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  • Christina Drummond

The crew of HMS Monmouth, 1914

Remembering the Fallen: on this day in 1914, HMS Monmouth sank off the coast of Chile during the Battle of Coronel, taking the entire crew of 735 men with her, making her the first British naval defeat since the War of 1812.

Among those lost were:

(Top row): Captain Frank Brandt R.N., of Cheltenham; Able Seaman Horace Gilbert, of Gloucester; twin brothers Able Seaman Edward Turner and Able Seaman Harry Turner, age 31, of Cheltenham.

(Lower row): Private F.J. Cresswell, R.M.L.I., of Cheltenham; Able Seaman Frederick Thomas Surnam, of Prestbury; Able Seaman William Halling, of Tewkesbury; First Class Petty Officer Reginald Arthur Pigott, of Cheltenham.

Upon completion in 1903, HMS Monmouth was assigned to the 1st Cruiser Squadron of the Channel Fleet. At the outbreak of the Great War she was sent to the Central Atlantic to search for enemy raiders and to protect allied shipping, and then later to the South Atlantic to join with HMS Good Hope and HMS Glasgow as an enemy squadron had been discovered off the coast of Chile. Rear-Admiral Cradock (killed that day aboard HMS Good Hope) set the scene: “A heaving unsettled sea, and away over to the western horizon an angry yellow sun is setting clearly below a forbidding bank of the blackest of wind charged clouds”.

A German shell blew the roof from HMS Monmouth’s forward turret, creating a fire which in turn caused ammunition to explode with such force that the turret was blown from the ship, which was seen to slow down and begin to veer. Although the fire was extinguished, she was taking water at the bow. The crew of HMS Glasgow, coming from battle with the light cruisers Leipzig and Dresden, could do nothing but watch, as the sea was too dangerously rough to attempt any rescue efforts. The light cruiser Nurnberg saw that HMS Monmouth was listing, her guns unusable, and moved closer with its spotlight in the hope that she would surrender, at first firing high and then firing a torpedo, but with no response. Within half-an-hour HMS Monmouth capsized and sank with no survivors. The Battle of Coronel was a victory for the German Navy, having sunk not only HMS Monmouth but also HMS Good Hope. HMS Glasgow, although somewhat damaged, escaped and took part in the Battle of the Falkland Islands the following month. “Oh hear us when we cry to thee, for those in peril on the sea.”

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