Forum Eerste Wereldoorlog Forum Index Forum Eerste Wereldoorlog
Hét WO1-forum voor Nederland en Vlaanderen
 FAQFAQ   ZoekenZoeken   GebruikerslijstGebruikerslijst   WikiWiki   RegistreerRegistreer 
 ProfielProfiel   Log in om je privé berichten te bekijkenLog in om je privé berichten te bekijken   InloggenInloggen   Actieve TopicsActieve Topics 

Latin America & the Great War

Plaats nieuw bericht   Plaats Reactie    Forum Eerste Wereldoorlog Forum Index -> Algemeen Actieve Topics
Vorige onderwerp :: Volgende onderwerp  
Auteur Bericht
Percy Toplis

Geregistreerd op: 9-5-2009
Berichten: 16280
Woonplaats: Suindrecht

BerichtGeplaatst: 07 Nov 2010 22:01    Onderwerp: Latin America & the Great War Reageer met quote

1914-1918: The Death Throes of Civilisation.
The elites of Latin America face the Great War

Institut des Hautes Etudes de l’Amérique latine
(Université Paris 3 – Sorbonne Nouvelle)

The historiography of twentieth-century Latin America has neglected the years
1914-1918. Most of those who seek to define the century in terms of identifiable periods
choose to concentrate less on the two world wars than on two turning points that mark a
true break in continuity in the sub-continent’s contemporary history: one consists of the
social and political effects of the economic crisis that began in the United States in October
1929, the other is Fidel Castro’s assumption of power in Havana in January 1959.1 The
natural conclusion of this approach is that the Great War did not have the same formative
role in Latin America that it is held to play in Europe. Yet this proposition does not mean
that the First World War in Latin America remains a completely neglected topic. For
example, within the framework of a traditional diplomatic history it is possible to analyse
why certain nations sustained a prudent neutrality until November 1918, or why other
states finally rallied to the Allied cause; it has also been possible to measure the impact of
the war on the economy of certain countries, such as Argentina, Chile or Brazil, which
profited from reduced agricultural production in Europe by seizing new markets and
fundamentally modernising their structures.2 Yet the chronology of 1914-1918 has
undoubtedly been very little studied to date, rather as if the absence of any collective
memory of the Great War in Latin America condemned the period to complete oblivion.
Having established these factors, this paper does not claim to introduce a
historiographical revolution and present the First World War as a major break in the
specific chronology of Latin America. More modestly, it seeks to suggest some ways in
which the impact of the years 1914-1918 across the Atlantic can be re-evaluated as part of a
cultural and intellectual history. For although the Latin American nations did not
experience warfare within their own territory, nor live through the suffering of war, they
were the privileged spectators and ultimate new participating entrants in the cultural
confrontation that engulfed the chief belligerent nations — led by France and Germany.
This was intensified by Latin America’s nineteenth century, mostly lived with eyes fixed on
European civilisation — in all its many forms — and with their identity as newly
emancipated states constructed from it, frequently in mimetic style.3 Perceived as the
death-agony of Belle Epoque Europe (as it was possible to imagine and dream of it across
the Atlantic), the Great War helped to destroy images, to transform the imagination of the
Latin American élites and to strengthen a questioning of identity that was already emerging
in the earliest years of the century. Without being a true mould of the Latin American
twentieth century, the war thus appears to have influenced some fundamental tendencies
and to have acted to some extent as an accelerator.

Author manuscript, published in "Uncovered fields. Perspectives in First World War Studies, Jenny MACLEOD et Pierre PURSEIGLE (Ed.) (2004) 279-295"
Lees verder op

“I hope you live a life you are proud of. If you find that you are not, l hope you have the strength to start all over again.
- F. Scott Fitzgerald
Naar boven
Bekijk gebruikers profiel Stuur privé bericht
Percy Toplis

Geregistreerd op: 9-5-2009
Berichten: 16280
Woonplaats: Suindrecht

BerichtGeplaatst: 07 Nov 2010 22:05    Onderwerp: Reageer met quote

German Commerce Raiders in Latin American Waters
by Jamie Bisher

In late January 1915, the first American merchant vessel lost to hostile action was sunk by a German auxiliary cruiser in the South Atlantic. The William P. Frye, an imposing four-masted steel windjammer (barque), had just rounded the horn en route from Seattle to England with a 5,034-ton cargo of wheat when SMS Prinz Eitel Friedrich stopped her on January 27. Korvettenkapitän Thierichens ordered the windjammer to jettison her cargo. The Americans stalled, and Thierichens sank the ship, the namesake of a senator from Maine, on the 28th.[1] This action signaled the beginning of a new phase in the naval war that would profoundly affect Latin America.

