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HMS Bristol was a light cruiser launched in 1910. She saw action in the Battle of the Falkland Islands on the 8th of December 1914
8th December 1914 Battle of the Falklands
German East Asia Squadron leaving Valparaiso, Chile. (4 Nov 1914)
The Battle of the Falkland Islands took place on the 8th December 1914 during the First World War in the South Atlantic. The British, suffering a defeat at the Battle of Coronel on 1 November, had sent a large force to track down and destroy the victorious German cruiser squadron. Admiral Graf Maximilian von Spee commanded the German squadron which consisted of two armoured cruisers SMS Scharnhorst and Gneisenau, three light cruisers SMS Nürnberg, Dresden and Leipzig together with three auxiliarie. They attempted to raid the British supply base at Stanley in the Falkland Islands.
A larger British squadron, consisting of two battlecruisers HMS Invincible and Inflexible, three armoured cruisers HMS Carnarvon, Cornwall and Kent and two light cruisers HMS Bristol and Glasgow had arrived in the port only the day before. Visibility was at its maximum, the sea was calm with a light northwesterly breeze and a bright sunny day. The German squadron had been detected early on and by nine o'clock that morning the British were in hot pursuit of the five German vessels who had taken flight to the southeast.
The only ships to escape were the light cruiser Dresden and the auxiliary Seydlitz- all the others were sunk. The British battlecruisers each mounted eight 12 inch guns, whereas Spee's heaviest ships (Scharnhorst and Gneisenau), were only equipped with eight 8.3 inch guns. Additionally, the British battlecruisers could make 29.3 mph against Spee's 25.9 mph. So the British battlecruisers could not only outrun their opponents but significantly outgun them too. The old pre-dreadnought battleship, HMS Canopus, had been grounded at Stanley to act as a makeshift defence battery for the area.
At the outbreak of hostilities in World War One, the German East Asian squadron, which Admiral Spee commanded, was heavily outnumbered by the Royal Navy and the Japanese Navy. The German High Command realised that the Asian possessions could not be defended and that the squadron might not survive. Spee therefore tried to get his ships home via the Pacific and Cape Horn, but was pessimistic of their chances. Following von Spee's success at Coronel off the coast of Valparaíso, Chile, where his squadron sank the cruisers HMS Good Hope and Monmouth, von Spee's force put into Valparaíso. As required under international law for belligerent ships in neutral countries, the ships left within 24 hours, moving to Mas Afuera, 400 miles off the Chilean coast. There they received news of the loss of the cruiser SMS Emden, which had previously detached from the squadron and had been raiding in the Indian Ocean. They also learned of the fall of the German colony at Tsingtao in China, which had been their home port. On 15 November, the squadron moved to Bahia San Quintin on the Chilean coast, where 300 Iron Crosses second class were awarded to the crew, and an Iron Cross first class to Admiral Spee. Spee was advised by his officers to return to Germany if he could. His ships had used half their ammunition at Coronel, and had difficulties obtaining coal. Intelligence reported the British ships HMS Defence, Cornwall and Carnarvon were stationed in the River Plate and that there were no British warships at Stanley. Spee had been concerned about reports of a British battleship, Canopus, but its location was unknown.
On 26 November, the squadron set sail and reached Cape Horn on the 1st December, anchoring at Picton Island for 3 days coaling from acaptured British collier, the Drummuir. On 6 December, the British vessel was scuttled and the crew transferred to the auxiliary Seydlitz. Spee proposed to raid the Falkland Islands before turning north to sail up the Atlantic back to Germany even though it was unnecessary and opposed by three of his captains.
