German from Europe....
They called it Battle Of Penang 1914. Shortly after the outbreak of the war, the German East Asia Squadron left its base in Tsingtao, China. The squadron headed east for Germany, but one ship, the light cruiser SMS Emden—under Lt. Commander Karl von Müller—was sent on a solitary raiding mission.
The following is the story of the WW1 incident happen in Penang 1914:
On October 28, 1914 - exactly 70 years ago today - most of the people of Penang were still deep in slumber just before dawn when the German raider Emden stole into the Penang harbour and sank the Russian cruiser Zhemchug in the North Channel. As it was leaving Penang, the Emden also sent the French torpedo boat, Mosquet, to the bottom of the sea, 10 miles off Muka Head on the northwest of Penang Island.
At the outbreak of the First World War, a lone German sea-raider inflicted untold damage on Britain’s war effort in the Indian Ocean. The ship was the 3,650-ton German cruiser Emden. In three months she captured or sank 23 merchant ships, attacked ports and harbours, destroyed a radio station and enticed 80 enemy warships into searching for her.
The Emden’s odyssey began on the morning of August 14 1914 when she left an anchorage among the Mariana Islands in the Pacific.
She was off to do battle, alone. Her orders were to penetrate deep into enemy waters and to seek and destroy British merchant shipping.
She was to hunt and be hunted and to fight a war 10,000 miles from the German homeland, which few among her crew ever expected to see again.
How much longer could the Emden maintain her stealthy role? Daily the hunt for her was intensified. Captain Karl Von Muller knew time was running out.
He decided on another strike, which proved to be the most audacious of all. He had already boldly attacked one enemy port, Madras, when no foreign vessel had dared to challenge British rule on the Indian mainland for a hundred years.
Now he would hit another - but this time a fortified naval base. The risks would be enormous but so, too, would be the prize of a successful raid. The new target was Penang.
The attack was made just before dawn on October 28. The Emden had her fourth ‘dummy’ funnel up and a pilot boat at the bottleneck leading into the harbour paid no attention to her.
Just before entering the harbour. Captain von Muller reduced speed and looked around. Even in the greyness the shore lights stood out.
On the port side were four particularly bright lights, evenly spaced, that at first seemed to belong to houses.
But as the earliest rays of dawn appeared, the lights separated and disclosed the large funnels and superstructure of a capital Russian warship, the cruiser Zhemchug. Captain von Muller moved toward the unsuspecting enemy.
The battle flags were run up the masts, revealing her true identity and she turned to bring the port torpedo tube to bear on the Russian cruiser.
At 500 yards, the captain and the torpedo officer could see a steam pinnace drawing away from the Russian ship.
It was only the cookboat, taking the cooks and petty officers to the early morning market to buy fresh supplies.
The Emden swiftly moved her torpedo tube into the precise position required. Then, at 300 yards, still without a stir from the cruiser, Torpedo Officer Witthoeft pulled the release handle. ‘Torpedo away!’
On deck the men strained in the gathering light and could see the tell-tale streak of bubbles. The enemy was not more than 250 yards away.
Now there was stirring aboard the Zhemchug, movement on the bridge and on the decks, but it was too late.
There was a muffled explosion below the waterline, and the Zhemchug seemed to leap out of the water, a large splash appearing against her hull just below the second funnel. Then she fell back and began to settle.
When the torpedo splash was seen from the Emden her crew began to cheer, but this was drowned out by the noise of the Emden’s guns, which opened up on the Russian cruiser, aiming at her forecastle where the men were sleeping.
Flames could be seen aboard the Russian ship. She was deep in the water, and the Emden’s shells were tearing into her.
Captain von Muller decided another torpedo was needed to finish the Russian off quickly. He put the Emden into a turn to port to fire the starboard tube.
In these few moments of manoeuvre the Zhemchug’s crew, or some of them, managed to get to action stations and shells began to whistle across the Emden.
Then came the second torpedo. It exploded with a sharp crack, striking home below the surface at a point beneath the bridge and penetrated the cruiser’s torpedo storage.
There was a second explosion and the centre of the ship rose high. She broke into two pieces and splashed back into the water. Immediately, thick smoke belched out accompanied by flickering tongues of flame. There was a sizzling and hissing sound in the water and a cloud spread around and above the Russian cruiser. Suddenly Captain von Muller saw a fast approaching ship from the mount of the harbour, trailing a dense cloud of black smoke of the kind that is associated with fast torpedo boats.
He turned the ship hard aport and headed for this new enemy at maximum speed. At 6,000 yards Gunnery Officer Gaede opened fire on her.
The boat turned and showed herself to be a Government pilot vessel, quite harmless to the cruiser. She had suffered only one hit in the funnel, and that had not disabled her.
