LONDON GAZETTE NAVAL DESPATCH
With thanks to the London Gazette
Gazette No. 29087
- 2 MARCH 1915
3rd March, 1915.
The following despatch has been
received from Vice-Admiral Sir F. C. Doveton
Sturdee, K.C.B., C.V.O., C.M.G., reporting the
action off the Falkland Islands on Tuesday, the 8th
of December, 1914:
at Sea, December 12th, 1914.
I have the honour to forward a
report on the action which took place on 8th
December, 1914, against a German Squadron off the
I have the
honour to be, Sir, Your obedient Servant,
F. C. D.
STURDEE, Vice-Admiral, Commander-in-Chief.
The Secretary, Admiralty.
(A.) Preliminary Movements.
(B.) Action with the Armoured
(C.) Action with the Light
(D.) Action with the Enemy's
The squadron, consisting of H.M.
ships "Invincible," flying my flag, Flag Captain
Percy T. H. Beamish; "Inflexible," Captain Richard
F. Phillimore; "Carnarvon," flying the flag of
Rear-Admiral Archibald P. Stoddart, Flag Captain
Harry L. d'E. Skipwith; "Cornwall," Captain Walter
M. Ellerton; "Kent," Captain John D. Allen;
"Glasgow," Captain John Luce; "Bristol," Captain
Basil H. Fanshawe; and "Macedonia," Captain Bertram
S. Evans; arrived at Port Stanley, Falkland Islands,
at 10.30 a.m. on Monday, the 7th December, 1914.
Coaling was commenced at once, in order that the
ships should be ready to resume the search for the
enemy's squadron the next evening, the 8th December.
At 8 a.m. on Tuesday, the 8th
December, a signal was received from the signal
station on shore:
four-funnel and two-funnel man-of-war in sight from
Sapper Hill, steering northwards."
At this time, the positions of
the various ships of the squadron were as follows:
At anchor as look-out ship.
(guard ship): At anchor in Port William.
and "Inflexible": In Port William.
In Port William.
In Port William.
In Port Stanley.
In Port Stanley.
The "Kent" was at once ordered to
weigh, and a general signal was made to raise steam
for full speed.
At 8.20 a.m. the signal station
reported another column of smoke in sight to the
southward, and at 8.45 a.m. the "Kent" passed down
the harbour and took up a station at the entrance.
The "Canopus," Captain Heathcoat
S. Grant, reported at 8.47 a.m. that the first two
ships were 8 miles off, and that the smoke reported
at 8.20 a.m., appeared to be the smoke of two ships
about 20 miles off.
At 8.50 a.m. the signal station
reported a further column of smoke in sight to the
The ''Macedonia'' was ordered to
weigh anchor on the inner side of the other ships,
and await orders.
9.20 a.m. the two leading ships of the enemy
("Gneisenau" and "Nürnberg"), with guns trained on
the wireless station, came within range of the
"Canopus," who opened fire at them across the low
land at a range of 11,000 yards. The enemy at once
hoisted their colours and turned away. At this time
the masts and smoke of the enemy were visible from
the upper bridge of the "Invincible" at a range of
approximately 17,000 yards across the low land to
the south of Port William.
few minutes later the two cruisers altered course to
port, as though to close the "Kent" at the entrance
to the harbour, but about this time it seems that
the ''Invincible'' and '' Inflexible" were seen over
the land, as the enemy at once altered course and
increased speed to join their consorts.
The "Glasgow" weighed and
proceeded at 9.40 a.m. with orders to join the
"Kent" and observe the enemy's movements.
At 9.45 a.m. the squadron-less
the "Bristol" - weighed, and proceeded out of
harbour in the following order: ''Carnarvon,"
"Inflexible," "Invincible," and "Cornwall." On
passing Cape Pembroke Light, the five ships of the
enemy appeared clearly in sight to the south-east,
hull down. The visibility was at its maximum, the
sea was calm, with a bright sun, a clear sky, and a
light breeze from the north-west.