On the 30th October, retired Admiral of the Fleet Sir John Fisher was reappointed First Sea Lord to replace Admiral Prince Louis of Battenberg. On the 3rd November, Fisher was advised that Spee had been sighted off Valparaíso and acted to reinforce Cradock by ordering Defence,to join his squadron. On the 4th November, news of the defeat at Coronel arrived. As a result, the battlecruisers Invincible and Inflexible were detached from the Grand Fleet and sailed for Plymouth to prepare for overseas service. Chief of Staff at the Admiralty was Vice-Admiral Doveton Sturdee with whom Fisher had a long-standing disagreement, so he took the opportunity to appoint Sturdee as Commander-in-Chief, South Atlantic and Pacific, to command the new squadron from Invincible. On 11 November, Invincible and Inflexible left Devonport. Repairs to Invincible were incomplete and she sailed with workmen still on board. The ships travelled at a reduced 12 mph as running at high speed used significantly more coal, so to complete the long journey it was necessary to travel at the most economic speed. The two ships were also heavily loaded with supplies. Sturdee arrived at the Abrolhos Rocks on the 26th November, where Rear Admiral Stoddart awaited him with the remainder of the squadron. Sturdee announced his intention to depart for the Falkland Islands on 29 November. From there, the fast light cruisers Glasgow and Bristol would patrol seeking Spee, summoning reinforcements if they found him. Captain Luce of Glasgow, who had been at the battle of Coronel persuaded Sturdee to depart a day early. The squadron was delayed during the journey for 12 hours when a cable towing targets became wrapped around one of Invincible's propellers, but the ships arrived on the morning of 7 December. The two light cruisers moored in to the inner part of Stanley Harbour, while the larger ships remained in the deeper outer harbour of Port William. Divers set about removing the offending cable from Invincible, Cornwall's boiler fires were extinguished to make repairs, and Bristol had one of her engines dismantled. The famous ship SS Great Britain, reduced to a coal bunker, supplied coal to Invincible and Inflexible. The armed merchant cruiser Macedonia was ordered to patrol the harbour, while Kent maintained steam ready to replace Macedonia the next day, 8th December. Spee's fleet arrived in the morning of the same day.
Two of Spee's cruisers—Gneisenau and Nürnberg—approached Stanley first and, at that time, the entire British fleet was still coaling. Some believe that, had Spee pressed the attack, Sturdee's ships would have been easy targets. Any British ship trying to leave would have faced the full firepower of the German ships and having a vessel sunk might also have blocked the rest of the British squadron inside the harbour. Fortunately for the British, the Germans were surprised by gunfire from an unexpected source as Canopus, which had been grounded as a guardship and was hidden behind a hill, opened fire. This was enough to check the Germans' advance. The sight of the distinctive tripod masts of the British battlecruisers confirmed that they were facing a better-equipped enemy. Kent was already making her way out of the harbour and had been ordered to pursue Spee's ships. Made aware of the German ships, Sturdee had ordered the crews to breakfast, knowing that Canopus had bought them time while steam was raised. To Spee, with his crew battle-weary and his ships outgunned, the outcome seemed inevitable. Realising his danger too late, and having lost any chance to attack the British ships while they were at anchor, Spee and his squadron dashed for the open sea. The British left port around 1000. Spee was ahead by 15 miles but there was a lot of daylight left for the faster battlecruisers to catch them.
It was 1300 when the British battlecruisers opened fire, but it took them half an hour to get the range of Leipzig. Realising that he could not outrun the British ships, Spee decided to engage them with his armoured cruisers to give the light cruisers a chance to escape. They turned to fight just after 1320. The German armoured cruisers had the advantage of a freshening north-west breeze which caused the funnel smoke of the British ships to obscure their targets practically throughout the action. Despite initial success by Scharnhorst and Gneisenau in striking Invincible, the British capital ships suffered little damage. Spee then turned to escape, but the battlecruisers came within extreme firing range 40 minutes later. Invincible and Inflexible engaged Scharnhorst and Gneisenau, while Sturdee detached his cruisers to chase Leipzig and Nürnberg. Inflexible and Invincible turned to fire broadsides at the armoured cruisers and Spee responded by trying to close the range. His flagship Scharnhorst suffered extensive damage with funnels flattened, fires and developed a list. The list became worse at 1604, and she sank by 1617. Gneisenau continued to fire and evade until 1715, by which time her ammunition had been exhausted, and her crew allowed her to sink at 1802. During her death throes, Admiral Sturdee continued to engage Gneisenau with his two battlecruisers and the cruiser Carnarvon seemingly ignoring the escaping Dresden. 190 of Gneisenau's crew were rescued from the water. The battlecruisers had received about 40 hits, with one man killed and four injured. Meanwhile, Nürnberg and Leipzig had run from the British cruisers. Nürnberg was running at full speed while the crew of the pursuing Kent were pushing her boilers and engines to the limit. Nürnberg finally turned for battle at 1730. Kent had the advantage in shell weight and armour. Nürnberg suffered two boiler explosions around 1830, giving further advantage in speed and manoeuvrability to Kent. The German ship then rolled over at 1927 after a long chase. The cruisers Glasgow and Cornwall had chased down Leipzig. Glasgow closed to finish Leipzig which had run out of ammunition but was still flying her battle ensign. Leipzig fired two flares, so Glasgow ceased fire. At 2123, more than 80 miles southeast of the Falklands, she also rolled over, leaving only 18 survivors.
