As a Signalman Saw It

IT may be because, since the beginning of the war, the British sailor has constantly been riding the crest of the wave of great events, that he is so prone to regard even the most dramatic and historic actions in which he has chanced to figure, as little or not at all removed from the ordinary run of his existence, or as only a slightly different screening of the regular grist of the mill of his daily service. Thus, I once heard a young officer describing a night destroyer action in which he had played a notable part as having been ‘like a hot game of Rugger, only not quite so dirty,’ and another assert that his most vivid recollection of a day in which he had performed a deed of personal daring that had carried his name to the very end of the civilized world was, how ‘jolly good’ his dinner tasted that night.

It was this attitude which was largely responsible for the fact that, although there were upwards of three or four score officers and men who had taken part in the sinking of the Emden still in her, I spent several days in the Sydney before I found anyone who appeared to consider that stirring action as anything other than the mustiest of ancient history, and, as such, of no conceivable interest at a time when every thought was centred upon the vital present and the pregnant future rather than upon the irrevocably buried past. And, in the end, it was more by luck than by deliberate design that the two actors in the historic drama which I had set myself the task of learning something of, at first-hand, came to tell me of the parts they had played. The fact that they were the two men who had had what were perhaps more comprehensive opportunities for observation than any others was my sheer good fortune.

It was toward midnight of a day of light cruiser ‘exercises’ that I first, stumbled upon the trail which I had hitherto sought vainly to uncover. With all hands at ‘night-defense’ stations, and steaming at half-speed through the almost impenetrable blackness, we were groping blindly for an uncertainly located target, in an endeavor to reproduce the conditions under which enemy destroyers might be expected to be encountered in the darkness. Suddenly the sharp bang of a small-calibre gun rang out, followed by the shriek of a speeding projectile; and presently the glare of a downfloating star-shell shed its golden-gray radiance over the misty surface of the sea. Instantly the unleashed searchlight beams leaped to a distant little patch of rectangular canvas gliding along through the luminous fog on our port beam, and a fraction of a second later, — following the red flame-stabs and the thunderous crashes of a broadside, — it disappeared in the midst of ghostly green-white geysers of tossing spray.

It was while, flash-blinded and gundeafened, I fumbled about on the deck of the signal-bridge for the ‘ear-defender,’ which the nervous jerk of my head had flirted loose, that I heard a quiet voice speaking in the darkness beside me, as a hard hand brushed mine in the search.

‘You’ll find, sir, that cotton wool’s a good sight better than one of them patent ear-protectors,’ it said. ‘I suppose it was one of them “MallockArmstrongs ” that you plug in. I had a pair of that kind when we went after the Emden, and they kicked out just like yours did at the first salvo. You can bet I was deaf as a toad before we finished polishing her off.

‘I was watching the whole of that show, sir, from just where you ’re standing now,’ the voice went on after the lost ‘defender’ had been found and replaced, ‘and it was just behind you that the shell that sheared off our rangefinder and killed the range-taker passed on through the screen and into the sea. It was either that shell or else the fragment of another one (I could never quite make sure which) that cut off and carried away one half of a pair of prism glasses hanging there, leaving the other just as good as ever. We still have the remnant in our mess as a memento.’

Flash and roar and that spectral upheaving of foam-fountains in the converging rays of the searchlights crowded most other things out of the next hour or two, and it was only when the night-firing was over and we were headed back for our anchorage in the cold light of the early dawn that I discovered that it was a young signalman who had been standing watch beside me during the exercises. Keen and alert he looked, notwithstanding the sleepless night behind him; and it was easy enough to believe him, when he told me that his had been the honor of being the first man aboard the Sydney to sight the ’strange ship’ which subsequently turned out to be the long-sought-for Emden.

’It was just the luck of my chancing to be on watch with a good pair of glasses,’ he said modestly; ‘but that was by no means the limit of my luck in connection with the Emden show. When we went to “action stations,” I was ordered to come up here and do nothing but keep an eye on the collier which had been standing-by the Emden at first, but which got away under full steam just as soon as it was plain we were going to give her what for. I carried out orders all right as far as keeping an eye on the collier was concerned, but my other eye, and my mind, were on the Emden ring of the circus. I don’t really suppose that there was another man aboard the Sydney who had as little to do, and therefore as much time to see what was going on, as I did.

