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Anniversary of the Battle of the Falkland Islands

Wednesday, December 3rd 2008 - 20:00 UTC
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HMS <i>Cornwall</i>, HMS <i>Cornwall</i>,

Next Monday 8th December 2008 the Falkland Islands commemorates the victory of the Naval engagements of 8th December 1914 on which day 6 British sailors lost their lives and a number of others died later from injuries received during the battle. 2,260 German sailors also lost their lives.

At 9.25 am detachments of the Royal Navy and the Falkland Islands Defence Force will enter Stanley's Christ Church Cathedral, where at 9.45 am the customary Memorial Service will begin, led by the clergy from Stanley and the Force Chaplain. His Excellency Governor Alan Huckle together with the Commander British Forces South Atlantic Islands, Members of Legislative Council and other Senior Officers serving with the British Forces South Atlantic Islands will attend. The Volunteer Band from HMS Collingwoodwill play in the Cathedral. A collection for the Lighthouse Seaman's Mission will be made during the service. At the conclusion of the memorial service at about 10.15 am the parade led by the Volunteer Band from HMS Collingwoodwill march to the Battle Memorial. At 10.45 am the parade will arrive at the Battle Memorial. Detachments of the Royal Navy, the Falkland Islands Defence Force and Members of the various youth organisations will be present. At 10.58 His Excellency the Governor will arrive at the Battle Memorial and will inspect the Parade. After prayers, he, Councillor Richard Stevens, the Commander British Forces will lay wreaths, as will others. There will be a flypast at 11.12 am. After the ceremony at the Battle Memorial there will be a march past. His Excellency the Governor will take the Salute from a dais at the entrance gates to Government House lawns. According to the release from Gilbert House, members of the public wishing to attend the ceremony are asked to arrive no later than 10.50 am. It is appropriate for decorations and medals to be worn on this occasion The Battle of the Falkland Islands was a decisive victory for the British, thus avenging a serious defeat by the enemy forces just one month before, off the coast of Chile. In the previous action, the Battle of Coronel (1 November 1914), the small British cruiser squadron commanded by Rear-Admiral Sir Christopher Cradock was defeated by the German East Asiatic Squadron under Vice-Admiral Graf von Spee, and resulted in the loss of the two armored cruisers Good Hope (Cradock's flagship) and Monmouth with all hands and the rapid withdrawal of the surviving vessels the light cruiser Glasgow and armed merchant cruiser Otranto. The British Admiralty, on receiving news of the disastrous result of the Battle of Coronel, quickly dispatched to the South Atlantic, the powerful battle cruisers Invincible (flagship) and Inflexible, under the command of Rear-Admiral Sir Doveton Sturdee. He was given orders to locate and destroy the enemy squadron. The two dreadnoughts sailed south and reached the Falkland Islands on 7 December 1915. On the way they arranged a rendezvous with other Royal Navy warships, the armoured cruisers Carnarvon; Cornwall and Kent and light cruisers Bristol and Glasgow, while the armed merchant cruiser Macedonia and old battleship Canopuswere also waiting at the destination. This considerable armed force anchored in Port Stanley harbour, where they proceeded with caution. Meanwhile Graf von Spee had left the Pacific, via Cape Horn, and entered the South Atlantic with his squadron, consisting of the armoured cruisers Scharnhorst (flagship); and Gneisenau, and light cruisers Dresden; Nurnberg and Leipzig.His intention was to return home to Germany, but on the way he made the fatal resolve to attack and destroy the Falkland's base installations, which he believed to be undefended. On the 8 December 1914, Gneisenau and Nurnburg, sent on ahead of the main body of the German flotilla, observed to their surprise the large concentration of British warships gathered at Port Stanley. Graf von Spee realized that he was confronted by a superior British squadron and made a course to the southeast at full speed in an effort to escape. Sturdee, also initially unprepared for the appearance of the enemy, soon sailed from the harbour in pursuit, and gradually overhauled the fleeing German force, his ships opening fire at 13.00 hrs. Graf von Spee instructed his light cruisers to disperse and attempt to escape, while he turned round his two larger armoured cruisers to engage the British vessels in battle. His aim was to divert and delay the enemy ships chasing him, allowing his smaller vessels time to hopefully get away. In a long-range action lasting four hours, the German ships were assaulted by the 12-inch guns of the opposing battle cruisers. The Scharnhorst finally sank at 16.13 hrs, with the loss of her entire crew and Graf von Spee, and nearly two hours later at 18.00 hrs the battered Gneisenaualso disappeared beneath the waves. Admiral Graf von Spee's brave decision was in vain and his sacrifice failed to save his light cruisers from a similar fate, as the Royal Navy extracted their reprisal for the Coronel humiliation. The Kent caught up with the Nurnberg and sank her while elsewhere the Cornwall and Glasgow pursued and eventually overtook the Leipzig. Out of Graf von Spee's squadron of five ships, only the Dresden succeeded in temporarily evading extermination. In March 1915, three months after the Battle of the Falkland Islands, she was found sheltering at Mas Afuera island, in Juan Fernandez, by the Kent and Glasgow, and was scuttled by her crew to avoid capture. The end of the Dresden marked a successful completion to Sturdee's task, the resolution by the Royal Navy, to totally destroy a maritime enemy force, and gain retribution for a previous military reversal at sea. Picture: HMS Cornwall, a Monmouth Class armoured cruiser of 9,800 tons, built at Pembroke in 1902. With her main armament of 14-6 inch guns, she assisted in the destruction of the German light cruiser Leipzigat the Battle of the Falkland Islands in December 1914. The anonymous author of the chart served on this ship during this engagement. Repro ID N01144 © NMM London

Categories: Politics, Falkland Islands.

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