British merchant ships had been accused of serving as auxiliary cruisers for the Royal Navy early in the war. A fierce pre-war rivalry between Great Britain’s Pacific Steam Navigation Company (PSNC) and the Kosmos Line intensified after war broke out. The PSNC had plied Eastern Pacific waters since 1840, and now linked Panama, Punta Arenas and points in between, while also touching at Buenos Aires, Montevideo and Rio de Janeiro. PSNC ships serviced Admiral Craddock’s fleet before it was sunk at Coronel, provoking protests from German Minister von Erckert, of course. In late October 1914, he successfully prevailed upon the Chilean government to intern two British freighters, Benbrook and Langoe, that had ferried supplies to the Royal Navy warships.[2]

German naval intelligence maintained covert supply lines to warships in American waters and informed them of targets. Captain Karl Boy-Ed, German naval attaché in Washington, commanded an extensive Etappendienst network in the Americas that was active from Seattle to Punta Arenas, comprising a vast underground of naval intelligence and logistics experts. Its’ first mission was to secretly purchase, assemble and distribute provisions and coal to German raiders in the Pacific Ocean. Key figures in the South American arena included German Minister to Chile Karl von Erckert in Santiago, Consul Rudolf Stubenrauch in Punta Arenas, and naval attaché Captain August Moller in Buenos Aires. Moller was accredited to Argentina, Brazil, Chile and Uruguay, and during the first months of the war organized the dispatch of no less than 37 auxiliary vessels to assist Admiral von Spee’s fleet and other German warships. [3]

German shipping and trading companies played leading roles in the Etappendienst. H. Folsch y Compañia in Valparaiso and Brauss Mahn and Company in Buenos Aires equipped auxiliary vessels for the German fleet. [4] The role of the Chile-based Kosmos Line was eventually exposed by British Naval Intelligence via The Providence Journal newspaper. Kosmos would load a single vessel with large quantities of Chilean coal, supposedly to distribute among its’ large company fleet, but secretly transferred the precious fuel to warships at sea. The Kosmos Line petitioned the Chilean government on September 29, 1914 for permission for Luxor to embark up to 12,000 tons of coal to distribute to the Kosmos fleet, rather than compel the disbursed ships to make a special trip to coaling ports and risk seizure by the Royal Navy. The latter action aroused the Chilean government’s suspicions: after all, Foreign Minister Lira had offered Chilean Navy escorts so that German merchantmen could continue trading.[5] The Kosmos Line flaunted Chilean law and port authorities: Luxor vanished from Coronel late one October night, then mysteriously appeared six weeks later in Callao, where it was interned by Peruvian authorities. In the meantime, on November 7-8, 1914, two other Kosmos liners, Santa Isabel and Amasis, delivered supplies to Scharnhorst and three other warships in the Easter Islands.[6] Clearly the Kosmos Line’s patriotic Etappendienst duties transcended its commercial mission.

A motley variety of mercenaries cashed in on this underground traffic. They included a Norwegian bark named Helicon and US freighters Sacramento and Mazatlan among many others. Helicon and Sacramento even attended the brazen convocation of German warships in the Easter Islands on November 7-8, 1914. Sacramento had cleared a US port with a large cargo for Valparaiso yet arrived there empty; her captain insisted that the German Navy commandeered his ship en route and relieved her of her cargo. Other ships employed false manifests to camouflage their secret supply activities and hefty profits therefrom.[7]

British protests exposed the secret German supply missions and caused a scandal in Chile. German Minister von Erckert explained the situation in a November 24 telegram to Berlin:

Lately, as a consequence of the British protests, it has only been possible to send supplies by secretly dispatching two Kosmos steamers. When the supply ships which had sailed under a false pretext returned, and it became known that the squadron had remained some time at Juan Fernandez [Island], public opinion was much excited at the contempt thus shown for the sovereignty and neutrality of Chile.

Intercepted telegrams between Captain Boy-Ed in Washington and the Admiralty Staff in Berlin revealed the activities, strengths and weaknesses of the Etappendienst to US State Department intelligence. In December 1914, Boy-Ed informed Moller when freighter Fanni—apparently a target for German marauders—sailed from Norfolk for Buenos Aires. A German agent in Pernambuco, Brazil notified Boy-Ed by telegram when merchantman Sierra Cordoba left Montevideo on December 18 to supply SMS Dresden with coal and provisions, and when Josefina pulled into Montevideo four days later to take on more supplies for the raider.[8] While the Dresden haunted shipping lanes, Consul Stubenrauch kept Berlin informed of the ship’s situation via Moller and von Bernstorff. In mid-January the latter told the Admiralty that Dresden was “hidden at Tierra del Fuego Island… in the Cruiser outfitting place,” and that supply ships Josefina and Eleonore Wörmann had been captured by the British.[9]

On February 4, 1915 the German Navy added a second barrier to trade between Europe and Latin America when it began submarine attacks against all ships going in and out of Allied ports. German unterseebooten—U-boats—initially targeted merchant ships supplying Great Britain. French and Scandinavian markets were choked, and British trade became erratic because of shipping losses and the need to conserve financial resources. Only Brazil possessed a merchant fleet of any size in Latin America, so the German submarine peril threatened Latin American commerce and economic well-being much more than it indigenous ships and sailors. British ships bore the brunt of trans-Atlantic trade and the risk of sinking now as well—British merchantmen had carried two-thirds of Argentina’s pre-war commerce, and that proportion increased as they filled the void left by Germany’s interned carriers.[10] Nevertheless, Latin American passengers and cargo would inevitably suffer from the German submarine campaign.

