Invidious Choices – German East Asia Squadron and RAN in the Pacific


By Lieutenant Commander Desmond Woods RAN*

On the morning of 4th November 1914 news reached the Admiralty in Whitehall of the disaster that had overtaken Rear Admiral Sir Christopher Cradock and his cruisers Good Hope and Monmouth at the Battle of Coronel off central Chile on the evening of 1 November.  Cradock and all 1660 men of his two outclassed, under gunned and obsolete cruisers had been destroyed – without inflicting any serious damage on Vice Admiral Maximilian’s von Spee’s armoured cruisers SMS Scharnhorst and Gniesenau and his cruiser escorts.  These were the ships of the German East Asia Squadron that had crossed the Pacific from their base in China, solved the problems of coaling and supply, and retained their capacity to strike at the Royal Navy’s South Atlantic Squadron with lethal force.

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