Monday, December 8, 2014

The Battle of the Falkland Islands -- December 8, 2014

100 years ago on 08-December-1914, a British squadron led by Vice Admiral Doveton Sturdee encountered the German East Asia Squadron led by Vice Admiral Count Maximillian von Spee in the South Atlantic off of the Falkland Islands. Spee had abandoned the German base at Tisingtao, China when the war started because he knew the Japanese would soon attack and overwhelm it. Spee spread confusion across the Pacific. Admiral Christopher Cradock had been sent to find him, and on 01-November-1914 lost his whole squadron except for one light cruiser and one auxiliary cruiser off the coast of Chile near Coronel:

The sacrifice made by Craddock and his men forced Spee to expend much of his fuel and ammunition. The British sent a much more powerful squadron, including two modern battlecruisers, HMS Invincible and Inflexible, to the South Atlantic to hunt Spee. One of Sturdee's officers, Captain John Luce of the Glasgow, which had survived Coronel, persuaded him to head towards the Falklands earlier than he had planned. The British squadron was in the harbor when Spee's squadron approached, having been told that the islands were unguarded. A shot from a 12-inch gun of the pre-Dreadnaught battleship Canopus told Spee that the islands were guarded. Spee's squadron turned and ran, but could not escape the superior speed of the battlecruisers. Spee died in his flagship Scharnhorst. The only German ship which survived the battle was the light cruiser Nürnberg.

From the 09-December-1914 Honolulu Star-Bulletin.

EXTRA -- British Fleet Smashes the German Squadron -- EXTRA
Cruiser Gneisenau, Scharnhorst and Leipzig Sun
Biggest Naval Battle of War is Fought Off Falklands Yesterday

The Star-Bulletin received the following Associated Press cablegram shortly before 1 o'clock today:

"It is officially announced that Sir Frederick Sturdee's fleet sank the German cruisers Gneisenau, Scharnhorst and Leipzig and captured two German colliers oft the Falkland Islands at 7:30 o clock yesterday morning.

"The cruisers Dresden and Nurnberg fled, hotly pursued by the British vessels.

"The British casualties were slight. Some survivors of the Gneisenau and the Scharnhorst were rescued. The fate of the German admiral, Count von Spee, who was aboard the Gneisenau, was not mentioned.

Battle Was Foreseen Some Days Ago

The "official announcement" referred to by the Associated Press evidently means an official statement by -the British admiralty.

The German cruiser squadron defeated by the British is the same squadron that fought and won what has been until now the most important naval engagement of the war with the British trio off Coronel on November 2.  In that engagement the British warships Monmouth and Good Hope were lost and the Glasgow, escaped. Admiral von Spee was then in command of the Germans.

For some weeks after that the movements of the German squadron were veiled in mystery. It was reported as steaming up the South American coast toward Lower California. Then a few days ago came the report that a big powerful British fleet was off Montevideo, on the east coast of South America, and that the German fleet was believed to be near the mouth of the River Plata, not far from Montevideo.

The Falkland islands, in the-vicinity of which the British victory of yesterday is reported to have occurred, lie about thousand miles south of Montevideo. They are British possessions.

The considerable size of the fleets involved and the decisive nature of the fight, according to the brief report received today, make this the most important naval battle of the war so far fought. 

The local cable office said this afternoon that there is a cable from the Falklands. Where the news was first sent from has not been stated.

1 comment:


Warfare is a fascinating subject. Despite the dubious morality of using violence to achieve personal or political aims. It remains that conflict has been used to do just that throughout recorded history.

Your article is very well done, a good read.