FIMA Friends have purchased an artefact from HMS "Endurance", one of the most iconic ships in Falklands history. The shield, pictured above, was bought in an on-line auction and has been donated to the museum in Stanley, where it is now on display. It is believed that the shield originally adorned a wall in the ship's officers' mess. It was probably made in "Endurance's" own workshops, and a dab of "Endurance-red" paint on its reverse side may corroborate this.
The FIMA Friends have a special connection with the ship, as HMS "Endurance" was commissioned into the Royal Navy in 1967 in a ceremony involving current committee member Alexandra "Zaz" Shackleton. The ship was named after the original "Endurance", which carried Zaz's grandfather to the Antarctic in 1914.
Equipped with helicopters and light weapons and usually carrying a detachment of Royal Marines, HMS "Endurance" was the Falklands guard ship and the Navy's Antarctic patrol ship from 1967 to 1991. There were plans to decommission the ship following a defence review in 1981, a move widely believed to have contributed to the Argentine Government's belief that British commitment to the Falklands was weakening. However the 1982 war broke out before "Endurance" could be withdrawn and she subsequently played an important role in the conflict. She went on to serve in the area for a further nine years.
The Falklands Maritime Heritage Trust (the sister organisation of the FIMA Friends) announced on 4 December 2019 that the wreck of SMS "Scharnhorst" has been located off the Falkland Islands. The "Scharnhorst", an armoured battlecruiser and the flagship of Admiral Maximilian Graf von Spee’s East Asia Squadron, was sunk on 8 December 1914 during the Battle of the Falkland Islands, a crucial naval battle in the early days of the First World War.
This discovery is a major breakthrough in the quest to locate all of the ships that comprised the German squadron lost during the battle. The search began on the centenary of the Battle in December 2014 but was initially unsuccessful. Five years later, the mission was resumed using state of the art subsea search equipment.
The Battle of the Falkland Islands followed the Battle of Coronel, fought off the coast of Chile in November 1914, where Graf von Spee’s fleet overpowered the Royal Navy and in which 1,600 British sailors perished. A month later a British squadron under the command of Vice-Admiral Doveton Sturdee, pursued, engaged and defeated Graf von Spee’s squadron, comprising the "Scharnhorst", "Gneisenau", "Nürnberg" and "Leipzig". The action was particularly important because the battle brought to an end to commerce raiding by German warships.
The "Scharnhorst", was the first to be sunk, having sustained substantial damage inflicted by HMS "Invincible" and HMS "Inflexible". Tragically 2,200 German sailors died, including Graf von Spee himself and his two sons - Heinrich aboard the "Gneisenau", and Otto aboard the "Nürnberg".
The Falkland Maritime Heritage Trust is now seeking to have the site formally protected in law. The wreck was not touched or in any way disturbed during the operation. The team on board Seabed Constructor conducted an act of remembrance at the site, commemorating all who died during the Battle.
The film production company TVT has been recording the search from its inception five years ago. Already, experts who have viewed unedited clips confirm that they reveal new information about this important episode in British and German naval history and in the history of the Falkland Islands.
Donald Lamont, Chairman of The Falklands Maritime Heritage Trust, said:
“It is less than a month since Remembrance Day, when we commemorated the millions who died in the First World War and subsequent conflicts. One episode in that conflict was the Battle of the Falklands in 1914. The search we organised had as its aim the locating of all ships of the German squadron, so that we may learn more about the Battle and commemorate all who perished in it. The site of the wrecks can now be protected.
The Battle of the Falklands is commemorated every year on 8 December in the Falkland Islands. Our aim is that the film should be made available to the Historic Dockyard Museum in Stanley, where it and accompanying information will be available for Islanders and for the thousands of visitors who come to the Falkland Islands every year.”
Mensun Bound, the leader of the search, said:
“It is with mixed emotions that we announce the discovery of SMS "Scharnhorst". After a search that began five years ago, on the centenary of the battle, we are very proud to be able to shed further light on what was a defining point in the First World War, and therefore a landmark moment in modern history.
The moment of discovery was extraordinary. We are often chasing shadows on the seabed, but when the "Scharnhorst" first appeared in the data flow, there was no doubt that this was one of the German fleet. You could even see the impact crater. We sent down an ROV to explore and almost straight away we were into a debris field that said “battle”. Suddenly she just came out of the gloom with great guns poking in every direction.
As a Falkland Islander and a marine archaeologist, a discovery of this significance is an unforgettable, poignant moment in my life. Our work on this important project is not done. We will continue to assess the images that we have captured and, in time continue to search for the remainder of the fleet, in order to provide greater understanding of the events of that day, and to ensure the protection of the site.”
Wilhelm Graf von Spee, head of the Graf von Spee family, said:
“Speaking as one of the many families affected by the heavy casualties suffered on 8 December 1914 at the Battle of the Falkland Islands, the discovery of SMS "Scharnhorst" is bittersweet. We take comfort from the knowledge that the final resting place of so many has been found, and can now be preserved, whilst also being reminded of the huge waste of life. As a family we lost a father and his two sons on one day. Like the thousands of other families who suffered unimaginable loss during the First World War, we remember them and must ensure that their sacrifice was not in vain.”
Around 40 guests attended the opening of the new exhibition, "Women of the Falklands" on Friday 18th October 2019. This exhibition will be on show for approximately 12 months.Admission for FIMA members is free so please make sure you tell a member of staff if you are a member.