At 10.20 a.m. the signal for a
general chase was made. The battle cruisers quickly
passed ahead of the "Carnarvon" and overtook the
"Kent." The "Glasgow" was ordered to keep two miles
from the "Invincible," and the "Inflexible" was
stationed on the starboard quarter of the flagship.
Speed was eased to 20 knots at 11.15 a.m. to enable
the other cruisers to get into station.
At this time the enemy's funnels
and bridges showed just above the horizon.
Information was received from the
"Bristol " at 11.27 a.m. that three enemy ships had
appeared off Port Pleasant, probably colliers or
transports. The "Bristol" was therefore directed to
take the "Macedonia" under his orders and destroy
The enemy were still maintaining
their distance, and I decided, at 12.20 p.m., to
attack with the two battle cruisers and the
At 12.47 p.m. the signal to "Open
fire and engage the enemy" was made.
The "Inflexible" opened fire at
12.55 p.m. from her fore turret at the right-hand
ship of the enemy, a light cruiser; a few minutes
later the "Invincible" opened fire at the same ship.
The deliberate fire from a range
of 16,500 to 15,000 yards at the right-hand light
cruiser, who was dropping astern, became too
threatening, and when a shell fell close alongside
her at 1.20 p.m. she (the "Leipzig") turned away,
with the "Nürnberg " and "Dresden" to the
south-west. These light cruisers were at once
followed by the "Kent," "Glasgow," and "Cornwall,"
in accordance with my instructions.
The action finally developed into
three separate encounters, besides the subsidiary
one dealing with the threatened landing.
ACTION WITH THE ARMOURED CRUISERS.
The fire of the battle cruisers
was directed on the "Scharnhorst" and "Gneisenau."
The effect of this was quickly seen, when at 1.25
p.m., with the "Scharnhorst" leading, they turned
about 7 points to port in succession into line ahead
and opened fire at 1.30 p.m. Shortly afterwards
speed was eased to 24 knots, and the battle cruisers
were ordered to turn together, bringing them into
line ahead, with the "Invincible" leading.
The range was about 13,500 yards
at the final turn, and increased, until, at 2 p.m.,
it had reached 16,450 yards.
The enemy then (2.10 p.m.) turned
away about 10 points to starboard and a second chase
ensued, until, at 2.45 p.m., the battle cruisers
again opened fire; this caused the enemy, at 2.53
p.m., to turn into line ahead to port and open fire
at 2.55 p.m.
The "Scharnhorst" caught fire
forward, but not seriously, and her fire slackened
perceptibly; the "Gneisenau" was badly hit by the
At 3.30 p.m. the "Scharnhorst"
led round about 10 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.
The "Gneisenau " passed on the
far side of her late flagship, and continued a
determined but ineffectual effort to fight the two
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
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.
The prisoners of war from the
"Gneisenau" report that, by the time the ammunition
was expended, some 600 men had been killed and
wounded. The surviving officers and men were all
ordered on deck and told to provide themselves with
hammocks and any articles that could support them in
When the ship capsized and sank
there were probably some 200 unwounded survivors in
the water, but, owing to the shock of the cold
water, many were drowned within sight of the boats
Every effort was made to save
life as quickly as possible, both by boats and from
the ships; life-buoys were thrown and ropes lowered,
but only a proportion could be rescued. The
"Invincible" alone rescued 108 men, fourteen of whom
were found to be dead after being brought on board;
these men were buried at sea the following day with
full military honours.
ACTION WITH THE LIGHT CRUISERS.
At about 1 p.m., when the
"Scharnhorst" and "Gneisenau" turned to port to
engage the "Invincible" and "Inflexible” the enemy's
light cruisers turned to starboard to escape; the
"Dresden" was leading and the "Nürnberg" and
"Leipzig " followed on each quarter.
