Saturday, 14 January 2017

German warship Emden' s attack on Madras city and missing targets!!

10.5 cm(4.1 in) gun from Emden, Hyde Park,Sydney.2007.indiandefence.com

Emden shelling. high court bldg, Madras indiandefence.com

When you walk into the portals of the Madras High Court complex, Chennai, Tamil Nadu state (S. India)  that was established in the year 1862 by the British government directly under the Crown administration, soon after the proclamation by Queen Victoria on 26 June 1862, and  if you are an old timer, strolling down the memory lane, you will remember vividly the various interesting stories narrated by  your father or grandpa or relatives about the notorious and  marauding German cruiser SMS Emden (often  referred to as the ''Swan of the East''). The name Emden entered the Tamil language following her successful attack on Madras, even today, a scheming or cunning person  or a person who does a job with precision, is referred to as  ''Emdena'' in the local parlance Tamil. The most-feared German warship  came quietly from nowhere in the dark on 22 September, 1914 around 9.30 pm off the coast of Madras (Chennai) and opened fire on the shore. Result: Three oil storage tanks (one was empty) of the British-owned Burmah Oil Company and a merchant ship were hit. The bombardment continued for 30 minutes and around 10 pm before retaliation from the British navy, Emden gave a slip under the cover of darkness and disappeared into the sea, leaving no trace of it. The bombing was carefully planned and  carried out in a whiff, without raising any suspicion among the ever-alert British Navy that dominated the Bay of Bengal in those days, 

1914 SMS Emden.Bombing Madras city,British India. enWikipedia.org

Thus began one of the first pugnacious acts in World War I (1914-18) on the coastal Madras city. The casualty of five merchant ship's crew was just accidental and not pre-planed. The plumes of dark smokes billowing in the air from the oil tanks and the news of German attack on Madras sent the shock waves across the city and adjacent places. As the wind blew seaward, the fire had not spread to other parts near the targeted area. The city people panicked  and viewed  with alarm the unexpected bombing on a quiet city and it was a great humiliation for the British, as the Bay of Bengal, dominated by the British with a large fleet of ships, was called "A British Lake". In the aftermath of Emden's  short fire play, natives lost trust in the British military's superiority and the morale of the British India  government plummeted way down. How did the German warship's commander gentleman in uniform Von Muller hoodwink the British ships in that area? Thus, Madras went down in the history of the exploits of S.S. Emden (commissioned in 1908; weight 3,600 tons and armed with 22 guns) as the only British Indian city that took the beating by the Germans and their allies  Austria and Hungary, the Ottoman Empire and Bulgaria. They were against Britain and its allies.

Map of Madras Province, Colonial India. researchgate.net

The following questions remain unanswered so far:

01. The Emden, over a span of 15 days, had already sent to the bottom several merchant ships ( about 15) of Italy, Britain and Australia  before the attack on Madras. Their mission was to destroy the harbor, etc. Why did it not happen?  22 September 1914   happened to be  the third day after New Moon (Mahalaya Amavasya). In the dark around 9.20 pm, the coastal area of Madras around the harbor and also  the stretch before Ft. St. George could have been Emden's easy target. It never happened.

02. They  targeted neither Ft. St. George on the shore, nor the harbor areas. Why? Did the commander of the ship choose the wrong target  accidentally? 

03. Despite blackout order, the coast was illuminated and the lighthouse on the dome of the Madras High court building was flashing the beam and guiding the ships at sea. With powerful guns on the starboard facing the shore, Emden could have pulled down the court building along with the lighthouse. It was not to be. What was the reason?

04. Emden stayed offshore just 30 minutes 9.30 pm to 10pm.  Had it stayed a bit longer and its mission was just demolition of the Coastal Madras city's military installations, she could have done it very easily. It never happened!!

05. Were the German sailors poor marksmen and missed the target? No, it is not true. 

06. With no warships around  the harbor, why did the German cruiser fail to capitalize on a good opportunity to show her firepower and naval capability?

