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Their Grave is the Sea - 1914 Naval Battles: Coronel and Falklands

Monday, December 8th 2014 - 05:16 UTC
Full article 3 comments

By Harold Briley (*) Early in World War One the Royal Navy suffered one of its most disastrous defeats followed five weeks later by one of its most decisive victories. In the Battle of the Falkland Islands on 8 December, 1914, all five battle cruisers of the German East Asian Squadron and its support ships were defeated with nearly 2,000 men killed including their commander, Vice Admiral Graf von Spee. No British ships were lost and only eight British sailors were killed. Read full article

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  • nigelpwsmith

    It's a very interesting piece of history.

    Statements by the key participants were recorded along the motivations for their actions. One could not but believe that Admiral Cradock was forced against his better judgment to engage what he knew to be a superior force and by chance, found himself in a disadvantageous position, as well as in foul weather that handicapped his ability to fight.

    Admiral von Spee did exactly what he needed to do and his well trained crews sank two British cruisers. However, by using up so much ammunition, they became vulnerable to any further confrontation.

    von Spee should have been wary of any further engagements and avoid the Falkland Islands altogether. He had plenty of coal, so he might have been able to reach the German colonies in Africa to refuel. What he lacked was sufficient ammunition for a sustained action.

    Some suggest that von Spee was lured into making an attack on Stanley by radio message. This might be true. However, what is indisputable is that he made a classic error of not pressing home his attack when he discovered the presence of British Battlecruisers.

    This mistake repeated many years later, when Captain Hans Langsdorff failed to press home his advantage against the British cruisers Ajax & Achilles at the Battle of the River Plate.

    You see, von Spee could see that the British cruisers were in Stanley harbour. It was logical to assume that they were not ready for battle and this was so. If von Spee had blocked the narrows, the entrance to Stanley harbour, even scuttling one of his ships there, then von Spee could have trapped the British fleet and then escaped, or sunk them at their moorings.

    Instead he ran, in ships that were much slower and was caught and sunk by the British fleet.

    Langsdorff faced the same problem and also ran. If he had sunk Ajax & Achilles, then he would have been able to sail to Buenos Aires and repair his fuel pump to escape. Instead he scuttled his ship - the Admiral Graf Spee.

    Irony.

    Dec 08th, 2014 - 02:31 pm - Link - Report abuse 0
  • ernest shackleton

    The Punta Arenas cemetery - well worth a visit in its own right - has an interesting and rather surreal memorial to the German sailors with black-painted shell casings and much German insignia , etc - all rather gothic in style I thought.

    Dec 09th, 2014 - 01:09 am - Link - Report abuse 0
  • downunder

    1#
    It's a very interesting piece of history.

    Yes it is and your post is an excellent summary and makes compelling reading.
    The comparison between the two naval battles, Falkland Islands in WW1 and the River Plate in WW2 is ironic.

    Thank you.

    Dec 09th, 2014 - 04:16 am - Link - Report abuse 0

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