German naval operations were fledgling at the outbreak of World War I: ‘homeless waifs’ according to their Ambassador to China until Tsingtao was purchased as a base (1898). Admiral von Spee had six warships, but the allied navies in the region, particularly those of Japan and Australia, were clearly superior. Von Spee resolved to ‘plough the seas of the world doing as much mischief as I can’. While the SS Emden was sent mischief-making in the Indian Ocean, the rest of the squadron attempted the odyssey round Cape Horn to Germany. The Emden intercepted 29 ships, sinking any belonging to the Allies including a Russian cruiser and French destroyer. Her come-uppance was delivered off the Cocos Islands, when she was sunk by the Australian HMS Sydney (9 November 1914). The main squadron sunk two British cruisers near Chile in the Battle of Coronel, before being destroyed in the Battle of the Falkland Islands (8 December 1914).
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