November 1, 1914 - “In most cases hits by high explosive shells were immediately followed by outbreaks of fire....Twice I observed what I believed to be an
explosion of ammunition. The flames shot up immediately after hits by high explosive shells and were distinguishable from the other fires by their dimensions
and outline. Some hits, probably on the decks, sent up showers of sparks over a wide area. When armour was hit thick black clouds with sharp outlines were
observed. Hits were so frequent that it was impossible to note them in chronological order. The Good Hope received...serious the fore part of the ship...on
the upper bridge...on the mast about thirty feet above the deck...[and] on the after side of the foretop....[She] was also hit repeatedly amidships, most of these
causing fires....The after battery was hit several times and fires broke out. The flames in the interior of the ship could be seen through the port holes. Two shells
struck the ship near the after turret....The Monmouth was hit on her fore 6-inch turret. The high explosive shell blew off the roof....A terrific explosion of
charges must then have blown the whole turret off the forecastle for it disappeared completely.
” Lieutenant Knoop, Spotting Officer SMS Scharnhorst, Coronel
and the Falklands
, by Geoffrey Bennett, The Macmillan Company, New York 1962, at page 32.

December 8, 1914 - “
...the effect of the [British] 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. Notwithstanding the punishment she
was receiving, her fire was wonderfully steady, and accurate, and the persistency of her salvoes was remarkable.
” Rear Admiral Sir Doveton Sturdee,  Coronel and
the Falklands
, by Geoffrey Bennett, The Macmillan Company, New York 1962, at page 144.

As a kingdom, Prussia had a very limited need for a navy. Faced in the east with Imperial Russia and to the south by the Austrian Empire, the kingdom was almost
exclusively a land power. Prussia led the consolidation of German states that resulted in the German Empire at the conclusion of the Franco-Prussian War. The Unified
Germany was slow in jumping into the race for colonies that especially characterized the last half of the 19th century. When she did acquire African and Pacific Ocean
colonies, it was decided that Germany needed a navy to defend them from other European powers, not to mention a fast rising Imperial Japan that was just as happy
to colonize as any European power. After the unification , the new Germany started building iron clad steam corvettes, which used sail and steam. Without a network
of coaling stations, such as France and especially Great Britain possessed, German designs had to incorporate sail, even as it was being phased out in the ship designs
of other naval powers. It was the
Irene Class (4,947-tons displacement) of protected cruisers laid down in 1886 that finally dropped sail as a means of propulsion.
Two even larger classes of protected cruiser followed.
Kaiserin Augusta (6,218-tons displacement) of 1890 and the five cruisers of the Victoria Louise class (6,289-
tons displacement) of 1896, continued the increase in size and with the
Victoria Louise introduced much heavier armament with two 210mm (8.2-inch), eight 150mm
(5.9-inch) and ten 88mm (3.7-inch) guns. However, there was one other cruiser laid down in 1896, the first of the German armored cruisers, the
The Fürst Bismarck was ground-breaking in almost every conceivable manner. It was in the same displacement range as the latest German battleship construction
and her main armament was identical to that of the contemporary
Kaiser Class battleships. Before jumping to the conclusion that this ship was an earlier version of
the battlecruiser, it must be noted that German battleships were decidedly under-gunned compared to other battleship designs. The common main armament of
battleships in the Royal Navy was four 12-inch guns positioned in one forward and one aft twin gun turret. The German
Kaiser and subsequent Wittelsbach battleship
class of 1899, the German battleships designs carried 9.4-inch (240mm) guns instead of 12-inch guns.
Fürst Bismarck was laid down in 1896 at the Kiel dockyard,
launched September 25, 1897 and completed on April 1, 1900.         

Her primary characteristics were her heavy armament and heavy armor for a cruiser. The best way to differentiate the strengths of the
Fürst Bismarck in
comparison with the contemporary British cruiser construction, the
Diadem class protected cruiser. Fürst Bismarck was laid down in 1896, two years before the
Royal Navy restarted building armored cruisers with the
Cressy Class of 1898, so the Fürst Bismarck is more impressive as a design over the Diadem class in every
category except for speed.
