The Battle of the Falkland Islands
8th December, was to prove an exception to the rule
in the Falklands where it usually rains for 21 days
during the last month of the year, for it was a perfect
mid-summers day as the fleet was coaling in harbour.
At 7.56 am the Glasgow fired a gun to attract
the attention of Invincible who was busy coaling, that
Canopus had reported smoke in sight to the south. At 8.15
am a signal came from the flagship to "Raise steam
for full speed, report when ready"
The enemy's two leading ships Gneisenau
and Nurnberg were in sight approaching the Wireless Station.
When they were near Wolf Rocks they stopped engines and
turned north-eastwards. Canopus opened fire over the low
neck of land at 9.20 am with her 12 inch guns, firing
five rounds at a range of 12,000 yards. Hoisting their
colours, the enemy turned away to the south east to join
the main squadron.
From survivors it appears that one of Canopus's
shells had ricocheted, striking the Gneisenau at the base
of her after funnel. It was also claimed that a piece
of another hit the Nurnberg.
At 9.45 am the British squadron weighed
and proceed from harbour, the last of whom cleared by
10.30 am. Glasgow came out first, followed by the two
battle-cruisers doing 25 knots, followed by Kent, Carnarvon
and Cornwall doing about 22 knots. The Admiral reduced
speed for an hour to 20 knots at 11.15 am to allow the
"County" cruisers to catch up. At 12.47 pm he
hoisted the signal "Open Fire" and eight minutes
later the Inflexible fired the first round of the battle
at the Leipzig. The Invincible followed almost immediately
after. Both ships were going their full speed, nearly
27 knots and firing at a range of 16,000 yards (over 9
The fight between the two British battle-cruisers
and the German cruisers lasted between 3 and 6 hours.
The Scharnhorst sank at 4.17 pm and the Gneisenau
heeled over at about 5.45 pm. Invincible had been
hit about 22 times, 18 directly and had a list to
port as two shells had struck below the waterline.
The Wardroom had been demolished. There had been
no casualties amongst her crew of 950 men. The Inflexible
had 2 hits, 1 crew killed and 3 wounded.
The British squadron in total lost 7 men killed
and 18 wounded (3 subsequently succumbed). The Germans
lost 2,260 men. The Dresden was the only ship to
escape and was later sunk on 14th March, 1915 by
the Kent and Glasgow.
Vice-Admiral Sturdee was rewarded with a baronetcy.
Letter dated 9th December 1914
After the action off the Chilean coast,
we sent home word for reinforcements. These did not arrive
until the day before yesterday, when a large fleet came
here comprising the Invincible, Inflexible, Carnarvon,
Cornwall, Kent, Glasgow and Bristol. Up to this time we
had heard nothing of the Germans. The very next day (yesterday),
the whole fleet of Germans, which had been in the action
of November 1st - Scharnhorst, Gneisenau, Leipzig, Dresden
and Nurnberg - turned up. They couldn't have come at a
more opportune moment, as if they had arrived earlier
our fleet would not have been here and if they had arrived
later the fleet (which was to have left today) would have
We, the Canopus went to General Quarters
about 10.00 am and opened fire with our 12 inch guns.
Our other ships could do nothing, as the land was between
them and the enemy, and most of them were coaling. We
fired a lot of shots and hit the Gneisenau. By this time
the fleet had weighed and were coming out at full speed.
The Germans turned tail and fled with the fleet at full
speed after them.
Of course we could not follow as we were
on the mud. Still we had opened up the action, prevented
the enemy from shelling the Wireless Station and saved
the fleet from being attacked while at anchor. All that
day we waited anxiously for news. Towards evening we got
the welcome news that the Invincible and Inflexible had
sunk the Gneisenau and Scharnhorst. Later we heard that
the Leipzig was on fire fore and aft and she sank soon
after. Then the signal came through from the Kent "Have
sunk the Nurnberg". We were frantic with joy. We
have got a lot of prisoners on board. The officers are
being kept in the Captain's lobby, where they are guarded
by sentries with fixed bayonets. They get quite respectable
food, however! The men are all forrard. One prisoner who
can talk English told us they had intended to destroy
the Wireless Station, to land by night and sack the town
and sink all the colliers and store-ships in the harbour,
sink the Canopus if we made any resistance and decamp
to West Africa taking the crew of the Canopus with them.
