Thursday, 19 February 2015

The Battles of Coronel and the Falkland Islands review – Philip French on a real-life naval thriller

The first public event to impinge on me in the second world war was Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain’s broadcast declaration of war with Germany on 3 September 1939. I had just turned six. The second was four months later when three British warships engaged with the German pocket battleship, the Admiral Graf Spee, which headed up the River Plate to Uruguay. The captain, believing British reinforcements were on the way, scuttled his ship outside Montevideo harbour. A short cinematic documentary on this victory cheered us up no end in the phoney war.

What I didn’t of course know then was that in the first months of the first world war there had been an altogether grander naval battle – two of them in fact. The first led to a British defeat at Coronel off the Chilean coast and the death of a British admiral. Culminating in a major British triumph launched from the Falkland Islands, the second saw the death of the German commander, Vice Admiral Maximilian von Spee, and his two sons. These are the joint subjects of the reconstructed silent documentary, The Battle of Coronel and Falkland Islands: The Great War at Sea, made with the full cooperation of the Royal Navy in 1927, when American and European film companies were at last turning their attention to the war in such pictures as The Big Parade, Tell England and Journey’s End.Read more HERE