THE BATTLE OF THE RIVER PLATE 1939.

German campaigns and battles 1919-1945.

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THE BATTLE OF THE RIVER PLATE 1939.

Post by tigre » Sat Jun 06, 2015 6:29 am

Hello to all :D; a briefing of this event...............................

THE BATTLE OF THE RIVER PLATE. Compiled in the Admiralty from despatches forwarded by Rear-Admiral
Harwood and the Captains of H.M. Ships Ajax, Achilles and Exeter.

THE FIRST PHASE.

It had been known since the S.S. Clement was sunk on September 30th that a German " pocket battleship " was at large in the South Atlantic Ocean, and the fact that four ships on the Gibraltar to South Africa route were overdue had indicated that this ship was raiding commerce on the eastern side of the South Atlantic. In mid-November, however, the sinking of the S.S. Africa Shell at the southern end of the Mozambique Channel proved that there was a German commerce raider in the southern part of the Indian Ocean. Whether this was the same raider as had been operating in the South Atlantic Ocean was not definitely known at that time. In any case, vigilance in the South Atlantic could not be relaxed.

Apart from the forces concerned in a systematic search of other areas, there were in the western part of the South Atlantic four cruisers of the South America Division under the command of Commodore H. H. Harwood. Early in December it had been necessary to detach H.M.S. Cumberland, the largest and most powerful of the force, to the Falkland Islands to carry out a self-refit, remaining at short notice. Upon the three remaining ships devolved the gigantic task of watching and defending the immensely valuable trade routes off the South American continent. This they had to do, knowing that there was at large an enemy raider more powerful than their combined strength-even if they were able to bring their combined strength to bear upon the enemy at the moment of contact.

The British cruisers of the South America Division immediately available were :-

H.M.S. Ajax wearing the Broad Pendant of Commodore Harwood, a 7,000-ton cruiser armed with eight six-inch guns.
H.M.S. Achilles.-A cruiser of the same class as H.M.S. Ajax, 7,000 tons and armed with eight six-inch guns. This ship had been detached from the New Zealand Division and was manned largely by New Zealanders.
H.M.S. Exefer.-A cruiser of 8,400 tons armed with six eight-inch guns.

There was little doubt that the German raider was one of the so-called "pocket battleships "-a vessel of rather more than 10,000 tons with a main armament of six eleven-inch guns and a secondary armament of eight 5.9 inch guns. Moreover, the "pocket battleships " are protected by armour against which 6-inch gun fire could not be expected to be fully effective at long ranges. The German raider, therefore, had a considerable advantage in armament. Her secondary armament was the equal of the total armament of one of the smaller British cruisers, and the weight of metal and explosive which she could fire in one broadside was 4,700. The total weight of the broadsides of all the three British cruisers combined was only 3,136 pounds.

Against the serious inferiority in armament, the British cruisers could put an advantage of about six knots in speed and, possibly, a greater handiness.

The two essentials to successful action against the enemy were, therefore, concentration of the British forces prior to action being joined, and the employment of tactics which would exploit the advantage in speed and handiness of the British forces. These were problems not easy of solution, because the immense area to be guarded made it necessary for the British forces to be dispersed-a factor which precluded the frequent practising of squadron tactics.

On December 3rd, 1939, the three British cruisers were scattered over two thousand miles.

It was on the afternoon of that day that a report was received from the British S.S. Doric Star that she was being attacked by a German "pocket battleship " on the eastern side of the South Atlantic about midway between Sierra Leone and the Cape of Good Hope. The Doric Star had sent out the wireless message in spite of the fact that the German raider was firing on her in an attempt to prevent her from using her wireless.

Commodore Harwood correctly anticipated that the raider, knowing that she had been reported by the S.S. Doric Star, would leave that area and probably cross the South Atlantic. He estimated that the raider could reach the Rio de Janeiro area by the morning of December 12th, the River Plate area by that evening or the following morning, or the Falkland Islands area by December 14th.

There was nothing to indicate which of these three areas-separated from one another by more than 1,500 miles-was the raider's objective. Commodore Harwood decided, however, that the most important area to be defended was the focal area of the large and very valuable trade off the River Plate. He therefore ordered his squadron to concentrate I50 miles off the River Plate Estuary. He also made arrangements to ensure that his ships would not be short of fuel when they arrived at the rendezvous. All this was done in one short signal, after the transmission of which no wireless communication was used, since this would have indicated the movements of British forces to the enemy.

Accurate navigation led to the concentration of the British cruisers at the expected moment-7 a.m. on December 12th.

The greatest use was made of that day. Commodore Harwood explained to his Captains the tactics which he proposed to use in the event of contact being made with the powerful raider. These tactics were then exercised by the squadron. It is noteworthy that the final words of Commodore Harwood's instructions to his Captains were to act "without further orders so as to maintain decisive gun range ".

Wednesday, December 13th, dawned fine and clear, with extreme visibility. There was a fairly strong breeze from the south-east, a low swell coming from the same quarter, and a slight sea. The British cruisers were steaming east north east at fourteen knots. They were in single line ahead in the order H.M.S. Ajax, H.M.S. Achilles, H.M.S. Exeter.

At 6.14 a.m. smoke was sighted on the horizon just abaft the port beam, and H.M.S. Exeter was ordered to investigate. Two minutes later H.M.S. Exeter reported "I think it is a pocket battleship ". The enemy was in sight. Contact had at last been made between British naval forces and the raider which they had been hunting for more than two months.

