THIS IS A STORY WHICH ALL RN SAILORS, PAST AND PRESENT, OFFICER OR RATING, SHOULD KNOW ABOUT. IT CANNOT OF COURSE BE COMPARED WITH THE 1982 FALKLANDS WAR WHICH WILL BE REMEMBERED AS MUCH FOR THE LOGISTICS OF WAR AS FOR THE GUTSY AND SUCCESSFUL PROSECUTION OF THE WAR. NOR DO I SEEK TO SIDELINE THE 1982 WAR IN ANY WAY, FOR IT IS PART OF MY HEART AND LIFE, BUT, THE TRUTH IS THAT THIS FIRST R.N., BATTLE IN THE WATERS OF THE FALKLANDS HAS NO PARALLEL AND NO PRECEDENT.

THE FIRST SECTION IS REALLY AN INTRODUCTION TO THE MAIN STORY WHICH STARTS FURTHER DOWN THE PAGE WHERE YOU SEE THE FIVE RED COLOURED STARS. OBVIOUSLY IT SHOULD BE READ FIRST SO THAT YOU GET A GOOD UNDERSTANDING OF THE TRUE SIGNIFICANCE OF THE MAIN STORY.

Today's date is the 4th July 2004, a day/date which sees the Americans celebrate the winning of the War of Independence against the British in the latter part of the 18th century. Twenty two years ago, this day was one of several used in the Spring/Summer offensive of 1982 pursing the War against the Argentine who had forcibly taken the Falkland Islands from the British, the rightful owners. It was a splendid time in our recent history engulfing all of us serving in the navy at that time in many various ways, and can of course also be considered as a War of Independence fought for and on behalf of the Crown and the peoples indigenous to the Islands. On this occasion, the British were the victors.

In some cases, the subject is still quite raw and so much has been written and recorded for posterity that additional articles are quite superfluous.  However, the other day I came upon a statistic which stunned me and I am sure it will you too, namely that the known data of 255 men losing their lives in this war, has been surpassed by 300 Falklands veterans who have committed suicide between 1982 and 2004.  There are no words which can measure the profoundness of this tragic statement.

The 1982 story of the Falklands really starts with an observation made by HMS Endurance [Captain Barker R.N.], the only royal naval ship stationed in the South Atlantic.  This led to a large naval unit being formed whose logistics stretched seven thousand miles from the UK. A battle ensued between the royal navy and the Argentine air force which bloodied the nose of the royal navy, losing several ships. The Argentine navy never saw or engaged the main task force but was itself attacked by a British nuclear submarine, Conqueror [Commander Wreford-Brown R.N., -  international radio callsign GYJU]], whilst at sea to the west of the royal navy's presence. The attacked destroyed an old WW2 ex USN cruiser, the General Belgrano {international radio callsign LORH} with considerable loss of life. Thereafter, the Argentine navy remained in harbour.  The navy punched its way through and managed a successful amphibious assault on the Islands, losing more vessels in the process.  The land war was short and decisive culminating in the defeat and humiliation of the mainly conscript Argentine army units. However, it was expensive, the cost being two hundred and fifty lives of our servicemen and many many more Argentine's. However, even our most sternest critics, marveled at our ability to mount such an operation over such huge distances and win, though bloodied we were.

Way back in 1914 [90 years ago] and still down off South America but on the Pacific Chilean coast line, we were again bloodied, this time by the German navy. However, to understand the story properly, for it is interwoven through many reference books, I need to tell you a little bit about Germany's territory outside the Vaterland [fatherland].

In 1898 Germany had leased from China for a period of ninety nine years  [by diplomatic deceit] a tiny insignificant area/port  in the far east, which itself was part of the Chinese province of Shantung situated in the Yellow Sea.  The area/port was called Tsing-Tau a naval facility in the Kiau-Chau Bay: it is this latter name which history recognises. Kiau-Chau was the original base for the German Raider Emden which was destroyed by HMAS Sydney. China has undergone many changes since the Boxer Uprisings [prior to this event] and with cultural changes came name changes of their provinces, towns and cities. To help you orientate, I supply first a map of China in 1900 [a thumbnail] biased towards Kiau-Chau and secondly a modern map of china [a hyperlink] annotated in a similar manner -  Click to enlarge  Germany's far east base.htm. [my graphics usually appear before the map].