Germany took a large step backward for the next armored cruiser design. This design was constructed specifically for service in the far east where Germany had
possessions in the Caroline and Marshall Islands and a Squadron home base at Tsingtao, China. The
Prinz Heinrich was only two feet shorter than Fürst Bismarck
but 1,500-tons lighter in displacement. Everything was cut back from the previous ship with only a single 8.4-inch (240mm) gun per turret instead of twin guns, ten
5.9-inch (150mm) guns instead of twelve and an armor belt of only 4-inches. However,
Prinz Heinrich was two knots faster. She was laid down in 1898 and
completed March 11, 1902. During the same time period the Royal Navy was building six ships of the much superior
Cressy Class armored cruisers. After Prinz
, the Imperial German Navy established a pattern of having two ships in each class of armored cruiser with one ship laid down per year, hardly competition
for the Royal Navy.
Two years passed before the Prinz Adalbet, was laid down at Kiel Dockyard in 1900 with sister, Friedrich Carl at Blohm & Voss in 1901. They had only a slightly
greater displacement than
Prinz Heinrich but were of the same length. Horsepower increased to 18,500ihp compared to the 15,700ihp of Prinz Heinrich. With the
additional power, the
Prinz Adalbert had three funnels instead of two. More importantly gunpower increased. With four 8.2-inch (210mm) and the same ten 5.9-inch
(150mm) guns. In 1902 a new class appeared with
Roon laid down at Kiel Dockyard in 1902 and Yorck at Blohm & Voss in 1903. The length increased to 419-feet
7-inches and the displacement finally broke the 10,000-ton line at 10,104-tons, still 1,100-tons less than the
Fürst Bismarck of 1896. The main and secondary guns
remained the same. The
Roon Class had four funnels. In the four years that Germany built four thoroughly mediocre armored cruisers, Great Britain constructed
twenty-six armored cruisers, the best of which were the four
Warrior Class of 1904 over 3,000-tons heavier than the Roon Class, 86-feet longer, three-knots faster
and with 9.2-inch and 7.5-inch guns.

At the end 1904 an armored cruiser of a new design was laid down at Weser in Bremen on December 28, 1904 but the name ship of the class was laid down at
Blohm & Voss in Hamburg on January 3, 1905. These were the
Scharnhorst and Gneisenau, which could be compared against the contemporary British armored
cruisers built in 1905, the
Minotaur Class. The Scharnhorst Class had a 2,000-ton leap in displacement to 12,781-tons. Length was 474-feet 9-inches (144.5m)
overall and 472-feet 2-inches (143.8m) waterline, with a beam of 71-feet (21.6m) and draught of 27-feet 6-inches (8.37m). The three triple expansion engines
produced 30,000ihp for a maximum speed of 23.5-knots. Eight 8.2-inch (210mm), six 5.9-inch (150mm), and eighteen 88mm guns, along with four 450mm torpedo
tubes formed the armament. The armored belt was increased by 50% over that of the
Roon Class, 6-inches vs 4-inches. The broadside was six 8.2-inch and three
5.9-inch guns, compared to the
Minotaur Class broadside of four 9.2-inch and four 7.5-inch guns. However, the Minotaur Class had all of their main and secondary
guns in turrets, which were clearly superior to the casemate guns of some of the main guns and all of the secondary guns of the
Scharnhorst Class. The
Scharnhorst was launched on March 22, 1906 and completed on October 4, 1907. After completion Scharnhorst became flagship of the Scouting Force. On April
Scharnhorst left Germany and sailed to Tsingtao to replace Fürst Bismarck as flagship of the East Asiatic Squadron. On September 8,1910 Gneisenau left
Germany to join
Scharnhorst in China.
It was in China that the
Scharnhorst and Gneisenau under the Squadron Command of Vice Admiral Maximilian Graf von Spee became crack gunnery ships of the
Imperial German Navy.
