Now all roads lead to France and heavy is the tread
Of the living; but the dead returning lightly dance.
Edward Thomas, Roads

Monday, August 5, 2013

Images of a Doomed Fleet
from the Collection of Tony Langley

Click on Image to Expand

Images of a Doomed Fleet

The triumphant looking admiral in the lower photo above is Maximilian von Spee. He is visiting the city of Valparaiso, Chile, after his stunning defeat of a British squadron at the Battle of Coronel on 1 November 1914. Despite a large local German population, Chilean officials—concerned about neutrality issues—were not enthusiastic about this visit. They limited the German fleet to a 24-hour maximum stopover and to a maximum three-ship stopover. Those three ships, Scharnhorst, Gneisenau, and N├╝rnberg, are the outermost vessels in the harbor shown in the upper photograph.

The victorious admiral and his fleet, however, were destined for disaster. After leaving Chilean waters, they headed around the Horn to the Atlantic, intending to return to Germany. At the Falkland Islands on 8 December, von Spee unluckily ran into the very Royal Navy force sent to hunt for him. Its two modern battlecruisers, Inflexible and Invincible, could outgun and outrun any of von Spee's ships. After a long pursuit, all of the German ships, save one light cruiser, were sunk. British losses were negligible, while the Germans lost 2,000 killed, including Admiral von Spee and his two sons.

Photo Source: Wilson's History of the World War, Vol. II


  1. In Port Stanley there is a large monument commemorating the Battle of the Falkland Islands. However the 1982 monument is the one most often visited. I did meet one fellow tourist who asked me why there were two monuments to the 1982 war?

  2. The photograph's caption names the third German ship as the Leipzig rather than Nurnberg; was that incorrect?

    1. Hi Kara,

      Every source I checked (John Keegan on intelligence is one) indicates that Nurnberg was the third ship. Leipzig and Nurnberg were sister ships of the same class, so you can see how someone looking at just the ships or their images could confuse them. Of course, there's always the possibility that that was the only person who got it right.