Wednesday, March 01, 2006

 

Falklands’ Battle surviving cruiser bell recovered

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Merco Press
February 26, 2006



Chilean and German divers recovered the bell from the German cruiser “Dresden” scuttled during the First World War off the Chilean island of Juan Fernandez, reported Peter Neven, the German Embassy Cultural Attaché in Santiago.

Mr. Neven said that after having contacted the team of divers and experts led by Willi Kramer, the historic bell which is the main purpose of the operation was in good conditions with no signs of corrosion. The bell has engraved the name of the city it represented.

“Dresden” was the only vessel to escape from the Falklands Battle, December 1914, when the German fleet under Von Graf Spee was completely destroyed. The historic piece was found at a depth of 65 metres in Cumberland Bay and has been underwater since March 14, 1915, when the vessel was sunk by its own captain who refused to surrender to three pursuing Royal Navy units.

The 60 centimeters tall and 80 centimeters diameter bell will be handed to the Chilean Navy for its conservation. Later on she will be flown to Germany to be exhibited. At the outbreak of war in 1914, the Dresden had been stationed in the Caribbean for a year, and was preparing for the return journey to Germany. However, orders were changed to prepare for commerce raiding.
The Dresden then headed for the South Atlantic and went around Cape Horn, sinking British merchantmen along the way.

In October she made rendezvous with the German East-Asiatic Squadron at Easter Island. In company with Vice-Admiral von Spee's other ships - which were SMS Scharnhorst, SMS Gneisenau, SMS Leipzig, and SMS Nürnberg - the Dresden participated in the victorious Battle of Coronel on November first.

Together with SMS Leipzig she damaged and forced the escape of the British cruiser HMS Glasgow.

In early December, SMS Dresden was the only German cruiser to escape at the disastrous Battle of the Falkland Islands, her turbine engines proving faster than her expansion-engine squadron mates.

The ship then headed south back around Cape Horn to the maze of channels and bays in southern Chile. Until March 1915 the ship evaded Royal Navy searches while paralyzing British trade routes in the area.

On March 8, the Dresden put into Cumberland Bay on the Chilean island of Más a Tierra (today known as Robinson Crusoe Island). Due to lack of supplies and parts for the worn-out engines, the ship ceased to be operational. Six days later, on March 14, 1915, British cruisers HMS Kent and HMS Glasgow found the elusive German cruiser.

After a few shots were fired, the Dresden ran up a white flag and sent the-then Lieutenant Wilhelm Canaris, who would become a famous Kriegsmarine admiral during the Second World War, to negotiate with the British. However, this was just a ruse to buy time so the Dresden’s crew could abandon ship and scuttle her. At 11:15 AM the SMS Dresden slipped under the waves with her war ensign proudly flying.

The Dresden’s complement of about 350 sailors was interned in Chile for the duration of the war, with about a third electing to remain and resettle in Chile at war's end.

The wreck, which lies in about 60 metres (200 feet) of water, is gaining popularity with recreational Scuba divers, and is occasionally used by the Chilean Navy for diver training.

SMS Dresden belonged to the light cruises class: 3.664 tons with two shaft Parson turbines reaching a speed of 24 knots. She had a crew of 361and was launched in 1907. She was armored with 10 x 105mm (4.1in) SKL/ 40cal (10 x 1), 8 x 52mm (2in) (8 x 1), 2 x 450mm (17.7in) TT.


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