|The first definite news of the location of von Spee was on September 16, 1914 when the East Asiatic Squadron appeared at Apia, Samoa, which had been occupied
by troops from New Zealand. Two days before the German Squadron appeared at Samoa, the British Admiralty wired Rear Admiral Christopher Cradock on the
American Station to concentrate his force at the Falklands in case von Spee was making for Chile. He was to be reinforced with the old predreadnought battleship,
Canopus, and the new armored cruiser, Defence, which would come from the Mediterranean Sea. Cradock flew is flag on the large armored cruiser, HMS Good
Hope, of the Drake Class and also had HMS Monmouth, one of the smaller County Class armored cruisers. After the German Squadron left Samoa towards the
northwest, the Admiralty ordered Craddock to attack German shipping on the west coast of South America and that he no longer needed to concentrate his forces.
The Admiralty thought Cradock’s two armored cruisers and the armed merchant cruiser, Otranto, would do, since von Spee appeared to be steaming away from
South America. The Defence was ordered to remain at Malta but the Admiralty neglected to tell Cradock that he would not be getting this powerful cruiser. Von Spee
had left Samoa to the northwest but that was a feint, designed to conceal his true course, eastward. It wasn’t until September 22 when the East Asiatic Squadron
appeared off French Tahiti, that the Admiralty realized that they had been duped by von Spee. First Lord Winston Churchill still thought that the Germans might
double back to the west and although they informed Cradock of von Spee’s appearance at Tahiti, they didn’t change his orders to sink German shipping off the west
coast of Chile. Cradock left that same day to complete his mission with the information that the only likely warship he might encounter was the light cruiser, SMS
Dresden. SMS Dresden was off of Chile but von Spee ordered her and the light cruiser SMS Leipzig off Mexico to meet his squadron at Easter Island. While the
Germans were concentrating at Easter Island in early October, Cradock had returned to the Falklands on a wild goose chase of reports of sighting of the Dresden. On
October 7 Cradock received a report about a captured intercept that von Spee was traveling to Easter Island and therefore was headed his way and to concentrate
forces. The Defence was finally sent to the South Atlantic but with orders to join the armored cruiser, HMS Carnarvon, to form a second squadron for duty in the
South Atlantic. The admiralty thought that two squadrons would be needed, one for the eastern coast and one for the western coast. When Canopus arrived at Port
Stanley in the Falklands on October 18, Cradock was told that she would need five days for repairs and only had a top speed of 12-knots.
On October 22, 1914 HMS Good Hope weighed anchor. “He knew what he was up against and asked for a fast cruiser with big guns to be added to his squadron
for he had nothing very powerful and nothing very fast, but the Admiralty said he’d have to go without, so old Cradock said ‘All right, we’ll do without’, and he
slipped off quietly early one morning and left the Canopus to look after the colliers and transports and picked up the Glasgow and Monmouth and set out to look
for these crack Germans.” Falklands Governor’s ADC, Coronel and the Falklands, by Geoffrey Bennett, The Macmillan Company, New York 1962, at page 92. The
Canopus with the colliers left the next day. On October 27 von Spee coaled at the island at Mas a Fuera before leaving for Valparaiso, Chile. He knew of Cradock’s
squadron but saw his force as superior. He used only the light cruiser SMS Leipzig for radio transmissions to hide the presence of his squadron. Also on October 27
Cradock cabled the Admiralty that the Canopus was too slow to be of help and that he had ordered HMS Defence to join him. The Admiralty countermanded
Cradock’s order to Defence and informed Cradock would remain on the eastern coast of South America. This message was not received by Cradock until the
afternoon on November 1, 1914 and by then Rear Admiral Christopher Cradock and his armored cruisers had only of a few hours of life left.
When Cradock received this message he had his cruisers spread out in a search line looking for the SMS Leipzig, the only German warship that he knew was
operating off Chile. The ships were spaced 15-miles apart from each ship to the other from west to east, Good Hope, Monmouth, Otranto and light cruiser, Glasgow
cruising northwest by north at 15-knots. A Leipzig radio transmission had been heard at 13:50 so Cradock was expecting to encounter only one light cruiser, not von
Spee’s entire squadron. With the wind and seas building, Glasgow sighted smoke to the northeast at 16:20. Von Spee had heard that the Glasgow had visited the port
of Coronel the day before and was hurrying southward to catch the light cruiser. At 16:30 Leipzig spotted smoke of the Glasgow and changed course to investigate.
So the two ships to first make contact were the very ships that each Admiral expected to encounter. At 16:40 Glasgow reported the presence of Scharnhorst and
Gneisenau with the Leipzig. At 17:00 Cradock ordered his squadron to close with Glasgow. Given that there were no friendly ports short of Germany, all he had to
do was damage the German ships to cripple their operations. He intended to close as quickly as possible to get his numerous 6-inch guns into firing range. Good Hope
had only two 9.2-inch guns with sixteen six-inch guns and Monmouth had only 6-inch guns. As they headed east into the heavy seas, the 6-inch guns on the main
decks of his cruisers were unworkable because of the sea state. The sun was setting behind them so they were silhouetted against the sky, while the shapes of von
Spee’s cruisers blended with the gloom of dusk. Not only were the tactical conditions against Cradock but there was a serious qualitative imbalance. Von Spee’s
Squadron had operated together for years with well trained seamen and superb firing accuracy. Cradock’s cruisers were taken out of reserve and manned by
reservists. The Scharnhorst and Gneisenau were much newer than Good Hope and Monmouth and had twice the broadside weight.