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Maximilian von Spee
Count (Graf) Maximilian Johannes Maria Hubert von Spee (22 June 1861 – 8 December 1914) was a German naval officer, born in Copenhagen, Denmark, who joined the Kaiserliche Marine (Imperial German Navy) in 1878. In 1887–88 he commanded the Cameroon ports, a German colony in Africa. Before World War I he held a number of senior positions relating to weapons development, before being appointed Chief of Staff of the North Sea Command in 1908, rising to Rear Admiral in 1910 and being given command of the German East Asia Squadron in 1912, based at the Germany colony in Tsingtao, China.
From the outbreak of the First World War his command concentrated on destroying Allied commercial and troop shipping, with considerable success. However Spee was wary of the Allies' strength, especially the Imperial Japanese Navy and the Royal Australian Navy — in fact he described the latter's flagship, HMAS Australia as being superior to his entire force by itself. Consequently Spee's squadron moved towards South America. At the Battle of Coronel, off the coast of Chile, on 1 November 1914, Spee's force engaged and sank Sir Christopher Cradock's force of two cruisers, HMS Good Hope and HMS Monmouth, when the German force outclassed the British one in both gunnery and seamanship.
On 8 December 1914, Spee's force attempted a raid on the coaling station at Port Stanley in the Falkland Islands, unaware that the previous month the British had sent two modern fast battlecruisers (Inflexible and Invincible) to protect the islands and avenge the defeat at Coronel, and there were also five cruisers, HMS Carnarvon, HMS Cornwall, HMS Kent, HMS Bristol and HMS Glasgow, at the Port Stanley naval base. In the ensuing Battle of the Falkland Islands, Spee's flagship, Scharnhorst, together with Gneisenau, Nürnberg, and Leipzig were all lost, together with some 2,200 German sailors including Admiral von Spee and his two sons. Only Dresden managed to escape.
In 1917 a Mackensen-class battlecruiser was named Graf Spee in his honour, but construction of the ship had not been completed by the time of the Armistice in November 1918, and it was subsequently broken up.
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