There was only one thing they didn't know all about and
that was the arrival of our fleet.
If the fleet had arrived only two days
earlier or two days later, it would have been all up with
us and everyone else on the Falkland Islands.
However it turned out all right. I am
only sorry we were not able to go out and settle some
of them ourselves, but anyhow we could not have kept up
with the fleet.
Still we did our little lot.
||At Abrolhos Rocks off the Brazilian coast.
No news of the Dresden or Karlesruhe still at large
||At Port Stanley
||In docks in Malta
||In the Dardanelles.
Silencing of Fort 8.
Letter to Reginald dated 6th March
1915 and published in "The Morning Times" of
3rd April 1915
My Dear Dad,
I wish you many happy returns of the
day. I hope this letter will arrive more or less on the
right date, but of course one can't choose one's own time
for letter writing nowadays - one takes one's chance.
We have been having an exciting time
lately. After leaving Malta, we went up to the Dardanelles
where there are heaps of other ships bombarding the place.
We have made a base of a small island just outside the
entrance and take turns to bombard.
The other day it was our turn. We went
up about 10 miles, past all the forts which have already
been silenced, till we came to those which had not. It
was our business to silence "No 8" fort, which
is on the European side. We opened fire on it, and got
the range pretty quickly, and then kept on firing with
our 6 inch guns and an occasional shot from our 12 inch,
it was not until 1 ½ hours after the start that
the fort thought of returning our fire, but when they
did so they were pretty accurate. They bought our main
topmast down, made a large hole in the Quarterdeck, the
shot going through and damaging the Ward Room, a hole
was made in our after funnel, besides the damage done
by splinters of shell (they had been firing shrapnel)
which I found on the Quarterdeck after the action. Anyhow
we went on firing till sunset, which was about 6 o'clock,
and then we chucked it in having silenced the fort.
Next day we went along the Asiatic coast
outside the Dardanelles hunting for hidden field guns
and things which might open fire if we attempted to land
men or anything. We rooted out several and silenced then
with our 6 inch - blew most of them into the air since
we were at such close range. Today we were mostly employed
in watching where the shots from the big ships went who
were firing overland, and correcting their range for them
since they could not see- we fired a few desultory shots
Letter dated 12th March 1915
A few nights ago we delivered a night
attack, the whole ship being pitch dark herself. The mine-sweepers
went ahead sweeping for mines, of which they picked up
several, while we followed on astern firing at any lights
or searchlight we could see on either shore. Some batteries
replied to our fire, but nothing hit us.
But it seems that the Turks did more
damage to us than we did to them, for although we managed
to extinguish one or two of their searchlights, they sank
two of our mine-sweepers, one I'm afraid with all hands
- in the other all were saved.
We spent all last night patrolling outside
the straits and in the morning came across a floating
mine. We tried to sink it with rifle fire, but failed,
though we hit it often enough. Then we tried a Maxim,
which was equally ineffective. A 3-pounder gun was next
tried, and after several shots we managed to sink it.
Later we saw three more and sank them all.
The Admiral has called for volunteers
of officers (including Gunroom officers) for work on the
trawlers and mine-sweepers. All the Gunroom of Canopus
has volunteered, but so many others have also that I don't
suppose we shall get much of a chance.
Gallipoli - HMS River Clyde run
aground at V Beach (note the Senegalese troops)
|15th March Minehunting
18th March Sinking of Irresistible, Ocean and Bouvet
29th March Greek island?
6th April Sailed for Malta with the damaged Inflexible.
Tows her by the stern much of the way.
15th April At Skyros
Just back from Malta
2nd May Wounded at Anzac Cove. (See photograph)
Letter to Guy dated 2nd May 1915
My Dear Guy,
I may as well tell you about the lucky accident, which
resulted my getting a slight scratch, which I proudly
call a "wound". I was sitting in my boat, which
was alongside the pontoon on the beach waiting for the
wounded to come along.
Shrapnel was bursting all round us, several in fact,
got into the boat. I was hit on the head by a shrapnel
bullet and started bleeding like a pig. Luckily the thing
was spent, and so, after being bandaged up at a field
ambulance place, I was quite all right.
