In the XX century. generals stopped going to the battlefields ahead of their troops. But for the admirals, the habit of standing on the bridge of the flagship during a naval battle has been preserved. To the German Naval commander Max von Spee and it cost his two sons their lives in 1914.
Admiral on remote
Count Maximilian Johannes Maria Hubert von Spee was born on 22 June 1861. He is known for the circumstances of his death 53 years later. At the age of 17, he threw in his lot with the Navy. Almost all of Maximilian’s career was spent in the German colonies. Shortly before the First World War, he took command of the East Asian Cruiser Squadron (Qingdao, China). It consisted of two armored cruisers, Scharnhorst and Gneisenau, and four light cruisers, Dresden, Emden, Leipzig, and Nuremberg.
After the outbreak of hostilities, communication with Berlin was interrupted. From then on, von Spee decided where to go. It was dangerous to stay where he was. Japan, acting on the side of the Entente, would sooner or later reach Tsingtao. Most of the squadron moved to the coast of Chile. This country, although neutral, treated the Germans well. From there, having replenished the reserves of coal and fresh water, it was possible to break home.
England kept a task force of ships in the Falklands under the command of rear Admiral Sir Christopher Cradock. The force was not enough: the obsolete ironclad cruisers Good Hope and Monmouth, the light cruiser Glasgow, and the auxiliary cruiser Otranto. The slow-moving battleship Canopus had to be abandoned in the Falklands. However, at the end of October, the British put to sea to intercept the Germans.
The squadrons met on 1 November 1914 near the Chilean port of Coronel. Good Hope and Monmouth were sunk, and all 1,654 people on board, including Admiral Cradock, were killed. Glasgow & raquo; and & laquo;Otranto & raquo; were lucky to escape. After the victory, the German community of Chile presented von Spee with a bouquet of flowers. “This is a bouquet for my grave,” said the admiral. As in the water of the Atlantic looked.
On the morning of December 8, Spee’s squadron approached the British base of Port Stanley. The Germans expected to find one “Canopus” there, but they cruelly miscalculated. Just a day before them, the new battlecruisers Invincible and Inflexible, under the command of , had anchored in the Falkland IslandsVice Admiral Frederick Sturdy.
Spee had no chance against them. The worn-out machines of Scharnhorst and Gneisenau barely allowed 20 knots, and the main armament was sixteen 210-mm guns of the main caliber. Stardy’s battlecruisers could make 26 knots. They had the same number of large guns, but the caliber was 305 mm.
As the British began to catch up with von Spee, Scharnhorst, who was holding the flag, turned around and launched a final suicide attack to allow Gneisenau to escape. All for nothing: the Scharnhorst sank with the entire crew, including Admiral Spee. The circumstances of his death remained unknown. Soon after, Gneisenau and the admiral’s youngest son were killed. Otto von Spee.
Death of the squadron
On December 9, the British cruiser Kent overtook the German cruiser Nuremberg in the ocean. The death of the latter is described in the report of His Majesty’s Fleet Commander Allen: “Shortly after the distance to Nuremberg began to clearly shorten, at 17: 00, he opened fire on Kent fromtwo poop guns and a port stern gun. I responded with a salvo from the forward turret at the highest elevation, but it was short-lived. The first few shells of “Nuremberg” flew over “Kent” and fell astern, but “Nuremberg” quickly took aim. The distance was 12,000 yards (just under 11 km (AIF), but now his shooting was remarkably accurate.
We gradually drew closer, until the distance was reduced to 7,000 yards. Nuremberg turned 8 points to port to bring all the port guns into action. I turned to the left, too, and managed to bring him straight across. The range was reduced to 6,000 yards, and I opened fire with all the starboard guns. For about a quarter of an hour, we followed slightly converging courses until the distance was not too far.reduced to 3,000 yards. Kent’s shooting was excellent. Our shells were bursting, hitting “Nuremberg”. It almost stopped and stopped firing at 18: 35. Seeing this, I ordered a cease-fire… The Nuremberg sat heavily astern with a roll to starboard and began to sink. I ordered all the remaining boats to be prepared for launching, and prepared to rescue the survivors.
At 19: 26, it lay on the starboard side, capsized and sank. I saw a small group of people on the quarterdeck waving the German flag. I did my best to save as many people as possible. 3 of my boats were riddled with shells and shrapnel, and the carpenters were ordered to repair the least damaged ones. After about 20 minutes, we lowered 2 boats. Although 12 people were picked up, only 7 survived. The others died shortly after they were brought on board (Spee’s youngest son Otto was not among those rescued)».
The high mortality rate among the survivors of the battle is explained by the water temperature (6 or 7 degrees). Paying tribute to the courage and professionalism of his subordinates, Allen added: “I also want to express my admiration for the brave and decisive behavior of the captain, officers and sailors of Nuremberg in the battle, which they demonstrated until the very moment of the destruction of their ship. They continued to shoot with great accuracy and speed even after their ship had taken many hits and caught fire.
In the battle of the Falkland Islands, more than 2 thousand German sailors and only 6 Englishmen were killed. 212 Germans were rescued and captured.
Subsequently, in honor of Admiral von Spee, the Germans will name one of their “pocket battleships”. It will be included in the fleet of the Third Reich, but it will not be tainted by participation in war crimes-on the contrary, sinking ships in the Atlantic, the battleship will be famous for humane treatment of the sailors of intercepted ships and compliance, as far as possible, with the “rules of gentleman’s war”. By the will of fate, the ship “Graf von Spee” will die in approximately the same places as Admiral von Spee himself ,and also in a heroic battle. But that’s another story…