Scharnhorst won the Kaiser’s prize in two consecutive years for superior gunnery. Although based in China, across the Yellow Sea from
Korea, primary duties of the East Asiatic Squadron were showing the flag and patrolling the German colonies in the Caroline and Marshall Islands. The East Asiatic
Squadron had left Tsingtao at the end of June 1914 and was patrolling the islands when World War One began. It made no sense to return to Tsingtao, since it was
likely that Japan would join the allies and Tsingtao would become of their first targets. Von Spee decided that the squadron’s best course of action would be an
attempt to return to Germany by going around Cape Horn. Another option was to try to go through the Panama Canal but there would be heavier opposition and he
could be bottled up in the Caribbean Sea, which was filled with British colonies. In any event, his squadron would need to be supplied with coal on the odyssey in
front of them and a voyage to the Americas presented the best option to obtain the coal needed. In addition the German Admiralty had reported to von Spee that Chile
was favorable to Germany. Prior to the start of the war, he had concentrated his light cruisers with his armored cruisers but he detached the Emden to raid the
shipping in the Indian Ocean. On August 19 the East Asiatic Squadron reached Eniwetok Atoll in the German controlled Marshall Islands and coaled. The next stop
for coaling was the Majuro Atoll in the southern end of the Marshall Island chain. Von Spee had sent the
Nurnberg to Honolulu to cable the German Admiralty his
plans and to send coal to the port of Juan Fernandez, Chile, which he hoped to reach on October 15. The news that Japan had indeed declared war against Germany
cut any thread of traveling west. Meanwhile, the Royal Navy had no idea of the location of the powerful German Squadron and Pacific shipping was cut back. When
Emden suddenly popped up in the Indian Ocean, a scare went through the Admiralty that the whole German Squadron might also be there. They had also picked
up reports that colliers were steaming to ports in Chile, so that was certainly another possible destination of the German Squadron. Another report said they were in
the Java Sea using Dutch colonial ports. A painstaking search of the East Indies was undertaken, which of course fruitless.
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
, 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 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.
At 19:00 von Spee’s Squadron opened fire. Otranto moved seaward to get out of range but Cradock’s cruisers continued to close. Scharnhorst and Gneisenau
showed why they were crack gunnery ships. With the first salvo the shells landed near the
Good Hope and Monmouth and Good Hope’s forward 9.2-inch gun was
knocked out on
Scharnhorst’s third salvo. Good Hope fired at Scharnhorst in return and Monmouth at Gneisenau but Gneisenau’s return fire on Monmouth blew
her forward 6-inch gun turret overboard and set the ship on fire.
Glasgow opened fire at Leipzig while Leipzig and Dresden fired on Glasgow. The fire of
Monmouth became more ragged under the continued punishment from Gneisenau. The engagement has started at 12,300-yards but by 19:35 the range was down
to 5,500-yards and the British armored cruisers were being savaged by German fire. At 19:50 a huge explosion was observed on
Good Hope between her main mast
and aft funnel with a pillar of flame over 200-feet tall. No one actually saw
Good Hope sink with Admiral Cradock and all hands but it was probably around 20:00,
an hour after firing had started. At 20:15
Glasgow closed Monmouth and asked her condition. The reply was that the armored cruiser was badly taking water and it
was clear that she was significantly down by the bow, listing to port with interior fires lighting up the port holes. It was obvious that the light cruiser
Glasgow could
not fend off two armored cruisers and three light cruisers, so
Glasgow, the newest and fastest ship in either squadron, poured on the steam and made off to the
west. She had lost sight of the German ships by 20:50 and
Otranto had fled to the west a half an hour before. At 21:25 observers on Glasgow saw a searchlight
beam below the horizon, 75 gun flashes and then nothing. Von Spee had lost sight of the British cruisers and ordered his light cruisers to attack with torpedoes.
Leipzig and Dresden couldn’t find any British ships. It was the Nurnberg, which had been 25-miles behind Sharnhorst at 15:00 that closed the Battle of Coronel. By
Nurnberg had caught up to the battle and sighted the Glasgow traveling west at high speed. Nurnberg could not keep the Glasgow in sight but soon ran across
the badly damaged
Monmouth. She was listing 10 degrees to port and couldn’t bring her port casemate guns to bear on Nurnberg. At 21:20 Nurnberg turned on
her searchlight at a range of between 600 to 1,000-yards. The
Monmouth was still trying to maneuver and clearly was making way. Nurnberg opened point blank
fire with her 4.1-inch guns and after awhile ceased fire. When it was observed that
Monmouth was turning toward Nurnberg, firing was resumed, as Nurnberg
passed under
Monmouth’s stern. At 21:28 HMS Monmouth capsized and went down with her entire crew. Von Spee had his ships close up and set a scout line.
He thought that the
Canopus was near, when in fact she was more than 200 miles away. Scharnhorst was hit twice but neither shell had exploded. Gneisenau was
hit four times for only minor damage. The East Asiatic Squadron suffered only three crewmen wounded but used almost half of its ammunition. Von Spee headed
for Valparaiso.         

