One of four ships of the Königsberg class of light cruisers, Nürnberg appeared distinctly different from the lead ship of the class with her ‘detached’ third funnel, a characteristic she shared with her sister ship Stuttgart.
Nürnberg was posted off the western coast of Mexico before being replaced on station by Leipzig. Nürnberg was badly in need of a refit and was ordered to return to the home port of Far East Squadron (Kreuzergeschwader) in Tsingtau, China. On her return voyage she stopped in both San Francisco and Honolulu to lay in supplies.
The declaration of war superseded all other plans and after coaling in Honolulu, Nürnberg was ordered to sail at all speed to rejoin the Kreuzergeschwader off the south Pacific island of Ponape. The squadron commaner, Vice-Admiral Graf Maximilian von Spee, dispatched Nürnberg back to Honolulu to reestablish communications with the German consulate in San Francisco. Communications with the homeland were now extremely difficult given the British destruction of the German wireless station on Yap.
After a short one day stay, she sailed again for a rendezvous with the Kreuzergeschwader, this time off Christmas Island. Upon her arrival, Nürnberg was immediately dispatched, this time to destroy the British communication station located to the northwest on Fanning Island. After completing the task without incident, she again rejoined the squadron off Christmas Island.
Nürnberg missed most of the action during the Battle of Coronel on November 1st having sailed for Valparaiso just prior to the battle in the company of Dresden. Both ships sped back to rejoin von Spee, but Nürnberg became separated because she could not maintain speed with the faster Dresden. Shortly before midnight, Nürnberg encountered a large dark shape making limited speed. She had discovered the badly damaged HMS Monmouth, one of the British combatants from the Battle of Coronel.
After an offer of surrender went unanswered, Nürnberg opened fire on the beleaguered British ship. Due to her exaggerated list, Monmouth was unable to return fire from her powerful battery of 14-6in guns. After bearing up for nearly an hour under the constant bombardment, the British ship capsized and sank. After dispatching her adversary, Nürnberg sailed away to rejoin her victorious shipmates at Valparaiso.
In early December she and the other members of the Kreuzergeschwader transferred to the Atlantic Ocean. There she and three other ships of the squadron would meet their fate during the Battle of the Falkland Islands.
Admiral Spee made the decision to give battle with his two largest ships, the armored cruisers Scharnhorst and Gneisenau, hoping to enable the three smaller ships to break off action. Only Dresden managed to make her escape. Nürnberg was overhauled by HMS Kent, even though the British ship was, by design, slower. The overdue refit would now come to haunt Nürnberg.
She was no match for the larger and more powerfully armed British ship (14-6in and 12-12pdr guns). The terrible pounding she received reduced Nürnberg to a hulk, her upper works ablaze from multiple fires. Kent ceased fire as the German ensign was hauled down. Nürnberg was finished. She heeled over and sank.
Ships captured (c), sunk (s), or mined (m): 1 totaling 9,950 tons
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