Source: The Naval Review. August 1940.

Cheers. Raúl M 8).
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Re: THE BATTLE OF THE RIVER PLATE 1939.

Post by tigre » Sun Jun 07, 2015 8:15 am

Hello to all :D; more follows...............................

THE BATTLE OF THE RIVER PLATE. Compiled in the Admiralty from despatches forwarded by Rear-Admiral
Harwood and the Captains of H.M. Ships Ajax, Achilles and Exeter.

THE SECOND PHASE.

At the time of the sighting of the smoke, the Admiral Graf Spee and the British cruisers were steering converging courses. As soon as the smoke was identified as that of the German raider, the ships of the British squadron began to act in accordance with the tactics practised on the previous day. All ships increased speed and began to work up to full speed as rapidly as possible. The eight-inch gun cruiser, H.M.S. Exeter, the most powerful unit of the British squadron, made a large alteration of course to the westward, while the two six-inch gun cruisers, H.M.S. Ajax and H.M.S. Achilles forged ahead to the north-eastward, altering course slightly in order to close the range rapidly. These manceuvres were carried out so that the " pocket battleship " should be simultaneously engaged from widely different angles. This would force him either to " split " his main armament in order to engage both units, or to leave one of the British units unengaged by his eleven-inch guns.

At 6.18 a.m., only four minutes after the first sighting of smoke, the Admiral Graf Spee opened fire with her main armament of six eleven-inch guns. She had " split " her main armament, and one turret fired at H.M.S. Exeter and the other at H.M.S. Ajax and Achilles. The range was very long, but it was being shortened rapidly by all three of the British cruisers.

Two minutes later, at 6.20 a.m., H.M.S. Exeter opened fire with her two forward turrets-four eight-inch guns. The range was then 9 and a half sea miles. Her two after guns opened fire as soon as they would bear, two and a half minutes later. This eight-inch gunfire seemed to worry the enemy almost from the beginning. After shifting target rapidly once or twice, the Admiral Graf Spee concentrated the fire of all six of her eleven-inch guns on H.M.S. Exeter. The Admiral Graf Spee's first salvo fell short of H.M.S. Exeter. The second was over, and the third straddled the cruiser.

Meanwhile H.M.S. Ajax and H.M.S. Achilles had opened fire with their six-inch guns. H.M.S. Achilles opened fire at 6.21 a.m. and H.M.S. Ajax two minutes later. These two six-inch gun cruisers immediately developed a high rate of fire, combined with great accuracy. The despatch of H.M.S. Achilles states that " fire appeared to become rapidly effective," while the despatch of H.M.S. Ajax states that " effective fire developed immediately ".

At 6.23 a.m. an eleven-inch shell burst just short of H.M.S. Exeter, abreast the middle of the ship. Splinters from the shell killed the torpedo tubes crews, damaged the communications of the ship, and riddled the funnels and searchlights. One minute later H.M.S. Exeter suffered a direct hit from an eleven-inch shell. This shell struck " B " turret, putting that turret and its two eight-inch guns out of action. Splinters from that shell swept the bridge. All the bridge personnel except the captain and two others were either killed or wounded. The wheel-house communications were wrecked. Momentarily, the ship was out of control.

The steering was therefore changed over to the after steering position, and communication established with that position by means of a chain of messengers. H.M.S. Exeter was controlled in this way until the action was broken off. During this time H.M.S. Exeter received two more hits forward from 11-inch shells, and also suffered some damage by splinters from shells bursting short.

Meanwhile H.M.S. Ajax and H.M.S. Achilles were making good and rapid shooting with their six-inch guns, and they were closing the range rapidly and drawing ahead on the enemy. That this six-inch gunfire was causing the enemy trouble was shown by the fact that at 6.30 a.m. the Admiral Graf Spee again " split " her main armament, switching over one eleven-inch turret to engage the six-inch gun cruisers. This temporarily reduced the volume of heavy fire to which H.M.S. Exeter was subjected. The secondary armament of the Admiral Graf Spee-5.9-inch guns-had been alternately engaging H.M.S. Ajax and H.M.S. Achilles, but without effect, although some salvoes had fallen close. These guns continued to fire at the six-inch gun cruisers.

At 6.32 a.m. H.M.S. Exeter fired her starboard torpedoes at the enemy. These torpedoes went wide, because the Admiral Graf Spee, apparently finding the British gunfire too hot, turned 150 degrees away under cover of a smoke screen before the torpedoes reached her.

By 6.36 a.m. the six-inch gun cruisers were doing 28 knots. This rapid increase of speed-the ships had been doing 14 knots only 20 minutes previously-reflects great credit upon the engine and boiler room personnel. At 6.37 a.m. H.M.S. Ajax catapulted her aircraft. Orders to get the aircraft into the air at the earliest possible moment had been given as soon as the alarm was sounded.

At about 6.38 a.m. H.M.S. Exeter made a large alteration of course to starboard in order to bring her port torpedo tubes to bear on the enemy. As she was turning she received two more hits from 11-inch shells. The H.M.S. Exeter had, indeed, suffered severely from the much heavier metal of her adversary. Two of her three turrets were out of action, and the only two guns still in action were aft. Her port torpedoes were fired as soon as the tubes were brought to bear on the enemy.

