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HMS Inflexible and the Battle of the Falklands, 1914

Posted by Matt Willis, on January 10th, 2015

Abstract

The Battle of the Falklands took place thousands of miles away from the main naval battlegrounds of the First World War such as the North Sea and Mediterranean, yet it had a huge effect on the naval war. It restored a measure of British naval pride after the disastrous action at Coronel the previous month, when the Royal Navy squadron under Rear-Admiral Sir Christopher Cradock had been crushed by the cruisers of the German Admiral Maximilian Graf von Spee. In response to the action at Coronel, the Admiralty dispatched two battle cruisers HMS Invincible and HMS Inflexible to the South Atlantic under the command of Vice Admiral Sir Doveton Sturdee. These vessels and their consorts were coaling in Port Stanley when von Spee decided to launch an attack on the Falklands with his squadron of ships, which included the two armoured cruisers SMS Scharnhorst and Gneisenau. With the British alerted to the appearance of these ships, the pre-dreadnought battleship HMS Canopus opened the engagement by firing shells from behind a spit of land under the direction of observation posts ashore. Vice Admiral Sturdee’s ships were able to raise steam and get under way to engage von Spee’s squadron, now attempting to withdraw from the superior forces ranged against them. This article uses a type-written after action report from the ships log of HMS Inflexible to provide a gripping commentary of the action to follow, in which the German squadron, forced to disperse to preserve the smaller, faster ships, proved to be no match for the battle cruisers’ superior speed and armament.

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