In accordance with my
instructions, the "Glasgow," "Kent," and "Cornwall"
at once went in chase of these ships; the
"Carnarvon," whose speed was insufficient to
overtake them, closed the battle cruisers.
The "Glasgow" drew well ahead of
the "Cornwall" and "Kent," and, at 3 p.m., shots
were exchanged with the "Leipzig" at 12,000 yards.
The "Glasgow's" object was to endeavour to outrange
the "Leipzig " with her 6-inch guns and thus cause
her to alter course and give the "Cornwall" and
"Kent" a chance of coming into action.
At 4.17 p.m. the "Cornwall"
opened fire, also on the "Leipzig."
At 7.17 p.m. the "Leipzig " was
on fire fore and aft, and the "Cornwall " and "
Glasgow " ceased fire.
The '' Leipzig'' turned over on
her port side and disappeared at 9 p.m. Seven
officers and eleven men were saved.
At 3.36 p.m. the "Cornwall"
ordered the "Kent" to engage the "Nürnberg," 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
"Nürnberg" at 5 p.m. At 6.35 p.m. the "Nürnberg" 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
"Nürnberg," 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 "Nürnberg" 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.
During the time the three
cruisers were engaged with the "Nürnberg" 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.
ACTION WITH THE ENEMY'S TRANSPORTS.
A report was received at 11.27
a.m. from H.M.S. "Bristol" that three ships of the
enemy, probably transports or colliers, had appeared
off Port Pleasant. The "Bristol" was ordered to take
the "Macedonia" under his orders and destroy the
H.M.S. "Macedonia" reports that
only two ships, steamships "Baden" and "Santa
Isabel," were present; both ships were sunk after
the removal of the crew.
I have pleasure in reporting that
the officers and men under my orders carried out
their duties with admirable efficiency and coolness,
and great credit is due to the Engineer Officers of
all the ships, several of which exceeded their
normal full speed.
The names of the following are
Commander Richard Herbert Denny
Townsend, H.M.S. "Invincible."
Commander Arthur Edward
Frederick Bedford, H.M.S. "Kent."
Arthur Thompson, H.M.S. "Glasgow."
Edward Danreuther, First and Gunnery Lieutenant,
Edward Andrew, H.M.S. "Kent."
Engineer-Commander Edward John
Weeks, H.M.S. "Invincible."
Paymaster Cyril Sheldon
Johnson, H.M.S. "Invincible."
Carpenter Thomas Andrew Walls,
Carpenter William Henry
Yenning, H.M.S. "Kent."
Carpenter George Henry Egford,
Officers and Men.
Chief Petty Officer David
Leighton, O.N. 124238; H.M.S. "Kent."
Petty Officer, 2nd Class,
Matthew J. Walton (R.F.R., A. 1756), O.N. 118358,
Leading Seaman Frederick Sidney
Martin, O.N. 233301, H.M.S. "Invincible," Gunner's
Mate, Gunlayer, 1st Class.
Signalman Frank Glover, O.N.
225731, H.M.S. "Cornwall."
Chief Engine-Room Artificer,
2nd Class, John George Hill, O.N. 269646, H.M.S.
Acting Chief Engine-Room
Artificer, 2nd Class, Robert Snowdon, O.N. 270654,
Engine-Room. Artificer, 1st
Class, George Henry Francis McCarten, O.N. 270023,
Stoker Petty Officer George S.
Brewer, O.N. 150950, H.M.S. "Kent."
Stoker Petty Officer William
Alfred Townsend, O.N. 301650, H.M.S. "Cornwall."
Stoker, 1st Class, John Smith,
O.N. SS 111915, H.M.S. "Cornwall."
Shipwright, 1st Class, Albert
N. E. England, O.N. 341971, H.M.S. "Glasgow."
Shipwright. 2nd Class, Albert
C. H. Dymott, O.N. M 8047, H.M.S. "Kent."
Portsmouth R.F.R.B. /3807
Sergeant Charles Mayes, H.M.S. "Kent."
C. D. STURDEE.