1/11/1914 The Battle of Coronel: Spee smashes Britain’s South Atlantic Squadron

Germany’s Admiral Spee has been sailing round the Pacific with his Pacific squadron. After bombarding Tahiti in September, he now plans to head to the South Atlantic and attack Allied shipping. But today, off Chile’s Coronel island in the Pacific, Spee’s force clashes with Britain’s South Atlantic Squadron, under Rear Admiral Craddock. Spee’s ships completely outclass the British, yet Craddock chooses to lead his ships into battle.

The battle is one-sided. The German guns can engage at long ranger range than those of the British. Craddock tries to get his ships close enough to damage the Germans, but the Germans pour fire onto them. Craddock’s two armoured cruisers (including his own ship) are sunk, though two lighter vessels manage to escape when night falls.

Craddock’s decision to attack costs the lives of 1,570 British sailors, including his own. 3 German sailors are wounded by shells that hit one of Spee’s ships without exploding. The Germans have also expended large numbers of their shells and these cannot be replaced. Nevertheless, a British naval squadron has been defeated for the first time in over a hundred years.

Maximilian von Spee image source (Wikipedia)

Christopher Craddock image source (Wikipedia)

Battle of Coronel map image source (Wikipedia)

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