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The Battle of the Falklands 8th December 1914

The Royal Navy’s spectacular retribution on 8th December 1914 in the First World War, for the sinking of Admiral Cradock’s two ships, HMS Good Hope and Monmouth at the Battle of Coronel, with the destruction of Admiral Graf von Spee’s protected cruisers SMS Scharnhorst and Gneisenau and light cruisers, Leipzig and Nürnberg

On 1 November von Spee’s squadron of five modern cruisers had defeated a small British squadron under Admiral 215 Christopher Cradock, at the Battle of Coronel, sinking two British cruisers with the loss of all hands. Von Spee approached the Falklands and discovered the British squadron comprising the battle cruisers HMS Inflexible & HMS Invincible along with the old HMS Canopus plus 3 armoured cruisers & 2 light cruisers.

Crew of HMS Kent on deck before the Battle of the Falkland Islands

A prolonged pursuit ensued, but in the early afternoon Sturdee’s battle-cruisers had caught up with von Spee’s squadron.

HMS Kent, Glasgow and Inflexible leaving Port Stanley in pursuit of the German squadron: photograph taken by Paymaster Sub-Lieutenant Duckworth RN from HMS Invincible at the beginning of the Battle of the Falkland Islands on 8th December 1914 in the First World War

To win time for the rest of his ships to escape, von Spee decided to fight with his two biggest ships, the Scharnhorst and the Gneisenau. Inevitably the two German cruisers were sunk, with heavy losses.

German Armoured Cruiser SMS Scharnhorst sinking at the Battle of the Falkland Islands 8th December 1914 in the First World War: picture by Claus Bergen

Of his remaining three ships, the Nürnberg and Leipzig were caught and sunk by the British cruisers.

Only the Dresden escaped until she was caught in March 1915. HMS Kent, cruiser, damaged.

Shell hole in a casemate on HMS Kent made during the Battle of the Falkland Islands. Sergeant Mayes RMA stands to the left of the hole

Sergeant Mayes, Royal Marine Artillery, on HMS Kent received the Conspicuous Gallantry Medal. The citation stated: ‘A shell burst and ignited some cordite charges in the casemate; a flash of flame went down the hoist into the ammunition passage.

Sergeant Mayes picked up a charge of cordite and threw it away. He then got hold of a fire hose and flooded the compartment, extinguishing the fire in some empty shell bags which were burning. The extinction of this fire saved a disaster which might have led to the loss of the ship.’

7 Royal Marines were killed: -

KELLEY, Samuel, Private, RMLI (RFR A 566), 3793 (Po):

KIND, Walter J, Private, RMLI, 15049 (Po):

TITHERIDGE, Arthur C, Private, RMLI, 11220 (Po):

WOOD, Walter, Private, RMLI, 16920 (Po) were all killed With

SNOW, George, Private, RMLI, 16958 (Po),

DOW 20 December and

SPENCE, Tom, Sergeant, RMLI (RFR), 5674 (Po), DOW 24 December

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