In 1906, the German imperial navy ordered the commission of a new Dresden class light cruiser, which they called the SMS Emden. Little did they know they would inspire 100 years of films and stories due to the destructive nature of this warship’s mission. Under the command of Captain Karl von Muller, the SMS Emden went on a path of defiant and piratical naval skirmishes against the Allied forces.
Just weeks into WWI, Emden was already a warship that was being feared by the Allied forces. It started when they intercepted the Greek Pontoporros, a ship carrying supplies and ammunition. SMS Emden then went on to capture a steamer along with 25 over vessels and set over 30 Allied vessels on fire. This earned the cruiser a fearsome reputation and even admiration from enemy captains.
It was mostly due to Von Muller being a naval and tactical genius, which allowed the Emden to evade being destroyed or captured. He was also renowned for being fair towards all, even prisoners, which earned him a massive amount of respect. Panic gripped the Indian ocean, with civilian voyages being halted due to the fear of being looting being so big. And Muller used this respect and fear to his advantage by widening his attacks from boats to shore targets.
Even though the Allied naval forces were far superior, he sailed calmly into Madras harbor in India and bombed massive oil tankers. This fueled an immense amount of panic with tankers blowing up in flames, but the British were so stunned by the attack by the time they react, he had already disappeared.
It is estimated the Emden disrupted the British supply lines in the Indian ocean by over 60%, which is incredible for one light cruiser. One of the craziest stories that happened was when the Emden sailed up to Diego Garcia, an island which was 1700 km away from India. As it was a British colony, they prepared to get ready for battle – but to their amazement, the locals welcomed them with open arms. News of the war had not reached the island, as a result, his crew was fed and ship repaired! In return, Von Muller helped the locals repair their own fishing vessels.