By this time H.M.S. Exeter had a seven degree list and was down by the bow, but was still steaming at full power.'At 6.40 a.m. an 11-inch shell burst just short of H.M.S. Achilles, in line with the bridge. Nevertheless, the main control position was momentarily out of action through these casualties. The gunnery efficiency of H.M.S. Achilles was not, however, impaired. The secondary control position immediately took over the control of the ship's armament, and continued the action until the main control position was ready to resume control some minutes later.

After 6.40 a.m. the action became virtually a chase. The Admiral Graf Spee had turned away to the westward under cover of a smoke screen, and the two six-inch gun cruisers were hauling round to the north-westward in pursuit. They were by now doing 31 knots and still increasing speed. H.M.S. Ajax and H.M.S. Achilles were fine on the starboard quarter of the Admiral Graf Spee, and H.M.S. Exeter was rather before the enemy's port beam, still in action with her two remaining guns.

At 6.56 a.m. H.M.S. Ajax and H.M.S. Achilles altered course to starboard in order to bring all their guns to bear again. This greater volume of fire from these two cruisers appeared to have an immediate effect on the enemy, for the Admiral Graf Spee at once altered course away from the cruisers, and at 7.00 she laid a smoke screen in an attempt to throw off the British gunfire.

At 7.10 a.m. the range of the enemy from H.M.S. Ajax and H.M.S. Achilles was still eight miles. At 7.16 a.m. the Admiral Graf Spee made a drastic alteration of course to port under cover of smoke. She was then steering almost directly for H.M.S.
Exeter. Four minutes later, however, the effective support of H.M.S. Exeter's consorts obliged the Admiral Graf Spee to make another large alteration of course. The range at that time was 56 miles. H.M.S. Ajax was straddled by 11-inch salvoes, but she was not hit. At 7.20 a.m. H.M.S. Ajax and H.M.S. Achilles had turned to starboard to bring all guns to bear on the enemy. Rapid and accurate shooting was maintained, and a fire was observed amidships in the Admiral Graf Spee.

Source: The Naval Review. August 1940.

More follows. Cheers. Raúl M 8).
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Re: THE BATTLE OF THE RIVER PLATE 1939.

Post by tigre » Sat Jun 20, 2015 10:51 am

Hello to all :D; more follows...............................

THE BATTLE OF THE RIVER PLATE. Compiled in the Admiralty from despatches forwarded by Rear-Admiral
Harwood and the Captains of H.M. Ships Ajax, Achilles and Exeter.

THE SECOND PHASE.

Thinking that the enemy was likely to remain on this course for some time, H.M.S. Ajax swung to starboard at 7.24 a.m. and fired her port torpedoes at a range of 44 miles. The enemy probably saw these torpedoes being 'fired, for the Admiral Graf Spee at once made a large alteration of course, turning away some 130 degrees to port and at the same time laying a smoke screen. Although the Admiral Graf Spee altered back to her north-westerly course three minutes later, this large alteration of course was sufficient to avoid the torpedoes from H.M.S. Ajax.

At 7.25 a.m. H.M.S. Ajax was hit by an 11-inch shell. This shell put X turret out of action, and, by a stroke of bad luck, it also led to the jamming of Y turret.

It was at about this time that the pilot of H.M.S. Ajax's aircraft, which had been spotting the fall of shot for the six-inch gun cruisers, decided to approach the Admiral Graf Spee in an attempt to discover the extent of damage that ship had received. As soon as the aircraft came within range of the enemy's anti-aircraft guns, these opened fire.

At about 7.30 a.m., however, H.M.S. Exeter's remaining turret ceased to operate due to flooding. Thus H.M.S. Exeter could no longer engage the enemy nor keep up with the action. At about 7.40 a.m. she turned to the south-east and steamed away at slow speed, starting to repair damage and make herself seaworthy.

At 7.28 a.m. H.M.S. Ajax and H.M.S. Achilles hauled round to a westerly course in order to close the range still further. Three minutes later H.M.S. Ajax's aircraft reported " Torpedoes approaching. Commodore Harwood, however, decided to take no chances, and the cruisers made a large alteration of course towards the enemy in order to avoid the torpedoes. This alteration of course had the effect of closing the range very rapidly. The Admiral Graf Spee turned away to the westward almost immediately, making much smoke and zig-zagging in an attempt to throw out the British gunfire.

At 7.36 a.m. the Admiral Graf Spee turned to the south-westward in order to bring all her heavy guns to bear on the British cruisers in an attempt to fight them off. The two small British cruisers stood on, however, and by 7.38 a.m. the range was down to 4 miles. Accordingly, at 7.40 a.m., Commodore Harwood turned H.M.S. Ajax and H.M.S. Achilles away to the eastward under cover of a smoke screen. Just as the ships began to turn, an 11-inch shell from one of the Admiral Graf Spee's last salvoes brought down the main topmast of H.M.S. Ajax.

The Admiral Graf Spee made no attempt to follow the British cruisers, but continued to steam to the westward at a speed of about 22 knots.

Source: The Naval Review. August 1940.

More follows. Cheers. Raúl M 8).
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The cruiser H.M.S. ACHILLES seen from H.M.S. AJAX at the Battle of the River Plate.............................
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Re: THE BATTLE OF THE RIVER PLATE 1939.

