Coastal town in Chile, close to the port city of Concepción.
On All Saints' Day 1914, a naval battle was fought off Coronel between the German East Asia Squadron under Admiral von Spee and a Royal Navy cruiser squadron under Admiral Sir Kit Cradock. The German forces - the strongest unit of the scanty German colonial forces based outside home waters - were attempting to return to Germany from their base at Tsingtao (with the entire Japanese and Australian navies and the Russian Pacific fleet in their base area, their position was not really tenable). Cradock's fleet - two old armoured cruisers, the Monmouth and Good Hope, the Otranto - a weak armed merchant cruiser - and the light cruiser Glasgow had been hastily assembled with scratch crews; an aging pre-dreadnought battleship, HMS Canopus which had been intended to accompany them had been left behind, unable to make more than 12 knots. Conversely, von Spee's squadron - the armoured cruisers Scharnhorst and Gneisenau and the light cruisers Leipzig, Nürnberg and Dresden was amongst the best trained of the Imperial German navy, so although the sides were comparable on paper the Germans had a considerable edge. The British force was lured on by faked radio messages purporting to be from the Leipzig to the rest of the fleet some way away; when they encountered the faster German ships in fading light (with the British to the west, silhouetted against the sunset) the outcome was inevitable. The Monmouth and Good Hope were sunk with all hands while the other two ships fled. The German ships were all but untouched.
This was the Royal Navy's first defeat since the frigate encounters of the war of 1812. The public reaction - with this defeat coming on top of the misadventures of the British Expeditionary Force in Belgium and France - was strong enough to ensure that a much stronger force was despatched to the South Atlantic to cover the Germans' long route home round Cape Horn.