February 24, 2006
Lost at Coronel 1914
Once again I have been painting ships, or a ship to be precise. This time it is the Armoured Cruiser, HMS Good Hope, flagship of the South Atlantic squadron under Rear Admiral Sir Christopher Cradock. Built in 1901 as one of a "Class" of four known as the "Drake" Class, they were obsolete when the First World War erupted in August 1914. Originally four ships, Drake, Good Hope, King Alfred and Leviathan, they saw a wide range of service with the loss of both the Good Hope and of the Drake. On paper they look like powerful ships, carrying a broadside battery of sixteen 6 inch guns (eight on each side), twelve 12 pounders (six a side in casemates) and two 9.2 inch guns in two single turrets.
HMS Good Hope undergoing speed trials in 1901. Painted from a photograph of the ship taken in the Channel.
The great weakness in this design is the arrangement of the batteries. The lower "Battery Deck" is so close to the waterline that in any sort of seaway, the ship is liable to rolling the lower battery of guns under and rendering them unusable in a battle. This is what happened to Good Hope and her consort Monmouth when Cradock attempted to engage the more powerful ships of Graf von Spee's East Asiatic Squadron off the Coronel Coast of South America on 1st November 1914 in a rising gale and heavy seas. The well balanced and better designed pair of heavy armoured cruisers, Scharnhorst and Gneisenau swiftly overwhelmed Good Hope and Monmouth, both lost with all hands, but the unfavourable weather conditions allowed the light cruiser Glasgow and the Armed Merchant Cruiser Otranto to escape. They joined up with the pre-Dreadnought battleship Canopus - Cradock had been ordered to wait for her to join him before he engaged the German squadron (and her twelve inch guns would have made at least some difference), but decided to act rather than be accused of failing to engage the enemy.
Even the Admiralty had difficulty understanding Cradock's decision, particularly as it was known that the Scharnhorst and Gneisenau were superior ships and they had with them three light cruisers, Dresden, Nürnberg and Leipzig and an Auxilliary Cruiser, the liner Prinz Eitel Friedrich.
Glasgow and Otranto were very lucky to escape the massacre, only the worsening weather and the onset of the night saved them. However, the Monmouth's sister ships, Kent and Cornwall were at the Falklands a few months later when von Spee attempted to attack the capital, Port Stanley, and was in his turn surprised by the emergence of the battlecruisers Invincible and Inflexible. In an almost one sided fight, the two battlecruisers destroyed Scharnhorst and Gneisnau; Kent (burning her Wardroom furniture to supplement a shortage of coal!) caught and sank the Nürnberg; Cornwall and Glasgow caught and sank the Leipzig. There were no survivors from the Scharnhorst and only 90 of a crew of 400 from the Gneisenau. The other German ships crews fared slightly better, but not by much. Only Dresden escaped, but not for long, cornered, low on ammunition and coal, she was sunk at Mas a Fuego several months later.
And the Eitel Friedrich? She had been detached to patrol on the Coronel coast, but gradually found herself more and more hunted. She was eventually interred in a US port and ended the war as a transport for US Troops, surviving to serve again as a passenger liner until broken up in the late 1920's.
Posted by The Gray Monk at February 24, 2006 03:13 PM
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Posted by: catcher dream forever world at March 21, 2006 12:09 AM