Royal Canadian Navy Commemorates the Battle of Coronel

HMS Good Hope in art

HMS Good Hope

October 31, 2014

OTTAWA – The Royal Canadian Navy (RCN) will mark the Battle of Coronel on November 1st. This battle saw the first Canadian military casualties of the First World War, and the first ever casualties in the history of the RCN. RCN personnel serving today salute the following shipmates from the past:

· Midshipman Malcolm Cann, 19, of Yarmouth, Nova Scotia;

· Midshipman John V. W. Hatheway, 19, of Fredericton, New Brunswick;

· Midshipman William Archibald Palmer, 20, of Halifax, Nova Scotia; and

· Midshipman Arthur Wiltshire Silver, 20, of Halifax, Nova Scotia.


All four RCN midshipmen died in the Battle of Coronel, which took place on November 1, 1914 off the coast of central Chile near the city of Coronel.


Quick Facts


· These four midshipmen were from the first class to graduate from the Royal Naval College of Canada (established in 1911 soon after the founding of the RCN).


· Following graduation in 1914, they were selected to serve in the Royal Navy’s West Indies Squadron and were assigned to Rear-Admiral (RAdm) Sir Christopher Cradock’s flagship, Her Majesty’s Ship (HMS) Good Hope (Mid. Palmer was the top student in the graduating class and Mid. Silver was the senior Cadet Captain. Both were personally selected to join RAdm Cradock’s squadron. Mid. Cann and Mid. Hatheway were chosen by lot).


· In the early days of the war, RAdm Cradock’s squadron was tasked with tracking down the German commerce raiding squadron under Vice-Admiral (VAdm) Graf Maximilian von Spee. Recognizing that Cradock’s force consisted of only two armoured cruisers, a light cruiser and a converted ocean liner, the British Admiralty dispatched reinforcements consisting of the elderly battleship Canopus and another armoured cruiser. Unfortunately, these ships did not arrive in time for the battle and RAdm Cradock’s force was badly overmatched by von Spee’s force of two armoured cruisers, Scharnhorst and Gneisenau, and three light cruisers – all modern, highly effective ships which outgunned the British vessels.


· When battle was joined off the coast of Chile near Coronel on the 1st of November, RAdm Cradock’s ships fought bravely but were no match for the Germans. The two armoured cruisers, Good Hope and Monmouth, were sunk with all hands while the Glasgow and Otranto managed to escape to safety. The defeat prompted the Admiralty to send a more powerful squadron to the West Indies under VAdm Frederick Doveton Sturdee to track down and defeat von Spee’s squadron, which they did at the Battle of the Falkland Islands on December 8, 1914.




“It is my privilege to honour the valour of these Royal Canadian Navy sailors, who participated in the brave fight at the Battle of Coronel and who made the ultimate sacrifice on behalf of their country and fellow Canadians. The Government of Canada is committed to recognizing and honouring our proud military history and the bravery and sacrifices of our men and women in uniform.”


The Honourable Rob Nicholson, P.C., Q.C., M.P. for Niagara Falls and Minister of National Defence


“In commemorating the Battle of Coronel, we honour the first Canadian casualties of World War One, the brave midshipmen who gave their lives so that future generations could live in freedom. These sailors lived the traditional naval answer to the call of duty – “Ready Aye Ready” – and their conduct and valour continues to inspire today’s generation of Royal Canadian Navy sailors.”


Vice Admiral Mark Norman, Commander of the Royal Canadian Navy

Leave a Reply