Post by tigre » Sat Jun 27, 2015 6:07 am

Hello to all :D; more follows...............................

THE BATTLE OF THE RIVER PLATE. Compiled in the Admiralty from despatches forwarded by Rear-Admiral
Harwood and the Captains of H.M. Ships Ajax, Achilles and Exeter.

THE THIRD PHASE.

The situation at 8.00 AM on December 13th was that the Admiral Graf Spee was continuing her flight to the westward; H.M.S. Ajax was shadowing on the enemy's port quarter and H.M.S. Achilles on the enemy's starboard quarter, both cruisers being about 15 miles from the Admiral Graf Spee. H.M.S. Exeter was out of sight, drawing away to the south-eastward at slow speed.

At 8.07 AM, and every hour thereafter, the British cruisers broadcast the position, course, and speed of the German raider, so that British merchant ships in the vicinity would keep out of danger.

Just before 9.15 AM H.M.S. Ajax recovered her aircraft. The conditions were difficult, but the operation was carried out with great skill and-what was so important-without loss of time.

Commodore Harwood's objective remained the destruction of the enemy in close action after nightfall, but he had to take steps to deal with the situation which might arise if the Admiral Graf Spee succeeded in eluding night action. It was necessary, therefore, to secure reinforcements so that nothing should be left to chance. The nearest British warship was the 10,000-ton 8-inch gun cruiser H.M.S. Cumberland, at the Falkland Islands. At 9.46 AM Commodore Harwood ordered her to proceed to the River Plate area at full speed. Orders were given for the aircraft carrier H.M.S. Ark Royal and the battle cruiser H.M.S. Renown, and other ships all of which had been operating some 3,000 miles away, to proceed at once to the South American coast.

By 10.5 a.m. H.M.S. Achilles, who had over-estimated the speed of the Admiral Graf Spee, had closed the range to eleven and a half miles. The Admiral Graf Spee then altered course and fired two three-gun salvoes of eleven-inch at H.M.S. Achilles. The first of these salvoes from the Admiral Graf S$ee fell very short, but the second fell close to H.M.S. Achilles, which ship was already under helm. H.M.S. Achilles turned away at full speed under cover of a smoke screen and resumed shadowing from a longer range.

An hour later a merchant ship was sighted fairly close to the Admiral Graf Spee. She appeared to be stopped and blowing off steam. A few minutes later H.M.S. Ajax and H.M.S. Achilles received a signal from the Admiral Graf Spee. It read : "Ajax and Achilles from Admiral Graf Spee. Please pick up lifeboats of English steamer." H.M.S. Ajax signalled to her asking if she required assistance, and the S.S. Shakespeare replied that she was quite all right and did not require assistance. It would appear, therefore, that the signal of the Admiral Graf Spee to H.M.S. Ajax was a ruse adopted by the German raider in an attempt to shake off her tenacious pursuers.

The shadowing of the Admiral Graf Spee by H.M.S. Ajax and H.M.S. Achilles continued without further incident until 7.15 PM. At this time the Admiral Graf Spee altered course and re-opened fire on H.M.S. Ajax with her 11-inch guns at a range of thirteen miles. H.M.S. Ajax at once turned away under cover of a smoke screen and resumed a shadowing position out of range.

By this time it was clear that the Admiral Graf Spee intended to enter the estuary of the River Plate. The entrance to the River Plate estuary is guarded by a sand bank sixteen miles long, running across the estuary. This is known as English Bank. Commodore Harwood considered that the Admiral Graf Spee might try to elude the British cruisers and break back to the open sea by doubling round this sand-bank. He therefore disposed his forces so as to prevent the enemy slipping out. As soon as the Admiral Graf Spee passed the Island of Lobos, and was therefore committed to entering the estuary of the River Plate, the whole duty of shadowing the enemy devolved upon H.M.S. Achilles, while H.M.S. Ajax proceeded to the south of English Bank so that she would meet the Admiral Graf Spee if she tried to double back towards the open sea after rounding the sandbank.

Source: The Naval Review. August 1940.

More follows. Cheers. Raúl M 8).
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The Panzerschiff Admiral Graf Spee................................
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Re: THE BATTLE OF THE RIVER PLATE 1939.

Post by tigre » Mon Jun 29, 2015 5:34 am

Hello to all :D; more follows...............................

THE BATTLE OF THE RIVER PLATE. Compiled in the Admiralty from despatches forwarded by Rear-Admiral
Harwood and the Captains of H.M. Ships Ajax, Achilles and Exeter.

THE THIRD PHASE.

The sun set at 8.48 p.m. and the Admiral Graf Spee was, from H.M.S. Achilles, clearly silhouetted at a range of about twelve and a half miles. H.M.S. Achilles altered course to the north-westward in order to take full advantage of the afterglow. The enemy appeared to resent any shortening of the range by the British cruiser, and at 8.55 p.m. the Admiral Graf Spee altered course under cover of a smoke screen and opened fire at H.M.S. Achilles with 11-inch guns. H.M.S. Achilles at once replied to the German fire, turning away at full speed as she did so, and laying a smoke screen to throw out the enemy's fire and cover her own movements. The Admiral Graf Spee ceased firing, and H.M.S. Achilles at once turned to the westward again at high speed in order to keep in touch.

