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The Battle of Coronel


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#1 MichaelBully

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Posted 01 April 2012 - 05:50 PM

I have been looking at 'Castles of Steel- Britain, Germany, and the Winning of the Great War at Sea', by Robert K. Massie. Have read about 'The Battle of Coronel' of 1st November 1914 in this book, and this is the first time I have looked at this battle.
Was Admiral Cradock at fault for taking on Von Spee? Trying to work out what options he really had, particularly at that moment in the Great War. It was only some six weeks after the Broad Fourteens disaster in which the ABOUKIR, CRESSY and HOGUE had been lost. Moreover, the Royal Navy had to show that it would not retreat, the blockade of Germany involved having to generate a particular impression to neutral countries whose shipping could be caught up in the blockade.
Alternatively, it could be argued that the Royal Navy's prestige was weakened by Cradock's actions ,( until Von Spee was defeated at the Battle of the Falkland Islands.). That he engaged with Von Spee's ships with so little chance of victory.
Can't really work it out.
Michael Bully

#2 PMHart

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Posted 01 April 2012 - 06:00 PM

Michael,

I think your bafflement is symptomatic of the difficult choices and the sheer complexity of the situation faced by Craddock. There is no one 'correct' answer and most 'solutions' to the dilemma have severe drawbacks or rely on hindsight. What you can say is Craddock tried his best and won the admiration of his opponents as a 'plucky' foe. The Canopus engine 'problems' are at the heart of the whole matter and there has been much kerfuffle over the role of Churchill as well.... A really interesting battle despite its one-sided nature.

I certainly share your puzzlement,

Pete

#3 centurion

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Posted 01 April 2012 - 06:12 PM

Did he really have the option? Were not Von Spee's ships faster?

#4 RammyLad1

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Posted 01 April 2012 - 06:24 PM

Kit Craddock had no choice but to uphold the tradition of the Royal navy. This was the first time since the days of Nelson that a British line of ships engaged an enemy fleet. The book ' Coronel and Falkland ' by Barrie Pitt , explains this in detail. From the outset, Craddocks squadron was doomed , the heavier calibre of guns in Von Spee's cruiser's easily outranging Craddocks. The German Navy's gun crews were aknowledged as extemely accurate in finding their range. Once lines of engagement were formed the odds were stacked in Von Spee's favour.

Duncan



#5 MikB

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Posted 01 April 2012 - 06:33 PM

Did he really have the option? Were not Von Spee's ships faster?

I think he didn't, but not only because of von Spee's ships. The commanders who had let Goeben and Breslau slip into Turkey had only narrowly escaped court-martial for failing to engage, and Cradock had made it gin-clear he was never going to allow his reputation to be compromised in that way. His own character drove him to seek action - in keeping with the naval tradition that helped form it!

He had asked for, and been refused, the large armoured cruiser Defence which may have been enough to even up the odds somewhat. And it seems he was being fed unduly pessimistic information about the speed Canopus could make.

I don't know enough about the situation to know whether he could have made a better action if he'd been granted the first and properly informed about the second, but he had apparently said he wanted to die either in naval action or on the hunting field, and he had no immediate family.

Perhaps it was a pity he wasn't more merciful to his green crews in their obsolescent ships than he was to himself.

Regards,
MikB

#6 centurion

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Posted 01 April 2012 - 06:35 PM

Kit Craddock had no choice but to uphold the tradition of the Royal navy. This was the first time since the days of Nelson that a British line of ships engaged an enemy fleet.



Sorry to be picky but er Navarino (1827)?  Not to mention the Dardanelles 1807

#7 bill24chev

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Posted 01 April 2012 - 06:41 PM

Did he really have the option? Were not Von Spee's ships faster?


Spee's ships had been away from home sometime so may not have been as fast as their designed speed, they did out gun the RN ships, even Good Hope's two 9.2's had less range than the 8 inch guns on the German heavy criusers.


Craddock's Sqadron included the slowest ship in the engagement an AMC but he had wisley ordered this ship away before the battle started.

Also untill the two squadrons sigted each other both sides thoughy they would be engaging a single light cruiser.

#8 MichaelBully

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Posted 01 April 2012 - 07:37 PM

Thanks for all the replies, all most welcome and helpful.
From reading 'Castles of Steel'- I appreciate that not everyone feels Massie's work is accurate, but a chap has to start somewhere-there were arguments raging after the battle concerning Cradock's actions. The implication being that Cradock could have made a decision not to take on Von Spee superior strength, and sailed off.
Yes of course Von Spee's ships could have pursued .
Would Cradock also have faced court martial if he had not engaged the enemy and survived?
It seems that what could be classed as 'courageous' by one person could be counted as 'foolhardy' by someone else . Also a naval commander is risking the lives of many others besides his own, so there are questions to be raised if one accepts that Cradock had a degree of choice.
My opinion so far, and might well change with more study, is that at this particular stage in the Great War and with the spectre of the Broad Fourteens sinkings so recent, that a Royal Navy admiral could not be seen to be backing down when knowing that the enemy was so near.
Regards, Michael Bully



Spee's ships had been away from home sometime so may not have been as fast as their designed speed, they did out gun the RN ships, even Good Hope's two 9.2's had less range than the 8 inch guns on the German heavy criusers.