Chile’s German immigrant population enthusiastically supported the Etappendienst. The bulk of Chile’s 17,686 Volksdeutsche and 10,724 Reichsdeutsche were clustered in rural, all-German settlements close to the coast. Most were farmers and tradesmen long detached from the Fatherland, although the powerful merchants, importers and bankers in Santiago and Valparaiso maintained close contact with their diplomatic and intelligence services. Chile was also home to some 3,813 Austro-Hungarian citizens, although many of the latter were Dalmatians of dubious loyalty to the Central Powers.[11]

In February 1915, the heartfelt support of Chile’s German colony for the war effort emerged in the seclusion of Quintupeu Fjord, in the Gulf of Ancud, near Llancahué Island. SMS Dresden, the last surviving cruiser of von Spee’s fleet, slipped into the single narrow entrance of the fjord on February 6, 1915, squeaks from her damaged machinery echoing off sheer green walls of rich flora that towered 1,500 feet over the ship. At dusk a sailboat appeared, piloted by a German-Chilean merchant, Enrique Oelkers, flying a German flag and bringing supplies, coal, mechanics and Albert Pagels, followed by other small craft that sheepishly approached Dresden. Soon the deck of the warship became the scene of an impromptu party as German settlers served sausages, strudels, beer and other delights, while a band began to play. The sailors were enchanted by this warm welcome, the archaic language of their visitors, laughter, jokes, children and even girls who were happy to dance with the valiant heroes of SMS Dresden. Early the following morning, the rejuvenated crew began repairing the rudder and other equipment. Damaged parts were sent to Puerto Montt and Calbuco to be fixed. Soon the Dresden was ready to make a dash for the open ocean. Captain Lüdecke asked Pagels for one final favor: to continue running back and forth to port to hoodwink British spies into thinking that Dresden was still undergoing repairs.

When SMS Dresden emerged from Quintupeu Fjord, she left behind the legend of a hidden chest of Mexican treasure and, of most concern to Allied intelligence, reports of an enthusiastic German fifth column in Latin America.[12] She also opened the scars of a Chilean-Argentine dispute over the waters and territory of the Beagle Channel, which prompted Chilean naval authorities to insist a number of times that their government establish an administrative presence at Navarino, to no avail. The Dresden’s legacy would be one of mystery, suspicion and renewed animosity between neighbors.[13]

SMS Dresden played cat and mouse with an Allied flotilla that was scouring the Eastern Pacific in pursuit. Defiantly, the German marauder remained in American waters contrary to Berlin’s desires and ran down and scuttled a British bark, the Conway Castle, 560 miles southwest of Valparaiso on February 27, 1915.[14] Soon after, a gifted signal officer aboard HMS Glasgow, Charles Stuart, intercepted and deciphered a message from Nauen to SMS Dresden that revealed the raider ship’s next rendezvous for coaling. Stuart’s feat ordained Dresden’s day of reckoning when she was cornered by British cruisers Glasgow and Kent and armed transport Orama at Cumberland Bay in the remote Juan Fernandez Islands, 400 miles off the Chilean coast on March 10, 1915. Captain Emil Fritz Lüdecke could no longer scrounge enough coal to keep Dresden moving; even the ship’s cook had to forage for firewood on the island. HMS Glasgow pressed the attack in Chilean waters, violating Chilean neutrality but forcing Dresden’s surrender after a brief exchange of gunfire. On March 14, Lüdecke scuttled Dresden with her colors flying and guns stilled trained while Lieutenant Wilhelm Canaris distracted the British with a meaningless parlay about surrender terms.[15] This reduced the German naval threat in the East Pacific and South Atlantic Oceans for the time being.

Coincidentally the German surface threat to North Atlantic commerce diminished that same week when SMS Prinz Eitel Friedrich put into Norfolk, Virginia for repairs and was interned. During her 218-day war cruise from Shanghai she sank eleven merchant ships totaling 33,423 tons.[16]

Four days after scuttling their ship, 300 officers and men of Dresden were transported to the Chilean Navy’s main base at Talcahuano Bay for internment on Quiriquina Island. Minister von Erckert energetically protested their internment, to no avail.[17] However, many of the Dresden crew would not be content to sit out the war in internment. The German intelligence network in Chile and Argentina promptly began working on escape plans for a few internees. Some would become participants in campaigns of espionage and sabotage in the Americas and at least one would manage to return to Germany.

Only in March 1915 did Chilean officials begin to realize the extent of German abuse of their neutrality. Santiago dispatched the training ship Baquedano to Easter Island to investigate rumors and British protests of German activity there. Chilean naval investigators discovered that SMS Prinz Eitel Friedrich had made Angarroa a temporary base in early December 1914, anchoring for eight days and establishing an armed observation post on Mount La Pérouse while stripping the captured French sailing ship Jean.[18] Chilean diplomats eventually protested these indignities with Berlin, but they did not find out about the secret Quintupeu Fjord repairs until years later.

The last German auxiliary in the Atlantic, SMS Kronprinz Wilhelm, scored its final kills off the Brazilian coast in March. It had captured the large French freighter Guadaloupe on February 22 en route to Bordeaux from Buenos Aires. Kronprinz Wilhelm clung to her for two weeks, slowing draining her provisions like a spider before discarding her on March 9. In the meantime, the Holgar, a German steamer that had provided logistics support to Kronprinz Wilhelm for 36 days, was interned in Argentina February 26. The raider captured, looted and sank two more British vessels near the end of the month, but could not scavenge enough to sustain her 420-man crew. Desperate for coal, water and food, SMS Kronprinz Wilhelm sailed into Norfolk, Virginia on April 11 and was interned two weeks later.[19] From this time forward the only surface vessels that Germany could call upon in Latin American waters were foreign mercenaries hired by German naval intelligence.