’But that was n’t the end of my luck, for I was one of the party that went ashore the next morning to round up the Huns who had landed on Direction Island; and then, after that, I was in the first boat that went to begin salvage operations on the Emden. So you see I had a fairly good all-round kind of a “look see.” My training as a signalman made it natural for me to jot down things as I saw them, and I think that I still have a page of memorandum where I made notes during the fight, of what time some of the things happened. If you’d like to see it, sir — ’

Then I knew that at last I had in prospect the sort of story I had been looking for; and before going below for my cup of ship’s cocoa, as a preliminary to turning in, I had arranged for a yarn in the first dog watch that evening. It was, indeed, good luck to hear the account of the historic action from one who, besides having had such exceptional opportunities for seeing the various phases of it, also appeared to be well educated and to be a trained observer.


' I’m sorry I could n’t find one of the Emden’s cat-o-nine-tails,’ were my visitor’s first words, when he appeared at the door of the captain’s sea-cabin where I awaited him after tea; ’but the fact is that the most of us have taken the best of our little remembrances of that show ashore for safe-keeping, and those “dusters” were the things we prized more than anything else as showing the Hun up for the bully he really is. What did they use them for? Well, if you’d believe their story, it was to dust their togs after coaling ship. We brought back about twenty of them, with the rest of the salvage, and at first we were rather inclined to take it for straight when they said they used them for dusters. Then one of our prisoners got hold of more than his share of our beer one night, and became drunk and truthful at the same time. He confessed that they had been used on the men time and time again, just in ordinary routine, to keep them up to the mark on discipline. He also said that they had been used freely during the fight with the Sydney, and that, when the lashes failed to give sufficient “encouragement,” something more drastic was used. But I’ll tell you about that in its place. But you see what real prizes those “cats” were, sir, in the way of holding the Hun up to the light so you could see through him, so to speak. My “cat” was a brand-new one, but the most of the lot were black and stiff with blood.

‘We’d been rather playing at war up to the time we fought the Emden,’ he went on, ‘having spent most of the opening months purifying the Marshalls, Carolines, New Britain, and New Guinea, by cleaning the Huns out of them. There had been a few skirmishes ashore, but nothing at all at sea, nor did the prospects of anything of the kind seem any better in early November than they had been right along up to then. We missed our big fight when, with the Australia, Melbourne, and the French cruiser, Montcalm, we came within twenty-four hours of connecting with Von Spee’s squadron when they swept through the South Pacific on their way to South American waters.

With that gone, there did n’t seem much to look forward to until we were sent to the North Sea; and we were rather hoping, when we set out from Australia with a convoy in the first week of November, that we might keep going right on to Europe. We knew, of course, that the Emden was still in business, but we also knew that any one ship had about as much chance of finding her in the Indian Ocean as you have of finding the finger-ring you lose in the coal-bunkers. Certainly we did n’t expect that going out in force with a convoy would be the means of bringing her to the end of her tether.

‘The first and only word we had that a raider was in our vicinity was in the form of a broken message from the Cocos station, which never got further than “Strange cruiser is at entrance of harbor.” At that point the “strange cruiser” managed to work an effective “jam,” and it was not long before the Cocos call ceased entirely. Although we did not learn it till the next day, this was caused by the destruction of the station by a landing party from the Emden under Lieutenant Miicke.

‘The convoying warships were the Sydney, her sister the Melbourne, and a Japanese cruiser, larger and with bigger guns, but slower than we. The Jap, without waiting for orders from the captain of the Melbourne, who was the senior officer of the convoy, dashed off at once, and was only recalled with difficulty. A message which the Japanese captain sent to account for his break, was most amusing. “We do not trust the skipper ship Emden,” it read; “he is one tricky fellow and must be watched.” As the job was one for a fast light cruiser, the choice was between the Sydney and Melbourne; and it was because the skipper of the Melbourne did not feel that he had authority to leave the convoy that the Sydney had the call. We worked up to top speed quickly, and were soon tearing through the water, headed for Cocos Island, at over twenty-six knots an hour.

’I don’t remember that there was any special excitement in the Sydney that morning. We had dashed off on too many wild-goose chases already, to feel that there was very much of a chance of finding our bird this time. In fact, I don’t remember being as nervous at any stage of this Emden show, as in a night attack we made on Rabaul in New Britain, where never a shot was fired. There had been some ” Telefunken” messages in the air during the night (undecipherable, of course), but that was only to be expected. Everyone seemed even more inclined to crack jokes than usual, and that is saying a good deal. I remember especially that some of the officers were making very merry over the fact that Lieutenant G — prepared for action by going to the barber and having his hair cut, — something that he did n’t do very often.

