Mark Connelly is Professor of Modern British History at the University of Kent. His main research interests are in the fields of commemoration and military history. Among his publications are The Great War: memory and ritual (2002), We Can Take It! Britain and the memory of the Second World War (2003) and Steady the Buffs! A Regiment, a region and the Great War (2006).
'Let us die manfully for our brethren': Commemorating the Battle of the Falkland Islands, December 1914
In 1914 British power rested on its economic might and its immense naval strength. The image of the Royal Navy as the guardian of the seas was a very powerful one across the British Empire. Early on in the war the Royal Navy seemed to confirm its role as international policeman with the defeat of the German Admiral Graff Spee’s squadron off the Falkland Islands in December 1914. The paper will look at the way this engagement was presented at the time in Britain and its continuing importance to the Royal Navy in a war that increasingly deflected attention away from the senior service and towards the army. The battle also served to raise the profile of the Falkland Islands in the British public imagination and was used to buttress the concept that every part of the British Empire played a useful role in the maintenance of British values and, consequently, international stability. Finally, the battle was also important to concepts of local identity in the Falkland Islands giving islanders a sense of their significance and self-worth within the imperial orbit.