On this day 100 years ago…

The German light cruiser SMS Dresden was sunk at Cumberland Bay, in the romantically named Robinson Crusoe Island, part of the Juan Fernandez Islands off the coast of Chile. Thanks to her speed, Dresden had been the only German warship to escape destruction during the Battle of the Falkland Islands on 6 December 1914 but she was eventually trapped by the Royal Navy cruisers Glasgow and Kent and bombarded. Rather than surrender unconditionally, the commander of the Dresden, Fritz Ludecke, had his ship scuttled.

When the First World War broke out, the Dresden had found herself at sea and spent the first month of the war in the South Atlantic, attacking British merchant shipping off the coast of South America. In September, after being told about large numbers of merchant ships off the Pacific coast of South America, Ludecke ordered the Dresden to pass through the Straits of Magellan and into the Pacific. Unfortunately for the Dresden, hunting was poor and in October she joined Admiral von Spee’s East Asia Squadron at Easter Island.

As part of von Spee’s force, Dresden fought in the Battle of Coronel (in which the British armoured cruisers HMS Good Hope and Monmouth were sunk and the British commander Rear Admiral Cradock, among many others, was killed) and in the Battle of the Falkland Islands in which the Royal Navy avenged Cradock, as a result of which Dresden found herself at Robinson Crusoe Island, where her remains stil lie.

The Dresden passing through the Kiel Canal before the First World War.
The Dresden passing through the Kiel Canal before the First World War. (Library of Congress)
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