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A History of Sea Power by Stevens and Westcott

Admiral von Spee in fact secured every advantage of position


The

composition of the two squadrons now approaching each other off the Chilean coast was as follows:

--------------------------------------------------------------------------- Name | Type |Displace-| Belt | Guns |Speed | | ment |armor | | -------------|-----------------|---------|------|--------------------|----- Scharnhorst |Armored cruiser | 11,600 |6-inch|8-8.2", 6-6" | 23.5 Gneisenau |Armored cruiser | 11,600 |6-inch|8-8.2", 6-6" | 23.5 Leipzig |Protected cruiser| 3,250 |none |10-4" | 23 Nuernberg |Light cruiser | 3,450 |none |10-4" | 24 Dresden |Light cruiser | 3,600 |none |10-4" | 24 -------------|-----------------|---------|------|--------------------|----- Good Hope |Armored cruiser | 14,000 |6-inch|2-9.2", 16-6", 14-3"| 24 Monmouth |Armored cruiser | 9,800 |4-inch|14-6", 8-3" | 24 Glasgow |Light cruiser | 4,800 |none |2-6", 10-4" | 26.5 -------------|-----------------|---------|------|--------------------|----- Canopus | | | | | (not engaged)|Coast defense | 12,950 |6-inch|4-35 cal. 12", 12-6"| 16.5 ---------------------------------------------------------------------------

Without the _Canopus_, the British had perhaps a slight advantage

in squadron speed, but only the two 9.2-inch guns of the _Good Hope_ could match the sixteen 8.2-inch guns of the Germans. Each side had information of the other's strength; but on the afternoon of November 1, the date of the Battle of Coronel, each supposed that only one enemy cruiser was in the immediate vicinity. Hence there was mutual surprise when the two squadrons, spread widely on opposite courses, came in contact at 4.40 p. m.

While concentrating and forming his squadron, Admiral Cradock must have pondered whether he should fight or retreat. The _Canopus_ he knew was laboring northward 250 miles away. It was highly doubtful whether he could bring the enemy into action later with his slow battleship in line. His orders were to "search and protect trade." "Safety," we are told, "was a word he hardly knew." But his best justification lay in the enemy's menace to commerce and in the comment of Nelson upon a similar situation, "By the time the enemy has beat our fleet soundly, they will do us no more harm that year." It was perhaps with this thought that Admiral Cradock signaled to the _Canopus_, "I am going to fight the enemy now."

At about 6 p.m. the two columns were 18,000 yards distant on southerly converging courses. The British, to westward and slightly ahead, tried to force the action before sunset, when they would be silhouetted against the afterglow. Their speed at this time, however, seems to have been held up by the auxiliary cruiser _Otranto_, which later retreated southwestward, and their efforts to close were thwarted by the enemy's turning slightly away. Admiral von Spee in fact secured every advantage of position, between the British and the neutral coast, on the side away from the sun, and on such a course that the heavy seas from east of south struck the British ships on their engaged bows, showering the batteries with spray and rendering useless the lower deck guns.

At 7 o'clock the German ships opened fire at 11,260 yards. The third salvo from the _Scharnhorst_ disabled the _Good Hope's_ forward 9.2-inch gun. The _Monmouth's_ forecastle was soon on fire. It seems probable indeed that most of the injury to the British was inflicted by accurate shooting in this first stage of the action. On account of the gathering darkness, Admiral von Spee allowed the range to be closed to about 5500 yards, guiding his aim at first by the blaze on the Monmouth, and then for a time ceasing fire. Shortly before 8 o'clock a huge column of flame shooting up between the stacks of the _Good Hope_ marked her end. The _Monmouth_ sheered away to westward and then northward with a heavy list that prevented the use of her port guns. An hour later, at 9.25, with her flag still flying defiantly, she was sunk by the _Nuernberg_ at point blank range. The _Glasgow_, which had fought throughout the action, but had suffered little from the fire of the German light cruisers, escaped in the darkness.


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