The origin of the Battle of the Falkland Islands stems from an earlier engagement between the Royal and Imperial German Navies on 1 November 1914 off Coronel in Chile, which led to the British loss of 2 Armoured Cruisers and 1570 men versus the 3 wounded men on the German side. The engagement lasted over four hours and led to the expenditure of approximately 50% of the German ammunition. The defeat was such that the British dispatched more ships to the South Atlantic to protect their interests.
Just over a month later, on 8 December 1914, the German Squadron under Admiral Maximilian von Spee arrived off the Falklands with a plan to harry the Royal Navy’s supply base at Stanley, unbeknownst to him that a new British squadron, under Rear Admiral Doveton Sturdee, had arrived in the area the day before.
The British were undertaking maintenance and coaling their ships when the message arrived from Fitzroy that the German squadron had been sighted heading East. Orders were given to make steam and sail.
Two German cruisers approached Stanley just after 0900 when HMS Canopus fired several salvos towards them. They quickly reversed their course and joined the rest of von Spee’s squadron to escape to open water.
By 1000 the British squadron had sailed and was chasing its quarry and despite there being a 15 mile gap between the two foes, the chase continued. At 1300 the British opened fire. Despite having low ammunition stocks and with his ships being outgunned, it was clear to von Spee that he could not outrun Sturdee’s ships and that the outcome was inevitable. At 1320 he took the decision to turn his squadron towards the British to engage.
The battle lasted several hours with much damage being inflicted on the German Squadron. At 1604, von Spee’s flagship, the armoured cruiser Scharnhorst, was seen to be listing badly and at 1617, she sank. Gneisenau, von Spee’s second armoured cruiser, continued the fight until 1715 when she ran out of ammunition after which her crew abandoned her. She sank at 1802. The two light cruisers Nürnburg and Leipzig met the same fate at 1927 and 2123 respectively.
The result of the battle was the reverse of the Coronel. The Germans lost 4 ships and 1871 men versus 10 men from the British, and aside of being a significant victory for the British, the biggest positive result of this engagement was the cessation of commerce raiding by German warships for the rest of the war.
SMS Scharnhorst (30p) was laid down in March 1905, launched in March 1906 and commissioned in October 1907. Her early career was as lead ship in the German South East Asia Squadron, before being redeployed to the west coast of South America at the start of the First World War. She was the lead ship against the British at the Battle of Coronel. Her main armament was eight 8.3-inch, six 5.9-inch and eighteen 8.8-inch guns as well as four submerged torpedo tubes. Her belt hull thickness was 6-inches of armoured steel. She could sail at up to 23 knots, three triple expansion engines on 3 shafts and which were fed by 18 boilers.
38 days after victory at the Battle of Coronel, she was sunk with all hands during the Battle of the Falkland Islands on 8 December 1914.
HMS Invincible (75p) was laid down in April 1906 as an armoured cruiser, launched in April 1907 and commissioned two years later in March 1909. She was significantly larger than any earlier armoured cruiser so was redesignated, along with her two sister ships, as a battlecruiser in 1911, thereby becoming the first to be such in the world.
Her main armament was eight 12-inch guns in four twin turrets and sixteen 4-inch guns as well as 5 submerged torpedo tubes. Her hull thickness ranged from 4-inches to 6-inches of armoured steel. She could sail at up to 25 knots, powered by two steam turbines which in turn were fed by 31, labour intensive, coal-fired boilers.
Despite being almost unscathed during the Battle of the Falkland Islands, she was sunk at the Battle of Jutland on 31 May 1916 when only 6 of the 800 officers and men survived.
‘Flanders’ Poppies’ (£1). Since John McCrae’s poem, ‘In Flanders’ Fields’, the poppy has been a symbol of remembrance to the fallen. His poem reflects the sight of blood red corn poppies which appeared on the battle scarred fields of the Western Front upon which many men died and in which many men were interred.
Inspired by McCrae’s words, American professor Moina Michael vowed to always wear a poppy in remembrance of those that served in the war, and subsequently promoted the sale of silk poppies to raise money for veterans. The idea was picked up by Madame Anna Guerin in France as a method of raising funds for the children in her war-torn country and shortly after it was adopted by Field Marshal Haig, (founder of the British Legion), and numerous other veteran organisations for fundraising. Since then it has become an annual tradition in the UK and each year, over 41,000,000 poppies are made in two factories in Richmond, Surrey and Edinburgh, Scotland.
Behind the poppies on the stamp are the White Ensign of the Royal Navy and the Reichskriegsflagge of the Kaiserliche Marine (Imperial German Navy). Appropriately and in contrast to McCrae’s words, there is a maritime alternative, based on a German song:
There are no roses on a sailor's grave,
No lilies on an ocean wave,
The only tributes are the seagulls' sweeps
and the teardrops that a sweetheart weeps.
‘Resting on Arms, Reversed’ (£1.20). For over 100 years the symbol of a Serviceman resting on his arms, has been a sign of mourning. This image shows a British Petty Officer Gunner in traditional Square Rig Uniform from HMS Protector in front of the Battle of the Falkland Islands Memorial.
The First Day Cover illustration is based on a photograph of the unveiling of the Battle of the Falkland Islands war memorial in Stanley.
Text by Gary Rimay-Muranyi
Designer Robin Carter
Printer BDT International
Perforation 14 per 2 cms
Stamp size 30.56 x 38mm
Sheet Layout 10
Release date 8 December 2014
Production Co-ordination Creative Direction (Worldwide) Ltd