Historical information



The historic wheel of HMAS Sydney commemorates the Royal Australian Navy’s first ship- to- ship naval engagement. It was purchased early in 1930 and later presented to the Royal St Kilda Yacht Club (now Royal Melbourne Yacht Squadron) by then Commodore Joe White, following HMAS Sydney being broken up at Cockatoo Dock, Sydney.

On 1 November 1914, led by the flagship SS Orvieto, a large convoy of 28 Australian and 10 New Zealand transports escorted by the Light Cruisers HMAS Melbourne, HMAS Sydney, HMS Minotaur and the Japanese ship Ibuki, departed King George Sound, Albany Western Australia with a large contingent of Australian and New Zealand troops bound for Egypt, to become the original Anzac’s.

As the convoy steamed northwest across the Indian Ocean, leaving Cocos-Keeling Islands well to the westward, Captain Karl von Muller in the German Light Cruiser Emden of 3,600 tons, after having wrought much havoc to allied shipping in the Indian Ocean, ignorant of the convoys presence, had in mind to destroy the Cocos Island Cable Station on Direction Island. In the early hours of the morning of Monday the 9 November, he anchored “Emden” off Direction Island to send a landing party ashore, In the meantime the Cable Station had sent out a Morse Code message ‘Strange ship approaching’, this was followed soon after by a ‘S.O.S.’ These messages were picked up by ships in the convoy and at 7.00 a.m., Captain J.C. Glossop of the 5,400 ton HMAS Sydney was directed to leave the convoy and proceed at full speed for Cocos Islands. Two hours later Cocos Island was on the horizon.

Captain von Muller, with the boarding party ashore to destroy the Cable station, steamed out to intercept the intruder. Captain Glossop decided to close in to 9,500 yards ( 8686.8m) before delivering his first salvo. Emden on the other hand, opened fire at 10,500 yards (9601m), its ten, 4.1 inch (104mm) guns firing 38 pound (17.24 kg ) shells, some of which scored near misses. Emden was hit repeatedly by HMAS Sydney’s eight, 6 inch (152.4mm) guns firing 100 pound (45.36kg ) shells. Within two hours Captain von Muller had decided to run the badly damaged Emden aground on North Keeling Island.

Captain Glossop then broke off the engagement to speed off to intercept Emden’s collier, “Buresk”, seen lurking in the distance, soon to overtake her. A boarding party from HMAS Sydney was too late to prevent Buresk from being scuttled but able to rescue her crew.

Returning to finish off Emden, HMAS Sydney was again met by heavy gunfire. Sydney scored a number of direct hits to Emden and only after having suffered 134 killed and 65 wounded, did Captain von Muller finally decide to lower his Naval Ensign. He was among those captured and was allowed to retain his Naval sword. In the engagements HMAS Sydney only suffered four direct hits, 4 killed and 12 wounded.
J.H.(Bert) Ferris


Extremely significant as part of Australia's Naval and Military history.

Physical description

Ships wheel, timber, mounted on a timber plinth, wheel of ship first HMAS Sydney.

Inscriptions & markings

Plaque notifying that wheel donated by Commodore Joe White 1930