Kapitänleutnant von Mücke of the Imperial Navy



Photo © JW Collection

This photographs shows Kapitänleutnant von Mücke, the second officer of the SMS Emden wearing an officers dark blue frock coat, over a shirt and tie. His shoulder straps show his rank. His cap is the white summer version with the wreath around the crowned cockade badge of a "Seeoffizier".

Judging from his medals this photograph was taken after his return to Germany in 1915. On the breast he wears a Prussian Iron Cross, first class and in the buttonhole he wears the second class. His medal bar in order of seniority from left to right shows-

Saxon Order of St Henry Knights Cross
Bavarian Order of Military Merit 4th Class with Swords
Prussian Crown Order 4th Class
Austrian Order of the Iron Crown
Two Ottoman Medals, probably the Imtiyaz and the Liyakat, both with swords

Note that as a proud Saxon, von Mücke is wearing his Saxon Order of St Henry at the head of his bar.

Helmuth von Mücke (1881-1957) was born in Zwickau, Saxony and became a naval cadet at the age of eighteen. In 1903 he became Leutnant zur See, his promotion continued with various peacetime commands. When war broke out he was second officer onboard the SMS Emden under Kapitän zur See Karl von Müller at Tsingtao. The SMS Emden sailed out of Tsingtao into the Indian Ocean to create havoc amongst allied shipping. At the time of the SMS Emden being finally sunk off the Cocos Islands, von Mücke and a landing party were onshore and escaped capture. Under his leadership they managed to make their way back to Germany on an epic journey, firstly across the Indian Ocean (in a captured sailing ship), then after landing on the Red Sea coastline, they marched across the desert fighting hostile Arab tribesmen along the way until they were picked up by Ottoman troops. They arrived in Istanbul to a hero's welcome in May 1915, travelling on to Germany from there. Von Mücke went on to write two books on his wartime experiences. After the war, he served as an NSDAP representative in the Saxon Parliament for three years but gave up the post as he opposed rearmament. His further pacifist writings were banned as subversive and he spent several spells in various concentration camps for his beliefs.

Please contact me here if you have other photographs of the German colonies or the soldiers and sailors that served there. I am especially keen to hear from people with family photograph collections and am always happy to try to assist in identifying uniforms, units, places and dates for family history research.

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