Graf von Spee's Report

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Vice Admiral Graf von Spee's Report of the action off Coronel, Chile, 2 November 1914, and the Report of Captain John Luce of the Glasgow

Graf von Spee's Report


Wind and swell were head on and the vessels had heavy going, especially the small cruisers on both sides. Observation and distance estimation were under a severe handicap because of the seas which washed over the bridges. The swell was so great that it obscured the aim of the gunners at the six inch guns on the middle deck, who could not see the sterns of the enemy ships at all and the bow but seldom. At 6.20 p.m., at a distance of 13,400 yards, I turned one point toward the enemy, and at 6.34 opened fire at a distance of 11,260 yards. The guns of both our armored cruisers were effective, and by 6.39 already we could note the first hit on the Good Hope. I at once resumed a parallel course instead of bearing slightly toward the enemy.

The English opened their fire at this time. I assume that the heavy sea made more trouble for them than it did for us. Their two armored cruisers remained covered by our fire, while they, so far as could be determined, hit the Scharnhorst but twice and the Gneisenau only four times.

At 6.53, when 6,500 yards apart, I ordered a course one point away from the enemy. They were firing more slowly at this time, while we were able to count numerous hits. We could see, among other things, that the top of the Monmouth's forward turret had been shot away and that a violent fire was burning in the turret. The Scharnhorst, it is thought, hit the Good Hope about thirty-five times.

In spite of our altered course the English changed theirs sufficiently so that the distance between us shrunk to 5,300 yards. There was reason to suspect that the enemy despaired of using his artillery effectively and was maneuvering for a torpedo attack. The position of the moon, which had risen at 6 o'clock, was favorable to this move. Accordingly, I gradually opened up further distance between the squadrons by another deflection of the leading ship at 7.45. In the meantime it had grown dark. The range-finder on the Scharnhorst used the fire on the Monmouth as a guide for a time, though eventually all range-finding, aiming, and observation became so inexact that firing was stopped at 7.26.

At 7.23 a column of fire from an explosion was noticed between the stacks of the Good Hope. The Monmouth apparently stopped firing at 7.20. The small cruisers, including the Nürnberg, received by wireless at 7.30 the order to follow the enemy and to attack his ships with torpedoes. Vision was somewhat obscured at this time by a rain squall. The light cruisers were not able to find the Good Hope, but the Nürnberg encountered the Monmouth, and at 8.58 was able by shots at closest range to capsize her without a single shot being fired in return. Rescue work in the heavy sea was not to be thought of, especially as the Nürnberg immediately afterward believed she had sighted the smoke of another ship and had to prepare for a new attack.

The small cruisers had neither losses nor damage in the battle. On the Gneisenau there were two men slightly wounded. The crews of the ship went into the fight with enthusiasm, every one did his duty and played his part in the victory.


The Report of Captain John Luce of the Glasgow


Glasgow left Coronel 9 a.m. on November 1 to rejoin Good Hope (flagship), Monmouth and Otranto at rendezvous. At 2 p.m. flagship signaled that apparently from wireless calls there was an enemy ship to northward. Orders were given for squadron to spread N.E. by E. in the following order: Good Hope, Monmouth, Otranto, and Glasgow, speed to be worked up to 15 knots. 4.20 p.m., saw smoke; proved to be enemy ships, one small cruiser and two armored cruisers. Glasgow reported to admiral, ships in sight were warned, and all concentrated on Good Hope. At 5 p.m. Good Hope was sighted.

5.47 p.m. squadron formed in line-ahead in following order: Good Hope, Monmouth, Glasgow, Otranto. Enemy, who had turned south, were now in single line ahead 12 miles off, Scharnhorst and Gneisenau leading. 6.18 p.m., speed ordered to 17 knots, and flagship signaled Canopus, 'I am going to attack enemy now.' Enemy were now 15,000 yards away, and maintained this range, at the same time jambing wireless signals.

By this time sun was getting immediately behind us from enemy position, and while it remained above horizon we had advantage in light, but range too great. 6.55 p.m., sun set, and visibility conditions altered, our ships being silhouetted against afterglow, and failing light mad e enemy difficult to see.

7.30 p.m., enemy opened fire 12,000 yards, followed in quick succession by Good Hope, Monmouth, Glagow. Two squadrons were now converging, and each ship engaged opposite number in the line. Growing darkness and heavy spray of head sea made firing difficult, particularly for main deck guns of Good Hope and Monmouth. Enemy firing salvos got range quickly, and their third salvo caused fire to break out on fore part of both ships, which were constantly on fire till 7.45 p.m. 7.50 p.m., immense explosion occurred on Good Hope amid ships, flames reaching 200 feet high. Total destruction must have followed. It was now quite dark.

Both sides continued firing at flashes of opposing guns. Monmouth was badly down by the bow, and turned away to get stern to sea, signaling to Glasgow to that effect. 8.30 p.m., Glasgow signaled to Monmouth : 'Enemy following us,' but received no reply. Under rising moon enemy's ships were now seen approaching, and as Glasgow could render Monmouth no assistance, she proceeded at full speed to avoid destruction. 8.50 p.m., lost sight of enemy. 9.20 p.m., observed 75 flashes of fire, which was no doubt final attack on Monmouth.

Nothing could have been more admirable than conduct of officers and men throughout. Though it was most trying to receive great volume of fire without chance of returning it adequately, all kept perfectly cool, there was no wild firing, and discipline was the same as at battle practice. When target ceased to be visible, gunlayers spontaneously ceased fire. The serious reverse sustained has entirely failed to impair the spirit of officers and ship's company, and it is our unanimous wish to meet the enemy again as soon as possible.


WWI Document Archive > 1914 Documents > Graf von Spee's Report