Clearing the Seas, 1914–16

  • Matthew Hughes
  • William J. Philpott


Excepting for the battlecruiser Goeben and light cruiser Breslau, both of which evaded the Royal Navy in the Mediterranean and escaped to Turkey, the only significant German naval force at large in August 1914 was Maximilian Graf von Spee’s East Asiatic Squadron, based in China at the German-controlled port of Tsingtao (Qingdao), but at sea in the mid-Pacific in August 1914: two armoured cruisers, the Scharnhorst and Gneisenau (eight 8.2-inch guns), and, when all assembled, four light cruisers: Emden, Dresden, Nürnberg and Leipzig. Spee detached from his squadron Emden (ten 4.1-inch guns), captained by Karl von Müller, for commerce raiding in the Indian Ocean. It attacked merchant shipping and sank in Penang harbour a French destroyer, Mousquet, and the Russian light cruiser, Zhemchug, which had no lookouts posted, whose crew was below deck consorting with Chinese prostitutes (60 of whom went down with the ship) and whose captain was away in town. Eventually, the Australian cruiser Sydney (eight 6-inch guns) chased down the Emden, crippling it off the Cocos (Keeling) Islands (9 November).


Solomon Island Great BRITAIN British Signalling Target Ship Bismarck Archipelago 
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© Matthew Hughes & William J. Philpott 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  • Matthew Hughes
  • William J. Philpott

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