Emden with 4th fake smokestack. www.youtube.com

Madras High Court bldg. 2nd largest judcial bldg. alamy.com

The only possible answer lies in the personality of Commander of Emden Von Muller. His intention to attack Madras city was to prove German's superior military warfare, intimidate the overconfident British military and to subdue their arrogance and military prowess. Being a gentleman as he was, his mission was not to act with brutality to kill the British and damage the buildings. Had he done it he would have won the covetous titles, medals and other accolades at the cost of destruction and loss of lives. After terrorizing the British rulers, Von Muller coolly disappeared from the scene without getting caught.
Alexander von Müller(Mar 24,1854-Apr,18,1940.panhistoria.com

In the next few months, with a single ship that too with coal-fired engines, Von Muller  sank lots of ships to the bottom, posing as a British warship with 4 smokestacks. He treated the POW well. To him  arrogance was a taboo.  The interesting fact is there was no causality in his  war operations.

Sydney,Australia.wreck of Emeden./s3-ap-southeast-2.amazonaws.com

However, Von Muller's luck ran aground along with  his ship, the scourge of the Indian ocean, was hit numerous times by the Australian warship near Coco islands on November 9. 1914. Muller was busy disrupting the cable on the island.  Muller was, As a POW,  Muller was  treated with respect and at last was released. He died in New Brunswick, Germany on 23 March 1923 at the age of 49. In deed, he was a chivalrous gentleman in German navy uniform!! A brilliant and humane German navy man who never harmed the Indians or others while on various missions. Of course the casualty was  esprit de corps which the British developed during their long oppressive rule in India. 
 
Tit-bits:
Supplementary Information: 

Madras (Chennai) damage caused by Emden 1914.thehindu.com

In an article dated 22 August 2012 ''The Hindu'' reported based on the discovery of some unpublished photos in their archives on the German bombing of Madras in 1914. The people were leaving city driven by rumors on the war situation. On September 22 1914 in the midst of Navaratri festival, the Hindus in Madras were busy with the display of Golu (display of dolls mostly related to the Hindu mythology, etc.) and the  shop owners on the busy Mount Road - the hub of commercial center, were busy with their sales.  Till night the situation was quiet like a placid lagoon. 

The half-hour bombing of Madras coastal area at night by Emden had changed the city's  quiet scenario and the psyche of the already shaken up city dwellers. Driven by anxiety and rumor people had  begun to move out of the city, fearing another bomb attack.  Despite appeal by the city authorities, every day  20000 people left the city to reach a safer patch. Police were called in  to control panicked crowds at the railway stations as they caused stampede-like situation. A large number of people left on carts and on foot. The audacious attack on hitherto a quiet city  triggered a panicked exodus. On top of it,  prices of essential items shot up way, apparently people who could not move out of the city began to hoard.  chaos and confusion was writ all over the city. 

 According to contributor to The Indian Review, D. Scott,  ''shells lay scattered as far away as Poonamallee High Road, Choolai, Casa Major Road and Nungambakkam''.....“The projectiles found many a billet in the buildings of Port Trust, Boat House of the Madras Sailing Club and façade of the new National Bank of India,” 

The then  Governor of Madras Lord Pentland on 25th  September  hurried from the hill station Ooty in the Nilgiri hills to  Madras. He was  to apprise the situation and report it to  the higher authorities. The Hindu quoted a citizen as saying, “If Madras is safe why not His Excellency remain here?” 

If Madras was safe during the raid by Emden, it is because of that ''chivalrous gentleman  Von Muller''. He neither damaged the heritage sites like  Madras High Court buildings and  St, George Fort nor killed the civilians in the city. He just shook up the arrogant British navy from their hibernation! Unfortunately, it had a ripple effect on the civilians of Madras city. (https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/chennai/discovered-pictures-of-madras-after-emden-struck/article3804481.ece)