The Battle of Coronel was a First World War Imperial German Naval victory over the Royal Navy on 1st November 1914, off the coast of central Chile near the city of Coronel.
On 4 October 1914, the British learned from an intercepted radio message that German Vice-Admiral Graf Maximilian von Spee planned to attack shipping on the trade routes along the west coast of South America. British Rear-Admiral Sir Christopher Cradock cabled the Admiralty, on October 22nd, that he was going to round Cape Horn. Cradock’s Squadron consisted of the armoured cruisers HMS Good Hope (flagship) and HMS Monmouth, the modern light cruiser HMS Glasgow, the armed merchantman HMS Otranto. Spee had a superior force of five modern vessels, the armoured cruisers SMS Scharnhorst and Gneisenau and the light cruisers SMS Dresden, Leipzig and Nürnberg.
Whilst in Coronel harbour HMS Glasgow intercepted radio messages between the German supply ship Göttingen and Vice-Admiral Spee which suggested that German warships were close. Spee decided to move his ships to Coronel, to trap HMS Glasgow, while Admiral Cradock hurried north to catch SMS Leipzig.
At 09:15 on 1 November, HMS Glasgow left port to meet Cradock at noon, west of Coronel. At 16:17 SMS Leipzig, accompanied by the other German ships, spotted smoke from the line of British ships. Spee ordered SMS Scharnhorst, Gneisenau and Leipzig to full speed to intercept. At 16:20, HMS Glasgow and Otranto saw smoke to the north and then three ships, the British reversed direction, so that both fleets were moving south and a chase began. Cradock was faced with a choice; the three faster cruisers could outrun the Germans but this meant abandoning HMS Otranto, or all the vessels stayed and fought. At 17:10, Cradock decided he must fight.
At around 19.30 HMS Good Hope and HMS Monmouth were hit and caught fire, making them easier targets for the German gunners. HMS Good Hope was hit repeatedly and around 19.50 her forward section exploded, she broke apart and sank. HMS Monmouth attempted to reach the Chilean coast but was hit and sunk by shells from SMS Nürnberg. There were no survivors from either Good Hope or Monmouth, 1,600 British officers and men were dead, including Admiral Cradock. HMS Glasgow and HMS Otranto both escaped.
A memorial to Rear Admiral Sir Christopher Cradock, K.C.V.O.C.B. and the officers and men under his command was placed in Saint John’s Church in Concepción, Chile.
In 1927 British Instructional Films made The Battles of Coronel and Falkland Islands, a lavish recreation of the two naval engagements of November and December 1914 re-enacted for the cameras by ships of the British Mediterranean Fleet based at Valetta, Malta. The film is fascinating not just for its faithful recreation of the battles, but also for presenting the Germans as honourable and worthy foes who fought gallantly for their country. Such was the impact the film made in Germany, that it was given a premiere at the first convention of European film exhibitors in Berlin in 1928. The film was digitally restored and remastered by the British Film Institute in 2014.
Of the men lost during the Battle of Coronel the following had Surrey connections.
HMS Good Hope
Bashford, Alfred, Able Seaman
BROWN, George Shipton, Lance Corporal
CHEESMAR, Stanley William, Able Seaman
COTTER, Francis John Anson, Sub-Lieutenant
DAVID, Charlie, Stoker 1st Class
ELSON, George Edward, Stoker 1st Class
FISHER, John Maurice Haig, Lieutenant
FLOWERS, George, Joiner
GASKELL, Gerald Bruce, Lt-Commander
GOSLING, John, Able Seaman
HOPTON, Thomas Francis, Mechanician
LARBY, Walter, Stoker 1st Class
ROYAL, Arthur Charles, Able Seaman
SMITH, William Wilton, Able Seaman
TAPLIN, Percy Charles, Stoker 1st Class
TRUSSLER, Frederick James, Private
TUDOR, Douglas Courtenay, Lieutenant
WHICHER, Frederick, Able Boy
BAGOT, Maurice John Hervey, Lieutenant
BRYAN, Norman Ford, Ordinary Seaman
COOPER, John, Fleet Paymaster
COWIE, Charles Gordon, Able Seaman
PASCOE, John Mydhope, Midshipman
SINGLETON, Eli, Able Seaman