Craddock's Sqadron included the slowest ship in the engagement an AMC but he had wisley ordered this ship away before the battle started.

Also untill the two squadrons sigted each other both sides thoughy they would be engaging a single light cruiser.



#9 MartinBennitt

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Posted 01 April 2012 - 08:55 PM

Cruttwell's 'History of the Great War' puts it this way

When the smoke of the opposing squadrons .... became visible on the horizons ... Cradock might almost certainly have avoided an action and retired on the Canopus 300 miles to the south. This, however, was far from his intetnion; he turned towards the enemy. His motive can only be guessed. he can have had little doubt that he was going to destruction, but presumably hoped before the end so to damage the German ships so as to cripple their freedom of action. Thus with their stings drawn they would have fallen prey to his avenger.


Cradock was also outmanoeuvred by von Spee

Cradock, being further from the land, kep the rays of the declining sun striking from behind him into the eyes of the enemy, and sought to force an action as soon as possible. Spee on the contrary aimed both at preventing the British from seeking the shelter of the neutral coast and at delaying battle until after sundown when the British cruisers would be silhouetted against the flaming horizon and his own practically invisible. In this object he was successful. His gunners did not belie their reputation; in less than an hour the Good Hope had been sunk and the Monmouth driven burning into the darkness, where by ill luck the Nürnberg found her. Helpless but grimly determined she refussed to surrender and was destroyed.


Cradock's own personality and background, as well as his belief in the traditions of the service which were imbued in every officer, must all have had something to do with his decisions, but he was also surely let down by the Admiralty, which could have given him more support.

cheers Martin B

#10 MikB

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Posted 01 April 2012 - 09:11 PM

I appreciate that not everyone feels Massie's work is accurate, but a chap has to start somewhere-
...
Yes of course Von Spee's ships could have pursued .
...
My opinion so far, and might well change with more study, is that at this particular stage in the Great War and with the spectre of the Broad Fourteens sinkings so recent, that a Royal Navy admiral could not be seen to be backing down when knowing that the enemy was so near.
Regards, Michael Bully


Perhaps I haven't studied enough, but so far as I can see Massie produced a well-documented piece of work, and my objection have mainly been about such trivia as the persistent use of 'casement' instead of 'casemate' - but that's probably down to his proofreader(s)... :D

I don't know whether von Spee would have pursued Cradock had the latter not sought action. Even light damage can become a serious constraint far from home with a numerous enemy at large on the sea. This of course became much clearer later, but it's quite likely von Spee would have considered it and not forced action had Cradock not found him.

I think your opinion is probably correct, not only in its assessment of the political atmosphere, but in the character of Cradock himself.

Regards,
MikB

#11 MichaelBully

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Posted 01 April 2012 - 09:58 PM

Thank you for your comments Martin and Mike B. Interesting.

Yes perhaps Cradock realised that the odds were against him, but still thought that there could be a real chance of seriously damaging Von Spee's ships in the process. Von Spee's squadron were isolated from Germany and the Central Powers, and had few places where they could go for repairs, coal and supplies.

Regards. Michael Bully

#12 John(txic)

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Posted 02 April 2012 - 06:14 AM

Centurion: I think you mean Navarino Bay, 1827.


Regards,


John

#13 KizmeRD

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Posted 02 April 2012 - 06:03 PM

a Royal Navy admiral could not be seen to be backing down when knowing that the enemy was so near.


Cradock was well aware of what had recently happened to Rear-Admiral Troubridge (who was court martialled in August for failing to engage the enemy, despite the odds being severely against him) and he wasn't going to have the same thing happening to him.

Michael

#14 michaeldr

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Posted 03 April 2012 - 09:51 AM

For those so inclined, there is plenty to read on-line from The Naval Review
Put Coronel into their archive search here http://www.naval-rev...org/tblcont.asp and about 12 articles come up

Entering Cradock produces only one article, which does not cover Coronel as it is "too well known"
However it does offer an insight into the character of Cradock from one who knew him
“When in command of the 4th Cruiser Squadron in Mexican waters early in 1914, in a letter to the present writer, he mentioned that the Americans and French were annoyed at his officers preferring the company of German naval officers when on shore. He added "I am not at all surprised at their preference.” This is interesting, as showing to the post-war officers the pre-war feelings of the service..............................
The present writer had always looked upon Cradock in pre-war years as an " Elizabethan," and whether or not he lived like Walter Raleigh, he certainly died like Richard Grenville.”

