This is an amazing oval plate that commemorates Germany’s earliest heroic ship of the Great War, the S. M. S. Emden. The S. M. S. Emden was the final vessel from the two-ship class headed by the S. M. S. Dresden. Both ships were Kleiner (Small) Kreuzers in the Kaiserliche Marine. The Emden was officially placed into service in 1909. She spent much of her career attached to the East Asia Squadron, which was based at Tsingtao in China and commanded by Vizeadmiral Maximilian Graf von Spee. She received a new commander, Karl von Mueller (1873-1921), in Spring, 1913. He was a young officer who had risen through the ranks and caught the attention of both Großadmiral Prinz Henry of Prussia and Großadmiral Alfred von Tirpitz, after serving on their respective staffs. In fact, von Tirpitz sent von Mueller to his new post and command.
When WWI broke out, most of the East Asia Squadron was at sea. The Emden was at port, but immediately departed. Once at sea, she was the first German warship of WW I to capture an enemy ship — a Russian steamer. She then received notification from Squadron Commander von Spee to rendezvous with the rest of the squadron. Von Mueller suggested that one of the small cruisers be detached and assigned to the Indian Ocean to raid on Allied shipping. Von Spee agreed. As the Emden was the newest, fastest, and best suited for the task, she was chosen. Graf von Spee and the balance of the East Asian Squadron sailed East across the Pacific to meet their fate at the Battle of the Falkland Islands in December 1914. The Graf and his two young sons, who sailed under his command, perished in the South Atlantic along with the bulk of the East Asia Squadron’s sailors and ships.
Once the Emden was released under her own responsibility she proved quite successful, sinking nearly two dozen enemy ships including a Russian cruiser and a French Destroyer at late-October 1914’s Battle of Penang. The Emden’s luck finally ran out on 9 November 1914. She faced the Australian cruiser HAMS Sydney off the Cocos Islands. The Emden was grounded after a sharp action. She suffered great loss of life, but von Mueller survived. Part of his crew, under the 1st officer’s command, had been ashore during the battle, and afterwards made their way back to Germany. Von Mueller was declared a national hero in Germany. Due to failing health, he was returned to Germany where he was awarded the Orden Pour le Mérite. He was also promoted to his final rank of Kapitän zur See. He died in 1921 at the age of forty-nine.
Such was the S. M. S. Emden’s history. Our commemorative plate is oval-shaped and measures 6 ½” x 9 ½.” When you first look at the plate, it almost looks like a serving platter but such is not the case. The view of the Emden is in color. It shows the proud ship steaming towards you in a three-quarter view. The ship is cutting through light seas. Smoke is billowing out of all three of her stacks. The sky is blue with low-level white clouds. On the water directly below the Emden in black script is the caption “S. M. Kl. Kreuzer “Emden” 1914.” A built-in wire hanger appears on the top of the oval plate’s reverse for mounting on the wall. Also appearing on the reverse are the items listed below.
“M & O” crowned (the manufacturer’s hallmark)
“P” (under the wire hanger)
“G.G.” (Ges. Gesch.)
Finally, a simple typewritten white tag features the plate artist’s name and birth and death years, “Kaiser. Marinemaler Fritz Stoltenberg 1855-1921.” The condition and quality of this plate are astounding. It will make an excellent addition to your Navy collection.