Battle Day ceremonies in the Falkland Islands and in London this weekend (December 8th and 9th) commemorate the Battle of the Falkland Islands on 8th December, 1914. Wreaths are laid every year at the Battle Memorial in Stanley and at the Cenotaph in the heart of London.
They recall a significant date in the early months in the First World War when the Royal Navy inflicted one of the most devastating defeats in its long history upon an enemy fleet, in which 2,260 German sailors lost their lives, for the loss of only six British on the day itself and several more who died later from wounds.
The battle ended a German attempt to destroy the Royal Navy's base facilities and possibly to occupy the Falkland Islands, by the Kaiser's crack East Asiatic Squadron, commanded by Vice Admiral Graf Von Spee. Fresh from destruction of two heavy British cruisers and their crews totalling 1,600 men, off the Chilean Coast, the German Squadron sailed full speed to the Falkland Islands, believing there would be no resistance.
They were astonished to discover that a British squadron commanded by Vice Admiral Sir Doveton Sturdee had got there the previous day after a dramatic 8,000-mile (13,000-kilometre) dash in total radio silence. His ships, already drawn up for battle in the natural harbours of the Falkland Islands, caught the Germans totally by surprise, sinking four of the five German cruisers, including the flagship Scharnhorst, killing Admiral Graf Von Spee, his two sons and all 700 crew. Only the light cruiser Dresden escaped, to be pursued and later sunk in the South Pacific.
It was a battle, which had echoes in the Second World War, again in December, in 1939, when the Battle of the River Plate ended with the scuttling of the powerful battleship, Graf Von Spee, named after the First World War Admiral. The battleship, which sank several British merchant vessels in the early weeks of the war, had been fought to a standstill and forced to take refuge in Montevideo by the Royal Navy's Falklands flotilla of three smaller warships - Ajax, Exeter and Achilles.
Harold Briley, London