* * *


[1]. William P. Frye was sunk at sunk at 29°45' S and 24°50' W. Her destination was given as Queenstown, Falmouth or Plymouth.

[2]. Martin, pp. 295-296. Von Erckert was born in 1869 in Berlin and had been German minister in Santiago since 1910.

[3]. August 1918 British Naval Staff Intelligence Department report, “Argentina and Chile: Suggested Disclosure of German Intrigues,” RG59.

[4]. August 1918 British Naval Staff Intelligence Department report.

[5]. Martin, pp. 291-295.

[6]. Martin, pp. 291-292. Luxor was loaded with 3,600 tons of coal when it departed at midnight “without the customary papers and without the permission of the authorities.”

[7]. Sperry, p. 39, Martin, pp. 292 and 301, and Katz p. 413. The Kosmos Line petitioned the Chilean government on September 29, 1914 for permission for Luxor to embark up to 12,000 tons of coal to distribute to the Kosmos fleet, rather than compel the disbursed ships to make a special trip to coaling ports. Katz writes that the head of the Etappendienst in the US was one Knorr.

[8]. December 24, 1914 telegram from Naval Attache to Admiralty Staff, NARA RG59, Entry 349.

[9]. January 19, 1915 telegram W. no. 122 from Bernstorff to Berlin, NARA RG59, Entry 349.

[10]. Escude, Carlos and Cisneros, Andres, Historia General de las Relaciones Exteriores de la Republica Argentina, Consejo Argentino para las Relaciones Internacionales, Buenos Aires, 2000, Cap. 42

[11]. Martin, p. 269.

[12]. Johnson Edwards cites brief remarks by Captain Lüdecke to a visiting “Captain Wiebliz” (a Kapitänleutnant Ernst Wieblitz appears on the wartime list of naval officers) suggesting that a wooden box, which was custom made on board Dresden by carpenter Gregor Bitter then sealed with tar, encased in concrete and topped with five iron hooks, was hidden someplace in Quintupeu fjord, possibly by Canaris and torpedoeman Karl Hartwig, containing a “Mexican treasure.” Lüdecke allegedly remarked, “Our destiny is too uncertain to continue with this responsibility [of safeguarding the treasure].”

[13]. “Geneis de las Pretensiones Argentinas Sobre el Territorio Chileno del Canal de Beagle,” 2005 (available at:, accessed October 31, 2005). The Chilean Navy’s Dirección General de la Armada insisted on December 30, 1914 and February 3, 1915 that the government permit the establishment of a Subdelegación Marítima in the disputed islands. Previous requests had been submitted in December 1911 and June 1914.

[14]. January 3, 1915 telegram B. No. 477 from Foreign Office to German Embassy, Washington. This message requested that von Erckert, Moller and Stubenrauch notify SMS Dresden that “the safest way home is the sailing ship route…”

[15]. Martin, pp. 310-315, and “Hilfskreuzer SMS Moewe: Ships – Dresden,” and West, Nigel, The SIGINT Secrets, Morrow, New York, 1986, p. 78. Dresden casualty figures vary: eight or nine killed and somewhere between sixteen and forty wounded. The destruction of the East Asiatic Squadron allowed Australia’s newer warships to be dispatched to the Atlantic and Mediterranean theatres, while ANZAC troop convoys could now sail with lighter escorts to Europe and the Middle East.

[16]. “Hilfskreuzer SMS Moewe: Ships – Prinz Eitel Friedrich,” SMS Prinz Eitel Friedrich sailed into Norfolk on March 11, 1915.

[17]. Martin, p. 315.

[18]. Martin, p. 308. The German ship arrived about December 10.

[19]. Martin, pp. 189-190. Holgar was interned on February 26, 1915 at El Arsenal del Rio de la Plata, and was the subject of a New York Times article on February 21.

“I hope you live a life you are proud of. If you find that you are not, l hope you have the strength to start all over again.
- F. Scott Fitzgerald
Naar boven
Bekijk gebruikers profiel Stuur privé bericht
Percy Toplis

Geregistreerd op: 9-5-2009
Berichten: 16280
Woonplaats: Suindrecht

BerichtGeplaatst: 07 Nov 2010 22:35    Onderwerp: Reageer met quote

by Capt (SAN) Ivor C Little

Every once in a while in some war or other there occurs an incident or battle which, although strategically of little importance, has such a dramatic impact that it captures the public's imagination and enters into the history books.
Such a battle, or pair of battles since classed as one, took place off the coast of South America and in the South Pacific between 1 November and 8 December 1914.

It was the heyday of the battleship and vast surface fleets had been built and deployed by the various colonial powers in the run-up to the First World War (1914-1918).

One such fleet was the German Asian Cruiser Squadron based at Tsing-Tau to the north of Shanghai in China. It was a crack squadron of the Imperial German Navy and was commanded by Vice-Admiral Maximilian von Spee who flew his flag from the modern armoured heavy-cruiser Scharnhorst. The other ships in his fleet were Scharnhorst's sister ship Gneisenau, and the light cruisers Emden, Leipzig and Nuremburg. Soon after the outbreak of the war Von Spee's squadron was also joined by the Dresden from the Atlantic.

