Vice Admiral Graf von Spee


Maximilian von Spee was born in Copenhagen on 22 June 1861, and joined the Imperial German Navy in 1878 at the age of 13.

Between 1887 and 1888 he commanded the Cameroon ports. He was appointed Chief of Staff on the North Sea Command in 1908 rising to Rear Admiral in 1910. Two years later he was given command of the German East Asiatic Cruiser Squadron.

In 1914, Spee’s squadron were the height of efficiency, proud winner of the Imperial German Navy gunnery prize for two consecutive years.

During the early moths of WW1 he concentrated on destroying merchant and troop ships.

On 1st November Spee outclassed Cradock’s squadron and sunk the British cruisers HMS Good Hope and HMS Monmouth, off the coast of Chile at Coronel.

Embarrassed by the defeat, the Royal Navy determined to chase down and destroy Spee's squadron. At the Battle of the Falkland Islands, on 8 December 1914, Spee attempted a raid upon British wireless and coaling facilities at Port Stanley.

However, unknown to Spee, a British squadron, having been sent to reverse the British defeat at Coronel, under the command of Vice Admiral Frederick Sturdee, which included two fast, modern battle cruisers, HMS Invincible and HMS Inflexible and five cruisers HMS Carnarvon, HMS Cornwall, HMS Kent, HMS Bristol and HMS Glasgow, were at time coaling at Port Stanley.

Heavily outgunned, six German ships including Spee's own flagship, SMS Scharnhorst were sunk, with some 2,200 sailors drowned, amongst them von Spee and his two sons.