Sunday, 9 November 2014

The Swan of the East (II)

For the 100th anniversary of the Battle of Cocos – Australia's first naval victory where HMAS Sydney intercepted and sank the notorious raider SMS Emden on 9th November 1914 – I commemorated the historic engagement with three events:
  • An early morning 'light' version of the battle with my 7 year old lad
  • A re-enactment (of sorts) of the engagement in 1:2400 scale
  • A 'what if' refight of the duel straying from the historical outcomes a little!

Emden vs. Sydney (i): a fun 'light'version

Father (Sydney - mid right hand side) and son (Emden, bottom left)  face off
We quickly came to grips and the young guy's dice rolling won the day for him!

Emden vs Sydney (ii): historical outcome

For the actual time of the anniversary, I programmed my phone with the main stages of the duel (using Cocos Island times GMT + 6:30) and followed the action on the table.

Emden vs Sydney: The re-match!

Finally, late on the evening of 9th November I allowed myself to stray away from the historical, and conduct a re-fight between these old foes!

The opening salvo from HMAS Sydney falls short!
The second salvo from Sydney falls short - the range finders need a strong cup of tea.
Sydney's gunners find their target - they straddle the Emden, no hits.
Emden seeking to close distance on Sydney to bring her guns into range. 
Emden's salvo falls short, Sydney's gunnery starts to tell on the Emden.
SMS Emden had taken heavy damage and lost a few guns firing into her port arc.

A momentary lapse in the accuracy of Glossop's guns allow von Muller to draw into close range.

Nearly crippled, SMS Emden is locked into this fight. To fall away from the action would only mean the end with Sydney's guns able to pound her from beyond Emden's maximum range.
Von Muller steers the Emden in close for what might be the final broadside as both Captains order torpedo attacks (both ineffectual). All of Emden's guns firing into the port arc were disabled in this clash.
In a rare stroke of luck in this game, von Muller gets the initiative and  steers behind the Sydney - crossing the T, launching a final torpedo and firing a furious salvo from her untouched starboard arc. The German gunnery is deadly accurate pounding the Sydney. Sydney replies with her aft gun - a single hit at this stage will sink the Emden.
Disaster! Emden's torpedo strikes home and, along with the furious broadside, tips the balance. Sydney explodes in a sheet of flame and slips beneath the waves. Her single gun missing the near crippled Emden! von Muller - snatches victory, from the jaws of defeat!
So what does this jaw-dropping conclusion to a tense duel really mean for von Muller? His ship was critically damaged. With few (if any) safe havens in the Indian Ocean, his days of harassing trade are done. On news of the loss of the Sydney, one can only assume a second ship would have been dispatched to finish the Emden off. 

Perhaps von Muller's last act would have been to return to Direction Island and finish the task of destroying this important communication hub. If that were the case, the Emden's campaign in the east could still only be seen as a major success for the Imperial German Navy.
Wrecked telegraph station, Direction Island.
'What if's' aside, the real purpose of this game was to pause and acknowledge the terrible sacrifices on both sides that brought to an end this glorious chapter in naval history in the far east.
Crew of the HMAS Sydney after the battle with SMS Emden
SMS Emden's wounded under cover on the deck of the Sydney 
The final fate of SMS Emden, viewed from the deck of HMAS Sydney
A terrible end - SMS Emden beached in the surf on North Keeling Island
With thanks to:


  1. Hello,

    Very nice AARs! What rules did you use with your 7 year old? I'm trying to get my grandson interested in tabletop gaming, but it's hard to compete with the flashy junk available to kids on-line.

    Best regards,

    Chris Johnson

  2. Hi Chris,
    I used the basic Grand Fleets rules. He was heavily 'assisted' if you know what I mean! I just prompted him with questions around where you'd like to move and which ship would you like to fire at. To be honest, he prefers pulp/fantasy games like Empire of the Dead etc.

  3. But thanks- glad you liked it! I really enjoy refighting this one each year - ship on ship can be quite interesting, surprisingly.