In his book "Gallipoli" by John Masefield,
published in 1917, Reginald has annotated a mark on page
"The boatmen and beach working-parties were the
unsung heroes of that landing. The boatmen came in with
their tows, under fire, waited with them under intense
and concentrated fire of every kind until they were unloaded
and then shoved off, and put slowly back for more, and
then came back again."
Philip and his "wound" on
his lighter ferrying troops and wounded - Anzac Cove,
15th May Gaba Tepe to Mudros. Triumph
sunk by U 21
Letter to Reginald in May 1915
My Dear Dad,
The submarine scare turned out to be quite a justifiable
one after all. Several times we heard that there was one
in the neighbourhood, whereupon we had closed all the
water-tight doors (which meant that the Gunroom is inaccessible)
and steamed about in circles keeping a sharp look out
but it was not until yesterday that we actually saw the
effects of it. The flap started at 7.30 am, so we were
away all the forenoon. We were off Gaba Tepe at the time,
but we were expecting to be relieved by the Vengeance
some time during the forenoon after which we were going
to Mudros to coal and ammunition. At about 10.00 am we
sighted the Vengeance coming along to relieve us, but
when she was about 5 miles away she suddenly altered course,
and appeared to be steaming away from us. We wondered
what was up, but presently she signalled to us that she
had sighted a submarine and fired a torpedo at her, which
had barely missed. The scare immediately got worse, and
all ships which were anchored, weighed, and we were all
cruising about independently. By that time, the Vengeance
was close to us, but our Captain being the senior NO out
there, shifted over to the Vengeance, while we cleared
out for Mudros without him and with a destroyer escort.
At 12.30, I was standing on the Quarterdeck with several
other people, when someone shouted "They've bagged
the Triumph" we all looked at her through our glasses
(we were about 4 miles away) and saw her heeled over at
an angle of 60 degrees. She was actually struck at 12.26
and soon sank after 12.30. All the torpedo craft and trawlers
immediately dashed to her aid and about 700 survivors
were picked up, which was very good work indeed, as it
means that very few people were lost.
Still, it is a very great disaster, as besides the loss
to the Navy, one has to consider the effect it will have
on the Turks bucking them up considerably .In fact some
Turkish Officers who were captured said that the Turks
would have chucked up the sponge long ago had it not been
for the sinking of the Irresistible, Ocean and Bouvet
on March 18th.
The Triumph was a pre-dreadnought battleship, a sister
ship to the Swiftsure both of which were purchased by
us from Chile. She carried four 10 inch guns and fourteen
7.5 inch beside several smaller ones. The Swiftsure is
also out here. The Triumph was engaged in the capture
of Tsing-Tao at the beginning of the war, and had not
been home for 3 years, so it was especially hard luck
for the people of those who were drowned.
I think the Canopus is about the luckiest ship in the
service (touch wood) whenever a disaster occurs we always
seem either to miss it or to clear out just in time e.g.
|1) off the coast of Brazil where we were nearly
torpedoed by the Karlsruhe
2) missing the Coronel Action
3) Admiral Sturdee's fleet turned up just in time
to save us from Von Spee at the Falkland Islands.
4) Missing the TB, which sank the Goliath, by 10 minutes.
5) Missing the submarine, which sunk the Triumph by
a hair's breath.
Still we are not out of the wood yet.
With much love to you all
Your affectionate son
||Canopus tows Albion off Gaba Tepe after it had run
Canopus hit a good many times. 1 killed and 10 wounded.
||At Malta for repairs
Lots of French ships in the harbour.
||At Meteline - Port Iero
||The Admiral has been down in Chatham, Euralus and
Preparation for a landing.
|| At Meteline - Port Iero
||At RN Chatham
||Returned to Canopus.
New Commander GD Stevenson
Their sub AEB Giles awarded the DSO for saving Inflexible.
||At Meteline - Port Iero. Making ready
Rattlesnake mentioned in despatches.
||At Meteline - Port Iero
Olympia dwarfs all other ships
||At Suvla Bay.
Glory struck 3 times before Canopus arrived.
Are they going to wind up the show?