At 9.26 p.m. the enemy again laid a smoke screen in an attempt to throw off the pursuit. This failed, and six minutes later the Admiral Graf Spee fired an 11-inch salvo at H.M.S. Achilles. H.M.S. Achilles at once made a large alteration of course to port in order to throw out the enemy's gunfire. On two other occasions, at 9.40 p.m. and at 9.43 p.m., the Admiral Graf Spee fired single
salvoes at H.M.S. Achilles. H.M.S. Achilles did not reply to these salvoes. The loom of the land, now to the north-eastward of H.M.S. Achilles, must have made it very difficult for the enemy to see her, and it was considered that the flash of her guns would give away her position.

By 10.2 p.m. H.M.S. Achilles had closed to five miles from the Admiral Graf Spee, and it was possible to determine that the enemy was heading to pass to the northward of English Bank. H.M.S. Achilles informed H.M.S. Ajax accordingly. Soon after that time H.M.S. Achilles found the Admiral Graf Spee very difficult to see owing to low clouds and patches of smoke. The British cruiser accordingly hauled to the southward in order to get the enemy silhouetted against the lights of Montevideo. This manoeuvre was successful.

At 10.48 the Admiral Graf Spee was observed to be about 7 miles east of the Whistle buoy at the entrance to the Montevideo channel, and it was clear that the defeated German raider was about to seek the shelter of the neutral harbour of Montevideo. The Admiral Graf Spee anchored in Montevideo roads at ten minutes past midnight.

Source: The Naval Review. August 1940.

More follows. Cheers. Raúl M 8).
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The Panzerschiff Admiral Graf Spee seen from the Uruguayan coast ................................
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Re: THE BATTLE OF THE RIVER PLATE 1939.

Post by tigre » Fri Jul 03, 2015 1:11 pm

Hello to all :D; last part...............................

THE BATTLE OF THE RIVER PLATE. Compiled in the Admiralty from despatches forwarded by Rear-Admiral
Harwood and the Captains of H.M. Ships Ajax, Achilles and Exeter.

THE FOURTH PHASE.

Graf Spee anchored in Montevideo roads, since the enemy's intentions had been by that time clear, and the British Commander was at pains to respect neutral territorial waters. New dispositions were at once taken up by the British cruisers. The Admiral Graf Spee might have taken refuge in Montevideo harbour, but there was no reason to suppose that she intended to remain there.

At 10 p.m. on that day-Thursday, 14th December-the eight-inch gun cruiser H.M.S. Cumberland arrived in the River Plate area, having made the long passage from the Falkland Islands in thirty-four hours. Therefore H.M.S. Cumberland patrolled the centre sector, with H.M.S. Achilles to the north of her and H.M.S. Ajax to the southward. Should the Admiral Graf Spee come out, she was to be shadowed, and the three British cruisers were to concentrate sufficiently far to seaward to enable a concerted attack to be delivered on the enemy.

Next day-Friday, 15th December-another problem faced Commodore Harwood, further supplies of fuel. Ajax was ordered to oil from her at sea, while the operation was covered by the other two cruisers. Shortly after this, Commodore Hanvood received news that the Admiral Graf Spee had been granted an extension of her stay in Montevideo up to seventy-two hours, in order to make herself seaworthy.

Before dawn on Saturday, December 16th, H.M.S. Cumberland, H.M.S. Ajax and H.M.S. Achilles concentrated in the southern part of the River Plate Estuary, and H.M.S. Ajax flew off her aircraft to carry out a reconnaissance. There was danger that the Admiral Graf Spee might take advantage of the mist and try to break out. Information was soon received, however, which indicated that the Admiral Graf Spee was still in Montevideo harbour, that she was repairing damage with assistance from the shore, and had provisioned.

On the morning of Sunday, December 17th, H.M.S. Achilles took in oil fuel at sea from the Royal Fleet Auxiliary tanker Olynthus while H.M.S. Cumberland and H.M.S. Ajax acted as a covering force for the operation. That afternoon messages were received that the Admiral Graf Spee was preparing for sea. About 5.30 p.m. on the afternoon of Sunday, December 17th, news was received by Admiral Harwood (just promoted) stating that the Admiral Graf Spee was weighing anchor. H.M.S. Cumberland, H.M.S. Ajax and H.M.S. Achilles at once altered course towards the entrance of the five-mile dredged channel leading into Montevideo roads and the crews went to action stations. H.M.S. Ajax's aircraft was flown off, with orders to report the position and movements of the Admiral Graf Spee and of the German ship Tacoma, to which ship the Admiral Graf Spee was known to have transferred a large number of men.

The Admiral Graf Spee left harbour at 6.15 p.m. and proceeded slowly down the dredged channel, after leaving the end of which she turned to the westward. The Tacoma also weighed anchor and followed the Admiral Graf Spee. H.M.S. Ajax's aircraft reported the Admiral Graf Spee in a position in shallow water about six miles south-west of Montevideo, and shortly afterwards-at 8.54 p.m.-the aircraft signalled " Admiral Graf Spee has blown herself up ". The British cruisers carried on towards Montevideo, proceeding north of the English Rank. H.M.S. Ajax recovered her aircraft, and as she was doing so H.M.S. Achilles passed her.

Navigation lights were switched on, and the British squadron steamed past the whistle buoy at the entrance to the Montevideo dredged channel, passing within about four miles of the wreck of the Admiral Graf Spee.

Source: The Naval Review. August 1940.
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Cheers. Raúl M 8).
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Re: THE BATTLE OF THE RIVER PLATE 1939.

