Battle of Coronel – First World War Centenary

To mark one hundred years since the outbreak of the First World War, I’m posting all the information and photos relating to my great grandparents and other ancestors during this period. Whether they were serving on the front line, helping out with the war effort at home, or being held at a civilian internment camp.

This post will focus on the Battle of Coronel and an uncle of my grandmother, George Hanes, who was on board the HMS Good Hope and ultimately died when the Germans sank his ship on 1st November 1914, killing all 919 officers on board as well as the HMS Monmouth where all 735 men on board died. This was the first defeat for the British Navy in more than 100 years.


This is photograph Q 21297 from the collections of the Imperial War Museums (collection no. 2107-01)

HMS Good Hope



The Battle of Coronel was one of the first major losses of British life during the First World War, and in its centenary year it was marked by a memorial service at Portsmouth, the city where the sunken Navy ships were based.

A cousin, Trevor Johnson, who is the great grandchild of George Hanes and Jeannette was interviewed for a local newspaper in Portsmouth, which wrote an article about the centenary memorial to commemorate those who were on board the ships that sank at the Battle of Coronel.

Here’s a some of the article published by Portsmouth News on 4th November 2014:

Trevor Johnson is the great-grandson of one of those who died on board HMS Good Hope.

His great-grandfather, Chief Petty Officer George Hanes, 41, died at sea leaving behind his wife and nine-year-old son.

‘The Good Hope was a ship not adequate to the task,’ says Trevor, 54, of The Heath, Denmead.

‘It had not much gunpowder of weaponry compared to the German fleet.

‘She was manned by reservists and not up for the task.

‘HMS Good Hope and HMS Monmouth were very much inferior in terms of firepower and also having very inexperienced hands on board compared to that of the German fleet.

‘To date the loss of hands within this one battle on one night is still the single most lives lost in any battle in history.

‘I looked into the battle for many years, and traced all the way back to the story of my great-grandfather.’

The British Film Institute recently restored one of the finest examples from the era of silent film — a telling of the story of the Battles of Coronel and the Falklands.

Twenty-four Royal Marines musicians lost their lives at sea at Coronel, and as reported in The News, 24 musicians from the present-day band service travelled to London last month to provide the backing score to the film.

The restored version will also be shown in Portsmouth on Sunday, at the No6 Cinema in Portsmouth’s Historic Dockyard.

Mr Johnston and his family will be there.

‘It will be a very emotional and poignant day,’ he adds.

In the same newspaper, he also gave his thoughts on organising a more prominent memorial in Portsmouth for those who lost their lives during the Battle of Coronel.

RELATIVES of those who lost their lives during the Battle of Coronel are calling for a more fitting memorial in their honour.

Trevor Johnson, whose great-grandfather George Hanes went down with HMS Good Hope, says the current memorial is not enough.

Currently the only tribute to the ship in Portsmouth is a silhouette painted on the railings of a playground, pictured above, in Ship Leopard Street, Portsea.

Mr Johnston says: ‘For a Portsmouth-based ship, and one lost in one the first battles of the First World War, we have nothing of significance to honour the brave men.

‘It would be nice in this centenary year if Portsmouth stood up and commemorated the loss of HMS Good Hope in a fitting manner.

‘There has not been enough done to celebrate the 1,600 lives lost in the battle.

‘I would love to see the council build a memorial to symbolise the heroism of all the men who lost their lives that night.’

My grandmother told me a couple of years ago when talking about her family and cousins, that she remembers Aunt Jeannette and her husband had a daughter named Dorothy down in Portsmouth, who married Harold Pridham. Dorothy and Harold had a daughter who was a teacher and went abroad with her husband. My grandmother also recalls one of George and Jeannette’s children or grandchildren marrying a Shah of Persia. Next time I’m visiting my grandmother, I’ll ask if she remembers anything else about George Hanes and his family and I’ll add it to this post.

Portsmouth News’ full article was published on 4 Nov 2014 and can be found here, “Slaughter at sea – but we never lost hope“.


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