“The last time I saw Sturdee was at the Falkland Islands”!

The American Commander in Chief, General John Pershing, British Admiral Doveton Sturdee and General William Birdwood were all granted honorary degrees from Cambridge after the war.

29 Barton Road
27 July ‘19

My very dear Smu

[Visiting Southwold, Suffolk] On Thursday 10th there came, with their crews, 2 armoured cars, which had been serving in Russia: and in the photographs sold in the shops next day, we recognised unmistakeably Mr and Mrs Image.

I see that I’ve only left a few inches to describe the Honorary Degrees on Wednesday 23rd – so I’ll enclose the paper I found on my seat. The figure I was most anxious to see was Admiral Sturdee. He looked like a Dean or an Archdeacon – an ecclesiastic of high degree. Just in front of me was a naval Lieutenant in uniform (with a pretty young wife) – so I appealed to him. He gave me all information quite simply – and as we rose to go, and watched Sturdee leave the Senate House, he said, “the last time I saw Sturdee was at the Falkland Islands”!! I was delighted to see a fellow who had been in that fight.

Pershing looked capable of sternness.

The u.g.s (who were all in their khaki) chaired Birdwood.

Our kindest remembrances to ye both.


Letter from John Maxwell Image to W F Smith (D/EX801/2)

“Moderate” peace terms would allow an unweakened Germany “to begin afresh the utter destruction of England”

John Maxwell Image continued his letter from yesterday with more details of the war’s impact in Cambridge. he was unimpressed by pacifists’ suggestions of a generous peace treaty.

Thursday [18 March 1915], 11.30 am

Yesterday I sauntered as far as 2nd stone on the Barton Road – troops of cavalry or infantry on every road now! …

We are in the military gripe altogether. Officers are billeted in your College and in others. Whewells Courts hold privates by the hundreds: who believe the building to be a Board School! Their officers are in Caius new Court lining Rose Crescent – and the General in Caius proper (I haven’t set eyes on him).

King’s entertains the female Nurses. I see them … “swanking” down King’s Avenue and opening the garden Gate to pass to their labours in “the 1st Eastern Hospital”.

At the last Union debate — moved that “this House would welcome an offer by the Allies of moderate Terms of Peace”. He was good enough to explain these. “Moderate Terms exclude the hanging, shooting, or deportation of the German Emperor, the dismemberment of Germany and the interference from outside with the internal German Constitution. The handing over of the German fleet and the payment of an indemnity to the allies except Belgium, and the retention of the German colonies conquered by England would be excluded.” He wishes her to be left, practically unweakened, and with yet more unvenomed hatred, to begin afresh the utter destruction of England, having chosen a time when she is bereft of allies.

Is he merely a “superior person”?

And “the House adjourned without a division”!!

The Fellows of Trinity, who are of military age, nearly all are wearing khaki – Capstick, Cornford, Lucas, Stuart, Tatham, Littlewood, Holland, Robertson, Taylor, Hill, Woolf, Nicholas, Butler, Bragg, etc, etc.

I see the armed sentry at Whewell’s gate standing statuesque, growing gradually whitened with falling snow….

“Numbers only can annihilate”. That Nelsonian maxim is steadily carried out by Fisher, and, as the Dresden, the Falkland Isles, the Bluecher and her gang evince, it means an almost bloodless success to the crushers. What on earth did they risk the flimsy Amethyst in the narrows for?

There is a white cat overhead which has taken a huge fancy to me. It is mutual. Tell the Missis that she presented the staircase with two absolute little snowy angels two days ago. I was taken to admire them just 3 hours after their first appearance. Anything so tiny I should not have deemed possible. A rat’s litter must be bigger. Mary Ann was very affectionate – insisted on licking my hands and purring loudly as I hauled up the prodigies for inspection. She herself (they tell me) was scarcely bigger than her offspring last September. The owner, a young 2nd Lieut. Of Engineers, brought the basket down to my rooms for goodbye that evening: and yesterday at 8 am they all left for Devonshire.

Did you see that Keith Caldwell is wounded? I wrote to poor Mrs Hutchinson, but have received no reply. I hope this doesn’t imply a serious hurt.

Love to both.


Bild [nickname]

Always keep me posted as to any Censorial interference.

Letter from John Maxwell Image, Cambridge don, to W F Smith (D/EX801/1)

Boots and Flemish newspapers for Belgian soldiers

Florence Vansittart Neale went into London to get Flemish newspapers for the Belgian soldiers being nursed at Bisham Abbey. She also hoped to be able to put them in touch with their families in war-torn Belgium, perhaps through a neutral country’s officials.

