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Geoffrey Brooks

    PART THREE – The German Auxiliaries in the Falkland Islands, December 1914.

    Port Stanley lies approximately 550 sea miles north-east of Picton Island. To cover this distance and arrive off Port Stanley on the morning of 8 December, the German armada of eight ships sailed at midday on 6 December 1914. The hills of the Falklands were sighted at first light, 0200 hrs on 8 December, and at 0500 hrs the cruisers picked up speed leaving the three auxiliaries far astern. At about 1100 hrs, after the German cruisers had seen their danger and bore south-east to escape Admiral Sturdee’s battle-cruiser squadron, two smaller British warships were seen leaving Port William and heading for the three German auxiliaries about ten miles off Pt. Pleasant. (footnote 1)

    Baden and Sta Isabel changed course away from the coast to flee south-east, while Seydlitz turned about and ran south-west at full speed and escaped.

    After eleven days’ thoughtful reflection on what he ought to leave out about the German auxiliaries, Admiral Sturdee submitted his despatch. His report states:(footnote 2)

    “Information was received from (the light cruiser) HMS Bristol at 11.27 am that three enemy ships had appeared off Pt Pleasant, probably colliers or transports. Bristol was therefore directed to take (armed merchant cruiser) Macedonia under orders and destroy the transports.”

    At the foot of the despatch, in a section headed Action Against the Enemy’s Transports, Admiral Sturdee wrote:

    Macedonia reports that only two ships, steamships Baden and Sta Isabel, were present. Both ships were sunk after removal of crew.”

    In fact, Bristol pursued Baden, Macedomia pursued Sta Isabel, and since there was no third British cruiser available they had to let the Seydlitz go. It was quite improper of Sturdee to suggest that it had never been there.

    Pochhamer wrote (footnote 3):

    “The fast Seydlitz escaped. The officers of the armed merchant cruiser Macedonia told me they thought she must be a powerful auxiliary cruiser because of her speed.”

    Seydlitz put into San Antonio Oeste on 9 December where she was immediately interned by the Argentines as an auxiliary cruiser. From Pt Pleasant south-about to San Antonio Oeste is at least 800 nautical miles and so she must have been capable of 20 knots to have got there so quickly.

    The German freighters Mera and Elinore Woermann which had sailed from the River Plate on 4 December with entrenching materials both returned there on 11 December.

    Baden and Sta Isabel were detained by Bristol and Macedonia at 1445 hrs in the afternoon at 52º30’S 57ºW, about 60 sea miles from Port Stanley. Pochhammer stated that their crews had told him they were obliged to abandon ship “within ten minutes” and “the men in the boats felt the passage of the shells fired close over their heads: the British were over-hasty in sinking our auxiliaries and their valuable cargoes.”

    What “valuable cargoes” these two colliers might have had aboard is not mentioned, but it is interesting to note that Baden was not sunk until 1935 hrs, five hours after being stopped, and Sta Isabel was sunk at 2130 hrs almost seven hours after being stopped. What interested the British so much in these two mundane steamers, and why they sank them so close to Port Stanley two new, priceless colliers when they were in great need of colliers elsewhere, has never been revealed.


    (1) Pochhammer, op cit, p.182-187.
    (2) Published as a Supplement to the London Gazette, No.29087 3 March 1915
    (3) Pochhammer, op cit, p.227.