of the East Asia Squadron
The SMS Scharnhorst and Gneisenau were
apparently clocked at nearly twenty-two knots at Falkland Islands so we
can assume this for Coronel also; there is no mention of significant
maintenance between the two engagements. And we can also assume the
remaining light cruisers are even quicker; though they varied with Dresden
unanimously considered the fastest. Thus von Spee's battle line at Coronel
seems capable of at least this speed in normal sea conditions. On
the afternoon of Coronel, however, sea conditions were far from normal so
maximum speed of the divisions sailing directly into a strong southerly
must be reduced.
quotes sixteen knots for Nurnberg with boilers needing overhaul and
a damaged propeller but she was late to the battle and was not involved in
the initial gunnery exchange.
The condition of Monmouth's boilers and machinery is
raised in several histories, due to her apparently abbreviated or skipped
refit or some other deficiency of her equipment and these suggest a number
of issues. Steam boilers of Monmouth's vintage required periodic, almost
constant, maintenance of varying degree depending on wear, time and
opportunity. The phrase 'taken off the dockyard wall' suggests that Monmouth
was perhaps recommissioned prematurely and to the degree that she may have
skipped overhaul she surely would have been unlikely to make her design
speed of twenty-three knots.
Navy crews of 'reservists'
Most of the histories which cover the battle of
Coronel mention the inexperience of the crews of both HMS Good Hope
and particularly HMS Monmouth, as noted by an enterprising amateur
Bennett (p17): ...Good Hope
[had] a crew including more than 90 per cent reservists...
It seems however that this is contradicted by
of service records, to some degree, and the record
of Hansard, as follows, with emphasis added in this citation:
Bennett (p18): ‘[Monmouth] was practically condemned as unfit
for further service’ wrote one of the Carnarvon's midshipmen,
‘but was hauled off the dockyard wall and commissioned with a scratch
Bennett (p75): ...[Monmouth sailed] a little later because she
happened to be refitting after a commission on the China Station...
Pitt (p5): Monmouth with her crew of Scottish fishermen and
coastguards, her twelve young naval cadets fresh from Dartmouth, and her
outdated engines kept going only by superhuman efforts on the part of
Engineer-Commander Wilshin and his staff...
Pitt (p8): The vast majority [of the crews of Good Hope and Monmouth]
had been happily pursuing civilian vocations less than six months
Hough (p91): ...the Good Hope, only recently commissioned and
with a raw crew that included a number of reservists, cadets, midshipmen
and boys as young as fifteen...Monmouth also with a raw crew...
Hirst (p15): [Monmouth] had been practically condemned as unfit
for further service but was hauled off the dockyard wall, commissioned
with a scratch crew of coastguardsmen and boys.
LOSS OF H.M.S. "GOOD HOPE" AND
"MONMOUTH." HC Deb 23 December 1915 vol 77 c622W
Thanks to anonymous poster Bart150 and others
at the Great War Forum
for this information and links to Hansard.
Commander BELLAIRS asked the First Lord of the Admiralty, in view of his
predecessor having asked for publicity in the matter, whether he will
state, in reference to His Majesty's ship "Good Hope" and His
Majesty's ship "Monmouth," whether these vessels were
commissioned on the outbreak of war with men from the reserves who are
not so efficient as active service ratings; and whether, since the
vessels were lost at the battle of Coronel, he can, without detriment to
the public interest, give the dates for retubing the inner A-tubes of
the guns of both ships so that the House may be in a position to judge
as to their fitness for action?
Mr. BALFOUR These vessels were not commissioned entirely with reserve
ratings. Each of them had on board not less than the authorised
proportion of active service ratings; and, in fact, His Majesty's
ship "Monmouth" had a crew composed almost entirely of
active service men. No guns in these ships had been retubed: they
were all serviceable.
Shaun Appleby 02 August 2014
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