Post by tigre » Wed Jul 29, 2015 6:59 pm

Hello to all :D; a new twist regarding this topic....................

Decision issued in a borderline situation: Kapitän zur See Hans Langsdorff before and in Montevideo 1939.

Contact with the enemy and action.

Already in the first phase of the combat as stated in a later investigation report of the OKM from 6:17 to 6:38 hours (the alarm "clear ship for action" was already given at 06:00 hours), Langsdorff, follows the battle form the foretop - and therefore unprotected - was wounded by splinters and needs to be suplied with the first aid packet.

During the second portion of the engagement, the Commander suffered a serious injury, when he fell to the ground unconscious for a few minutes due to the close blast of a grenade. The then Oberleutnant zur See Kurt Diggins, located nearby as Langsdorff's adjutant reported that Langsdorff "Had temporarily lost consciousness" and continues: "after my call, Commander down, a few minutes later the first officer appeared on the foretop, when the commander was already gained full awareness. "

We must stop at this point to understand that Langsdorff in the phase of the combat between 6:38 and 07:00 hours fell to the ground and lost consciousness a few minutes. This detail went almost unnoticed before and immediately makes sense when evaluating the rationality and tactical wisdom in subsequent decisions of the commander from the military point of view.

When at 07:15 hours the HMS Exeter seriously damages runs behind a black cloud of smoke, followed a lull at 7:30 hours. While on the Graf Spee, deaths and wounded be recovered, Langsdorff made a tour along the devastated upper deck in order to get an immediate impression on the damage caused. In total 36 sailors have fallen and 60 were injured, some seriously. The dead or mutilated sailors make a deep impression to the commander. The physical battle damage were serious at this time and for the subsequent decision decisive:

- Large leak in the hull stern by action of a hit of a shell of 15 - 20,3 cm just above the waterline
- Failure of the fuel and lube oil purification plant
- Failure of all galleys except Admirals galley.
- Flooding in flour and food loads

Wordlessly Langsdorff went back to the bridge. The navigation officer, Korvettenkapitän Jürgen Wattenberg, describes this moment in which the commander's order began the tragedy. Unambiguously and without further consultation with his Officers Langsdorff explained:

"Our damage can not be corrected with standard tools. We shall enter port for repairs. Montevideo or Buenos Aires this is the question. "

Wattenberg describes also the surprise this command triggers among the officers in the bridge:

"In this moment, Korvettenkapitän Ascher (the I AO, d V - 1st Artillery Officer) came on the bridge. I talked to him immediately after the Langsdorff command, we were unsympathetic to each other. Langsdorff had led us so well up to that moment, that we thought that he must know what he was doing. Later, we deeply regretted not have diverted him from his fatal decision"

Source: Führungsentscheidung in einer Grenzsituation:Kapitän zur See Hans Langsdorff vor und in Montevideo 1939.Vortrag für Klaus-Jürgen Müller zum 80 Geburtstag in der Helmut-Schmidt-Universität am 11. März 2010.

Cheers. Raúl M 8).
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image002.jpg
orig. Fotoalbum Nr. 2, Panzerschiff Graf Spee, v. Langsdorff, Top
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Re: THE BATTLE OF THE RIVER PLATE 1939.

Post by Jerry » Thu Jul 30, 2015 6:20 am

Once again Raúl you are to be congratulated and thanked. Sometimes it seems that you alone are keeping the forum alive with postings that are thorough and interesting.

Thank you my friend!

Jerry
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Re: THE BATTLE OF THE RIVER PLATE 1939.

Post by tigre » Thu Jul 30, 2015 11:09 am

Thank you very much for your kind words Jerry :up:. All the best. Raúl M 8).
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Re: THE BATTLE OF THE RIVER PLATE 1939.

Post by tigre » Sat Aug 01, 2015 3:17 pm

Hello to all :D; something more....................

Decision issued in a borderline situation: Kapitän zur See Hans Langsdorff before and in Montevideo 1939.

Contact with the enemy and action.

At this time the ship was more than 200 nautical miles east of the River Plate. From the mouth of the river she must still sail another 50 nautical miles to Montevideo. Buenos Aires as alternative was rejected after checking the nautical chart by the shallow water in the access channel. Immediately below the hull were the intake valves of the water cooling system for the engines, what constituted a risk because sediments could cause a malfunction in this system, affecting the machines.

On the upper deck and inside the ship was working feverishly. the minor damages were repaired with the tools present on board. Power failures and communication links are replaced by flying wires on the middle deck. The sailors killed in action will be placed in their hammocks as coffins and covered with the flag. A guard of honor was mounted.

Around 22:30 hours the lights of Montevideo were sighted. Without a pilot, without tug assistance without diplomatic notification, Langsdorff maneuvered the warship in a completely unknown port. One of the merchant navy officers prisoner on board and who knows the area from peacetime like his hand, lent effective aid. At midnight on December 13 he dropped the anchor. On the speaker system the Commander addressed to all crew saying: "By the time being, the war is over for us."

At the day of arrival of the Graf Spee in Montevideo commander, officers and crew had been 114 consecutive days at sea.

The operational mission of the Graf Spee to disrupt supply lines to Britain, had been successfully accomplished, sinking nine merchant ships. More important was the strategic effect of diverting by the unexpected appearance of an elusive German raider in the vastness of the South Atlantic Ocean and the neighboring Indian Ocean. This is true for 31British and French warships were employed in the chase and therefore away of the European maritime areas.