’It was about seven in the morning when the broken message was picked up, and at eight I was sent aloft to relieve the lookout. It was 9.15 when the ragged fringe of the cocoanut palms of Direction Island — the main one of the Cocos-Keeling group — began to poke up over the horizon, and perhaps ten minutes later that my glasses made out the dim but unmistakable outline of three funnel-tops. Although we had n’t studied silhouettes at that stage of the game anything like as much as we’ve had a chance to since, that trio of smoke-stacks marked her for a Hun, and probably the Emden or Konigsberg. Just which it was, we never knew for certain till after we’d put her out of action and picked up the crew of the collier that accompanied her.

‘Just before I went aloft, I heard one of the officers make an offer of a pound to the boy that was first to sight the enemy. I did n’t come under that rating myself, but it occurred to me instantly that it would never do to let all that money go unearned. So I leaned over, broke the news to a pukka boy who was aloft with me, and told him to sing it out. He got the quid all right, and, for a long time at least, he got all the credit and kudos of actually being the first to sight the Emden. When I finally told the captain about the way it really happened, he laughed and said it served me right for trying to dabble in “high finance.” I never understood quite what he meant, but always fancied “high” had some reference to me being aloft, and “finance” referred to the quid.

‘The first sign of life I saw on the Emden was when she started blowing her siren. This, although we did not know it at the time, was an attempt to call back the party she had sent ashore to destroy the wireless station. Luckily for that lot, there was no time for them to come off. The Emden did not, as I have read in several accounts of the action, attempt to close immediately, but rather headed off in what appeared to be an endeavor to clear the land and make a run of it to the south’ard. It was only when her skipper saw that the converging course we were steering was going to cut him off in that direction, that he took the bull by the horns and tried to shorten the range to one at which his four-point-ones would have the most effect.

‘There is no use denying that we were taken very much by surprise when the enemy fired his ranging shot at 10,500 yards, for we had hardly expected him to open at over seven or eight thousand. Still more surprising was the accuracy of that shot, for it fell short only by about a hundred yards, and went wobbling overhead in a wild ricochet. His next was a broadside salvo which straddled us, and his third — about ten minutes after his “opener” — was a hit. And a right smart hit it was, too, though its results were by no means so bad as they might have been. I had the finest kind of a chance to see everything that that first shell did to us. It began by cutting off a pair of signal-halyards on the engaged side, then tore a leg off the rangetaker, then sheared off the stand supporting the range-finder itself, then through the hammocks lining the inside of the upper bridge, and finally down through the canvas screen of the signal-bridge (behind where you were standing last night), and on into the sea. If it had exploded, it could hardly have failed to kill the captain, navigator, and gunnery lieutenant, and probably pretty well all the rest of us on both bridges.

‘You may well believe, sir, that we were rather in a mess for some minutes following that smash; but I remember that the officers — and especially the captain and navigator — were as cool as ice through it all. The captain went right on walking round the compass, taking his sights and giving his orders, while the “pilot” was squatting on top of the conning-tower and following the Emden through his glasses, just as though she had been a horse-race. I even remember him finding time to laugh at me when I ducked as one or two of the first shells screamed over. “No use trying to get under the screen, Seabrooke,” he said; “that canvas won’t stop ’em.”

‘ It was almost immediately after this that the after-control— located about amidships — met with even a worse disaster through being hit squarely with two or three shells from a closely bunched salvo. I had a clear view in that direction from where I stood, and chanced to be looking that way when the crash came. I saw a lot of arms and legs mixed up in the flying wreckage, but the sight I shall never forget was a whole body turning slowly in the air, like a dummy in a cinema picture of an explosion. As the profile of the face showed sharp against the sky for an instant, I recognized it as that of a chap who had been rather a pal of mine, and so knew that poor old M —— had “got his” a couple of hours before I heard it from the surgeon.