The British suffered only very light casualties and damage whereas Admiral Spee and his two sons were among the German dead. There were 215 rescued German survivors who became prisoners on the British ships. Most were from the Gneisenau, nine were from Nürnberg and 18 were from Leipzig. There were no survivors from Scharnhorst. Of the known German force of eight ships, two escaped, the auxiliary Seydlitz and the light cruiser Dresden, which roamed at large for a further three months before she was cornered by a British squadron off the Juan Fernández Islands on 14 March 1915. After fighting a short battle, Dresden's captain evacuated his ship and scuttled her by detonating the main ammunition magazine. As a consequence of the battle, German commerce raiding on the high seas by regular warships of the Kaiserliche Marine was brought to an end. However, Germany put several armed merchant vessels into service as commerce raiders until the end of the war.John Doran
14th May 1917 Battle of Straits of Otranto The 1917 Battle of the Strait of Otranto was the result of an Austro-Hungarian raid on the Otranto Barrage, an Allied naval blockade of the Strait of Otranto. The battle took place on 14–15 May 1917 and was the largest surface action in the Adriatic Sea during World War I. The Otranto Barrage was a fixed barrier, composed of lightly armed drifters with anti-submarine nets coupled with minefields and supported by Allied naval patrols. The Austro-Hungarian navy planned to raid the Otranto Barrage with a force of three light cruisers and two destroyers under the command of Captain Miklós Horthy. It was an attempt to break the barrier to allow U-boats greater access to the Mediterranean and Allied shipping. An Allied force composed of ships from three navies responded to the raid and in the ensuing battle, heavily damaged the Austro-Hungarian cruiser SMS Novara. However, the rapid approach of the Austro-Hungarian relief force persuaded Rear Admiral Acton, the Allied commander, to retreat.
Under the command of Horthy, three Austro-Hungarian cruisers (Novara, Saida, and Helgoland) modified to resemble large British destroyers, were to attack the drifters on the night of 14 May and attempt to destroy as many as possible before daybreak. The destroyers Csepel and Balaton were to mount a diversionary raid off the Albanian coast in order to confuse any Allied counter-attack. Two Austro-Hungarian U-boats, U-4 and U-27 together with the German U-boat UC-25, were to participate in the operation. A supporting force composed of the armored cruiser Sankt Georg, two destroyers, and a number of torpedo boats was on standby if the raiders ran into trouble. The old pre-dreadnought battleship Budapest and a screen of torpedo boats were also available if necessary. An Allied destroyer patrol was in the area on the night of 14 May, to the north of the Barrage. The Italian flotilla leader Mirabello was accompanied by the French destroyers Commandant Rivière, Bisson, and Cimeterre. The Italian destroyer Borea was also in the area, escorting a small convoy to Valona. A support force was based in the port of Brindisi, consisting of the British cruisers Dartmouth and Bristol with several French and Italian destroyers.
Raid on the drifters
The Italian convoy escorted by Borea was attacked by the Austro-Hungarian destroyers Csepel and Balaton at approximately 0324. The Austro-Hungarians sank Borea, a munitions ship and a second was set on fire and abandoned. The three cruisers were able to pass through the line of drifters and at 0330 began attacking the small barrage ships. The Austro-Hungarians frequently gave the drifter crews warning to abandon ship before opening fire. In some instances the drifter crews chose to fight. Gowan Lee returned fire on the Austo-Hungarian ships. The ship was heavily damaged, but remained afloat. Her captain, Joseph Watt, was later awarded the Victoria Cross for his actions during the battle. There were 47 drifters in Barrage on the night of 14 May. The Austro-Hungarians managed to sink 14 drifters and damage four more. The lack of sufficient Allied escorts forced the withdrawal of the remaining blockading ships, although only for a short time.
