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War History

Story: War History
Episode: 6
Presenter: Trevor Cochrane
Air Date: 20th December 2020

The idyllic Cocos Islands are abundant with reminders of the significant role that they played during the war.

  • The Cocos Keeling Islands’ position in the Indian Ocean made them strategically important during WWI and WWII.
  • The islands were connected by cable and played a significant role in communications from Fremantle to Mauritius and Java.
  • The German cruiser, SMS Emden, sent a raiding party onto Direction Island to dismantle communications in 1914.
  • A distress call was received by the allies, who sent the HMAS Sydney to attack the Emden. The Sydney won, making that battle the Australian Navy’s first-ever victory.
  • The Japanese sent a plane to attack Home Island in WWII in their attempt to seize control of the Indian Ocean Territories.
  • The Malay population was caught unaware and 3 people were killed in the subsequent bombing and machine-gun attack.
  • Guns were set up at Horsburgh Island because it was the entry point to the lagoon and provided access to all of the other islands.
  • In 1942, 15 members of the garrison from the Ceylon Defence Force mutinied under the leadership of Gratien Fernando and attempted to take control of the guns.
  • Three of the men were executed for treason, including Fernando. These were the only British Commonwealth soldiers executed for mutiny during WWII.

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