Tag Archives: Falklands Maritime Heritage Trust

Graf Spee’s SMS Scharnhorst found off Falklands

Scharnhorst and her sister were very distinctive with their four large funnels.

The Falklands Maritime Heritage Trust has for the past half-decade been looking for the German battle fleet of Adm. Maximilian Graf von Spee lost near the South Atlantic British colony on 8 December 1914. It looks like the charity has hit paydirt in a sort by finding the armored cruiser SMS Scharnhorst, the flagship of Spee’s doomed German East Asia Squadron.

Scharnhorst, built in Hamburg in 1905, was the first to be sunk when the Germans met with VADM Doveton Sturdee’s battlecruiser squadron, hammered below the waves by the much stronger HMS Invincible and HMS Inflexible.

Battle of the Falkland Islands, 1914 by British Artist William Lionel Wyllie, showing Scharnhorst slipping below the waves as Gneisenau battles on

Sinking of the Scharnhorst, 1914, painted by Admiral Thomas Jacques Somerscales currently on display at the Royal Museums Greenwich

In all, over 2,200 German sailors perished on the sea that day, including von Spee himself and his two sons – Heinrich aboard the Scharnhorst’s sister ship Gneisenau, and Otto aboard the smaller cruiser Nürnberg.

The Scharnhorst was discovered on the third day of the research vessel Seabed Constructor’s search, 98 nautical miles southeast of Port Stanley at a depth of 1610 meters.

Armoured Cruiser SMS Scharnhorst composite. Via Falklands Maritime Heritage Trust

Her silhouette is perfect. Via Falklands Maritime Heritage Trust

Her bow, note the casemated guns. Via Falklands Maritime Heritage Trust

Another bow shot, note the teak planking is still intact. Via Falklands Maritime Heritage Trust

Her 8..3″ main guns, at apparently max elevation. Via Falklands Maritime Heritage Trust

Note the “Krupp” tag. Via Falklands Maritime Heritage Trust

Wilhelm Graf von Spee, the current head of the Graf von Spee family, said:

“Speaking as one of the many families affected by the heavy casualties suffered on 8 December 1914 at the Battle of the Falkland Islands, the discovery of SMS Scharnhorst is bittersweet. We take comfort from the knowledge that the final resting place of so many has been found, and can now be preserved, whilst also being reminded of the huge waste of life. As a family, we lost a father and his two sons on one day. Like the thousands of other families who suffered an unimaginable loss during the First World War, we remember them and must ensure that their sacrifice was not in vain.”