Great Britain was stunned when news of the Battle of Coronel broke. “
Kit Cradock has gone at Coronel....His death and the loss of the ships and the gallant lives
in them can be laid to the door of the incompetency of the Admiralty. They have as much idea of strategy as the Board School boy, and have broken over and
over again the first principles.
” Vice Admiral David Beatty, Commander Battle Cruiser Force, in a letter to his wife on learning of the Battle of Coronel, Coronel and
the Falklands
, by Geoffrey Bennett, The Macmillan Company, New York 1962, at page 43. “I cannot accept for the Admiralty any share of the responsibility...
Winston Churchill, First Lord of the Admiralty,
Coronel and the Falklands, by Geoffrey Bennett, The Macmillan Company, New York 1962, at page 43. The news
of the disaster at Coronel broke when Jackie Fisher came back as First Sea Lord. He immediately directed the concentration of four armored cruisers in the South
Atlantic but he had more in his hat. When questioned about sending a battlecruiser to the South Atlantic, Fisher, the father of the battlecruiser, said no, he would
send two.
HMS Invincible and HMS Inflexible were immediately ordered to make ready for foreign service with all dispatch. His greyhounds would avenger poor
Kit Cradock. On November 11 the ships left the UK for the South Atlantic with Rear Admiral Sir Doveton Sturdee in command of the force. As Sturdee hurried
south, the
Canopus, Glasgow and Otranto had reached the Falklands but von Spee was taking a leisurely time moving south to Cape Horn. He planned that his next
goal was Port Stanley with its large coal stocks but was not in a hurry to get there. Sturdee reached Port Stanley on the morning of December 7, 1914 and a
discussion was had on how to search for and bring von Spee to action with Sturdee’s vastly superior force.
Admiral Sturdee would not have to search the South Atlantic looking for von Spee, as the German squadron arrived at exactly the same spot on the globe that the
British battle cruisers reached 24 hours earlier. Von Spee at 5:30 a.m. on December 8 had detached
Gneisenau and Nurnberg to reconnoiter the Port Stanley and
Port William anchorages. The weather, which was normally misty, rainy or occluded with sleet or snow in the area of the Falklands was abnormally clear and bright
that morning. The Germans were sighted at more than ten miles from Sapper Hill. At 8:45 the smoke of the rest of the German squadron was reported as coming up
behind the first two ships. As the German ships continued to close, Sturdee ordered the old battleship
Canopus, which had grounded herself as an immobile fort, to
fire on the Germans when they were within range of the predreadnoughts 12-inch/35 guns. At 9:20 just as
Gneisenau and Nurnberg trained their guns on the
wireless station,
Canopus fired her first shots at a range of 11,500 yards. Another twist of fate came into play at this point. The Canopus had planned a practice
firing for the morning of the 8th to show Admiral Sturdee how she could fire her guns blind over a spit of land under the directions of a spotter on Sapper Hill. The
gun crews of both turrets were fiercely competitive with each other. On the night of the 7th crewmen from the after turret sneaked out and loaded practice
ammunition into their guns, replacing the standard rounds. Even at maximum elevation the guns of the old
Canopus still couldn’t reach the German ships. The two
shells of the forward turret burst on impact, a mile short of the Germans. However, the practice rounds loaded in the aft two guns hit the sea and skipped onward,
right into the Germans. One of these two practice rounds hit at the base of the
Gneisenau’s aft funnel. The Gneisenau had spotted the armored cruiser Kent leaving
harbor and was steering towards her when she was hit by this round from an unseen assailant, because the
Kent hadn’t fired and the Germans were well outside the
range of the six inch guns on the
County Class cruiser. With the hit the Germans turned to rejoin the rest of their squadron. Without this hit the Germans had the
opportunity to close the British force and perhaps damage the immobile ships sufficiently to allow the German squadron to escape.                

Aboard the
Gneisenau, the Germans spotted huge clouds of coal smoke, which they assumed was coming from coal stocks set on fire by the British to deny them
to the von Spee’s squadron. At 09:00 warship funnels and masts were made out in the inner harbor. This did not bother Captain Maerker of the
Gneisenau, his ship
and the
Scharnhorst had easily handled British armored cruisers a month earlier. "He was not, however, willing to believe the next report which came from his
gunnery officer: across the low-lying neck of land which linked Cape Pembroke with Stanley, Busche saw tripod masts, four of them. But the possibility that
there were a couple of dreadnoughts in the South Atlantic was something undreamed of even in the cautious Maerker’s philosophy: Busche was curtly told that
the nearest battle-cruisers were as far away as the Mediterranean.