Von Spee's ships were a mixed bunch. The two sisters, Scharnhorst and Gneisenau, were part of a large order of fourteen armoured cruisers as provided for by the Second Navy Law at the turn of the century. All of this type were intended to act as overseas station ships in the colonies and, as various groups came out, they were each an improvement on their predecessors. The two sisters were launched within months of each other in 1906 and had a deep load displacement of 12 781 tons each and a main armament of seventeen single turrets in a wing arrangement over the casemates. As with their predecessors they were placed on overseas stations and from 1911 onwards were based at Tsing-Tau. Both ships were considered too weak to be part of a battle fleet.

Leipzig was a basic pattern light cruiser of a 1901 design for overseas stations. She was upgunned with 15 cm guns at the beginning of the war and had a displacement of 3 756 tons. She had been launched in 1905.

Dresden and Emden were also sister ships and were probably to become the most famous in the squadron for their exploits. Built as part of a 1905/1906 programme they were turbine driven and had a deep load displacement of 4 268 tons. Both ships were launched after 1905, Emden in 1906 and Dresden in 1907. The Nurnberg was an earlier (1906) version of the same programme with a slightly lighter displacement. All three were well armed with a main armament of ten 5,2 cm guns. By the standards of the time the ships, although not new, were by no means obsolescent and Von Spee had a very efficient fleet under his command. Regular drills, frequent sea time and frequent gunnery practice had in fact gained the East Asian Cruiser Fleet, a reputation as a 'crack' squadron.

Von Spee's immediate worry as war approached in 1914 was Japan's probable position in any forthcoming conflict. If Japan remained neutral von Spee could commence commerce raiding in the Pacific and Indian Oceans with Tsing-Tau as his base and be able to choose his own time to return to Europe via Cape Horn. Should Japan, however, opt to enter the war on the side of the Entente Cordiale it would be taken for granted Japan would immediately attack the nearest German positions and Von Spec would lose his base at Tsing-Tau. Playing it safe, Von Spee put to sea 'on a cruise' about a month before war actually broke out, leaving one ship, the Emden, in Tsing-Tau; Von Spee then disappeared into the Pacific.

As war appeared inevitable, the captain of the Emden, Von Muller, also quietly prepared for sea and on 31 July 1914, left Tsing-Tau and positioned himself to attack shipping in the Far East. The Emden then embarked on a short-lived but exciting escapade which has since been the subject of quite a few writings and praise. Von Muller, who gained the reputation of a chivalrous and daring commander, opened the game by capturing a Russian merchant ship, the Rjäsan, as soon as war was declared between Russia and Germany.

She then rejoined her squadron briefly which, in the meantime, was being reinforced by colliers and supply ships and, after two days in their company, sailed for the Palan Islands which lie east of the Philippines. Accompanied by a collier she then jinked across to India via Timor, Java and the Lombok Strait, avoiding contact with the British, French and Japanese warships hunting her and safely disguised by the skilful use of wood and canvas.

Arriving in the Bay of Bengal she recommenced her career and the guise of a commerce raider with the capture of a Greek collier on 10 September. Von Muller was extremely chivalrous to the survivors of the ships he sank or captured and rapidly built a reputation for himself and his ship as a gallant foe. On 9 November his luck ran out when he was caught by the Australian cruiser HMAS Sydney. The Emden was so badly damaged as a result of the ensuing gun battle that Von Muller beached her on the reefs of North Keeling Island, one of the Cocos Islands. The survivors, however, lived to fight another day by means of an adventurous journey during which they captured first a schooner and then a steamer in which they made their way to Mecca. Crossing Saudi-Arabia, Syria and Turkey they eventually arrived in Constantinople from where they returned to Germany, Turkey being a German ally. A new Emden, displaying an Iron Cross in honour of her namesake was launched in 1916 but failed to live up to expectations and was broken up in 1926.

Whilst the Emden was carving her niche as a raider, her sister ship the Dresden was also busy. Well-known for her participation in the international force which intervened in the Mexican Revolution of 1910, the Dresden was in the West Indies when the war commenced. Trying to emulate the Emden she rounded the southern tip of America via the Magellan Strait, encountered the Leipzig and, with her, joined Von Spee's squadron which by that time was at Easter Island. Von Spee then had a full squadron once more and was still undetected. His two main concerns were firstly to avoid the powerful Japanese Navy and, secondly, to find a neutral coast where he could shelter, coal and prepare to break into the Atlantic and home. He decided to head for the southern part of Chile.

In London the Admiralty was acutely conscious of the threat posed by Von Spee. The damaged caused by the Emden and a recent setback for the Royal Navy, when the German ships Goeben and Breslau slipped their way through to Turkey to bring that country into the war on the side of Germany, was a spur to action. The Admiralty realized that should Von Spee enter the Atlantic, the Empire's major trade routes would be at risk; he would therefore have to be intercepted before he could do so.

