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HMS Macedonia and the Battle of the Falklands, 1914

Posted by Kathy Wendolkowski, on December 12th, 2014


The accounts of naval battles during the First World War have a tendency to focus on the exploits of the larger battleships and battle cruisers of the opposing fleets. Often the smaller ships, such as light cruisers, destroyers and auxiliary vessels do not receive the attention warranted by their involvement in the war at sea. This has previously been true for the story of the armed merchant cruiser HMS Macedonia. However this article provides an insightful narrative of this converted passenger liners participation in the Battle of the Falklands. The Macedonia was hired by the Royal Navy at the outbreak of war from the Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company, which many would instantly recognise by its current company name, P&O Ferries. The ship’s log has been transcribed by the citizen science project Old Weather, and is the basis of this article focusing on the part played by Macedonia on the 8th December 1914. In consort with the light cruiser HMS Bristol, the Macedonia intercepted the German merchant ships SS Baden and Santa Isabel, which were colliers operating in support of the German squadron under Admiral Maximilian Graf von Spee. After stopping and sinking the two ships, the log goes on to describe Macedonia transporting prisoners from the battle back to Britain. The log is one of 318 transcribed by the volunteers of Old Weather, which as well as providing scientific weather data are valuable historical records of ships’ voyages from over a century ago.

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