" (Coronel and the Falklands, 1962, by Geoffrey Bennett, at page 133) Gneisenau signaled von
Spee that the British apparently had three
County Class armored cruisers, one light cruiser and two larger ships, which may be predreadnought battleships. With this
report and the solitary hit from
Canopus, von Spee ordered Maerker to avoid action. There were no repair facilities available for the East Asiatic Squadron to repair
battle damage and the squadron certainly could easily outrun predreadnoughts. With the Germans breaking contact, all Sturdee could do was wait until his squadron
had sufficient steam to get underway. Finally at 10:00, forty minutes after
Gneisenau and Nurnberg had turned away, Invincible got underway. By 10:30 the two
battlecruisers, three armored cruisers and the light cruiser
Glasgow had reached the open sea, while light cruiser Bristol was still at anchor trying to raise steam. By
this time the Germans were 19 miles away with their presence indicated in the sunny day by huge inverted pyramids of coal smoke.
By 11:15 the British force was considerably strung out. The two battlecruisers had considerably cut in to the German lead, as the German ships’ funnels and
superstructures were above the horizon. However, the British armored cruisers had really started to lag and were five miles behind the
Invincible and Inflexible.
With perfect visibility and plenty of daylight left Sturdee slowed the battlecruisers to 19 knots to allow the armored cruisers to catch up with the greyhounds. At 11:
32 he directed that the crews of his squadron should serve the noon meal. Finally at 12:20 Sturdee decided not to wait further. The armored cruisers were not
catching up and he decided that it was time to bring von Spee to action. With the two battlecruisers steaming parallel to each other, they went to action stations at
12:30. The light cruiser
Leipzig had fallen 3,000 yards behind the rest of von Spee’s force. Fidgety Phil Phillimore, captain of the Inflexible, fired first from the
guns of A turret with the guns at maximum elevation at 16,500 yards at 12:55. The shells fell 1,000 yards short of
Leipzig. Invincible opened up at 12:57 from her
A turret but was also short. By 13:15 the range had closed to 15,000 and
Leipzig was being bracketed by huge geysers produced by the shells of the two
battlecruisers. At 13:20 von Spee made a tactical decision. The courageous German admiral turned the
Scharnhorst and Gneisenau into the path of the Invincible
Inflexible and ordered his three light cruisers to separate and break contact to the south. Following Sturdee’s established battle plan, the smaller British cruisers
took out after the German light cruisers while the battlecruisers charged towards the two German armored cruisers. Sturdee’s plan also directed that the
battlecruisers engage the German ships outside the range of their 8.2-inch guns, which was 13,500 yards. So when the British ships the 14,000 yards range they
swung parallel to the German armored cruisers.

At almost the same time the four ships opened fire. They were steaming to the northeast with a wind blowing in from the northwest. The wind carried the huge
quantities of coal and oil smoke produced by the battlecruisers downrange, significantly obscuring the vision from the British ships. In the two British ships only the
range finders in A turret of
Invincible and the personnel in the fore control top had a clean view of the German ships. Inflexible was hampered by her own smoke
as well as
Invincible’s smoke. Invincible engaged Scharnhorst and Inflexible engaged Gneisenau. The first two German salvos fell short but von Spee closed
range to 12,000 yards and the shells of the third salvo straddled
Invincible. At 13:44 the first 8.2-inch round from Scharnhorst hit the side armor of Invincible,
causing only superficial damage as the armored belt was not penetrated. Sturdee who was directing the battle from the platform below the foretop ordered his ships
to open range. He also slowed to 22 knots to lessen smoke. By 14:00 the guns on both sides had fallen silent. The Germans turned south again as clouds were
observed in that direction. If they could find the mist and rain found normally in that area of the world, they could make good their escape. Because of the
battlecruiser’s smoke, it took awhile before it was clear that the Germans were again making off to the south. Sturdee immediately turned his battle cruisers towards
the Germans and increased speed to 24-knots. The chase lasted 40 minutes before the range had closed back to 15,000 yards. Again Sturdee turned to port to
present a broadside and at 14:53 the German pair turned to present their broadsides. The range continued to close until at 15:03 it was at 11,000 yards and the
German secondary 5.9-inch guns were within range. For the next fifteen minutes the
Invincible became the punching bag for 8.2-inch and 5.9-inch shells from
Scharnhorst, as the battle cruiser was hit repeatedly by the crack German gunners. One 8.2-inch shell blew away 10 feet of the starboard leg of the forward tripod
mast. The blast traveled up the leg and blew open the access hatch in he foretop. The foretop personnel were knocked down but there were no serious injuries.
