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The Falkland Islands Despatch


With many thanks to Bev Edmonds for sending me that source material from "The Sphere, London, dated March 20, 1915.

The Sinking of the Nurnberg by the British Light Cruiser "Kent.
It was grey and misty at the time, with a choppy sea rising
Drawn by Montague Dawson from a sketch by an eye-witness of the event.
The image covered the top half of two pages and has been stitched together, so it's difficult to see the intended effect, plus the top part had been damaged by age etc..

THE official account of the Falkland Islands which was made public on March 3 brings out one or two points which it is desirable to emphasise. Firstly there were three separate actions which came to their particular conclusions. There is the question of the range at which the main action took place. One sees the Invincible opening fire at the Leipzig at a range of 15,000 to 16,500 yards. Then farther we note that at 1.25 the Germans turned to port to engage our ships more closely, but were evidently quickly compelled to alter course yet again, for in three quarters of an hour they turned again to starboard to carry them away from their foes and at the same time enable them to use their opposite battery, and the range jumped from 13,500 to 16,000 yards.

The Carnarvon took practically no part in the action. She followed the battle-cruisers. The Dresden was enabled to escape by her superior speed and by the fact that the British cruisers were too busy with her slower and more unfortunate consort. The official narrative describes the fight of the two fast German cruisers, Scharnhorst and Gneisenau.

Revised chart showing the Action off the Falklands as recorded in Admiral Sturdee's Despatch
Click on the graphic to view a readable copy.

The Last of the "Scharnhorst"

" The Scharnhorst caught fire forward, but not seriously, and her fire slackened perceptibly ; the Gneisenau was badly hit by the Inflexible. At 3.30 p.m. the Scharnhorst led round about ten points to starboard; just previously her fire had slackened perceptibly, and one shell had shot away her third funnel; some guns were not firing, and it would appear that the turn was dictated by a desire to bring her starboard guns into action. The effect of the fire on the Scharnhorst became more and more apparent in consequence of smoke from fires, and also escaping steam; at times a shell would cause a large hole to appear in her side, through which could be seen a dull red glow of flame. At 4.4 p.m. the Scharnhorst, whose flag remained flying to the last, suddenly listed heavily to port, and within a minute it became clear that she was a doomed ship, for the list increased very rapidly until she lay on her beam ends, and at 4.17 p.m. she disappeared.

Captain J. D. Allen
of HMS Kent, who has just received his C.B.

"Gneisenau's" Ineffectual Flight

"The Gneisenau passed on the far side of her late flagship and continued a determined but ineffectual effort to fight the two battle-cruisers. At, 5.8 p.m. the forward funnel was knocked over and remained resting against the second funnel. She was evidently in serious straits and her fire slackened very much. At 5.15 p.m. one of the Gneisenau's shells struck the Invincible; this was her last effective effort. At 5.30 p.m. she turned towards the flagship with a heavy list to starboard, and appeared stopped, with steam pouring from her escape pipes and smoke from shell and fires rising everywhere. About this time I ordered the signal, 'Cease fire,' but before it was hoisted the Gneisenau opened fire again, and continued to fire from time to time with a single gun.

"At 5.40 p.m. the three ships closed in on the Gneisenau, and at this time the flag flying at her fore truck was apparently hauled down, but the flag at the peak continued flying. At 5.50 p.m. 'Cease fire' was made. At 6 p.m. the Gneisenau heeled over very suddenly, showing the men gathered on her decks and then walking on her side as she lay for a minute on her beam ends before sinking.

Sinking of the "Nurnberg"

"At 3.36 p.m. the Cornwall ordered the Kent to engage the Nurnberg, the nearest cruiser to her. Owing to the excellent and strenuous efforts of the engine-room department the Kent was able to get within range of the Nurnberg at 5 p.m. At 6.35 p.m. the Nurnberg was on fire forward, and ceased firing. The Kent also ceased firing and closed to 3,300 yards ; as the colours were still observed to be flying in the Nurnberg the Kent opened fire again. Fire was finally stopped five minutes later on the colours being hauled down, and every preparation was made to save life. The Nurnberg sank at 7.27 p.m., and as she sank a group of men were waving a German ensign attached to a staff. Twelve men were rescued, but only seven survived. The Kent had four killed and twelve wounded, mostly caused by one shell.

Escape of the "Dresden"

"During the time the three cruisers were engaged with the Nurnberg and Leipzig, the Dresden, who was beyond her consorts, effected her escape owing to her superior speed. The Glasgow was the only cruiser with sufficient speed to have had any chance of success. However, she was fully employed in engaging the Leipzig for over an hour before either the Cornwall or Kent could come up and get within range. During this time the Dresden was able to increase her distance and get out of sight. The weather changed after 4 p.m., and the visibility was much reduced; further, the sky was overcast and cloudy, thus assisting the Dresden to get away unobserved."

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