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Memorial To commemorate Australia's First Naval battle

Artists Concept               
September 2014

Given the restrictions on budget, we set out create a small but evocative memorial, the kernel of which, is to capture a spirit of healing and forgiveness between the original antagonists and extend that to ‘world peace’.


 As such, our concept is intended to be a ‘Peace’ Memorial in commemoration of this pivotal event in Australian Naval history but particularly for all those, from both sides, who lost their lives in the battle and for their descendants.


During our research of the project we came across images of the Emden Bell retrieved from the wreck. This inspired us to create a very simple but powerful way of joining the memory of the two antagonists, using one of the most ancient forms of sacred worship: the Bell!


The ship’s Bell is one of the most potent and sacred symbols in Naval history so much so, that they are amongst the most highly prized artifacts from a ship long after the vessel itself has disappeared.


We were aware, from our familiarity with the history of the first two HMAS Sydney warships, that the bell of Sydney I was ceremoniously passed on to Sydney II upon her commissioning.

The Emden Bell was presented to the ship by the people of Emden, in Germany and is now preserved in the War Memorial in Canberra.

Likewise, a solid silver bell was presented to HMAS Sydney I by the people of Sydney, upon her arrival at her home port of Sydney.


This magnificent solid silver Sydney I bell was lost on Sydney II in 1941.


Thus, there is a very simple, but deep, symbolic link between the Australian Navy and the German Navy through these bells. The Emden being destroyed by Sydney I, and it’s bell retrieved, and Sydney II sunk by the German ‘Kormoran’ and as a result the Sydney I bell now lies on the floor of the Indian Ocean off Shark Bay: the same stretch of water holding the remains of the Emden.


Our concept therefore unites Emden and Sydney I bells, in a simple mast- like structure whose overall visual ‘footprint’ would rest very softly within the proposed memorial precinct on Cocos Islands.

Hung correctly, the gentle breezes of the Cocos Islands would cause the two bells to chime softly as a constant reminder of what took place here on November 9th 1914.

 Conversely, the bells could be tethered and rung only on ceremonial occasions.


(Note- 13/11/2014: the final decision has been to tether the bells and only to ring them on special occasions- the first of which has been by the Governor General of Australia and the Ambassador of the Federal Republic of Germany at the Dedication of the “Friendship Mast”
- the second occasion was Remembrance Day 11th November 2014 by Barrie Hasse, Administrator of the Cocos ( Keeling) islands).


As artists specialising in the design and construction of military memorials, we are very pleased with what we consider, to be a very small, but unique Naval Memorial which we believe would have a significant impact within, not only the greater Australian Community, but also within Germany itself.


We would like to suggest that there is significant potential for the Cocos Island Authority to explore this avenue of long overdue communication between the two countries, Germany and Australia, who were once antagonists but are now firm allies, on the occasion of this 100th Commemoration of a shared and tragic event.


The bells of SMS Emden and HMAS Sydney (1) can now ring out,100 years later, in unison, for world peace.


Charles Smith & Joan Walsh-Smith







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