The Ayesha

The small schooner Ayesha, was owned by the Clunies-Ross family and was once used to haul copra two or three times a year from Direction Island to Batavia. A freighter service later took over that role.

On the 9th of November 1914 after the commencement of World War 1, the SMS Emden and the HMAS Sydney were locked in battle off Direction Island in the Cocos (Keeling) Islands. The small schooner Ayesha lay quietly at anchor in the Direction Island harbour. She was soon to play an important part on that fateful day.

At 0630 hours, Lieutenant Mücke commander of the SMS Emden shore party, landed on Direction Island to destroy the Cable and Wireless Installations on the Island. The Ayesha, also was to be destroyed.

The Installations were destroyed, but it was not long before the Emden sent a signal to the shore party to return urgently to the Emden. An attack by the approaching HMAS Sydney was imminent. The shore party embarked and set out for the Emden, but they were too late - the Emden had weighed anchor to join the attack. The shore party returned to Direction Island.
German Shore Party in the steam pinnace and two cutters on their way to the SMS Emden (which can't be seen in the photo) following an urgent recall. The schooner Ayesha is in the background. They were too late and had to return to Direction Island ayesha
For the next two hours a battle ensued between the Emden and the Sydney which was observed by the shore party on Direction Island. Lieutenant Mücke was not sure of the final outcome of the battle but realized that soon a British warship would visit the island.

Escape from Direction Island
Lieutenant Mücke made the choice to use the schooner Ayesha (that he had previously planned to destroy), as a means of escape. After she was checked for seaworthiness, she was loaded up with supplies sufficient for about eight weeks. The shore party boarded the schooner and left Direction Island at 2030 hrs, and headed for the open sea and northeast to Padang in Sumatra.
loading up Emden shore party loading up supplies on the Direction Island jetty ready for transport to the Ayesha (seen in the background)
On 27th November while off Padang, the Ayesha was intercepted by the Dutch Destroyer Lynx, (The Dutch were neutral in World War 1). Lieutenant Mücke boarded the destroyer and revealed his intention to enter Padang. He was allowed to enter, but no one was permitted to leave the ship while in Port. He was able, however, to replenish much needed supplies. Internment for the duration of the war seemed a distinct possibility.

The next day, Lieutenant Mücke was able to contact the German consul who gave him funds and smuggled a note which read, "I will cruise until 20 December at 3 20'S, 99 20'E. The rendezvous will be within a 20-mile radius, depending on wind and current." The German Consul also informed Lieutenant Mücke of the fate of the Emden.

On 30th November, after much discussion and difficulty with authorities, but with help from the German Consul, the Ayesha was allowed to leave and at 2000 hours weighed anchor and sailed off into the darkness. On 14th December contact was made with the German freighter "Choising". Bad weather prevented transfer of personnel and possessions to the freighter until 16th December. They were then close to Pagai.

Ayesha Time Line

9 November - Ayesha leaves Direction Island
27 November - Arrives Padang
30 November - Leaves Padang
14 December - Rendezvous with "Choising"
16 December - Transfer to Choising.
16 December - Ayesha sunk.

The End of the Ayesha.
After the Emden shore party transferred to the Choising, the Ayesha was then prepared for sinking, and she went down at 1648 hours. The Choising with the Emden shore party on board then headed for the Red Sea.

So ended a remarkable escape from Direction Island by the Emden shore party. This was followed by an action-packed and incredible journey via sea and land back to their homeland and safety.

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