Monday, September 22, 2014
Fear over the city
September seems to have been a bad time for the city of Madras. If it was the French yesterday, it was the Germans today. Of course, they were separated by 168 years - the German attack was in 1914, but the similarity continued with Madras as being the prize (or target) in a war that did not involve it directly. La Bourdonnais took over Fort St George in 1746, but by 1914, the city of Madras was much larger than the fort and Kapitan Karl von Müller had other landmarks to target.
The story of how SMS Emden bombarded Madras on the night of September 22, 1914, is well documented. Apart from the damages to property in several places around the port, the shelling damaged a picture hung in the Royal Madras Yacht Club, which the Club still displays proudly. Next to that picture, the RMYC also has this framed newspaper clipping, describing how the Emden terrified Madras. Apparently, the targeting was helped by Dr Cempakaraman Pillai, who was on the ship when it attacked Madras; this, however, is not as well documented.
The newspaper clipping was not from the next day's report. The Hindu, writing about that evening much later, says, "Surprisingly, there was no report in The Hindu about the shelling on the following day or the day after". It must have taken the city, and its papers, several years to get over the panic of the "Emden"!