Germany's aggression was legion in all parts of the world, and the Japanese feared that they would get up to their usual evil tricks, even though relatively small in numbers and facilities. The Japanese, being our ally, issued the KIAU CHAU camp an ultimatum which was that they should clear out of China and take all their warships out of the Pacific/Far East area. Germany had to comply by 3am London time on 23rd August 1914 or face direct war with Japan, just 500 odd miles away to the east. Germany had several overseas possession, but cherished this one above all others - it was 117 square miles with a fine harbour and fortified town, and since 1898 [sixteen years] had lavished untold amounts of money on building it up ready to use as a spring board to increase a foot hold in the Far East : they  were not going to move. It was also known, though as yet unchecked by the Chinese, that Germany had already broken the lease agreement by taking over more Shantung territory than was intended. Kiau Chau was full of Germans and not just combatants, for many had fled there escaping the consequences of war in other parts of the Far East. They had an "Eastern Squadron" based there which comprised of two armoured cruisers, three light cruisers and some gunboats. Had  hostilities broken out, she faced unimaginable odds with Britain's Far East Squadron being twice that size; the French with two armoured cruisers, Japan with at least twenty eight large battleships and cruisers including five Dreadnoughts, several flotillas of destroyers and submarines, plus the Russian input all ready for the kill. Germany had no submarines at Kiau Chau but were ready to mine every conceivable approach to their territory.

Predictably, Germany did not comply with the Japanese ultimatum. How could the Kaiser, who, upon taking on the lease, proclaimed to the world the infamous observation about the "mailed fist of Germany"; "that we are descendants of Attila and his Huns", and that "the time had come for the great German eagle to spread her wings," now back down to Japan?

Directly after the hour of compliance had elapsed, the Japanese navy started to bombard Kiau Chau.  However, by that time a British ship, the destroyer HMS Kennet, had had an adventure in the neighbourhood of the Tsing-Tau forts when it sighted a German destroyer the 'S.90'.  The Kennet gave chase but the destroyer escaping back to the safety of Kiau Chau brought the British destroyer too close to the German guns placed on the forts and had to allow the German to escape. The Kennet took several casualties.

After a great deal of effort in clearing mines and other preparations [which included a one hundred percent blockade of the port], of daily shellings, of aircraft bombings, of stormings by amphibious troops landing behind German lines [remember this territory is 117 square miles - a big area] which lasted for seventysix days after Japan had declared war, the forts and area of Tsing-Tau capitulated and the white flag was raised by the Germans. Four thousand and forty two Germans were taken prisoner, with nearly as many killed. Japan lost two hundred killed and the British, just twelve. The Kaiser and the whole of Germany were shattered and found it difficult to believe this severe loss of life, of equipment and of territory.  The Japanese took command of Kiau Chau. 

Germany continued to lose all her Pacific territories, one by one snatched from her by the Royal New Zealand Navy, the Royal Australian Navy, the British Navy and the French Navy. What armed cruisers had been based on many of these places escaped into the Pacific, and they, plus those who escaped from Kiau Chau, were always a potential hazard to the allies. It is to those 'roaming' German ships that I now turn my attention.

A group of heavily armed German cruisers, unshadowed and thought to have escaped from Kiau Chau before the Japanese hostilities began, out to disrupt allied shipping traffic, had crossed the Pacific on a south easterly course, ostensibly aiming for the Cape Horn area and rich pickings!  When off Valparaiso, Chile, [ see map hyperlink] CORONEL.htm, they came across an inferior British naval group comprising of two cruisers and an armed merchant ship. These were HMS Monmouth and HMS Glasgow plus the 'Otranto'. The resulting battle was a foregone conclusion as shown in the following pages. Click to enlarge Click to enlarge Click to enlarge. However, HMS Glasgow escaped and took the route through the Magellan Straits [see my Canals page for details http://www.godfreydykes.info/Canals I have traversed.htm#21. ]  to arrive in the Atlantic to receive everlasting fame as being one of the chief protagonists in the destruction of all the German ships that were involved at the Battle of Coronel.

