Review Blog

Oct 04 2013

First Victory 1914: HMAS Sydney's hunt for the German raider Emden by Mike Carlton

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Heinemann, 2013. ISBN 9781742757636
(Age: 15+) Recommended. This book and the events it describes, coincides with the 100th anniversary of the first Royal Australian Navy entry to Sydney Harbour, when the battle cruiser HMAS Australia, and the cruisers Melbourne, Sydney and Encounter plus other ships sailed into the harbour for the first time. One year later, the First World War broke out and the RAN immediately sought action against the Germans on the high seas and occupied territory to Australia's north. As part of the German naval strategy, the Kaiser's cruiser SMS Emden, acted as a lone raider and for 4 months she captured and sank allied merchant ships. Mike Carlton's book covers these events and the first victory by Australia's navy, within the context of the outbreak of the Great War and the daily lives of individuals caught up in the conflict.
I enjoyed this book because the author's enthusiasm for the history of the naval engagement between the Sydney and the Emden, wasn't limited just to naval tactics. The reader was able to derive a clear picture of the broader nature of the war but at the same time, understand its effects on individuals. If read by senior high school students, they would gain a clear understanding of Australia's early involvement in the First World War.
Mike Carlton is a well regarded journalist and his depth of scholarship is evident his insights into the spirit of the times, the lives of the sailors and their families. It is an absorbing tale. The book includes excellent maps, photographs, postscript and appendices.
Paul Pledger

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