Maximilian von Spee was born in Copenhagen in 1861. He joined the Imperial German Navy and by 1908 had risen to Chief of Staff of the North Sea Command. Two years he became a Rear Admiral and on the outbreak of the First World War was placed in charge of the East Asiatic Squadron in the Pacific. Over the next few months he concentrated on destroying merchant ships heading for Britain.
On 1st November Spee sunk two British cruisers, Good Hope and Monmouth, off the coast of Chile at Coronel. The following month he was caught and outgunned by the Royal Navy at the Falkland Islands. Six German ships were sunk and 2,200 sailors, including Maximilian von Spee and his two sons, were killed.