Another 8.2-inch shell hit near X turret, penetrated two decks and burst in an empty sickbay. Shells also wrecked the canteen and wardroom. One 8.2-inch shell
tore off the barrel of a 4-inch gun, went down two decks to the Admiral’s storeroom cupboard but did not explode. A 5.9-inch shell wrecked the chaplain’s
quarters and the paymaster office without exploding.
However, the Invincible had also been hitting home, crippling the Scharnhorst. By 15:12 Scharnhorst was on fire forward and her fire had slackened significantly.
Her steering was also affected as she suddenly veered away and opened range. Three minutes later Sturdee ordered a full turn to port and the battle cruisers turned in
a circle until at 15:30 they were steering to the southwest. This maneuver placed the British ships clear of their smoke and for the first time they had a good view of
the German armored cruisers. During the turn two more 8.2-inch shells from
Scharhorst hit the bow of Invincible but caused no significant damage. A 5.9-inch shell
struck right between the guns of A turret. With smoke interference reduced greatly, the British 12-inch shells really started tearing the guts out of the German
armored cruisers.
Scharnhorst was down by three feet from her waterline, her third funnel gone and almost hidden in explosions and smoke from her onboard fires.
At this time
Invincible received an 8.2-inch hit that could have been catastrophic. The round hit below P turret but plunged underneath the waterline and protective
armor belt. A four by two foot hole was blown open in the hull in a coal bunker. Seawater quickly scoured out the coal in the bunker, washing it into the sea.
However, on the inboard side of this bunker, separated by a thin armor bulkhead, was the amidships magazine that traversed the ship from P to Q turrets. Fortunately
Invincible, the round failed to explode. If it had and splinters had penetrated the bulkhead, Invincible would probably have blown up.  By 16:00 Scharnhorst had
it. Her guns were silent, all of her funnels were down, she was afire forward and aft and water was coming over her forecastle. She was listing to port and drifting
without steerageway.
Scharnhorst with von Spee and his entire crew, heeled slowly to port and went down by the bow. Now it was just Gneisenau against
Invincible, Inflexible and the armored cruiser Carnarvon that had caught up with the battle. However, Gneisenau proved to be a tough nut to crack. Limited to 18-
knots due to under water damage caused by
Inflexible, she made for rain clouds now clearly seen to the south. For the next hour and forty minutes, shell after shell
tore into her.
Gneisenau appeared to be concentrating her fire on Invincible. Sturdee’s flagship suffered hits at 16:29, 16:38, 16:43 and 17:15. However, Gneisenau
couldn’t make it to the cover of the rain clouds. Her speed continued to fall until by 17:30 she was dead in the water. By 17:49 could only fire the guns from one
turret. Sturdee called cease fire at 17:53 as the British squadron watched
Gneisenau settle. It was then that mist and rain made it to the sinking Gneisenau, too late to
help. By 18:00 she was on beam ends and two minutes later, she plunged to follow her sister to the bottom of the South Atlantic. Of the three light cruisers that made
a run for it,
Leipzig and Nurnberg were sunk and only Dresden made it clear.

The Combrig 1:350 scale Scharnhorst - When I was young, there was an elderly German couple that lived next door. The husband had been an Imperial German
Marine stationed at Tsintao at the start of World War One. At the time I had never heard of Tsingtaao, much less the German East Asiatic Squadron. How I wish I
had known about the
SMS Scharnhorst and SMS Gneisenau, because he certainly would have seen them at Tsingtao, if not have gone aboard one of von Spee’s
cruisers. Although I never heard his memories of the ships, thanks to
Combrig I have a beautiful 1:350 scale model of SMS Scharnhorst, Graf von Spee;s flagship.
