Sunday, 2 November 2014

South Atlantic Campaign November 1914

This is posted out of order but closer to the actual centenary of the Battle of Coronel. This was a shattering event for the British nation, as the first defeat for the Fleet since before Trafalgar.It wasn't until November 4th that news reached London and the shock was felt.The response was equally conclusive, described in great detail by Churchill in the Great War Vol. 2. Beeb website has good account  

Campaign in South Atlantic – October –December 1914
(Coronel and the Falklands)
Despite the overall strength of the British Navy, it was stretched greatly by the need to cover the widespread German raiders. However, on October 30th Konigsberg had been identified and isolated off East Africa; and on November 9th, Emden, the only significant German raider left in Pacific apart from von Spee’s group, was sunk by the Australian navy’s cruisers Sydney and Melbourne.

Count von Spee took Scharnhorst and Gneisenau to the South Pacific from China, both for offensive purposes and to protect German traders down the west coast of South America. It became clear by the beginning of October it became clear they had been joined by the Emden, previously acting as a lone raider in the Indian Ocean, plus the light cruisers Dresden and Karlsruhe.
Rear Admiral Cradock led the British Fleet efforts across the South Atlantic to intercept and engage von Spee, although the German forces outgunned the British significantly. The ageing battleship Canopus was sent to strengthen the British force, but slowed them down in their pursuit around the Horn. Against orders, Cradock left the Canopus behind, and set off to hunt the Scharnhorst and Gneisenau off the south west coast of South America.
(Buchan) The opponents, Cradock from the south and von Spee from the north were moving towards a conflict like one of the historic naval battles, a fight without mines, submarines or destroyers, where the two squadrons were to draw into line ahead, and each ship selects its antagonist as in the ancient days.

October 31st. German forces sighted south of Valparaiso.
November 1st. Action off Coronel, and a grievous defeat for Britain. The HMS Monmouth and Good Hope (latter with Cradock on board) were both sunk off Coronel with no survivors.

Following this disaster, Churchill and Fisher assembled a strong force to deal with any possible next moves by von Spee, whether back across the Pacific; up the west coast of S America, forcing the Panama Canal; or taking the southerly Cape Horn route and out into the South Atlantic. Japanese co-operation on the Pacific side was significant. Also, Australian ships came to add to the Pacific coverage.

On 11th November . with maximum pressure from WSC, the battle cruiser Dreadnoughts Invincible and Inflexible were dispatched from Devonport to strengthen the forces ranged against von Spee. They reached Port Stanley on 7th December.
The next day, Scharnhorst and Gneisenau arrived within sight of the Falklands. They had planned a raid on the coal stores held there, but when they saw the two Dreadnoughts, they knew they were finished.
After an action lasting several hours, all German ships were sunk, effectively
finishing Germany as a naval presence anywhere except home waters. Only the Dresden remained of von Spee’s proud squadron of capital ships. She escaped to cause further damage but was eventually caught and sunk in March 1915.

British Fleet at Port Stanley

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