The interruption had, however, caused the Emden to run so far out of the harbour that it was foolhardy now to turn back and resume the attack on the ships there.
The battle flags were hauled down as the Emden moved past the entrance buoy, and soon the men were released from battle stations.
Not one man aboard the Emden had been wounded. But the Penang episode was not yet over. Moving away from the scene of her triumph the Emden made a fresh sighting. That was not a merchantman but a French destroyer.
Less than 5,000 yards from the enemy the Emden raised her battle flags. As the ships closed the Emden’s gunners began shooting.
The enemy let loose two torpedoes and turned, presenting her beam as a target. The torpedoes passed harmlessly astern, and the Emden began to fire.
After two salvos the Emden’s gunners found the range, and the third sent the French tricolour drooping. One shell must have landed in the boiler room because white clouds of steam rose high above the ship.
The French continued to fire and a machinegun sprayed bullets above the Emden. After the 10th salvo Captain van Muller ordered his gunnery officer to cease fire. The enemy ship was badly holed. Would she surrender? But no white flag showed.
Two more salvos were fired. The firing aboard the French ship ceased, and she began to sink.
But still she refused to surrender.
The Emden resumed firing, but after the 20th salvo the captain again ordered a halt. The destroyer was down by the bows. Then her stern rose for a moment, and the entire ship disappeared.
The Emden moved in. Two cutters were put over the side, and in one of them the Emden’s medical officer, Dr. Schwabe, carried bandages and medicines to treat survivors swimming in the sea.
In all, 36 seamen and one officer were rescued and brought back to the Emden. From them the captain learned that he had sunk the 2,000 ton French destroyer Mosquet.
The Emden’s enemies hunted her for three months in the eastern Indian Ocean. At last on November 9 1914 she was cornered.
The German raider’s nemesis was the Australian cruiser, Sydney, which was bigger, faster and fired bigger shells at a longer range than those of the Emden.
Ten minutes after the battle began, the Sydney’s gunners found their target. They then began to cut the little German cruiser to pieces.
The Emden ran aground on the south coast of the Cocos Keeling Island. The engines were stopped, then started again, and she was firmly fixed on the reef.
Captain von Muller’s tactics was to ram his helpless ship into the reefs in shallow water to ensure that the wreck would be irretrievable.
At least this would be better than being sunk at sea or captured as a prize.
On the same day, the following ticker- tape message was sent out to newspapers around the world:
‘The Emden destroyed. Official. The Press Bureau issued the following statement at 12.39pm. The Emden has been driven ashore at Cocos Keeling Island and burnt.’
(This article was originally published in 2 parts in the March 1985 & June 1985 editions of the Naval Historical Review)
Karl Friedrich Max von Müller
Karl Friedrich Max von Müller (June 16, 1873 – March 11, 1923) was Captain of the famous German commerce raider, the light cruiser SMS Emden during World War I.
The son of a Prussian Army Colonel, he was born in Hanover. After attending gymnasium at Hanover and Kiel, he entered the military academy at Plön in Schleswig-Holstein, but transferred to the Imperial Navy, on Easter 1891. He served on the schoolship Stosch, then on the 'cruiser-frigate' Gneisenau on a voyage to the Americas. He then became signal lieutenant of battleship Baden in October 1894, and later, on her sister ship the Sachsen.
Von Müller was promoted to Oberleutnant zur See, and posted to the gunboat Schwalbe. During the Schwalbe's deployment to German East Africa, he caught malaria which troubled him for the remainder of his life. After returning to Germany in 1900, he served ashore before becoming second gunnery officer of the battleship SMS Kaiser Wilhelm II. An appointment to the staff of Admiral Prince Heinrich of Prussia proved to be his "big break". After receiving high praise and ratings from his superiors, he was promoted to the rank of Korvettenkapitän in December 1908, and assigned to the Reichs-Marine-Amt in Berlin where he impressed Grand Admiral Alfred von Tirpitz.
As a reward, von Müller was given command of the SMS Emden in the Spring of 1913. Soon he achieved fame and notoriety in both the German and other imperial powers' newspapers for initiative and skill in shelling rebellious forts along the Yangtze at Nanjing (or Nanking). He was awarded the Order of the Royal Crown Third Class with Swords.
At the outbreak of World War I, Emden was anchored in the German base at Tsingtao. She departed in the evening of July 31, 1914. On August 4, she intercepted and captured the Russian mail steamer Rjäsan, the first prize taken by the Imperial German Navy (Kaiserliche Marine) of the Great War. Emden then rendezvoused with the German East Asia Squadron of Admiral-Graf (Count) Maximilian von Spee in the Mariana Islands.
