First World War : Falkland Islands

The Falkland Islands is a group of islands (two main islands and nearly 300 smaller ones) in the South Atlantic. The uninhabited islands were first sighted by Captain John Davis in 1592 and the first recorded landed was made by Captain John Strong in 1690.

The Falkland Islands were originally controlled by the Spanish (Islas Malvinas). However, after Argentina gained its independence from Spanish rule, it began to show an interest in the Falkland Islands and in 1820 claimed possession of the territory. In 1882 a British naval squadron occupied the islands and claimed it as a crown colony.

In early November, 1914, the British Navy sent two fast modern battlecruisers, the Inflexible and Invincible to protect the Falkland Islands. Later that month, the British also sent five cruisers, the Carnarvon , Cornwall , Kent , Bristol and Glasgow to the Port Stanley naval base. The Germans were unaware of this and on 7th December, 1914, five German cruisers tried to take Port Stanley.

When the German commander, Admiral Maximilian Spee realised he was outnumbered by the British he attempted to flee from the area. The British ships eventually caught up with Admiral Spee. Heavy British shelling quickly sunk the Scarnhorst and the Gneisenau . The Nurnberg and Leipzig were chased and destroyed with only the Dresden managing to escape. Admiral Spee, and his two sons, were among the 2,200 German sailors killed in the battle. The Falkland Islands remained under the control of the British Navy for the rest of the war.

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