The hull is beautifully detailed. I have noted in reviews of other
Combrig kits in this scale that their port holes lacked eyebrows (rigoles). When I looked at the hull of
Scharnhorst, voila, the port holes had eyebrows. On closer inspection, I noticed that the eyebrows were actually recessed into the hull casting, instead of being
protruding ridges. However, even though they are recessed, they give the appearance of their presence. On the hull sides the armor belt is clearly delineated. The hull
side anchor hawse are deep enough to have the anchor stocks disappear inside. The fore and aft 88mm gun positions extend beyond the hull and their shutters are
portrayed as closed with locater holes for the gun barrels. The 8.2-inch and 5.9-inch casemate positions are very well done with sighting ports and an oval gun
opening. Discharge scuttles are present along the lower hull. At the top of the hull on the forecastle, the hull is rounded into the forecastle, which certainly gives a
unique look. Fore and aft of the casemate gun positions are small decks at main deck level. Each of these decks have hinged access doors with a port hole on the hull
sides. All n all the
Combrig Scharnhorst a great detail of detail packed into the hull sides.
The decks show great variety. The forecastle, quarterdeck and small side decks have wooden plank detail, although there are no butt ends. The large deck amidship has
steel plate panel lines. Fine coal scuttles are found on the side decks and steel amidship deck. On the forecastle there are anchor chain run plates leading to rather
shallow deck hawse with raised coamings and oval shape. The single deck hatch coaming is closed and there is hatch detail. There is a unique triple fitting at the top of
the cutwater. Twin bollard fittings with flared tops are inboard and open chocks fittings outboard at the junction of the curved steel hull and wooden decks. Locater
holes are present for the windlasses and chain locker openings. Also there is the forward turret barbette and well for the conning tower. The large metal plate deck
amidship is about half the length of the ship. In addition to the rectangular panel lines and scuttles, there is plenty of additional detail. Included are deck access coamings
with hatch detail, skylight, low angled ventilator fittings, main mast base fittings, small director bases, placement outlines for cable reels, placement outline for a large
aft louvered ventilator tower, well for the aft conning tower and locater slots for the boat davits and gear. At the rear face of the forward superstructure base are two
inclined ladder positions. I think it would have been marginally better to have open wells and use photo-etch ladders but they do have the individual treads. The small
wooden side decks (four per side) have smaller twin bollards, deck edge open chocks, base fittings and hull side lockers. The quarterdeck has one anchor chain run
plate for the stern anchor with windlass locater and chain locker entrance fitting. There are three centerline skylights and another deck access coaming with hatch
detail. Other fittings are more twin bollards, open chocks and the three piece fitting found at the tip of the stern.

There are eleven large resin pieces that are cast singly or in one case, two parts on a casting plug. The two 8.2-inch turrets are cast cleanly with a crisp apron at their
bases. The turret commanders position/sighting hood on centerline has vision slits and the are two, smaller fittings at the back of the crown. Each of the four funnels is
delightful and different from each other. The first funnel is the largest and the is the only one that is round. The other three are oval. All four funnels are thicker at the
bottom than the top with the dividing line of thickness found at a prominent apron about 40% of the way up the funnel. At the base of the funnel are deck houses and
different shaped louvered ventilators, Each one is different from the other. Steam pipes are found on all four funnels. Circling each funnel are a series of raised lines that
represent foot rungs. These four funnels rising from the high freeboard, slab sided hull are true focal points of this model. Smaller than the funnels but just as detailed is
the aft superstructure/main mast base. The large circular base of the military mast has square louvered ventilator towers with hinged top hatches. The base for the
forward military mast is a simple cylinder, without the fancy louvered ventilators. There are two conning tower parts. One is the large oval forward conning tower and
the other is the much smaller circular conning tower, both of which have fine vision slits. The aft tower shares the casting block with a louvered ventilator tower. A
very large and long aft bulkhead is cast in one piece. It runs along the sides of the top deck along three sides. Care must be taken here in removing the part from the
casting base as the bulkhead is very thin and delicate compared to the thick casting base. Thinner parts are on a casting sheet. Fourteen parts are on this sheet. The
largest is the forward superstructure/bridge deck. It has a rectangular chart house at the rear with doors and port holes. The deck has metal panel detail. There are
fittings on each side of the fore mast hole, cutouts for inclined ladder positions at the rear, an opening for the conning tower, an opening for a vertical ladder and locater
holes for two open 88mm guns. A thin splinter shields surrounds the front and sides. A smaller navigation deck with wings will rest on top of the chart house. Other
parts on the sheet are the two fighting tops, two top overheads, two mast search light positions, two top deck search light platforms, two top mast platforms, binnacle
platform and stern walk.