10 December 1914
Good naval victory off Falkland Islands….

To Finsbury Square Belgian Soldiers’ Relief. Have promise of boots. Bought Flemish papers & enquired about sending letters, doing it through Spanish Minister…

Admiral Sturden sank 3 German ships – cleared the highway! 4th sank. Allies pushing on. Kaiser ill.

Diary of Florence Vansittart Neale (D/EX73/3/17/8)

An awful sight: a survivor reports the Battle of Coronel

This eyewitness account of the naval engagement off the coast of Coronel, Chile, with the loss of two British ships and over 1500 men, brings home the nature of naval warfare.

HMS Glasgow
Nov 9 1910

I will try to give you an account of the action off Coronel on Nov 1st. I wrote most of the events down at the time & have collected others from the yarns of some of the others who were in a position to see.

We left Coronel on the morning of Nov 1 & joined up with the “Good Hope”, “Monmouth” & “Otranto” to the westward of Coronel in the afternoon & then started to speed towards the land, the “Good Hope” being outside ships & the “Glasgow” inside ship. We had got about 15 miles from flagship when we saw smoke on the horizon on the beam towards the land. We altered course down towards it & soon made out 3 German ships “Scharnhorst”, “Gneisenau” & a small town-class cruiser. They saw us at the same time & altered course towards us at once & started to chase us back. We ran back at full speed towards “Good Hope”, & the “Monmouth” & “Otranto” came too. We rejoined “Good Hope” at 5.47 pm, formed single line ahead & proceeded SE to meet the enemy who were then about 12 miles away. “Good Hope” led this time, next to her “Monmouth”, then “Glasgow” & then “Otranto”. The sun was nearly setting& we were directly between the enemy & the sun, which was good for us, as the enemy could not see us properly. We turned 4 points to Port with a view to forcing an action while the light was in our favour, but the Germans would naturally have none of it, & also turned 4 pts. Keeping the distance between us at about 18,000 yds. The sun set about 6.45 & then the enemy chased us rapidly. The light conditions were entirely changed. We were then silhouetted against the afterglow of sunset & they were nearly invisible with a dark cloud behind them & getting more so every minute. By this time a 4th small cruiser had joined up in rear of enemy’s line. At 7.5 they had closed us to about 12,000 yds & they then opened fire, each ship taking her opposite number in the line, thus we had the 2 small cruisers firing at us, the “Otranto” having been ordered to clear out as she was quite useless & if she had stopped it would only have meant sacrificing her to no purpose. We opened fire, all of us, immediately afterwards. We could not see where our shots were falling & after the first 20 minutes were only firing at the flashes of the enemy guns. They, on the contrary, could not have had better conditions & could see where the shot fell. Their first salvo fell short – the 2nd over – about 100 yds & at the 3rd salvo “Good Hope” & “Monmouth” were both hit forward. I will tell you about “Good Hope” first. When she was first hit she took fire & had hardly got the fire under when another shot struck her, in practically the same place & started the fire up again. She was hit all over & after the first ten minutes had many guns out of action including, I think, the for 9”.2 which was one of the only 2 guns she could hope to do much with. She was on fire forward & all along the Port – i.e. the engaged-side. She began to close the enemy & to lose speed & at 7.45 was nearly between the “Monmouth” & the enemy’s flagship & had practically ceased firing. At 7.50 she blew up with a tremendous explosion between the mainmort & after funnel. The flames & wreckage went up quite 250 feet, miles above her mast-heads & after that she never fired another shot & the enemy stopped firing at her also. There could have been practically nobody left alive onboard. When I last saw her she was down by the stern a long way away & the fire was still burning forward. I should say she was rapidly sinking & certainly could never have moved again.

The “Monmouth” was frightfully knocked about early in the action too. Her foreturret took fire & she never got it out & she also was on fire all along her port side & some of the guns were pretty soon out of action. She only had 6 in guns & they were practically useless. There was a big head sea, & ½ a gale of wind, so she couldn’t fight the main deck guns properly, which also applied to the “Good Hope”. She was apparently rather unmanageable as she twice hauled out of the line & came back again. We had to reduce to 9 knots once to avoid masking her fire. She was also badly down by the bows & had a heavy list to starboard also. She ceased firing when the “Good Hope” blew up.