By this time, the Allied naval forces in the area were aware of the raid and were in a position to block the Austro-Hungarian retreat. Rear Admiral Alfredo Acton, the commanding officer of the Italian Scouting Division, ordered Mirabello's group southward at 0435, while he embarked on the British light cruiser HMS Dartmouth. By 0645, the cruisers Dartmouth and Bristol, along with the Italian destroyers Mosto, Pilo, Schiaffino, Acerbi, and Aquila,were sailing north in an attempt to cut off the Austro-Hungarian cruisers. The Italian light cruiser Marsala, the flotilla leader Racchia, and the destroyers Insidioso, Indomito, and Impavido were readying to sail in support as well. The Mirabello group engaged the Austro-Hungarian cruisers at 0700, but were heavily outgunned and instead attempted to shadow the fleeing cruisers. At 0745, Rear Admiral Acton's ships encountered the destroyers Csepel and Balaton. After 20 minutes, the Italian destroyers were able to close the distance to the Austro-Hungarian ships. The two groups engaged in a short artillery duel before a shot from Csepel struck Aquila and disabled the ship's boilers. By this time, the Austro-Hungarian destroyers were under the cover of the coastal batteries at Durazzo and were able to make good their escape. At 0900, Bristol's lookouts spotted the smoke from the Austro-Hungarian cruisers to the south of her position. The Allied ships turned to engage the Austro-Hungarian ships. The British ships had both a superiority in numbers and in firepower. Dartmouth was armed with eight 6 inch guns and Bristol had two 6 inch and ten 4 inch, compared to the nine 3.9 inch guns on each of the Austro-Hungarian ships. Unfortunately for the Allies, their numerical superiority was quickly lost, as their destroyers were either occupied with mechanical problems, or protecting those destroyers suffering from breakdowns. The support forces of both sides—the Sankt Georg group for the Austro-Hungarians, and the Marsala group for the Allies—were quickly dispatched to the battle. Dartmouth, faster than Bristol, closed to effective engagement range with the Austro-Hungarian ships and opened fire. A shell from Dartmouth struck Novara, at which point the Austro-Hungarian ships laid a smoke screen in order to close the distance. Dartmouth was struck several times and by 1100, Acton ordered the ship to reduce speed to allow Bristol to catch up. Novara was hit several more times and her main feed pumps and starboard auxiliary steam pipe had been damaged, which caused the ship to begin losing speed. At 1105, Acton turned away in an attempt to separate Saida from Novara and Helgoland. At this point, Sankt Georg was approaching the scene, which prompted Acton to temporarily withdraw to consolidate his forces. This break in the action was enough time for the Austro-Hungarians to save the crippled Novara. Saida took the ship under tow while Helgoland covered them. Unaware that Novara had been disabled, and fearing that his ships would be drawn too close to the Austrian naval base at Cattaro, Acton broke off the pursuit. The destroyer Acerbi misread the signal, and attempted to launch a torpedo attack, but was driven off by the combined fire of the Novara, Saida, and Helgoland. At 1205, Acton realized the dire situation Novara was in, but by this time, the Sankt Georg group was too close. The Sankt Georg group rendezvoused with Novara, Saida, and Helgoland, and Csepel and Balaton reached the scene as well. The entire group returned to Cattaro together. At 1330, the submarine UC-25 torpedoed Dartmouth, causing serious damage. The escorting destroyers forced UC-25 from the area, but Dartmouth had to be abandoned for a period of time, before it could be towed back to port. The French destroyer Boutefeu attempted to pursue the German submarine, but struck a mine laid by UC-25 that morning and sank rapidly.
As a result of the raid, it was decided by the British naval command that unless sufficient destroyers were available to protect the barrage, the drifters would have to be withdrawn at night. The drifters would only be operating for less than twelve hours a day and would have to leave their positions by 1500 every day. Despite the damage received by the Austro-Hungarian cruisers during the pursuit by Dartmouth and Bristol, the Austro-Hungarian forces inflicted more serious casualties on the Allied blockade. In addition to the sunk and damaged drifters, the cruiser Dartmouth was nearly sunk by the German submarine UC-25, the French destroyer Boutefeu was mined and sunk, and a munitions convoy to Valona was interdicted. However, in a strategic sense, the battle had little impact on the war. The barrage was never particularly effective at preventing the U-boat operations of Germany and Austria-Hungary in the first place. The drifters could cover approximately 5 miles apiece of the 40 miles wide Strait, only slightly more than ½ of which was covered. The raid risked some of the most advanced units of the Austro-Hungarian fleet on an operation that offered minimal strategic returnsJohn Doran
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