All that is now left for you to know, is that the German Admiral, Count Von Spee [after whom the pocket battleship in the River Plate drama was named, and, as she got her comeuppance in 1939 at the very beginning of WW2 so did the man himself at near to the beginning of WW1] took his ships, victors of Coronel, round the Cape Horn, into the Atlantic, and up to the Falkland Islands.

WHAT FOLLOWS IS A STORY WHICH MAY BRING A TEAR TO YOUR EYE. A TEAR OF COMPASSION? - CERTAINLY [EVEN FOR GERMANS] BUT MAINLY  A TEAR OF PRIDE IN THE SAILORS OF THE ROYAL NAVY.  SOME OF THE STORY IS PLAIN 'BOYS' OWN STUFF' ESPECIALLY FOR HMS KENT, BUT ALL OF IT IS REALLY WHAT THE ROYAL NAVY HAS ALWAYS BEEN ABOUT.

The loss to Britain was slight, though any death brings profound grief to somebody, but the loss to Germany was immense both in lives and in ships and its people never really did get over it. Their admiral died and so too did his two sons plus another two thousand odd sailors and all their ships were destroyed. When you have read this page, perhaps you might like to read this one THE INEVITABLE EVIL OF SUBMARINE WARFARE.  Together they paint a good picture of the suffering of the Germans from the naval perspective, where apart from the murdering crews of their UBoats [which brought perverse pleasure to the German people] they lunged from disaster to disaster in other naval matters, fooling themselves that events like Coronel were major German victories whilst full well knowing that they had destroyed a couple of old ships albeit manned by excellent men whose passing was greatly lamented in Britain. In 1916, when all else except for their penned-up fleets in Cuxhaven, Wilhelmshaven, Bremmerhaven,  Hamburg and Kiel  had been taken from them, Jutland brought great joy for the German people, they seeing it as a total success and victory to them. It could be argued that the German navy faired a little better than did the British but neither side scored enough points to warrant a clear win. What the Germans didn't take into account about Jutland [but internationally, all others did] was that the royal navy had, with one or two lapses, barricaded them into their ports denying them the sea from 1914 until 1916 and continued doing it from 1916 until 1918 - that, in anybody's book, is a no win situation, a clear and unequivocal defeat, which added to all their other failures and defeats.

I would suggest that you read all the pages, but the LOGICAL start, leading from the last but one paragraph above..."All that is..." is on page 81 [4th page in from the left] starting with the first new paragraph ...."It was reported..." Enjoy the read - it is an amazing story. Incidentally, as our warship names are prefixed with HMS [old Commonwealth using the respective 'A', 'C', and 'NZ' after HM and before S {e.g.., HMAS for an Australian warships] German ship names were prefixed with SMS.

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You will have seen that only one of Count Von Spee's ships escaped from the British mauling, and that was the SMS Dresden. The history of the Falklands skirmish/sea fight  [I would call it a Battle and none other] does not tell of the actual fate of the Dresden, which can be found later on in chronological order of the war calendar.  However, to complete the story of the total  and utter British victory over the German surface fleet units who were not bottled-up in German ports, I will add her destruction to this page. In some ways, her end was rather like that of the German pocket battleship Graf Spee in 1939, who sought a safe anchorage in neutral Uruguay, in Montivideo on the mouth of the Rive Plate, but under international rules, was forcibly sailed into what she thought was a large royal naval force and therefore chose the option of scuttling herself.  

After her escape from the Falklands Sea Fight, she had headed back for Cape Horn and back into the Pacific Ocean.  She travelled north, back to the area where the skirmish of Coronel had taken place, and there, just less than four hundreds miles from the city of Coronel, she found an anchorage in the Juan Fernandez groups of islands which belonged to Chile. Here is a map which will help you to follow the story - CUMBERLAND BAY.htm. The story is as follows:-

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A picture [jpg] and a hyperlink to a map which I got from a Chilean Travel website showing Cumberland Bay.

THE  ISLAND   GRAVEYARD :

On the seashore there are graves of some of the crew of the German cruiser "Dresden", sunk in the bay in 1915. It is also the final resting place of Baron Alfredo de Rodt, who established the Island Community in 1877, residing there till his death.

cumberland bay in the pacific.htm