|The German light cruiser SMS Emden.audialtempartem.files.wordpress.com|
|Sept. 1914. SMS Emden.Boming of Madras, British India. en Wikipedia.org|
The commandant of SMS Emden, Karl Von Muller an experienced navy officer, keen on avoiding any civilian casualty, ordered the gunners to keep away from the streets and aim only at the oil tanks, which were close to the High Court. When the searchlights of the ship were turned on, the powerful beams could easily pick up the three oil tanks on the shore, painted white with red stripes; the attack lasted just 30 minutes. After firing 130 shells and way before the British shore batteries could respond, Emden turned back and disappeared into the darkness in a jiff. After bombing within moments all three tanks were hit. One of them was empty but the other two caught fire and 5,000 tonnes of kerosene oil stored in the tanks went up in flames. There is still a plaque on the Eastern wall of the Madras High Court building marking the spot hit by an Emden shell. There was a similar plaque in Clive’s Battery at Royapuram (Chennai) also.
German shelling resulted in the death of five crew members and 26 wounded of a small merchant ship near the harbor that night. In the aftermath of bombing by the German ship, there was panic in the city and this infuriated the mighty British military forces and the crown. It was a major topic of discussion not only in Madras and but also in other towns and cities across India and abroad. Even there were cases of hundreds of panic-stricken families moving down southern districts for safety in case there was a second attack. In England, it became a big topic of discussion and debate among the British politicians and military officers. The Emden German Cruiser's unexpected attack on the port city of Madras rattled the entire British Empire whose honor was at stack.