Cradock was born at Hartforth, Richmond, North Yorkshire. After attending Richmond School, he entered the Royal Navy in 1875 he was promoted to rear-admiral in 1910.
With the start of the First World War, in August 1914, Cradock, commanding the 4th Squadron of the Royal Navy and stationed at Stanley, had to deal with Admiral Maximilian von Spee’s East Asia Squadron. Cradock’s fleet was significantly weaker than Spee’s, consisting of mainly elderly vessels manned by largely inexperienced crews. The orders he received from the Admiralty were ambiguous, and Cradock interpreted them as instructing him to seek and engage the enemy forces; clarifying instructions were not issued until 3 November, by which time the battle had already been fought.
Cradock found Spee’s force off Chile in the late afternoon of 1 November, and decided to engage, starting the Battle of Coronel. He tried to close the range to engage immediately, so that the enemy would have the setting sun in their eyes, but von Spee kept the range until dusk, when the British cruisers were silhouetted in the afterglow, while his ships were hidden by darkness. Cradock’s flagship HMS Good Hope and the HMS Monmouth were destroyed with the loss of all 1570 lives, including his own.
A monument to Admiral Cradock was placed in York Minster. There is a monument and a stained glass window in Cradock’s memory in his parish church at Gilling West.
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