‘While I was edging along the deck with the stretcher party, I saw, out of the corner of my eye, what appeared to be a very funny sight — one of the guncrew of S-2, which was not engaged at the time, dabbling his foot in a bucket of water. When I came back, I saw that it was anything but funny. Two of the crews of starboard guns had been badly knocked about by the explosion of shells striking the deck at the end of their long high-angle flight. Among these was the chap I had seen apparently cooling his foot in a water-bucket . As a matter of fact, it was no foot at all he was dabbling, but only a maimed stump. The foot had been carried away by a shell-fragment, and the brave chap, not wanting to be put on the shelf by going down to the surgeon, had — all on his own — scooped up a canvas bucket full of salt water and was soaking his stump in it in an endeavor to stop the flow of blood. He was biting through his lip with the smart of the brine on the raw flesh as I came up; but as I turned and looked back from the ladder leading up to the bridge, I saw him hobble painfully across the deck and climb back into his sight-setter’s seat behind his gun. I have forgotten now whether it was another wound, or further loss of blood from this one, which finally bowled him over and put him out of the fight he wanted so much to see through to a finish.

’These I have mentioned were the several shots from the Emden which were responsible for our total casualties of four killed and eleven wounded. Of other hits, one took a big bite out of the mainmast, but not quite enough to bring it down. Another scooped a neat hollow out of the shield of the foremost starboard gun and bounced off into the sea, leaving two or three of the crew, who had been in close contact with the shield, half paralyzed for a few moments from the sharp shock. Still another ploughed through a grating, two bulkheads, and the commander’s cabin, and finally nipped into the sea, all without exploding.

‘After the knocking out of the rangefinders, perhaps our most troublesome injury was from a shellhole in the fo’c’stl’ deck, through which the water, from the big bow wave the Sydney was throwing up, entered and flooded the boys’ mess-deck. By means of the water-tight doors, we managed to confine the flooding to that flat only.

‘There is no doubt that for the first fifteen or twenty minutes of the fight the Emden had the best of it. This was probably due mainly to her luck in putting both our range-finders out of action, in what were practically her opening shots. It took her three ranging shots to find us, though, and, once we started, we did the same with her. Our first salvo fell beyond her, the next both short and wide, but two or three shells from the third found their mark. And we were no less lucky than the Emden with our first hits; for where she knocked out our gunnery control by disabling our range-finders, we did the same to her by shooting away the voice-pipes of her conning tower, from which Captain von Muller directed the action.

‘Just as soon as we started hitting the Emden, she stopped hitting us. In fact, I don’t think from then on to the end she dropped another shell aboard us. Going aft to see if a small cordite fire had been put out, I noticed the crew of one of the port guns — P-3, I think it was, which was not in a position to train at that moment — amusing themselves by chalking messages on their shells. I don’t remember all of them, as there was a good deal of a variety. One shell had “Emden” on it, to make sure it would go to the right “address,” I suppose. Another had “Cheerio” and “Good Luck” on it, and another simply “Kaiser.” They were a proper lot of “Don’t-give-a-hangs,” that crew.

‘With the Emden’s shell no longer bursting about our ears. I had a better chance to watch the effect of our fire upon her. I still have the page of memorandum on which I noted the time that a few things happened during the next hour. I will run through it so you can see just the way the show went. At ten o’clock the range was about 8,000 yards, a distance at which the captain evidently reckoned our guns would do the most harm to the Emden, and hers the least to us. She was trying to close this for some time, but the Sydney was using her superior speed to keep her right there, so that, in a way, she was chasing us at this stage of the game.

‘The effect of our fire on the Emden first began to show just after ten, and at 10.04 I made a note that her fore funnel had disappeared. At 10.20 our lyddite caused a big explosion at the foot of her mainmast, making a fire which never was entirely got under control. At 10.34 her foremast, and with it the fore-control, collapsed under a hard hit and disappeared over the far side. At 10.41 a heavy salvo struck her amidships, sending the second funnel after the first, and starting a fierce fire in the engine-room. At 11.08 the third funnel went the way of the other two; and when I looked up from writing that down, I saw that the fore-bridge had done the disappearing act. Almost immediately the Emden altered course and headed straight for the beach of North Keeling Island, which she had been rapidly nearing during the last hour. The Sydney fired her last salvo at 11.15, and then the captain, seeing that the enemy was securely aground, turned away and started in hot pursuit of the collier.

‘This collier, as we learned presently, was a former British ship, the Buresk, which had been captured by the Emden some time before and put in charge of a German prize crew. If her skipper had not felt sure that the Emden was going to do for us, he could easily have steamed out of sight while the engagement was on. As it was, he lingered too long, and we had little difficulty in pulling up to a range from which we could put a warning shell across the runaway’s bows. That brought her up, but the Hun naval ensign was kept flying until a signal was made for it to be struck. That brought the rag down on the run, but her skipper prevented it falling into our hands by burning it.

