Share and Share Alike. We like Shares!


Battle of the Falkland Islands

After their victory at Coronel the month prior, Admiral Graf von Spee received the news that the Glasgow was “hurrying back towards the Falkland Islands” (Source). But after his brilliant success at Coronel, it was assumed that Spee would be the one to capture the Falkland Islands.

Meanwhile, Britain was determined to make up for their mistakes, and sent out the battle cruisers Invincible and Inflexible, under Vice Admiral Frederick Doveton Sturdee’s command, to the South Atlantic squadron. They arrived on December 7th. Spee arrived the next day.

Thus, the Battle of the Falklands commenced.

And this time, the British made sure that their battle cruisers were fitted to give them superiority. Unlike with the ships that took part in the Battle of Coronel, Invincible and Inflexible were “fitted with eight 12-inch guns, whereas Spee’s Scharnhorst and Gneisenau each had 8.2 inch guns” (Source). This time, the British were definitely prepared. On top of this, Sturdee had under his command six more curisers: Canarvon, Cornwall, Kent, Bristol, Glasgow, and Canopus.

Spee had no idea that there were British cruisers. His intention was to “raid the British radio station and coaling depot there” (Source). But, upon his arrival, he discovered the British squadron. At 10 that morning, the British cruisers were fully prepared to leave. “The weather now cleared and visibility over a calm blue sea was complete. As the British ships left harbor, the rising smoke smudges on the horizon showed the positions of the five German warships” (Source). The British cruisers began chasing the Germans.

Early that afternoon, Sturdee’s crew met up with von Spee’s. The British opened fire. Spee, in an attempt to gain some time for the rest of his ships to escape, decided to fight. Using his two biggest cruisers – the Scharnhorst and the Gneisenau – Spee attacked the British squadron. Invincible was hit.

Thankfully, the damage was minimal.

Spee turned away, hoping to escape. At this point, three of his cruisers – Dresden, Nürnberg, & Leipzig – were being pursued by Kent, Cornwall, & Glasgow. But Sturdee pressed the attack on Scharnhorst and Gneisenau” (Source). Spee fought back.

“For over three hours, Scharnhorst and Gneisenau exchanged shots with the two British battle cruisers” (Source). Little damage was being done to the British cruisers, while the German cruisers were enduring heavy damage. By 3:30, Gneisenau was listing terribly to the side and Scharnhorst was in flames – the flames between the decks taking over. Half an hour later, Scharnhorst suddenly ceased firing. At 4:17, Scharnhorst sunk. The entire crew was lost.

With one ship down, Invincible joined Inflexible in the attack against Gneisenau. With the two British ships attacking, Gneisenau was forced to slow to such a speed that Carnarvon was able to catch up and join the fight – prior to this, Admiral Stoddart aboard the Carnarvon had been engaged with ships outside the harbor. Also, due to Carnarvon’s and Cornwall’s slower speeds, they had a hard time keeping up with the race. But now Carnarvon was joining the battle. And just in time, too, because Inflexible was having a difficult time shooting at Gneisenau with all of the flagship’s smoke.

Also at about this time, the weather began deteriorating. Rain began to fall, reducing the visibility even more. “At 5:50pm, Gneisenau turned towards Invincible and stopped. The two battle cruisers closed in. The German ship was listing heavily to starboard. Her firing was sporadic and then ceased” (Source).

Convinced that Gneisenau could no longer carry on, Sturdee called for a cease fire, only to have Gneisenau suddenly pick up the fight once more. At 5:45, Gneisenau stopped firing again. This time it was clear that she was sinking. With the two largest of Spee’s ships out of commission, it was time to turn to the three smaller ones.

[Below: SMS Scharnhorst sinking in the foreground and SMS Gneisenau burning]

The remaining German ships were faster than the three British cruisers sent after them, and war in a way outgunned them. But many of them were also low on ammunition, thanks to the Battle of Coronel.

Captain Luce aboard Glasgow decided to start the attack with Leipzig. Cornwall joined in the fight with Leipzig while Kent and Nürnberg were left to battle it out.

By 4:45, Glasgow and Cornwall had managed to kill Leipzig’s gunnery lieutenant, severely handicapping the German light cruiser. By 6, the rain had picked up and Captain Luce knew they had to wrap the battle up, so he signaled to Cornwall to open fire with lyddite. Leipzig was set ablaze. Even then, Leipzig continued to fire back for another hour. At 7, her guns fell silent. It wasn’t until well after 7:30 that the crew members gave the ceasefire signal. At 9:23 Leipzig sank. Five officers and 13 seamen were rescued by the British.

During the battle with Leipzig, Cornwall was hit eighteen times and was listing to port. Glasgow was hit twice, losing one man while four were wounded. Cornwall lost none.

Meanwhile, Kent was busy chasing Nürnberg. Unfortunately for Kent there had been no time to take on coal at Port Stanley, meaning she was very short on fuel. Thus, “Captain Allen, the captain of Kent, ordered that every item of wood be taken to the engine room for the stokers to load into the burners. Woodwork was stripped from all the fittings and even the officers’ trunks were burnt” (Source). By 6 pm, Kent had closed in on Nürnberg enough to open fire and cause damage.

A mere 10 minutes later, Nürnberg had lost speed, was on fire, and had only two operational guns. All this together was devastating. Two more bullets destroyed her forward turret. By 6:25, she was stationary and silent. The bridge was on fire. No crew could be seen. Five minutes later, Nürnberg hauled down her ensign. At 7:30, Nürnberg sank. Only seven members were rescued.

