Cocos Island Axe

Wooden handled axe used by the German raiding party when they attacked the telegraph station on Cocos Island during World War One.

In 1914, disguised as a merchant vessel, the German warship ‘Emden’ landed a party of soldiers on the Cocos Islands. The soldiers destroyed telegraph equipment using this axe and cut the undersea cables that linked Britain to Australia.

One telegraph worker, however, had seen through the disguise and sent out an urgent SOS. It was heard by the Australian ship ‘Sydney’, which immediately steamed to Cocos. Just as the German soldiers were preparing to leave the ‘Emden’ vanished, having been engaged in battle by ‘Sydney’.

Over the next few hours telegraph worker and soldier alike watched the battle unfold. ‘Sydney’ triumphed, and in order to avoid capture the German soldiers commandeered a boat and fled. Eighteen months later, they finally arrived back in Germany.

Meanwhile, the telegraph system on Cocos was soon repaired, not least because the telegraph workers had tricked the soldiers into cutting a dummy cable; the real cables had suffered no damage.

The remains of the wireless mast that was destroyed during the attack was carved into a small model boat by one of the telegraph workers. A plaque attached to the model reads ‘Cocos November 9th 1914 Made from the remnants of wireless mast blown up by German crusiser Emden’.

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