Battles of Coronel and the Falklands 1914 - A Summary
On the outbreak of war in August 1914, the Royal Navy established a network of cruiser
squadrons around the world, supported by the French in the Mediterranean, and by the
Japanese in the Pacific. The aim was to protect our shipping and supplies, and to disrupt that
of the Central Powers, Germany & Austria-Hungary - to drive their merchant fleets and naval
forces off the ocean.
A German Squadron under Vice-Admiral Graf von Spee was visiting the Far East, and
following some initial operations in the Pacific, decided to return to Germany via Cape Horn.
Aware of his presence off the coast of South America, a small British force sailed into
Chilean waters under Rear-Admiral Sir Christopher Cradock: it consisted of three old cruisers,
(HMS Good Hope, Glasgow, Monmouth) and an armed merchant cruiser, Otranto. An old,
slow battleship (HMS Canopus) followed. Having left the latter some 300 miles behind,
Cradock met von Spee's ships off Coronel, Chile. At the Battle of Coronel, 1 November
1914, the British were outgunned, and Cradock opted to try and inflict damage on a German
squadron a long way from home. He was killed when Good Hope blew up, and Monmouth
was sunk. He had ordered Otranto to escape, and Glasgow, though damaged, did too.
The response of the British Admiralty was to detach 2 battlecruisers (HMS Invincible and
Inflexible) from British waters, to deal with von Spee. They sailed to the South Atlantic under
Vice-Admiral Sir Doveton Sturdee. They met other British cruisers off Brazil and sailed to the
Falklands. The day after arriving, von Spee also arrived from the south with 5 cruisers (SMS
Scharnhorst, Gneisenau, Leipzig, Nurnburg and Dresden) and some supply ships. He
intended to shell the wireless station. At Port Stanley were the two battlecruisers, and 3
cruisers, HMS Kent, Glasgow, Cornwall. Several other units, including HMS Canopus, were
not ready to sail.. Von Spee turned away, and was chased by the British ships. The Battle of
the Falklands (8 December 1914) was a series of duels, in which Invincible and Inflexible sank
Scharnhorst & Gneisenau; Glasgow and Cornwall sank Leipzig; Kent sank Nurnburg. SMS
Dresden escaped, but was caught off the coast of Chile in March 1915 and sunk.
The significance of the "Falklands" battle, is that:
Sorry, I have no pictures. There aren't many available. A good book on the naval war will give you the maps.
Cliff McMullen (firstname.lastname@example.org) has kindly contributed this map:
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