Source: Führungsentscheidung in einer Grenzsituation:Kapitän zur See Hans Langsdorff vor und in Montevideo 1939.Vortrag für Klaus-Jürgen Müller zum 80 Geburtstag in der Helmut-Schmidt-Universität am 11. März 2010.

Cheers. Raúl M 8).
Attachments
image008.jpg
Damage caused by the fighting in the side of the Graf Spee .......................
orig. Fotoalbum Nr. 2, Panzerschiff Graf Spee v. Langsdorff, Top
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Re: THE BATTLE OF THE RIVER PLATE 1939.

Post by Prosper Vandenbroucke » Sun Aug 02, 2015 3:29 am

Many thanks Raul,
Spend a good sunday.
Kindly regards
Prosper :wink:

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Re: THE BATTLE OF THE RIVER PLATE 1939.

Post by tigre » Sun Aug 02, 2015 5:28 am

Thank you very much Prosper, fully appreciated :up:. All the best for you too. Raúl M 8).
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Re: THE BATTLE OF THE RIVER PLATE 1939.

Post by tigre » Tue Aug 04, 2015 10:50 am

Hello to all :D; something more....................

Decision issued in a borderline situation: Kapitän zur See Hans Langsdorff before and in Montevideo 1939.

Contact with the enemy and action.

After receiving the first reports about the battle, the OKM perceived the situation that hung over the Graf Spee. In the war log (KTB) was stated on December 13, 1939: In this context it should be noted that the choice of Uruguayan port for repairs has not been favorable. Probably the choice was done by the commander in order to repair the ship and try to break to open water and fight. But Uruguay is totally weak in the hands of enemy powers, its government also is aligned with England and although wanted is not in a position to force its total neutrality.

This assessment came too late for Langsdorff and incomprehensible, even today, as this basic information was not made available to the commander when he sailed in August from Wilhelmshaven to find targets in South Atlantic waters.

So it became clear that the OKM did not make available to the commander an intelligence analysis about the political situation in the coastal states of the region where the ship was to operate. This blatant and momentous error was evident in the investigation carried out by the OKM, in which the following is specified: The strong political dependence and respect from Uruguay to England, was not known by the commander. It is conceivable that the decision would have been different had been fully informed about the attitude of the countries of South America.

Kurt Diggins, who was his assistant, said in a later interview: I want to mention that Captain Langsdorff was hit by some shrapnel during the battle and lost consciousness for a few moments. Therefore it can be assumed that he was in shock and that this influenced his later decision. If he had clear thinking, it has not entered into Montevideo. When he realized his mistake it was too late to escape the snare.

This was also confirmed by the Commander of the Argentine Navy Eduardo A. Aumann, who had a long conversation with Langsdorff the day of his suicide, and wrote in his report: I could not get from Captain Langsdorff the reasons why he chose to enter Montevideo and I have the feeling that he was deeply sorry for his decision, as he repeated several times that he should have sailed to Puerto Belgrano (south of the Province of Buenos Aires, near Bahia Blanca some 700 km south of the city of Buenos Aires).

Finally Admiral Theodor Krancke, classmate and close friend of Langsdorff, between 1939 and 1941 Commander of the sister ship "Admiral Scheer" wrote in a letter to Admiral von Fischel the January 10, 1944: the fire was light cruiser very uncomfortable and he was hit twice for it and was slightly injured by shrapnel. He lost consciousness due to the explosión of shell and even a headstrong as he was, barely could stand it. Therefore he did not take his decisions clearly ............ I also have gone to Montevideo, he said.

Source: Führungsentscheidung in einer Grenzsituation:Kapitän zur See Hans Langsdorff vor und in Montevideo 1939.Vortrag für Klaus-Jürgen Müller zum 80 Geburtstag in der Helmut-Schmidt-Universität am 11. März 2010.

Cheers. Raúl M 8).
Attachments
image004.jpg
Naval Attaché Kapitän zur See Dietrich Niebuhr; Kapitän zur See Hans Langsdorff; Thelen Div IV; Oblt. z. See Kurt Digginns ........................
orig. Fotoalbum Nr. 2, Panzerschiff Graf Spee, v. Langsdorff, Top
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Re: THE BATTLE OF THE RIVER PLATE 1939.

Post by tigre » Fri Aug 07, 2015 6:06 am

Hello to all :D; something more....................

Decision issued in a borderline situation: Kapitän zur See Hans Langsdorff before and in Montevideo 1939.

In Port.

Back in Montevideo, the militarily view was put aside and entered the diplomatic part to play. Protagonists on the German side were Kapitän z. See Hans Langsdorff, Ambassador Otto Langmann, who congenial little with Langsdorff, so immediately arrived from Buenos Aires the Naval Attaché Kapitän z. See Dietrich Niebuhr, who played a key role in advising the German Commander and by the British side the resolute and at the same time great rival, Ambassador Eugene Millington-Drake, very close to the Uruguayan establishment.

While in the Graf Spee everyone who was not assigned to the service fell into a deep sleep where they were, only medical personnel remained at his post for the care of the wounded did not pause. At dawn on December 14 came alongside a barge to disembark the wounded bound to the military hospital or the Pasteur Hospital. It was also moored alongside a Uruguayan tug.