‘No sooner was our boarding officer over her side, than a mob of Chinese stokers crowded about him, shouting in “pidgin” English that “puff-puff boat gottee biggee holee. No more top-side can walkee.” Rushing below, our men found the sea-cocks open, with their spindles bent in a way to make closing impossible. As the ship was already getting a list on, there was nothing to do but take the prisoners off and let her go down. To make sure that there was no trick about the game, — that no concealed crew had been left behind to stop the leaks by some prearranged contrivances and steam away with her as soon as it was dark, — the Sydney pumped four shells into her at short range, and she was burning fiercely from fires started by these when the water closed over her. Then, at a somewhat more leisurely gait, we steamed back to see how it fared with the Emden.

‘It was now about the middle of the afternoon, and the first thing we noticed — standing out sharp in the rays of the slanting sun — was the naval ensign flying at the still upright mainmast of the Emden. The instant he saw this, the captain made the signal, by flag, “Do you surrender?” To this Emden made back, by Morse flag, “Have no signal-books,”which meant, of course (if it was true), that she could n’t read our first signal. Then, using Morse flag, which they had already show’n they understood, we repeated the signal, “ Do you surrender ?" There was no answer to this, and again we repeated it. As there was still no answer, and as there was no sign whatever of anything in the way of a white flag being shown anywhere, the captain had no alternative but to continue the action. I have always been glad that I heard the captain’s orders to the gunnery lieutenant at this time, for the point is one on which the Hun survivors were even then ready to start lying.

‘We were at fairly close range, and I heard Lieutenant R-ask the captain what part of the ship he should direct his fire upon. The captain studied the Emden through his glass for a few’ moments, and then, remarking that most of the men appeared to be bunched at opposite ends of the ship, — on the fo’c’stl’ and quarterdeck, — said he thought that there would be less chance of killing anyone if the fire was directed somewhere between those two points. Then I heard him give the definite order, “Open fire, and aim for foot of mainmast,”and that was the word that was passed on to the guns.

I he port guns fired (if I remember right) three quick salvos, and we were just turning to give the starboard ones a chance, when a man was seen clambering up the solitary stick of the Emden, and the word was passed, “Don’t fire without further orders.” At the same time a white flag, which I later learned was a table-cloth, was displayed from the quarterdeck. A moment later the naval ensign fluttered down, and shortly I saw the smoke of a new fire on the quarterdeck. I surmised rightly that they were following the example of the Buresk in burning their flag to prevent its capture; but what else was going up in that fire I did not learn until I swarmed up to that deck the next day.

' It was an unfortunate fact that our guns, which there had been no time to overhaul, were suffering a good deal from the strain of their hard firing during the battle. As a consequence, their shooting was by no means as accurate as at the beginning of the action, and several of the shells went wide of the point at which it was endeavored to direct them. There is no doubt that they wrought sad havoc among the crowd on the fo’c’stl’, and I don’t think our prisoners were exaggerating much when they said that those three last salvos killed sixty and wounded a good many more, and also that a number of others were drowned by jumping into the surf in the panic that followed. One could feel a lot worse about it, though, if the whole thing had n’t been due to the sheer pigheadedness of their skipper in trying to bluff us into letting him keep his flag up. He has the blood of every man that was killed by those last unnecessary shots on his hands, just as much as his brother Huns have those of the women and children they have murdered in France and Belgium. Von Muller was brave all right. There’s nothing against him on that score. But it was nothing but his pride, and a selfish desire to keep his face with his superiors whenever he got back to Germany, that led him to force us to fire those entirely needless shots into his ship. He thought that he would cut a better figure at his court-martial if his colors were shot down rather than lowered in surrender.

’I’ve never had any patience, sir, with all that has been said and written about Von Muller’s being a sportsman. That reputation was gained wholly through the sportsmanship of the Sydney’s officers, who, because they had given the Emden a licking in a fair give-and-take fight, did n’t think it was quite the proper thing to speak ill of her captain, even if it was the truth.

‘And one other thing, sir, while I’m speaking of this incident. Every time I hear anyone talk about negotiating with the Huns, I tell them that story of Von Muller’s bluff about his flag. He pretended not to understand our signals just because it served his purpose not to understand them. But when our guns began to talk, he had no difficulty translating their language.

Well, sir, the Huns are all alike. They never will understand any language but that of guns, until their bully streak is knocked out of them with guns. It’s a dirty job, sir, but that’s the only way to finish it.’


