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The story of the German light cruiser SMS Emden has been the subject of over a dozen books since her destruction at the hands of the Australian light cruiser HMAS Sydney on 9 November 1914. Accounts of Emden’s raiding activities, her loss on the Cocos Islands, and the escape of her landing party have also appeared in official histories and books on the First World War at sea. No English-language book, however, has pieced together a comprehensive account of the action and the events before and after.
In this detailed and riveting new book, Wes Olson has made extensive use of a wealth of first-hand accounts from letters, diaries, memoirs and German survivor statements to produce a detailed reconstruction of the battle at Cocos. By breaking the one-and-a-half-hour action down into ten-minute blocks an accurate, chronological and credible picture has been created, and the extensive use of quotations gives the story a unique vividness.
But the book is much more than the account of one naval battle. The Emden’s activities as a raider at the beginning of the war are outlined; the significance of the departure of the first ANZAC troop convoy, and Sydney’s involvement explained. The Cocos raid and the landing of von Mücke’s party and the dispatch of Sydney to investigate are covered, and Captain Glossop’s controversial decision to open fire on the wreck of the Emden is analysed. And drawing on the reports produced by Sydney’s surgeons, the book presents a facet of naval action often overlooked – namely the effect of high explosive shells on the human body.
Employing the wealth of archival and photographic material, as well as the numerous first-hand accounts of the German, British and Australian participants, the author has written a work that takes the reader right to the centre of the action and brings alive the immediacy and horror of naval warfare for those who took part.
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