This is a story about a crew of German sailors crossing half the world to get back to Germany during WWI.
This article directly relates and expands the story of the Emden and its crew I told in this post. If this was a superhero story, it would be considered a spinoff.
SMS Emden Image Source: Wikipedia
During WWI, there was an elite crew of German sailors from a ship called the SMS Emden. This ship sailed all alone and played lone wolf with several British convoys while inside British India, their enemy home turf, sinking over 30 freighters even with much of the British navy in the zone actively searching for it. After giving the British the middle finger one too many times, they made a critical error during the "Battle of Cocos", in Cocos Island. Most of the Emden´s sailors disembarked on a boat to capture a British radio station in that island, but they took too Long, since by the time they actually got to it, the radio station had already sent an SOS to all nearby enemy ships.
HMAS Sydney Image Source: Wikipedia
An Australian cruiser, the HMAS Sydney made a dash for the island and caught them with their pants down, where a short battle with the half-crewed Emden ensued, and the Emden sank to the bottom of the sea. But this is not the story of the Emden, this is the story of the great ordeal the sailors that were on the landing party on the beach had to endure.
The SMS Emden Wreck, beached at North Keeling Island Image Source: Wikipedia
The German sailors on the beach were watching the whole battle and knew the Emden would sink, so the first officer had to take charge and do something. He was not about to lose any more men, not even to the bloody Australians, so under the command of Lieutenant Hellmuth Von Mücke, they stole a wooden topsail trading schooner, the Ayesha which was moored in the lagoon, and tried to make a run for it. Its newly found crew consisted of 38 sailors, 6 sergeants, and 3 officers.
SMS Ayesha Image Source: Wikipedia
Perhaps as a recognition to their non-violent demeanor(they captured the radio station without killing a single person), or maybe because they just wanted the Germans gone, the British personnel at the radio station provided them with enough food to make it to neutral territory.
But the Ayesha was in horrible shape, the wood planks of this confiscated ship were rotten and leaking, and the bilge pumps were not working well so it was constantly taking on water. The drinking tanks were contaminated, only one of the four holding drinkable water. For all those reasons, the men of the Sydney thought the sailors of the Ayesha would die a horrible death at sea when the ship flooded or they ran out of drinking water, whichever came first, and never went after them.
Emden´s landing party with the three-masted Ayesha visible in the background.
Image Source: Wikipedia
Logo of the North German Lloyd private shipping company - or NDL
Image Source: Wikipedia
Fortunately the coordinates were not that far and they could sail while hugging the coast. So they put extra effort and they got to their rendezvous with the german Steamer of the North German Lloyd. The crew transferred to the steamer with great relief and the Ayesha got scuttled on December 16, 1914, after a 1709 mile trip. "From the rails of our saviour ship, we watched Ayesha´s masts go down into the ocean. The loss affected us deeply, because for weeks that ship was the only home we knew, and its to her entirely we owe our freedom.", Von Mücke was quoted saying after he moved to the steamer.
The ottoman(arabian) empire, with its delimitations prior to WW1 in light orange and the ones held during WW1 in dark orange
Image Source: Quora article
The crew could rest for the first time in weeks, but on their new ship they learned that all the coasts within reach were now in enemy hands. They had nowhere to go, and after hours of feeling lost, a newspaper gave them an idea. It said that the Turkish had entered the war on Germany´s behalf against Britain and France, so that made them think that it would be possible to reach Germany through Turkish Arabia.
So they headed for the Southern tip of the Ottoman Empire. Their shipmates told them that at Hodaida a new railway that crossed the desert was being built, and they tried to reach but the passage through the red sea was very much blocked by allied warships. They were about to try to slip in undetected with their ship when they saw the smoke of a british cruiser, so they layd low, waited till dark and disembarked a few kilometers south.
is colored in yellow, and the enemy ship blockade marked in red
Image Source: Map made by myself using Google Earth, and historical data
(yes, I need a better pulse, and also some Photoshop lessons)
Actual German Imperial Flag from WW1
Image Source: A closed sale on Ebay
I´ll try to condense this story into as few parts as possible, but I don´t want to cut any of the action from it. The next part of this mini-saga will be coming soon!