#15 simonharley

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Posted 03 April 2012 - 02:43 PM

It may be of interest that the writer of the article in question was Admiral Sir Richard F. Phillimore, who served with some distinction during the Great War.

Simon

#16 MichaelBully

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Posted 03 April 2012 - 06:35 PM

That's much appreciated, had not looked at this website before, will read the articles about Coronel and Cradock. Thank you. Michael Bully

For those so inclined, there is plenty to read on-line from The Naval Review
Put Coronel into their archive search here http://www.naval-rev...org/tblcont.asp and about 12 articles come up

Entering Cradock produces only one article, which does not cover Coronel as it is "too well known"
However it does offer an insight into the character of Cradock from one who knew him
"When in command of the 4th Cruiser Squadron in Mexican waters early in 1914, in a letter to the present writer, he mentioned that the Americans and French were annoyed at his officers preferring the company of German naval officers when on shore. He added "I am not at all surprised at their preference." This is interesting, as showing to the post-war officers the pre-war feelings of the service..............................
The present writer had always looked upon Cradock in pre-war years as an " Elizabethan," and whether or not he lived like Walter Raleigh, he certainly died like Richard Grenville."



#17 LCI_164

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Posted 07 April 2012 - 01:19 PM

I have just started a Topic, regarding the loss of a relative on board HMS Monmouth. Your many posts have answered all the questions, thank you very much.Should have found your thread first!

LCI_164

#18 MichaelBully

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Posted 07 April 2012 - 06:50 PM

Glad that this thread has been a help. Certainly I am very grateful for all the information that people have posted.

I have seen that on your thread re HMS Monmouth that Dave has directed you to

http://www.coronel.org.uk/index.php

I will also be reading over this website in the near future.

Regards, Michael Bully

EDIT- also found that Western Front Association website has an article relating to Coronel

http://www.westernfr...rest-waves.html

I have just started a Topic, regarding the loss of a relative on board HMS Monmouth. Your many posts have answered all the questions, thank you very much.Should have found your thread first!

LCI_164



#19 LCI_164

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Posted 09 April 2012 - 01:47 PM

Thank you for the link to the Western Front Assn, I would not have thought to look there. I did not realise the significance of the battle, perhaps it deserves to be more widely recognised. Feel very sad for my relative, a 22 year old steward on the Monmouth, there were so many more just like him though.

#20 Terry Duncan

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Posted 09 April 2012 - 03:54 PM

Before anyone is too critical of Craddock it needs to be considered that he thought he was likely to find Leipzig when he arrived at Coronel, and once he realized Spee's entire squadron was present it was probably too late to do anything else other than to engage due to his squadrons poor overall speed. Even though the battle was lost it did cost Spee approximately 50% of his ammo, so any future engagement was likely to see the end of the squadron as a functional military force. Seapower is not maintained by allowing the enemy to steam where they wish uncontested, and it would have been possible for Spee to leave Craddock behind and reach the Falklands, loot the coal and set fire to anything remaining.

A very good case can be made for questioning how such an ill-prepared squadron was ever assembled and given such a task as Craddock's, reservists without gun practice due to admiralty warnings not to waste ammo was a disaster waiting to happen. The requests for Defence to be assigned to the group made good sense but were ignored, and it is hard to disagree with Fisher's comment that the dispositions left the navy strong nowhere and weak everywhere.

#21 MichaelBully

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Posted 10 April 2012 - 07:55 PM

Helpful comments Terry, and offering me a new perspective regarding The Battle of Coronel. Thank you for posting. Regards, Michael Bully

Before anyone is too critical of Craddock it needs to be considered that he thought he was likely to find Leipzig when he arrived at Coronel, and once he realized Spee's entire squadron was present it was probably too late to do anything else other than to engage due to his squadrons poor overall speed. Even though the battle was lost it did cost Spee approximately 50% of his ammo, so any future engagement was likely to see the end of the squadron as a functional military force. Seapower is not maintained by allowing the enemy to steam where they wish uncontested, and it would have been possible for Spee to leave Craddock behind and reach the Falklands, loot the coal and set fire to anything remaining.

A very good case can be made for questioning how such an ill-prepared squadron was ever assembled and given such a task as Craddock's, reservists without gun practice due to admiralty warnings not to waste ammo was a disaster waiting to happen. The requests for Defence to be assigned to the group made good sense but were ignored, and it is hard to disagree with Fisher's comment that the dispositions left the navy strong nowhere and weak everywhere.