It was during a conference at the island of Pagan that Müller proposed a single light cruiser of the squadron be detached to raid Allied commerce in the Indian Ocean, while the remainder of von Spee's Squadron continued east across the Pacific. Kapitän von Müller and Emden were given the assignment.
In the following 12 weeks the Emden and Müller achieved a reputation for daring and chivalry unequalled by any other German ship or Captain. Müller was highly scrupulous about trying to avoid inflicting non-combatant and civilian casualties. While taking fourteen prizes, the only merchant sailors killed by the Emden's guns were five victims of a shore bombardment of British oil tanks at the port of Madras, India, despite the precautions Müller had taken so the line of fire would miss civilian areas of the city. Emden also sank the Russian cruiser Zhemchug and the French destroyer Mousquet during a daring raid on Penang, Malaya. Thirty-six French survivors from Mousquet were rescued by the Emden, and when three died of their injuries, they were buried at sea with full honours. The remaining Frenchmen were transferred to a British steamer, Newburn, which had been stopped by the German ship, but not attacked, so as to enable them to be transported to Sabang, Sumatra, in the neutral Dutch East Indies.
When the Emden sent a landing party ashore to destroy a radio station at Port Refuge in the Keeling Islands on November 8, 1914, she was finally cornered by the Australian light cruiser HMAS Sydney, and was defeated by its longer range guns. Müller, with the rest of his surviving crew, was captured and taken to Malta. A detachment of the crew which had gone ashore was missed, and escaped to Germany under the leadership of Emden's first officer Hellmuth von Mücke. On October 8, 1916, two days after the German resumption of unrestricted submarine warfare, Müller was separated from the rest of the Emden crew prisoners and taken to England where he was interned at a prisoner of war camp for German officers located at the Midlands Agricultural and Dairy College (now the Sutton Bonington Campus of the University of Nottingham). In 1917 he led an escape of 21 prisoners through an underground tunnel, but was recaptured. The climate of England disagreed with his malaria, and he was eventually sent to the Netherlands for treatment as part of a humanitarian prisoner exchange. In October 1918 he was repatriated to Germany.
After some controversy, Müller was awarded the Pour le Mérite (or Blue Max) and finally promoted to Kapitän zur See. In early 1919, he retired from the Navy on grounds of ill health, and settled in Blankenburg. He politely refused to write a book detailing his service and exploits. He was elected to the state parliament of Brunswick (Braunschweig) on an anti-class platform as a member of the German National Party. He died there quite suddenly, most likely weakened by frequent malarial bouts, on March 11, 1923.
An army barrack at Emden was named after him, as Karl von Muller barrack. The bronz plaque with Emden's Coat of Arms.
German cruiser SMS Emden
SMS Emden was a light cruiser of the Imperial German Navy in World War I. The Emden raided Allied shipping in the Indian Ocean early in the war, sinking or capturing thirty Allied merchant vessels and warships before being run aground by her captain to prevent her from sinking, after engaging the more powerful HMAS Sydney at the Battle of Cocos.
The Emden was launched at Danzig on 26 May 1908 and was commissioned into the Kaiserliche Marine on 10 July 1909. She was named after the German city of Emden, which sponsored the warship. Armed with ten 4.1 inch (105 mm) guns, she was the last German cruiser to use reciprocating engines. Emden's sister ship Dresden and all following cruisers were equipped with steam turbines. As with most ships of the time, Emden's twelve boilers were heated by burning coal.
On 1 April 1910, the Emden officially entered the fleet and was assigned to the East Asian Station at Tsingtao in Germany's Chinese Kiautschou colony. Emden left Kiel on 12 April 1910, transited Kiel Canal, and entered the open sea. She was never to see German home waters again. At Tsingtao she acquired the nickname "Swan of the East" because of her graceful lines.
Russian cruiser Zhemchug
Zhemchung (Russian: Жемчуг) was the second vessel in a two-vessel Izmurud-class cruiser protected cruisers built for the Imperial Russian Navy. Her name can be translated to mean “Pearl”. Zhemchung was ordered as part of the Imperial Russian Navy’s plan to expand the Russian Pacific Fleet based at Port Arthur and Vladivostok to counter the growing threat posed by the Imperial Japanese Navy towards Russian hegemony in Manchuria and Korea. For the Russian cruiser, wikipedia has also a good article on the ship.Zhemchug was formally commissioned on August 29, 1904 and she was assigned to the Second Pacific Squadron of the Russian Pacific Fleet.She tok part in Battle of Tsushima from May 27-28, 1905 during Russo-Japanese War.She took severe damage in the battle, but managed to escape to Manila, a neutral port and was interned until the end of the war. At the start of World War I, Zhemchung was part of the Allied (British-French-Japanese) joint task force pursuing the German East Asia Squadron under Admiral Maximilian von Spee, and operated in the Bay of Bengal together with the Imperial Japanese Navy cruiser Chikuma. On October 28, 1914 she was moored at Penang, when attacked by the German light cruiser Emden in what was later called the Battle of Penang.
