While much has been written about the 1982 Argentine invasion of these South Atlantic islands, there is a lesser known, but no less important battle that took place 68 years earlier when the German navy arrived to contest Britain's sovereignty.
On the 1st November 1914, off the coast of central Chile, a Royal Navy squadron commanded by Rear Admiral Christopher Cradock was patrolling off the coast of Chile near the city of Coronel in search of a German naval squadron known to be in the area. The British squadron consisted of two armoured cruisers, HMS Good Hope, and HMS Monmouth, one light cruiser HMS Glasgow and a converted liner, the Otranto. He was due to be joined later by the old pre dreadnought battleship HMS Canopus who could only make some 12 knots and was still 300 miles south of Cradock's force when the two squadrons finally met. This British force, while formidable on paper, was composed mainly of obsolete and under gunned vessels; all crewed by inexperienced naval reservists and was tasked with searching for the German fleet's East Asia squadron, led by Vice Admiral Maximillian Von Spee, who were engaged in commerce raiding in the area.
“Where is the Prince who can afford so to cover his country with troops for its defence as that 10,000 men descending from the clouds, might not, in many places, do an infinite deal of mischief before a force could be brought together to repel them?”. Benjamin Franklin, 1784.
Following the success of the D Day landings in June 1944, the Allies expected to make a steady advance eastward, but found themselves bogged down for many weeks in the bitter Battle for Normandy.
The battles of Kohima and Imphal became two of the greatest struggles of the Second World War, rivalling El Alamein and Stalingrad, though it still remains comparatively unknown. To the men who fought there however, it remains “The Battle”. If the Japanese had won, the road to India would have lain wide open before them.
The Battles of Kohima and Imphal became the turning points in the Japanese attempt to invade India and were fought in the Assam region on the Indo-Burmese border between 8th March and 3rd July 1944.
In the winter of 1940, Britain had her back to the wall; she had weathered Dunkirk and the Battle of Britain and was now fighting the Italians in North Africa. The fall of France and the consequent loss of the French Mediterranean Fleet meant that Britain alone faced the Axis naval forces in the area. The Italian army based in Libya was easily resupplied from Italy while the British based in Egypt could only be supported by convoys via Gibraltar and Malta and then by sailing close to Sicily to reach their destination, or sail around the Cape of Good Hope and then up the entire east coast Africa and through the Suez Canal. This latter choice was a very long and slow route, forcing the British to take their chances in the Mediterranean.