We had the 2 small ships firing at us. Their shooting was quite excellent, their shots falling all around us the whole time within literally 5 yds of the ship. We were hit 5 times in all by whole shell. Once aft above the armoured deck, where a hole was torn 6 ft square, once each in 2 bunkers on the waterline so we had 3 holes with water coming in. We had to shore up the deck aft to prevent it bursting & flooding the mess deck. Another shot hit the 2nd funnel, low down, broke up & cut a lot of steam pipes but didn’t do much real harm. The 5th went through the Captain’s pantry, which is next my cabin, crossed the passage & went on into the Captain’s cabin & wrecked it. I felt that one arrive as it is just below the conning tower where I was. “Monmouth” kept away after “Good Hope” blew up & we kept half way between her & the “Good Hope”. It was quite dark by then & we were firing at the ships we could see. They could not see the “Monmouth” then as she was not firing & every time we let a gun off we got the fire of the whole German squadron on us. Why we weren’t sunk twenty times over, I don’t know, as none of their shots fell very far away. They kept on firing at us & we came to the conclusion that it wasn’t good enough. “Monmouth” had by this time got away to Starboard & we followed her. I left the conning tower then & went on the bridge so that I could find out where we were off to & was up there quite quiet 5 minutes before I noticed the 8 in shells were dropping close to us. We asked the “Monmouth” who was steering it & if she could steer to the Westward but she said she had to keep stern to sea. We then asked if she could go it W & got no answer. The enemy was coming up fast by this time so we had to leave her. We could do [no] good by stopping & should only have been sunk ourselves. We went off to the westward at full speed, & soon lost sight of the enemy who pursued “Monmouth” & must have sunk her. (This was about 8.30 pm & at 9 enemy started firing again.) We counted 75 flashes of guns & they also used search lights looking for us. We worked round to the southward at 20 knots with a view to warning “Canopus” who was coming up 200 miles away from that direction & succeeded after some trouble as the enemy jammed our wireless signals. They chased us, judging by the strength of the wireless signals all that night & then chucked it. We mercifully had the legs of them. We went as fast as we could to the Straits & then to Stanley (Falklands) where we arrived yesterday morning & coaled & left again same evening. We are off to the Plate now to join up with some big ships “Defence” “Carnarvon” etc. We shall have to dock, I think, & certainly must get some oil as it knocks 3 knots off our speed without oil fuel. We had 4 men slightly wounded & they are all back to duty now. After the action for the next 2 or 3 days we kept on picking up shell splinters & very nasty wounds some of them would have made. The men were splendid, grumbling just as they do at battle practice. There was no panic & no expending of ammunition uselessly. I got a sea on me before I went into the conning tower, so started wet through but it didn’t make much difference as the spray was coming over the ship the whole time. All the gun telescopes were wet & so the gunlayers could hardly see to sight the guns. As to the damage we did to the enemy it is hard to form an estimate. I saw a small fire in both the enemy ships (armoured cruisers) but it was quickly put out. We got one 6 in shell on to the 2nd armoured cruiser & also one on to our opposite number. At one time that ship left the line & ceased firing, her place being taken by the 4th ship, so I have hopes we did her some damage. Under equal conditions we could sink them both. IT was a very trying experience for the men being under heavy fire & unable to return it, but, as I said before, they all behaved splendidly, even the young ones showing no signs of panic. We were steaming alongside one another for an hour first. When we started towards them we all knew it was hopeless & I was thinking how devilish cold the water would be & hoping a shell would get me first as being the pleasantest way out.

We had a trying time running away south. I could not get any sights owing to the spray coming over the ship & only discovered when we found C Pillar eventually, that my compass had altered 7 degrees on easterly courses, luckily it hadn’t altered on southerly ones. It was a lovely thing to find out just as we were going through the Straits in a blinding snowstorm. We anchored near the Cape of Virgins & waited for the “Canopus” & went on to the Falklands with her, arriving with very little coal indeed. Luckily we had enough to get there or else we must have been caught. We shall have to dock I expect for the hole in our stern, probably at Bermuda or the Cape. Anyway, I don’t suppose they will send us south again into the bad weather while we are damaged like this. We all want to be in at the death of those ships. I had a lot of friends in the “Monmouth” & I fear none are saved; most of them married men too. Thank goodness I am not. The blowing up of the “Good Hope” was an awful sight. I shall never forget it till I die. Something must have exploded their magazine, I think. We ought to arrive at the Plate the day after tomorrow & want will happen to us then I don’t know. I daresay we shall be turned on to hunt the “Karlsruhe”. I hope we may get her. We would stop her breath all right & it is high time somebody did.

Eyewitness account of the naval action off Coronel, Chile (D/EX1159/5/8)