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Reflections: The pitched battle which devastated New Forest communities

The Battle of Coronel fought off the south-western coast of Chile on 1st November 1914 had a terrible impact on the lives of families in New Milton, Hordle, Ringwood, Burley, Eling and Lyndhurst. The loss of so many men from the Forest in the third month of the war was a shock that was felt throughout the local community.

The battle

In the opening months of the First World War German Vice Admiral Maximilian von Spee commanded a flotilla of five ships in the Pacific. These vessels were tasked with commerce raiding and were a threat to the British Merchant Navy carrying food, goods and supplies needed for the war effort. An intercepted radio message on 4th October 1914 confirmed that Von Spee was planning to attack British merchant vessels on the South American coast. The British force, under the command of Rear Admiral Sir Christopher Craddock consisted of the obsolete armoured cruisers HMS Good Hope and HMS Monmouth, a modern light cruiser HMS Glasgow, and the armed merchant vessel HMS Otranto. The pre-Dreadnought battleship HMS Canopus was sent to reinforce them.

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