The lad’s fine blue eyes were flashing, and his face red with excitement, and he took out a handkerchief and wiped the perspiration from his brow before resuming his narrative.

’It was getting too late in the day to start salvage work on the Emden,’ he went on more quietly, ‘and so we did the best we could for her for the present by sending in a boat, manned by prisoners from the Buresk, with food and water and a message to the effect that we would return early in the morning for rescue operations. Then we put out to sea, for we thought we still had to reckon with the Konigsberg turning up at any moment, and did n’t want her to surprise us as we had surprised the Emden. Crossing the track of the battle, we sighted and picked up three Hun seamen who claimed to have been blown from the deck of the Emden by the explosion of one of our shells, none of them much the worse for their experience. Indeed, the fact that they were not in worse shape rather led us to suspect that they had jumped overboard to avoid the explosion of our shell rather than as a direct consequence of an explosion.

‘ I don’t exactly remember whether it was one of these chaps, or one of the English-speaking prisoners from the Buresk, who, by blurting out something about how lucky his mates were who got ashore before the fight started, gave us our first inkling that the Emden had sent a landing-party to Direction Island to destroy the wireless station. There were three officers and forty men, he told us, and this we later learned to be the truth. What he did not tell us, — quite possibly because he did not know of it, — was the fact that, besides being armed with rifles, this party also carried three machine-guns. It was only by chance that our failure to reckon with this latter fact did not get us into serious trouble. Indeed, I think it is more than likely that I would not be here talking to you now but for the happy fact that the little schooner Ayesha, lying in Direction harbor, offered a chance of escape, too promising for the officer in command of the party to resist.

‘The rounding up of this lot, of course, had the call over everything else, and at first the captain appeared to be considering putting back to Direction at once, and landing in the night. Lucky indeed it was for us that we did n’t, for that — as we learned later from the wireless station people — was just what the Germans had expected and prepared for. Had we gone in there in the night, we would have found the only landing-place covered by machine-guns, and would probably have stepped off into an ambush that would have wiped the lot of us out in a minute or two. Landing at dawn, however, we found our birds flown, and I, for one, was jolly glad to hear it; for they had told us what a resolute fellow the German officer leading the party was, and how determined he had been to make a resistance. This chap, by the way, was Lieutenant Mücke, who later found his way back to Germany by way of Turkey. When I read, three or four months later, of how well he had used those same machine-guns, that he had mounted to receive us, against the Arabs in fighting his way up the coast of the Red Sea, I realized the extent to which we had been asking for trouble, in landing armed as we were. Not expecting any resistance, we had no machine-guns, and I think there were several others who, like myself, had been given only revolvers. Since the Sydney’s lucky star was in the ascendant for the whole show, however, no harm came of it.

‘You may be sure that the wireless station people were glad to see us, for they had never been sure until they had seen the last of Miicke and his men, just how the Huns might use them in case the latter determined to fight it out to the last ditch on Direction Island. One of them told me that he had visions of being used as a human shield against the Sydney’s shells, as the Huns used the women and children in Belgium. They were a proper devil-may-care lot, those fellows, and I can quite believe the story that they asked the Huns to come and play tennis with them, when they got tired of watching the one-sided fight between the Sydney and Emden.

‘As we were in a hurry to get back to the Emden, we did not remain long ashore on Direction. Their doctor came off with us to help with the wounded, and with him came two or three other of the wireless people, to have a hurried “look-see" at the Sydney. These latter intended to return to shore at once in their own boat; but, by some mistake, the whaler was cast off, and the Sydney got under way while the inspector was still in conversation with the captain. They were about to ring down to stop the engines, when the chap, with a good-bye wave of his hand, ran to the port rail and disappeared in a header over the side. A moment later he reappeared, settled his helmet back on his head, and struck out in a leisurely way for the boat which was pulling back to meet him. It was quite the coolest thing of the kind I ever saw; but I did n’t appreciate it fully until an hour or so later, when I saw the black triangular fins of countless “tiger” sharks converging from every direction to where the Emden had been casting her dead into the surf of North Keeling Island.

’Scarcely had we entered again the waters through which the battle had been fought, than we began to sight floating bodies. This was only to be expected; but what did surprise us was to come upon a wounded man, in a life-belt, being pushed slowly shoreward by an unwounded mate who had nothing whatever to keep him afloat. Although they had been in the water all of twenty-four hours, both were in fairly good shape when we picked them up, and the unwounded chap was quite his own Hunnish self again, after he had had a night’s sleep and a couple of square meals. In fact, if I remember right, he was one of the worst of several of the prisoners who seemed to think it was their privilege to keep the stewards who were told off to look after them running day and night after “ bier.”

