09 March, 2021

SMS Audacious

In 1914, a lone German warship spread terror and bombed Madras

SMS Audacious

Around a million Indians served in World War I, but the flames of the conflagration touched it directly only once: the bombardment of Madras by the German light cruiser SMS Emden, 100 years ago this week. That action, was part of one of the greatest military exploits of the war—the daredevil marauding of the Emden in the South Pacific and Indian Ocean for three mon­ths, creating havoc and spreading panic, sinking both merchant and naval ships,  shutting down sea traffic, and sin­gle—handedly tying down a vaunted British navy in the zenith of its prowess.

Ultimately, on the orders of an irate Winston Churchill (the first lord of the Admiralty), 72 warships from the British, Australian, Russian and Japanese navies were assigned to hunt the Emden down! They cornered it halfway to Australia, and finally sunk it. It is an episode not many remember, although the word ‘Emden’ has entered various languages, including Tamil, Sinhalese and Malay­alam, denoting shades of meaning from ‘cunning’ and...

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