Honour - Falkland Islands 1914

Date - 08-December
Type - Fleet or Squadron Actions
Conflict - World War 1; 1914-18

Description At the outbreak of World War 1, the German Asiatic Squadron was compelled by local British and Japanese superiority to leave the area and travel across the pacific to Easter Island. There they were joined by the light cruisers Dresden and Leipzig.

The joint force continued to the west coast of South America, where they met the British South America Squadron off Coronel on 01-Nov-1914. But the British ships were obsolescent and completely outclassed.

Within four hours the British cruisers Good Hope and Monmouth had been sunk with all hands, Glasgow and Otranto escaped under cover of darkness. The German ships suffered no damage or casualties.

Within days, the battlecruisers Invincible & Inflexible sailed from Plymouth at maximum speed to the South Atlantic. At Montevideo they joined all available warships & the Joint Force continued to the Falkland islands, arriving at Port Stanley on 01-Dec-1914. On arrival they began coaling & repair of minor defects.

Meanwhile Von Spee had decided to return to Germany, and proceeded around Cape Horn into the South Atlantic. Knowing the Royal Navy would be intent on revenge and believing the Falklands to be undefended, he intended to bombard Port Stanley. This would lure any Royal Navy ships south, while he escaped into the depths of the South Atlantic and continued north. So easing his passing of the first barrier to his return home.

Approaching from the south he sent Gneisenau & Nurnberg ahead of the remaining ships.  Over the low hills south of port Stanley they recognised the distinctive tripod masts of the two British battlecruisers. The entire alerted German Squadron sped off to the south-east at full speed, knowing they were totally outclassed & outgunned. (The two major British ships mounted 16 x 12" guns, the two major German ships 16 x 8" guns.) 

Despite having several ships in the middle of coaling, the British ships raised steam and within two hours had sailed & begun the pursuit. This was the type of action for which the battlecruisers had been designed. The Germans knew, only the approach of darkness could save them.

Each of the German ships were caught and sunk with heavy loss of life, only Dresden escaped.

During the chase, Inflexible & Invincible (16 x 12" guns) engaged and sank Scharnhorst & Gneisenau (16 x 8" guns) . Glasgow & Cornwall (16 x 6" & 10 X 4" guns) engaged and sank Leipzig (12 x 4.1" guns). Kent (14 x 6" guns) engaged and sank Nurnberg  (10 x 4.1" guns). Only Dresden (12 x 4.1" guns) escaped into the darkness.

Seldom could a one-sided defeat be revenged by an even more one sided victory.

The German ships were:-
Armoured Cruisers; Scharnhorst, Gneisenau.
Light Cruisers; Dresden, Leipzig, Nurnberg

HM Ships
 Bristol Carnarvon  Cornwall  Glasgow  Inflexible 
Invincible  Kent  Macedonia     
This page last edited - 27 March, 2013.

Copyright Ian M King, except where otherwise indicated.