Zhemchung arrived in Penang on October 26 1914 for repairs and to clean her boilers. Against the advice of Admiral Martyn Jerram, commander-in-chief of the Allied Fleet, Commander Cherkassov had given most of his crew shore leave, and left the ship with all torpedoes disarmed, and all shells locked away save for 12 rounds stowed on deck. Commander Cherkassov was at the Eastern & Oriental Hotel in Georgetown with a lady friend. The remaining crew were having a party on board rather than keeping watch. Emden arrived at Penang disguised as a British steamer, and opened fire on Zhemchung at point-blank range with a torpedo and her main batteries. The torpedo hit near the aft funnel, blowing off the fantail of the cruiser and destroying the aft guns. To their credit, Zhemchung’s crew managed to load and return fire with the front guns, but missed the German raider and struck a merchant ship in the harbor instead. Emden’s second torpedo then struck Zhemchung at the conning tower, breaking the ship in two. The explosion killed 89 crewmen, and wounded 143 others and the ship quickly sank.
A court-martal held in Vladivostok found Commander Cherkassov guilty of gross negligence and sentenced him to 3.5 years in prison. His executive officer Lieutenant Kulibin, was sentenced to 18 months. The sentences were later commuted to 18 months by Tsar Nicholas II, but both officers were stripped of their rank, decorations and status as members of the Russian nobility. The bodies of 82 crewmen were buried in Penang Western Road cemetery; seven bodies were never recovered. The ship’s 5-inch guns were salvaged by the Russian cruiser Oleg in December 1914.
The only visible evidence of the Battle of Penang incident today is a granite monument which says “To the officer and men of the Russian navy cruiser “Zhemchug” – Their Grateful Motherland” at Penang Western Road Cemetery. A large ship’s anchor next to the plaque with the names of the Russian military personnel. The epitaph to honour the fallen soldiers are in Russian and English.
In Pulau Jerejak, Penang, there is a grave marker to two soldiers from the Russian ship Zemschug who were killed when the German ship Emden sneaked into Penang Harbour in 1914 and attacked.
French destroyer Mousquet
French destroyer Mousquet was returning to the Penang harbour from a patrol. She was under the command of a Lt. Théroinne. The French destroyer Mousquet then trailed Emden under the mistaken notion that the German cruiser was a British warship in pursuit of an enemy vessel. Once both ships were out in open sea, Emden turned her heavy guns on Mousquet and sank her, off Muka Head. Mousquet’s two sister ships, Pistolet and Fronde, tried to follow Emden but lost her during the pursuit.
Lt. Théroinne was amongst the Frenchmen lost aboard the Mousquet. Thirty-six French survivors out of a crew of 80 from the destroyer were picked up by the Emden, three of whom later died from their injuries.They were buried at sea at the insistence of von Müller. Two days later, the Germans stopped the British steamer Newburn and transferred the remaining Frenchmen so that they could be conveyed to Sabang, Sumatra, then part of the neutral Dutch East Indies. Note: Sabang is a city consisting of several islands in Aceh, Indonesia. The metropolitan area is located on Weh Island, 17 km north of Banda Aceh.
The anchor of the warship is today, still on display in the forecourt of the Penang Museum
War Memorial Monument and Cenotaph - The Battle of Penang
Not too far from The Esplanade lies a monument that stands by the sea at the intersection of Jalan Tun Syed Sheh Barakbah and Jalan Padang Kota Lama in the heart of George Town, Penang. The gated stone monument is the War Memorial, erected to commemorate the brave soldiers who sacrificed themselves in The Battle of Penang during World War I.
1. Russian cruiser Zhemchug; http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Russian_cruiser_Zhemchug
2. SMS Emden (1908); http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/SMS_Emden_%281908%29
3. Battle of Penang, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Penang
4. Russian heroes in Battle of Penang,by Tiberius Kerk dated May 5, 2011 http://www.freemalaysiatoday.com/2011/05/05/russian-heroes-in-battle-of-penang/
5. Mousquet (M16) [+1914],http://www.wrecksite.eu/wreck.aspx?105954
6. The last gentleman-of-war: the raider exploits of the cruiser Emden, by R. K. Lochner, Naval Institute Press, 2002.
7. Weh Island, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Weh_Island