There are thirty-one runners of smaller parts but many of these, such as ship’s boats and propellers are one part per runner. Three of the runners have the gun
barrels, one with the eight 8.2-inch barrels, one with the 5.9-inch barrels and one with the 88mm barrels. The 8.2-inch barrels are in two lengths, the longer barrels
are for the turrets and the shorter ones for the casemates. There was no warp but the barrels do not have hollow muzzles. Another runner provides detailed bases for
the open 88mm guns and a second runner with their sights. One other runner has armament, the four QF guns in the fighting tops. There are a number of runners
with deck fittings: one will cable reels (two different types) and windlass bases (two different types; one with searchlight and another with their mounts; two with
deck binocular stands; one with binnacles, compasses, small ventilators, and bridge binocular stands; and two with boat davits and davit moters and fittings. The
parts on these runners are universally well detailed. Four beautifully done anchors and tall ventilators in three different patterns share a runner. Each of the large goose-
neck boat cranes have their own runner. Underwater gear has a ribbed rudders and three identical propellers. All of the boat skids are on a runner. The ship’s boats
come in four patterns. You get three open steam launches with detailed boiler and separate funnels, one large whaler with keel and rudder detail, three large open
boats and three dinghies. The oared boats have detailed bottom planking, rudder and thwart detail.

Combrig supplies two brass frets with their 1:350 scale Scharnhorst. The larger fret has two different bow relief-etched Imperial German eagles (the eagles on
Scharnhorst and Gneisenau are different) with a separate shield. The fret has two shields in two patterns, one for Scharnhorst and one for Gneisenau that goes on
top of the eagle. The eight 88mm gun shields have open vision ports. The funnel top screens are in two patterns, one for the round forward funnel and three for the
oval funnels. There are a lot of gussets in different patterns for supports underneath the fighting tops, sternwalk and other locations. Other ship specific brass parts
are for the bow fitting around the top of the cutwater, support pillars, windlass tops, support frames, windowed bridge bulkheads, binnacle tower, ship’s wheel and
accommodation ladders with platforms. Generic parts on this fret are three runs of anchor chain, two runs of vertical ladder, and inclined ladders. The
accommodation ladders and the inclined ladders have rungs and not trainable treads. The smaller fret has the boat skids, boat chocks, a windlass top and propellers
for the steam launches. You’ll need to supply generic deck railing and I would also recommend use inclined ladders with trainable treads.

There has always been a complaint about
Combrig instructions as not being sufficiently detailed. Without a doubt the instructions for the Combrig 1:350 scale
Scharnhorst are the best that I have seen from the company. There are six single page sheets. What makes them special is the fact that each resin part is numbered in
the parts laydown, which makes finding the right part for the right location. Page one is the profile and plan with rigging diagram. As with all other
Combrig kits, this
plan and profile is very valuable in locating where different parts will go. Also on this page are ship’s history and specifications in Russian. Page two has the excellent
parts laydown, numbering each resin part. The brass fret doesn’t number those parts. Painting instructions are included for the peacetime livery and a photograph of
the ship. Page three starts assembly steps with some deck structures and running gear. There are seven detailed insets for subassembly of the open 88mm guns, two
types of windlasses, fighting tops, fighting top crowns, top mast platforms and search lights. Page four has step two with superstructure military masts and turret
assembly. Four insets are on this page with details on assembly of the military masts, gussets, and turrets. Page five has more equipment attachment with insets on
the ship’s wheel binnacle platform, shielded 88mm guns, stack platforms and mast/yardarms template. This template gives the length and diameter of the plastic or
brass rods that you will need to get to complete this step. The final page has boats and accommodation ladder attachment with insets on the accommodation ladders,
steam launches, and searchlight towers.
The SMS Scharnhorst by Combrig in 1:350 scale is one of the best kits from the company. With a detailed hull casting, excellently detailed smaller resin parts, two brass
photo-etch frets and the best instructions that
Combrig has produced, the flagship of Maximilian Graf von Spee will look spectacular.
Steve Backer