‘As we neared the Emden, I saw that she was flying the International signal for “In want of immediate assistance.” We lowered two boats, and in one of these under Lieutenant G—I was sent along, in case there was any signaling to be done. It was a nasty job getting aboard her, for she was lying partly inside the surf, and the swells were running high, even under her stern. As she was at right angles to the seas, there was no lee side to get under, and so we had to do the best we could, boarding her as she was. Lieutenant G—had a hard scramble for it, and only the hands extended him by a couple of the German officers saved him from a ducking. Watching our chances, the rest of us swarmed up between swells, but it was touch-and-go all the time and took a long while.

‘ Frightful as the wreck of the Emden looked from the sea, it was nothing to the sheer horror of it, as you saw it aboard her. The picture of it is still as clear in my memory as if photographed there. I will tell you first about the ship itself. The great and growing hole in her bows, where she was pounding the reef, could be seen by leaning over the side. Of the fore-bridge, only the deck remained. The chart-house was gone completely. The foremast, though more or less intact to the fore-top, had been shattered at the base by shells, and was lying over the port side, shrouded with wreckage. The fore-control top I could not find at all, and the fore-topmast had also disappeared completely.

From the foremast to the main, which was still standing, was one tangled mass of wreckage, and of this the wireless room, which looked like a curio shop struck by lightning, was the worst mess. Two of the funnels were knocked flat over the port battery, crushing several bodies under them, and a third — the foremost one — was leaning against the wreck of the bridge. All about the starboard battery the deck was torn with gaping holes, and through these one could see that the whole inside of her was no more than a blown-out and burned-out shell. There was one place where it was a straight drop from the quarterdeck to the inner skin of the bottom.

‘ But it was the men — the dead and wounded — who provided the real horror. In the first place, there had been something over 350 officers and men in the Emden. When we boarded her, 185 of these were alive, but something like half of them were wounded, most of them very badly. This number included a score or so who had jumped or been blown overboard, and had swum, waded, or been washed by the surf to the beach of the island. Even the unwounded were very cowed and apathetic, the only exceptions I remember being the captain and one or two other officers.

' By no means all of the dead had been thrown over in the twenty-four hours that had now passed since the battle, and not nearly as much had been done for the wounded as might have been, even considering the difficulties. Some of them had not even been dragged out of the sun, and it was the wounds of these (as I learned later from one of our sick-bay stewards) that were much the worst infested with the maggots, which the tropical heat had started breeding almost immediately, because no antiseptics had been applied. A considerable quantity of medical stores had been uninjured by the fighting, I was told, and the proper use of these would have made the greatest difference in saving the lives and preventing a lot of suffering. I could tell you just what swine it was who was responsible for this; but I’d rather you got the facts from one of the officers. I think our surgeon could tell you something of the way things were.

‘Horrible as were some of the mutilations from shell-fragments, by far the most shocking injuries seemed to have been inflicted by our lyddite. The hair and clothes were entirely burned from some of the bodies. Most of the bodies that had been thrown or blown overboard were being washed in to the beach by the surf, and there was a fringe of them lying in rumpled heaps above high-water mark. This was only about a hundred yards from the bow of the Emden, and some of our men said that they saw the big land-crabs crawling and fighting over them, and also worrying some of the wounded who had crawled a little further inshore, under the coco palms. These men ashore had most of them jumped overboard when those three last salvos were pumped into her; and as it was not possible for us to reach and bring them off till the following day, their sufferings from thirst and from the attacks of the crabs must have been very terrible indeed.

‘Most of the unwounded men who jumped overboard were probably washed ashore before the sharks had a chance to get to them; but the more helpless of the wounded, who went over outside ol where the surf was breaking, must have been attacked almost at once. The sea tigers were still fighting over some of the fragments even after salvage work had commenced, and I still shudder when I think of the shock it gave me the first time I saw a floating body start to wriggle, as a shark nosed into it from beneath. It was a seaman in a white suit and sun-helmet, floating face down; and as the monster seized it, the jerks made it give two or three quick overhead flops of the arms, for all the world like a man striking out to swim the “Australian crawl.”

