Rear Admiral Sir Christopher Cradock to Sir William Allardyce, Govoner of the Falkland Islands, On his departure to search for von Spee, October 1914.
After sailing from the Falklands, Rear Admiral Sir Christopher Cradock rounded the Horn with HMS Good Hope (flag), HMS Monmouth, HMS Glasgow and the Armed Merchant Cruiser Otranto. Cradock had cabled the Admiralty on 22nd October 1914 that he was going to round Cape Horn in search of Vice-Admiral Maximilian von Spee's German East Asia Squadron.
|The East Asia Squadron (and Chilean cruisers in the foreground) leaving Valparaiso harbour in Chile,|
On the morning of 1st November, Cradock's squadron was steaming north. The dawn had seen rising seas, scudding clouds and a strengthening breeze from the south-east. HMS Canopus had signalled that she was was 500 km to the south and steaming to meet them. As the day wore on, the seas grew heavier with 3 to 5 metre waved and nearly gale force winds of 30 knots.
|HMS Canopus (in her heyday) off Gibraltar by Charles Dixon (1901)|
|SMS Scharnhorst at Coronel|
|HMS Good Hope (Cradock's flagship) on fire at the action at Coronel, 1 November 1914, by W.L. Wyllie|
It is not without emotion that one contemplates the feelings of so fine an officer when suddenly he found himself face to face with the hopeless situation into which, against all his protests and better judgment, he clearly believed himself to have been forced. A cloud that can never be lifted has fallen on one of the most tragic moments in our Naval history. All we can ever know is the silver lining.
HISTORY OF THE GREAT WAR - NAVAL OPERATIONS, Volume 1, to the Battle of the Falklands, December 1914 (1920) by Sir Julian S Corbett, Accessible at: http://www.naval-history.net/WW1Book-RN1b.htm#25
|Purnell's History of the First World War (c. 1970) - possibly the first place I read of the action at Coronel!|
Historically, Cradock, on sighting von Spee's squadron, brought his ships about to cruise in line astern parallel to the enemy – the two lines of ships steaming south separated by 16,500 metres of rolling seas. Cradock's plan was to use the setting sun to his advantage – dazzling the German gun layers.
However, in this scenario, Cradock ordered his squadron to reform from line abreast to line ahead, and steered them a few points off their northerly heading towards von Spee to make a pass on the seaward side of the German line of battle.
|16:45, 1 November 1914, von Spee's East Asiatic Squadron (sailing south, bottom left) is sighted by Cradock (heading north, top right) in heavy seas off the port of Coronel on the Chilean coast (off to the left of the picture).|
|Vice-Admiral Graf Maximilian von Spee's East Asiatic Squadron - the armoured cruisers SMS Scharnhorst and SMS Gneisenau and the light cruisers SMS Dresden and SMS Leipzig (sailing backwards in this picture to taunt the British!)|
|Rear-Admiral Sir Christopher Cradock's South Atlantic Squadron - at Coronel he had the armoured cruisers HMS Good Hope (Cradock's flagship), and HMS Monmouth, the light cruiser HMS Glasgow and a converted liner—HMS Otranto.|
As the light begins to fade (below), von Spee orders all this ships to engage the British line - Glasgow (lead ship, bottom left of picture), Monmouth and Good Hope (at the rear). The setting sun outlined the British allowing the German fire controllers to send in several deadly salvos.
- Dresden and Leipzig achieve two hits on the Glasgow knocking out two 4" guns.
- Monmouth takes three hits from Gneisenau – one critical and causing a major fire – the other two knock out two 6" guns.
- Good Hope takes two hits from Scharnhorst knocking out two guns.
- The thin-skinned liner Otranto shelters further out to sea behind the British line of battle.
- Gneisenau lands two final hits on the Monmouth – she is crippled with no armaments intact.
- In the gloom Good Hope's gunners pick out the Scharnhorst and unleash a furious salvo with five hits hammering the German Flag – the Bridge receives a direct hit, major flooding is caused but is contained with a quick reaction by the damage crews.
- Leipzig responds to the last stand of the Good Hope, knocking out the Flag's fire control and the two remaining 6" guns to starboard.
- Dresden's gunners find the lumbering bulk of the Otranto in the darkness and four hits find their mark causing significant structural damage and knocking out two 4.7" guns to starboard.
Cradock's thoughts turn to how he might get past von Spee in the night and, hopefully, make harbour at Coronel in the morning. One might also pass a thought for HMS Caonopus, over 500 km (300 nautical miles) to the south of their current position, how Cradock could have used her 12" guns that evening!
|Actually, this is damage to the deck of HMS Chester sustained during the battle of Jutland – one can only imagine the challenge of making repairs on ships damaged in actions far from their home port.|