However, during the attack, Kent had undergone serious damage. She had been hit forty times during the battle. The radio room was wrecked. Four men were killed and twelve were wounded. Of the German ships, only Dresden escaped. Germany had lost four ships and some 2,000 sailors. Meanwhile, the British suffered only 10 deaths.

“The battle of the Falklands and the destruction of the Dresden ended the German presence on the high seas” (Source). From here on out, the bulk of the German naval threat came from U-boats.

[Below: HMS Kent – damage done to the officers’ heads]


Share and Share Alike. We like Shares!
Share and Share Alike. We like Shares!

Battle of Coronel

Since the outbreak of war, Germany’s Naval fleet had been blockaded, at least along the North Sea and the Baltic. Despite this, they maintained a heavy presence in the Pacific Ocean, “possessing German New Guinea, the Bismarck Archipelago and islands in the Solomons, Caroline, Ladrone, Pellew, Marshall Groups of Islands, and in Samoa” (Source). The German Navy’s East Asiatic Squadron had a definite presence in Northeastern China.

All this time, the British had been searching for German General Spee. They were in luck when, in early October, they received news from an intercepted radio communication, detailing Spee’s plans to “prey upon shipping in the crucial trading routes along the west coast of South America” (Source). Turned out, the British had a fleet patrolling South America – Admiral Sir Christopher Cradock’s feet, including the armored cruisers Good Hope and Monmouth, the light cruiser Glasgow, and the converted ex-liner, Otranto.

To be sure, Cradock’s fleet stood no chance against Spee’s much more formidable force. Nevertheless, he began to prepare for battle.

Spee, too, began to prepare for battle.

On October 31st, Cradock received wireless signals indicating the presence of Leipzig, one of Spee’s light cruisers. “Cradock ordered his ships to form a line. . . . It was the admiral’s hope to catch Leipzig alone” (Source).

Meanwhile, Spee received news of the presence of the Glasgow. So now, both men had their ships lined up, each thinking the opposing side had just one ship. Of course, both were wrong.

It was at 4:25 pm on November 1st, that the battle began to heat up. John Luce, captain of Glasgow, spotted smoke and quickly notified Cradock. Minutes later, lookouts spotted two additional German ships: Scharnhorst and Gneisenau. Glasgow hoped to inform Cradock of this latest development, but, unfortunately, found that the German vessels had jammed the British cruiser’s radio. It was 4:45.

Cradock could have made the decision to flee, but at 6:18, he made the decision to attack. At this time, with the sun just setting, Cradock realized that he held the advantage; the sun would be in the Germans’ eyes. If he didn’t move quickly enough, though, that advantage would switch to the Germans’ side. With the sun set, the Germans would be in darkness, while the British would be silhouetted against the sunset glow.

The Germans, however, “with their newer, lighter ships, took quick advantage, opening fire at 7 pm. Cradock’s flagship, the Good Hope, was hit before its crew could return fire” (Source).

Unfortunately, the British were unable to fire back. Meanwhile, flams were engulfing the Good Hope. “The 9.2-inch gun was knocked out of action” (Source).

To make the battle worse for both sides, the seas were rough. The waves were high and the wind strong. The ships were all being tossed from side to side. Water foamed up over the decks. The crew members had difficulty keeping on their feet. Unfortunately, the rough seas were making it harder for the British than for the Germans.

Worse yet, fires were rapidly breaking out on the other British ships, forcing them out of the battle. The Monmouth had been hit. The ammunition aboard Good Hope exploded. Thanks to the glow of the fires, the British heavy cruisers were easy targets. The Good Hope was hit for a third time, causing the fires to spread even further.

[Below: Destruction of Good Hope]

Image result for battle of coronel 1914 good hope

But Glasgow was not going to give in. The gunners aboard Glasgow opened fire on the Scharnhorst and the Gneisenau, hitting them both and setting them both on fire. It was some time before the Germans were lucky enough to hit the Glasgow.

But then they hit her directly, “making a 6 foot square hole. She continued to fight on” (Source).

Unfortunately, the end was approaching for the two British armored cruisers, though. The Good Hope and the Monmouth continued firing, but it was nothing compared to how often they were getting hit by the Germans. “Finally, one of Gneisenau’s shells hit Monmouth’s fore-turret, blowing off the roof and setting the housing on fire. Fires broke out, and there was a deafening explosion” (Source). Another of Gneisenau’s shells hit Monmouth, right near the ammunition storage for the starboard guns.

Though the odds seemed hopeless, Cradock continued to fight on. But, by 7:53, the fire had reached the magazine of Good Hope. “There was a tremendous explosion; flames reached 200 feet above the deck. The explosion was so great that crewmen aboard Nürnberg, six miles away were forced to hold their heads over their ears” (Source).

Luckily, Glasgow came out much better. She was only hit five times, and none of them damaging enough to take her out. This meant that Captain Luce was able to lend aid to the severely damaged Monmouth. But each fire made by the Glasgow was returned by a whole line of fire from the Germans. Before too long, there wasn’t too much Glasgow could do to help Monmouth. Both ships began to retreat.

“Unfortunately, Nürnberg passed close by her while coming up to take station at the rear of the German line and saw the British cruiser. Nürnberg opened fire” (Source). Nürnberg fired for some time at the ship, taking advantage of the fact that Monmouth couldn’t fire back, ceasing fire only when it was clear that the Monmouth was ready to haul down her colors and surrender. But Monmouth never did. Nürnberg continued to fire.

Glasgow and Otranto escaped. Spee’s fleet received little damage.

Both Good Hope and Monmouth were destroyed. There were no survivors aboard either ship.

[Below: Sinking of Monmouth]

Image result for ww1 hms monmouth

Share and Share Alike. We like Shares!