The job of stopping Von Spee was given to Rear Admiral Sir Christopher Cradock who was given a squadron with which 'to destroy the Germans'. His squadron consisted of five ships - the cruisers Good Hope and Monmouth, the light cruiser Glasgow, an armed merchant cruiser Otranto and the battleship Canopus. Cradock was to sail as soon as possible from the UK and base himself on the Falklands. The Canopus would not be ready on time but would join him en route. Cradock seems to have taken a long time to assemble his ships, man them with reservists and get away, but by October 1914 he was through the Straits of Magellan and moving up the Chilean coast looking for Von Spee.

Cradock was flying his flag from Good Hope, one of those elderly large cruisers (built in 1901) which, being 'too weak to fight and too slow to run away', were usually used for colonial outposts. The Monmouth was a similar type of ship but smaller (9 800 tons compared to 14 150) and was launched in 1901. His best ship was the Glasgow which was launched in 1909 as one of a class of five ships which were the starting point for the Royal Navy's most successful cruiser design. The battleship Canopus was probably the original paper tiger, having been built in 1897 and capable of no more than 13 knots. The remaining ship Otranto was an Orient Line passenger vessel converted into an Armed Merchant Cruiser and armed with eight 4,7-inch guns.

With this fleet Cradock was hunting and hoping to find a crack squadron of fairly modern ships, one of which, the Scharnhorst was the holder of the Kaiser's trophy for naval gunnery. One wonders whether Cradock seriously thought that he could defeat Von Spee. His ships were inferior and not as well armed. Their design was poorer in that the German ships had their guns better placed for use in rough weather. His crews were not as well trained. All these things counted against him. On the other hand Cradock was a product of the Edwardian navy which was still glorying in a tradition of Nelson's victories and of defeating impossible odds. Another factor was that one of his fellow cruiser admirals, Rear Admiral Troubridge, had recently been severely reprimanded for not having engaged the 23 000 ton battle-cruiser Goeben with the cruiser Gloucester.

Cradock's strategy was, possibly, to slow down or damage Von Spee's ships in such a way that Von Spee could then be brought to bay by heavier ships, sunk by the Canopus' heavy guns or forced to hole up in a neutral port for repairs.

Whatever his strategy on entering the Pacific, Cradock sent the Glasgow scouting ahead and had the old Canopus far astern escorting his colliers. The stage was set for the first surface battle defeat by the British at the hands of the German Navy.

Towards the end of the month and as they moved north, the Glasgow intercepted a cypher message from the Leipzig. Von Spee had been found! At the same time reports reached Von Spee of the Glasgow looking for him and he immediately steamed south to catch and annihilate her. The strange situation had thus developed where the entire British fleet was chasing after the Leipzig in a northerly direction and the entire German fleet was hunting the Glasgow in a southerly direction. A clash was inevitable and in the early hours of the morning of 1 November 1914, the two fleets were irrevocably destined to meet up during the day.

At 14:35 that afternoon by which time the two fleets were labouring through high seas in a strong south-easterly wind, Cradock ordered his ships to open out into a line of search fifteen miles [24 km] apart and to set a speed of 10 knots.

This was done, and two hours later Glasgow sighted and reported smoke inshore towards the north-east. A short while later she reported two large ships and a smaller one. The reason for this was that Dresden was tailing 12 miles [19 km] behind her squadron and was, therefore, still invisible, whilst Nurnberg was even further astern. Cradock realized that he had found Von Spee and that he was apparently facing only the Scharnhorst, Gneisenau and Leipzig, a fact confirmed when Von Spee altered course towards the Glasgow . It was some time, however, before Von Spee realized that the Glasgow was not alone and that he had stumbled upon Cradock's fleet. In fact he did not positively identify all his opponents until 18:04.

With the odds not so badly against him Cradock formed a line ahead and altered course to cut across ahead of Von Spee thus attempting to put himself between the Germans and the land and silhouetting them against the setting sun. Unfortunately, he lacked the speed to carry out the manoeuvre and, by altering course and increasing speed, Von Spee prevented the movement and, in doing so, pulled ahead of his own squadron. The two fleets ended up 12 miles [19 km] apart and converging.

At this stage Cradock decided to attack, which had always been his intention. He had informed the British authorities in Valparaiso that he would attack if he fell in with Von Spee even though he has since been criticised for not falling back on the battleship Canopus 250 miles [402 km] or 24 hours astern. However, he had found his enemy, night was approaching and if Von Spee slipped past him, Cradock would be severely censured. Advising the Canopus that he was going into action, he ordered the Otranto to stay out of the battle and the Glasgow to escape if the battle went against him. He then took the Good Hope and Monmouth against what was now known to be five enemy cruisers. The two armoured cruisers had little hope of victory and the battle of Coronel, as it became known, was a short, sharp and one-sided affair. Cradock's ships made beautiful targets, silhouetted against a glowing red sunset. It was an hour before sunset and the German Fleet was already lost in the murk and shadow of the land for the British gunners. By contrast the clouds had cleared over the westerly horizon and the British fleet was still a clear target. This coupled with the disparity in firepower and experience made a German victory inevitable. Von Spee opened fire at 19:00 at a range of seven miles and the action then soon became general.

The Otranto which was completely ineffective got herself to starboard of Glasgow for protection and with that ship took no part in the battle. With the bigger ships it was different. At the third salvo Scharnhorst' s prize gunners found the Good Hope's range and knocked her guns out, one of them before it had even opened fire. Within five minutes Monmouth was being badly hit by Gneisenau whilst Leipzig and Dresden went after the Glasgow , although they also concentrated their fire on the two armoured cruisers to a large extent. The converging courses continued to shorten the distance and by 19:40 the Monmouth was down by the head and on fire aft. The Good Hope, also ablaze amidships turned towards the enemy with the intention of carrying out a torpedo attack, but suddenly blew up at 19:50 and sank at 19:57 with no survivors.

