Nelson Museum fights to restore WWI flag commemorating sinking of HMS Monmouth

By Richard Moss | 20 August 2014

The Nelson Museum in Monmouth needs to find just £2,000 to conserve a flag and tell the story of the sinking of HMS Monmouth during the First World War

a photo of a flag in a frame
The flag commemorating the sinking of HMS Monmouth in 1914© Monmouthshire County Council Museums Service
It was one of the darkest days of the British Navy in the First World War and Britain's first naval defeat since the Napoleonic period, but the Battle of Coronel is little remembered today outside of the realm of naval historians.

Now, Monmouth Museum wants to mark this inauspicious beginning to the Royal Navy’s campaign in the South Atlantic during the First World War by restoring a rare flag that commemorates the loss of one of the British ships, HMS Monmouth.

The battle took place off the coast of central Chile on November 1 1914 when a Royal Navy squadron of obsolete vessels commanded by Rear Admiral Sir Christopher Cradock was outnumbered and defeated by superior German forces under the command of the famous Vice-Admiral, Graf Maximilian von Spee.

Two British armoured cruisers, the Good Hope and the Monmouth, were lost with all hands - 1,600 British officers and men, including Admiral Cradock who went down with his flagship HMS Good Hope. 

The defeat was a humiliation for the British Admiralty and a new naval force was hastily assembled under Vice-Admiral Sturdee that found and destroyed Spee's force at the Battle of the Falkland Islands.

At Neslon Museum records reveal that the silk and brocade flag was produced as a memorial to Midshipman C or G R Bruce of Stow House School, Broadstairs, West Lothian and originally hung in the Chapel there.

Since being gifted to the museum within a glass frame, it has been kept in the museum archives, too fragile to be permanently displayed to the public.

However, with the November commemoration of the battle drawing near, the museum team is keen to share the flag and the story of the battle with the people of Monmouth as part of the commemorations of the First World War. 

“If we can raise enough funds to have it conserved, it can be displayed properly in the museum and we will be able to let the flag be used at other commemorative events in the town over the next four years, which would be wonderful,” says Senior Custodian, Sue Miles.

As well as using the flag in its own commemorations for HMS Monmouth the Museum is planning to work with members of the community to undertake further research about the flag and the sailors lost in the sinking of the Royal Navy ship bearing the town’s name.

It is hoped that enough money can be raised to clean the flag, stabilise the splits and cracks in the silk and re-mount and re-frame it. It’s been estimated that the work will cost in the region of £2,000.

If you would like to make a contribution towards the fundraising appeal please contact the Museums Fundraising Officer on 01291 625981 or

a black and white photo of a ship with three funnels
HMS Monmouth at anchor© "HMS Monmouth" by Unknown - Postcard. Licensed under Public domain via Wikimedia Commons
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