Vice-Admiral Sturdee's Victory

World War 1 Naval Combat

World War 1 Naval Combat

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The Secretary of the Admiralty made the following announcement on December 9, 1914:-

At 7.30 a.m. on December 8, 1914, the Scharnhorst, Gneisenau, Nurnberg, Leipzig, and Dresden were sighted near the Falkland Islands by a British Squadron under Vice-Admiral Sir Frederick Doveton Sturdee. An action followed, in the course of which the Scharnhorst, flying the flag of Admiral Graf von Spee, the Gneisenau, and the Leipzig were sunk.

The Dresden and the Nurnberg made off during the action and are being pursued.  Two colliers were also captured.

The Vice-Admiral reports that the British casualties are very few in number.  Some survivors have been rescued from the Gneisenau and the Leipzig.

A supplementary announcement was made by the Secretary of the Admiralty on December 10, 1914:-

A further telegram has been received from Vice-Admiral Sir Frederick Doveton Sturdee, reporting that the Nurnberg was also sunk on December 8, and that the search for the Dresden is still proceeding.

The action lasted for five hours, with intervals.

The Scharnhorst sank after three hours, and the Gneisenau two hours later.  The enemy's light cruisers scattered, and were chased by our cruisers and light cruisers.

No loss of any British vessel is reported.

[It is interesting to note that the British Admiral in command had a bare five weeks before been occupying the position of Chief of Staff at the Admiralty.]

The following are details of the sunk vessels :-

SCHARNHORST An armoured cruiser of 11,600 tons, with a complement of 765. Completed in 1907, and had a speed of 21 knots. Her armaments were eight 8.2 in., six 6 in., twenty 24-pdr., and four machine guns, and she had four submerged torpedo tubes.

GNEISENAU A sister ship of the Scharnhorst, completed in the same year. She was, however, speedier than the Scharnhorst, and recently did over 24 knots. Her armament was similar.

LEIPZIG A cruiser of 3,250 tons, completed in 1906. She had a complement of 286, carried ten 4.1 in., ten 1-pdr., and four machine guns, and had a speed of 23 knots.

NURNBERG Cruiser of 3,450 tons. Was completed in 1908, had a speed of 24 knots, and a complement of 295, and carried ten 4.1 in., eight 5-pdr., and four machine guns.

[The casualties on the victorious squadron, which were, as Vice-Admiral Sir F.D. Sturdee had previously reported, very light, included seven men killed, of whom four were men of the Royal Marine Light Infantry, one able seaman, and another seaman 
of the Royal Naval Reserve, and a stoker petty officer. Two other able seamen were severely wounded, one of them dangerously, and a signalman and a shipwright were also severely wounded. All the men, except one who came from Chatham, were Portsmouth men.]

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