At this the British scattered. Monmouth, on fire, sinking and listing badly limped northwards only to encounter the still trailing Nurnberg. The latter immediately put a salvo into her. There was no reply and no surrender, whereupon the Nurnberg re-opened fire and the Monmouth heeled over and sank with all hands and her ensign still flying.

Glasgow and Otranto headed west into what was now a dark Pacific. In the days before radar, shadowing was practically impossible and the Glasgow soon slipped and outran her opponents. The Otranto hid in the multiple inlets of the Chilean coast and found her way back to the Atlantic to resume her career as an AMC, ultimately being lost in a collision in 1917. The Glasgow escaped with only splinter damage and made her way to the Falklands in company with the Canopus and then on to Montevideo. Both would soon take part in a revenge action.

Von Spee emerged as a sensitive and respected leader, who refrained from crowing over his triumph, and was later honoured by having a new German pocket-battleship, the Graf Spee named after him - a ship which gave even greater lustre to his name.

Cradock, who was a studious and thoughtful officer with an honourable record of active service, was probably in what in modern day terms is called a 'no win situation' and today he is forgotten other than as being a good example of getting on with one's duty without counting the personal cost.

Thus ended Act One. Stung and insulted by this German victory at sea over the heirs of Nelson, Winston Churchill as First Lord of the Admiralty ordered that von Spee be hunted down, and Admiral "Jackie" Fisher, the First Sea Lord responded immediately by ordering the battle cruisers Invincible and Inflexible to the Falkland Islands under the command of Admiral Sturdee.

By sending these two ships Fisher was announcing a vendetta which could only end in the destruction of von Spee's ships if they caught him. These two ships were 'a state of the art' design for their time. The Japanese profiting from the naval victory at Tsushima during the Russo-Japanese war had developed a class of armoured cruisers with 12-inch guns in two twin turrets, a dozen 6-inch guns and a dozen 4,7-inch guns. They had a speed of 20,5 knots and were a match for any contemporary battleship. The plans of one, the Tsukuba were made available to the Royal Navy and were used for the Invincible and Inflexible. The pair were classed as battle-cruisers and were launched in 1907. They were outstandingly successful in this role - heavily armed and with turbines giving them a speed of 25,5 knots. At the time both ships were attached to the Home Fleet from where they were detached to refit and store at Devonport. They left there on 11 November and arrived in the Falklands on 7 December 1914.

Fisher also threw a ring of twenty-eight ships around Coronel, seven at Suva in Fiji, four off the West Coast of South America, seven at Montevideo, six at the Cape of Good Hope and four in the West Indies. The British thus blocked von Spee's escape route to the Panama Canal, covered any move back into the Central Pacific, had the shipping route to the River Plate secured, and had the exit into the Atlantic from the Strait of Magellan blocked.

The Falkland Islands seemed to Fisher to be the key to stopping von Spee. He felt that the Germans were trying to get back into the Atlantic and thence to Germany and would use the Magellan Strait, the Panama Canal route being a dead give-away of their position. Sturdee thus rendezvoused with Rear Admiral Stoddart and a force of cruisers from Montevideo off the Abrolhos Rocks off the coast of Brazil, and with this powerful fleet pushed on to take up a position off the entrance to the Strait of Magellan. First port of call was Port Stanley in the Falklands to coal and, as already mentioned, the force arrived there on the night of 7 December. There they joined the Canopus, which had been ordered to act as a gun battery to defend the port by putting herself aground and positioning her lighter armament ashore.

Sturdee thus had in addition to the Inflexible, Invincible and Canopus the light cruisers Glasgow (the Coronel survivor) and her sister Bristol and another two sisters, Cornwall and Kent. These ships all entered Port Stanley and commenced bunkering. Von Spee in the meantime found himself relatively undamaged, but with depleted stocks of coal and ammunition and lying off a small port in Chile. He thus decided that, instead of doubling back into the Pacific or using Panama, he would round Cape Horn as the action least expected of him and attack Port Stanley, the coaling station in the Falklands. After a rough passage he arrived off Port Stanley at 08:00 on the morning of 8 December 1914. The British had got there less than 12 hours before him.

The first intimation of this was when the shore look-outs in the hills above Port Stanley signalled the arrival of the Germans. Sturdee was immediately placed at the disadvantage of being bottled up in harbour where his ships could have been picked off one by one as they sailed out of the entrance. Von Spee however was confident of surprise and had no knowledge of Sturdee. He was intent only on coaling and destroying the radio station and the dense clouds of black smoke being pushed out by Sturdee's ships as they desperately got up steam was mistakenly and confidently taken as being the British burning their coal stocks to prevent them falling into German hands. Instead of increasing speed to block the entrance von Spee cruised comfortably on until his startled look-outs picked out the outline of a series of tripod masts in amongst the smoke. Von Spee immediately realized that he was up against a modern and heavy force and immediately turned away. At the same time Canopus opened fire and battle was joined.

