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HMS 'Canopus' at Port Stanley, firing the opening salvoes of the Battle of the Falkland Islands, 8 December 1914

PAE1039
Fine art

Object connections:

Collection Fine art, Prints, drawings and watercolours
Gallery locationNot on display
VesselsCanopus 1897 [HMS]

Object details:

Object ID PAE1039
Description Inscribed by the artist, 'Canopus at Port Stanley', lower left. This drawing was reproduced as a print on p. 101 of Wyllie and M.F. Wren's 'Sea Fights of the Great War' (1918), but before Wyllie inscribed the title on it (though the printed caption in the book is '"Canopus" at Port Stanley, Falkland Islands'). Shortly after the start of the First World War the pre-dreadnought battleship 'Canopus' (1897) was sent to support Rear-Admiral Christopher Cradock's cruiser squadron off South America, stationed off the Abrolhos Rocks. She was too slow to keep up with his subsequent search for Admiral von Spee's German Pacific squadron and was 300 miles behind when von Spee destroyed Cradock at the Battle of Coronel on 1 November 1914. 'Canopus' then took up position as guardship at the Falklands, moored bow and stern in Port Stanley harbour is such a way as to cover the approaches. Her position from seaward was masked by a hill, on top of which she had spotters placed, and her topmasts were sent down. The avenging battlecruiser squadron of Admiral Sir Frederick Doveton Sturdee arrived on 7 December 1914 and at 07.50 on 8 December the shore spotters from 'Canopus' sighted the German armoured cruiser 'Gneisenau' and light cruiser 'N├╝rnberg' as they approached to reconnoitre the port ahead of an attack on it by von Spee. He was at that point quite unaware of Sturdee's arrival, and planned to destroy the Falklands radio and coaling station. At 09.00 the 'Canopus ' fired at the two German ships at extreme range from her forward turret but her shells fell short. The guns in her aft turret were loaded with practice rounds for a forthcoming target shoot but she fired them none the less, more to clear the guns rapidly than anything else, and one of them ricocheted off the water and struck the rear funnel of the 'Gneisenau'. At this point the two German ships turned and headed away to rejoin von Spee's main force. Sturdee at the same time was rapidly raising steam to pursue and, in the subsequent battle later in the day, he sank von Spee's entire squadron, with the exception of the light cruiser 'Dresden' which managed to make good an escape. 'Canopus' was not involved in the chase and only left Port Stanley ten days later, returning to her South American patrol station of the Abrolhos Rocks until she transferred to the Mediterranean early in 1915.
Date made circa 1914-15

Artist/Maker Wyllie, William Lionel
Credit National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, London, Caird Collection
Materials on card; pen & ink, with black wash
Measurements 223 mm x 325 mm
Parts
  • HMS 'Canopus' at Port Stanley, firing the opening salvoes of the Battle of the Falkland Islands, 8 December 1914 (PAE1039)
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