The Captain of the Port came on board to coordinate administrative issues and by 01:30 hours was granted permission to moor. Langsdorff then met with German Ambassador and let him know that for a new Atlantic crossing the ship needed time and the help of a shipyard. During the morning arrived 36 coffins and a funeral service was arranged for the next morning.

The diplomatic struggle was characterized by the demands of each party, at first Langsdorff asked for three weeks, reduced later to two, to repair his ship and the British demanded to be granted only 24 hours as for the Hague Convention of 1907. The German side did not succeed in their demands and failed against the pressures on the British side, now the Uruguayan government granted only 72 hours and then will proceed to the internment. Therefore there is no time to repair the ship properly and meanwhile the British ran the (false) information that heavy naval units were being concentrated on the mouth of the Rio de la Plata and the French sent the Battleship "Dunkirk".

In addition to the successful policy of British disinformation, an unfortunate appreciation of the enemy by the First Artillery Officer, has a disastrous impact on Langsdorff's future decisions, on December 15 was stated in the war diary: This morning from the foremast a capital ship was sighted, due to her mast can not be other than the "Renown", was also observed on the horizon the "Ark Royal" followed by 2-3 destroyers. From land we have seen several ships, including the "Cumberland".

This erroneous report is transmitted to Berlin and generated controversy among the senior naval officers, because the wireless interceptions of the OKM contradicted Langsdorff, but the Grand Admiral Raeder and the Chief of Staff Schniewind argue that the commander on the ground has better information.

December 16 a notification of the Uruguayan prefecture is received, the Graf Spee has to leave the port before December 17th at 18:15 hours.

December 15 Langsdorff had sent the following message via the embassy:

1. Military Situation in front of Montevideo: cruisers, destroyers, Ark Royal and Renown tight blockade imposed by night. Break out to sea and return to the country without hope.
2. Intent achieve neutral border. If using remnants ammunition can be reached Buenos Aires should be tried.
3. In this case and the possibility of destruction of the Graf Spee by the enemy, decide whether scuttling or internment is required.
4. Decision requested by wireless

The answer came on 16 December:

1. Search every effort to reach neutral waters to maintain freedom of action as long as possible.
2. Point 2: According
3. Point 3: No internment in Uruguay. If scuttling look for effective destruction.

sgd. Naval Operations

Source: Führungsentscheidung in einer Grenzsituation:Kapitän zur See Hans Langsdorff vor und in Montevideo 1939.Vortrag für Klaus-Jürgen Müller zum 80 Geburtstag in der Helmut-Schmidt-Universität am 11. März 2010.

Cheers. Raúl M 8).
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image002.jpg
The moment of farewell of my dear comrades .......................................
orig. Fotoalbum Nr. 2, Panzerschiff Graf Spee v. Langsdorff, Top
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Re: THE BATTLE OF THE RIVER PLATE 1939.

Post by tigre » Sat Aug 22, 2015 10:30 am

Hello to all :D; something more....................

Decision issued in a borderline situation: Kapitän zur See Hans Langsdorff before and in Montevideo 1939.

In Port.

Based on the response from Berlin on the afternoon of the 16th December took place a meeting aboard in order to set definitely the all further steps. In the KTB of the Graf Spee was written as follows:

"In the late afternoon, in the presence of the naval attaché the Commander held a meeting with I.O.(First Officer), L.I. (Engineer) and N.O. (Signal Officer) about the possibility of a breakthrough to Buenos Aires or the need to blow up the ship. The commander throws, that the 72-hour period is not sufficient to seal the outboard holes and to restore the seaworthiness of the ship. The above-mentioned condition makes the prospect of a breakthrough after home illusory. He stands for whereas run out, still destroy an enemy with the existing ammunition. Nevertheless he speaks about the low water depth before the La Plata. If the ship gets a hit, due to her draft, she will sits flat on the bottom more or less defenseless and is then perhaps not even able to prevent that important secret systems fall in the enemy hands.

A postponement as per the message of the naval staff to 1) does not come into question. The approved under 2) breakthrough to Buenos Aires is also discarded, since the cooling water intake valves on the Ship bottom and thus there is a danger that in the flat and very dirty waters of the La Plata, the engines run hot with very bad consequences. to 3) no question, probably the only possibility is a blast outside territorial waters, in order to be effective a certain preparation time is required. Commander gives the order to set up an appropriate plan. On the night of 17 December, the decision falls.

The commander waited first in the German embassy, where the ambassador Langmann is expected to return from another Interview with Foreign Minister Guani. In this interview the Uruguayan side confirms its unchanged position. Langsdorff formulated then - in the embassy - a formal, detailed reasoned letter of protest against the government decision. In order to prepare the effective destruction, Langsdorff came back aboard shortly before 03:00 clock.

Source: Führungsentscheidung in einer Grenzsituation:Kapitän zur See Hans Langsdorff vor und in Montevideo 1939.Vortrag für Klaus-Jürgen Müller zum 80 Geburtstag in der Helmut-Schmidt-Universität am 11. März 2010.

Cheers. Raúl M 8).
Attachments
image026.jpg
Burial of the fallen comrades......................
orig. Fotoalbum Nr. 2, Panzerschiff Graf Spee v. Langsdorff, Top
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Serás lo que debas ser o no serás nada. General José de San Martín.

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