As von Spee ran for safety each of the British ships got herself under way until at 10:00 the only ship left in the harbour besides the Canopus was the Bristol which was doing engine repairs and would try and catch up later. Even with a 15 mile start there was no way in which von Spee could escape. His ships needed a bottom clean and were no match speedwise for his more modern opponents and the British only had to ensure he did not give them the slip at nightfall. Just after lunch at 13:00 the Leipzig's stokers began to fail and the Inflexible ran her down into gunnery range and opened fire. Thus brought to bay von Spee turned the Scharnhorst and Gneisenau around to go to Leipzig's assistance, whilst his light cruisers continued running. The faster, heavier and more powerful British battle-cruisers easily stayed out of his range whilst pounding his ships to pieces and at 16:17 the Scharnhorst was sunk. By 18:00 the Gneisenau had taken a terrific battering and also went down in the freezing Atlantic. There were only 200 survivors from both ships.

In the meantime the British cruisers, glorying in the role for which they were designed went hell for leather after their German counterparts. The Kent, already 14 years old, later claimed to have reached 25 knots in catching the Nurnberg, thus exceeding her designed speed, whilst the Glasgow thirsting for revenge for Coronel and the Cornwall easily ran down the Leipzig.

In the confusion no one went after the Dresden and by nightfall she was the sole survivor of the famous squadron. With a high degree of cunning she slipped into the maze of islands and channels in the vicinity of Tierra del Fuego where she was able to hide for three months. Moving from inlet to inlet using intelligence supplied by the German immigrant settlers in the vicinity she was eventually given away whilst hiding near Juan Fernandez at Mas Afere island off the coast of Chile. Her old enemy Glasgow accompanied by Kent and the armed merchant cruiser Drama were sent to sink her and found her inside Chilean territorial waters. As she was illegally breaking Chilean neutrality they commenced shelling her into submission until the Germans called for cease-fire negotiations. One of the negotiators was Lt Wilhelm Canaris, who although unsuccessful as a negotiator then went on to become an Admiral and Chief of German Counter Intelligence. The negotiations failed and the captain of the Dresden scuttled her to avoid her capture. Peace descended on the far South Atlantic again, but the two battles as this article attests have not been forgotten.

The Germans launched a new Emden and a new Nurnberg in 1916. The first has already been described and the latter sank ignominously in 1922. There is a Cornwall, Glasgow and Bristol in the Royal Navy right now, not to mention Invincible. Scharnhorst and Gneisenau were names to be reckoned with in the Second World War but possibly Maximillian von Spee would have been extremely proud of the ship named in his honour and which also gained fame in the South Atlantic - the Graf Spee. It is also highly possible that the ship was better known than the man for whom it was named; the victor of the only conclusive sea battle won by Germany over the British.

Barnet, C. The Great War. Peerage Books.
Gray, R. ed. Conways All the Worlds Fighting Ships 1906-1921. Naval Institute Press.
Preston, A. Cruisers. Prentice Hall.
Warner, O. Great Sea Battles. Spring Book Books.

Die Suid-Afrikaanse Krygshistoriese Vereniging, Military History Journal - Vol 8 No 6,

“I hope you live a life you are proud of. If you find that you are not, l hope you have the strength to start all over again.
- F. Scott Fitzgerald
Naar boven
Bekijk gebruikers profiel Stuur privé bericht

Geregistreerd op: 1-10-2010
Berichten: 39

BerichtGeplaatst: 03 Mei 2011 23:55    Onderwerp: Vakantie foto's 2008 Reageer met quote

Nu ik me wat meer begin te verdiepen, bedenk ik me ineens dat tijdens ons bezoek aan Argentinië en Chili we in de plaats Punta Arenas ook een bezoekje brachten aan de begraafplaats (heeft altijd een aparte sfeer in Zuid Amerika) en daar zagen we iets van een monument. Mijn vriendin wilde verder maar voor mij was dit een typisch Duitse opbouw. Snel een paar foto's en weer verder. Thuis nog wel eens gekeken op wiki wat ik nu gevonden had van de "Falkland" slag. Hier gelijkgezinden getroffen en de foto's geplaatst voor de liefhebbers.

Je vind overigens nog steeds kolonisten die hun achtergrond (Ierland, Wales, Duitsland, etc) via verenigingen levend houden.
Naar boven
Bekijk gebruikers profiel Stuur privé bericht Verstuur mail MSN Messenger

Geregistreerd op: 2-2-2005
Berichten: 45653

BerichtGeplaatst: 13 Aug 2011 8:52    Onderwerp: Reageer met quote

Dit is wel een heel bijzondere 'vangst' met je camera Smile
Met hart en ziel
De enige echte
Naar boven
Bekijk gebruikers profiel Stuur privé bericht Verstuur mail Bekijk de homepage
Berichten van afgelopen:   
Plaats nieuw bericht   Plaats Reactie    Forum Eerste Wereldoorlog Forum Index -> Algemeen Tijden zijn in GMT + 1 uur
Pagina 1 van 1

Ga naar:  
Je mag geen nieuwe onderwerpen plaatsen
Je mag geen reacties plaatsen
Je mag je berichten niet bewerken
Je mag je berichten niet verwijderen
Ja mag niet stemmen in polls

Powered by phpBB © 2001, 2002 phpBB Group