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On this day in history: 8th December 1914 ‘Battle of the Falklands’

A WWI Royal Navy task force, commanded by Vice-Admiral Doveton Sturdee, took on an Imperial German Navy superfleet, led by Vice-Admiral Maximilian von Spee less than 100 nautical miles from Port Stanley.  In just a few hours, HMS Invincible and HMS Inflexible and five other British warships sank two German armoured cruisers and two light cruisers, including Admiral von Spee’s flagship, SMS Scharnhorst.  Almost 1,900 of the Kaiser’s sailors die, including von Spee and his two sons.  British casualties amount to 10 killed and less than 20 wounded. Von Spee’s German squadron had been attempting to raid the supply base at Stanley and seize the radio station.

A month earlier, on November 1st 1914, at the Battle of Coronel – Von Spee’s ships sink two British cruisers with 1,600 sailors losing their lives

The victory was revenge for a heavy defeat inflicted by Vice-Admiral von Spee on a Royal Navy fleet off the coast of Chile, at the Battle of Coronel, a month before, on November 1st 1914.  In that action von Spee’s fleet sank two British cruisers, killing around 1,600 Royal Navy sailors, including the fleet commander, Admiral Christopher Craddock. It’s said that only three German sailors were wounded in the action.

Photo of British sailors during WW1 | Falklands Maritime Heritage Trust (FMHT)

“Coronel was The Royal Navy’s worst defeat in a hundred years.”

Battle Day

December 8th has therefore become one of the most important days of the year in the Falklands and is marked by military parades, the laying of wreaths and a public holiday. Over the years, it has become an occasion when Britain and Germany come together in Stanley to remember the losses of both sides.  In 2020, of course, Covid 19 has intervened, especially in London, where there is usually a commemorative event at the Cenotaph organised by the Falkland Islands Association.