Who's Who - Maximilian von Spee

Admiral Count von Spee Maximilian von Spee (1861-1914), who was born in Copenhagen, joined the Imperial German Navy in 1878.  Between 1887-88 Spee commanded the Cameroon ports, a German colony. 

Prior to the declaration of war in 1914 he held various responsible positions relating to weapons development until, in 1908, he was appointed Chief of Staff on the North Sea Command, rising to Rear Admiral in 1910.  Two years later, in 1912, he was given command of the German East Asian Cruiser Squadron.

From the outbreak of war Spee's squadron concentrated on destroying British merchant and troop shipping, enjoying great success.

At the Battle of Coronel on 1 November 1914 off the coast of Chile, Spee sunk two British cruisers under the command of Sir Christopher Cradock, outclassing the British in terms of both gunnery and seamanship.

Embarrassed by the defeat, the Royal Navy determined to chase down and destroy Spee's squadron.  At the Battle of the Falkland Islands, on 8 December 1914, Spee attempted a raid upon British wireless and coaling facilities at Port Stanley.

Unbeknownst to Spee however, a British squadron, including two fast, modern battle cruisers, Invincible and Inflexible, were at that same time coaling at Port Stanley, sent by First Sea Lord Admiral Fisher to reverse the British defeat at Coronel, commanded by Vice Admiral Frederick Sturdee.

Heavily outgunned, six German ships - including Spee's own flagship, Scharnhorst - were sunk, with some 2,200 sailors drowned, among them Spee.

In 1934 the Hitler government named a pocket battleship, Graf Spee, in his memory.

A 'Base Rat' was a soldier perpetually at the base, typically in conditions of comfort and safety.

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