Battles of Coronel and the Falklands 1914 - A Summary

Written by Steve Cobb (, 5th January 1999

On the outbreak of war in August 1914, the Royal Navy established a network of cruiser squadrons around the world, supported by the French in the Mediterranean, and by the Japanese in the Pacific. The aim was to protect our shipping and supplies, and to disrupt that of the Central Powers, Germany & Austria-Hungary - to drive their merchant fleets and naval forces off the ocean.

A German Squadron under Vice-Admiral Graf von Spee was visiting the Far East, and following some initial operations in the Pacific, decided to return to Germany via Cape Horn. Aware of his presence off the coast of South America, a small British force sailed into Chilean waters under Rear-Admiral Sir Christopher Cradock: it consisted of three old cruisers, (HMS Good Hope, Glasgow, Monmouth) and an armed merchant cruiser, Otranto. An old, slow battleship (HMS Canopus) followed. Having left the latter some 300 miles behind, Cradock met von Spee's ships off Coronel, Chile. At the Battle of Coronel, 1 November 1914, the British were outgunned, and Cradock opted to try and inflict damage on a German squadron a long way from home. He was killed when Good Hope blew up, and Monmouth was sunk. He had ordered Otranto to escape, and Glasgow, though damaged, did too.

The response of the British Admiralty was to detach 2 battlecruisers (HMS Invincible and Inflexible) from British waters, to deal with von Spee. They sailed to the South Atlantic under Vice-Admiral Sir Doveton Sturdee. They met other British cruisers off Brazil and sailed to the Falklands. The day after arriving, von Spee also arrived from the south with 5 cruisers (SMS Scharnhorst, Gneisenau, Leipzig, Nurnburg and Dresden) and some supply ships. He intended to shell the wireless station. At Port Stanley were the two battlecruisers, and 3 cruisers, HMS Kent, Glasgow, Cornwall. Several other units, including HMS Canopus, were not ready to sail.. Von Spee turned away, and was chased by the British ships. The Battle of the Falklands (8 December 1914) was a series of duels, in which Invincible and Inflexible sank Scharnhorst & Gneisenau; Glasgow and Cornwall sank Leipzig; Kent sank Nurnburg. SMS Dresden escaped, but was caught off the coast of Chile in March 1915 and sunk.

The significance of the "Falklands" battle, is that:

Sorry, I have no pictures. There aren't many available. A good book on the naval war will give you the maps.

Cliff McMullen ( has kindly contributed this map:

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Last Updated: 21 January, 1999.