Centenary of Falkland Islands naval victory remembered

The Battle of Jutland was the naval battle between the British and Germans in 1914, during World War One and was a crucial naval victory for the British.

The Kaiser’s Germany had identified the pivotal location of the Falkland Islands on the Cape Horn of South America, with its opportunity to control the shipping lanes from the South Atlantic to the Pacific and the Indian Ocean.

The routes were of vital importance to the British since it gave access to merchant trade across its territories. The British had worked to ensure its navy was battle ready and could defeat any two fleets around the world. Particularly as Germany had been building up its Imperial German Navy in the years before World War One.

Newspapers in the UK reported that the battle of Jutland was a decisive victory, but this was a little exaggerated from the truth, the EADT 24 reports.

Many British Navy ships were dated, and could not match Germany’s brand new naval fleet. But on the declaration of war the British Navy had already mobilised and squadrons had been sent to man their war stations.

At the beginning of November 1914, a German naval squadron was intercepted by the British Navy using HMS Good Hope, HMS Monmouth, HMS Glasgow and the Otranto. They met at the coast of Chile, but the dated British fleet could not stand up to the Germans who downed both the Good Hope and Monmouth with all of their crewmen. The other British ships were driven off.

After a few weeks, Britain deployed a squadron of cruisers and a battleship under Admiral Sir Frederick Charles Doveton Sturdee, which destroyed the entire German fleet.

The German’s ships had been loitering around the Falkland Islands, where Sturdee’s ships were anchored. The British opened fire to drive them back. The British then followed in pursuit.

Once in firing range of the German fleet, the British attacked sinking the Gneisenau and Scharnhorst, with their captain on board. The remaining fleet was also sunk, aside from the Dresden, which escaped at that time, later to be downed by the British Navy.

British newspapers at the time, reported that the defeat off the coast of Chile had been avenged, retaining Britain’s mastery of the seas.

On the centenary, guided tours of the western front are being conducted for veterans or those who want to learn more about the navy’s experience during World War One.

Ian Harvey

Ian Harvey is one of the authors writing for WAR HISTORY ONLINE