’But perhaps the thing that shocked me most of all, terrible as were the sights on every hand, was something one of the surviving lower officers (I think he was of warrant rank) said to me shortly after I came over the side. Although he was quite unwounded, he was lolling in the shade of a blanket thrown over some wreckage, and making no effort to help in the thousand and one things that might have been done to ease the sufferings of his mates. He spoke fairly good English, and I learned afterwards that he had been a steward on a Norddeutscher Lloyd liner on the Australian run. Raising himself on his elbow, but not leaving his comfortable retreat, he called out to me, “I say, my poy, vy vos it der Zydny every time turn to us stern on ’stead of bows on?” There was the Hun for you! That little point about the way the Sydney happened to turn once or twice had evidently puzzled him, and the question had been occupying his Hunnish mind at a moment when any other kind of a human being but a German would have been working his head off, to make life a little less of a hell for the men who had fought beside him and under him. Sickened by the shambles all round, and half-choked as I was by the horrible reek from the bodies of the dead and wounded, it took all the control I had to keep from putting my foot in the ruffian’s face.

’I learned a good many things, in those few hours I spent on the Emden, of the way of the Hun officers with their men; and the cat-o’-nine-tails I have told you of were not the worst.

A rather decent sort of chap, who said that he had learned his English working on a Scotchman’s farm in Argentina, took me to a doorway leading to a flat, from which a ladder had descended to the engine-room and stokeholds. Across that doorway was lying the body of an officer, which nobody seemed to have taken the trouble to move. He was the gunnery lieutenant, the chap said, and had been driving up stokers at the point of his revolver, to serve a gun whose crew had been knocked out, when he was killed. The officer’s body was somewhat scorched by lyddite, but from the line of the burns it looked as if they were made after he fell. What looked to me very much like a bulletwound in the side of the head struck me at once as the likely cause of his death. “Did one of his own men shoot him?" I asked; but the chap — seeing a young officer, who I later learned was Prince Franz Josef Hohenzollern, a relative of the Kaiser, approaching — only shrugged his shoulders and raised his eyebrows and walked away. I did n’t like to ask about the incident after the men were prisoners on the Sydney; but just the same, there has never been any doubt in my mind as to what occurred.

’Most of my time on the Emden was put in standing by on the quarterdeck, in case there was any signaling to be done; and this gave me a good chance to get a line on a little ceremony which had been carried out there just after she sent her flag down. We had seen them burn that flag, but just what other things went into that fire, we never knew exactly. The nature of some of them, however, I began to surmise When I came upon charred fragments of Bank of England notes lying about among the wreckage and sticking in the cracks of the warped deck. Several coins which I picked up turned out to be English shillings and German marks. I noticed that some of our lads were pushing the search with much energy whenever they had a chance, paying especial attention to the cracks between the charred planking and the deck. When fire-blackened gold sovereigns began to make their appearance in the Sydney, and kept appearing even after we had been for months in the West Indies and South Atlantic, I understood the reason for their energy.

‘When the prisoners were searched on board the Sydney, several of them were found to be in possession of English sovereigns, — one of them gave the paymaster a bag containing over a hundred, for safe-keeping, —which they claimed to be their own. It was not until they had been disembarked at Colombo, that it turned out that one of them had confessed that, among other things thrown into that fire on the quarterdeck of the Emden, was all the treasure she had seized from the British merchant-ships she had sunk during her career as a raider. This included sixty thousand pounds in gold sovereigns and an unknown amount in bank-notes. The latter were consumed, and the gold, after the bags had been burned away from it, was swept into the sea. It was in this way that the few stray coins picked up, lingered behind in the gaping cracks opened up by shells bursting in the enclosed spaces under the quarterdeck.’

At this juncture a messenger came to summon my young friend to the signalbridge; but he lingered at the door long enough to say that he had fully made up his mind to go back to North Keeling Island after the war, and have a try at raking up some of that scuttled treasure.

‘There’s no sand where she was lying, sir; only hard coral reef that ought to catch the coins in the holes and prevent them from being washed away. My only fear is that the coral may grow over and cover it up before I am free to get out there. Do you know how fast a coral island grows, sir?’

I replied that I was not sure about it, but that I seemed to have some kind of an impression that the coral insect could not erect much more than a thirty-second of an inch of island a year; adding that I did n’t think that a few inches of coral could make much difference with a big heap of gold like that, in any case.

‘Perhaps not, sir,’ he assented; ‘but all the same I’m hoping that it won’t have had time to grow even one inch before the war’s over. The stuff’s no use to a chap unless he can have it while he’s young.’