A Compilation of documents and photos with details of the famous ww2 navel sea engagement, Battle of the River Plate, December 1939.
The official Dispatch Summary Extract from lectures presented by SIR EUGEN MILLINGTON DRAKE, K.C.M.G. Based upon the Official Dispatch: dated December 30th, 1939, by the late ADMIRAL SIR HENRY HARWOOD, K.C.B. PART 1 - THE 'GRAF SPEE'S' RAIDER CRUISE - (Aug. 21st—Dec. 12th, 1939)
1.1 'GRAF SPEE' starts from WILHELMSHAVEN a fortnight before the outbreak of war and on Sept. 1st, just north of the EQUATOR, meets her supply ship, the oil tanker 'ALTMARK'. She receives orders to begin operations only on Sept. 26th and on Sept. 30th, off PERN AMBUCO, sinks the first British merchantman, 'CLEMENT'.
1.2 Four more British merchantmen sunk in the EASTERN HALF OF THE SOUTH ATLANTIC (Oct. 5th-22nd). 'GRAF SPEE'S' usual procedure is to approach very near to them end-on flying French flag and then to hoist Swastika flag and machine-gun the bridge and wireless cabin to stop wirelessing. From these four ships some 200 prisoners had been gradually transferred to the 'ALTMARK', which 'GRAF SPEE' meets for fifth time on Oct. 28th.
1.3 'GRAF SPEE' then starts a diversion to the INDIAN OCEAN, finding no wool ships from Australia off the CAPE OF GOOD HOPE, but sinks Captain Dove's 'AFRICA SHELL' (Oct. 15th) within 3 miles of coast off PORTUGUESE EAST AFRICA near LOURENCO MARQUES. Then returns through the 'ROARING FORTIES' to SOUTH ATLANTIC. The 'ALTMARK' again met the 'GRAF SPEE' camouflaged (Nov. 26th-29th).
1.4 Move towards SOUTH-WEST AFRICAN COAST, South of ST. HELENA. Captain Langsdorff's first error of judgment: far off 'gunning' of the 10,000 ton cargo liner, 'DORIC STAR' (Dec. 2nd), enabling her to send out repeated wireless distress signals. Sinking of' TAIROA' (Dec. 3rd), her courageous distress signal notwithstanding shell-fire also picked up. From these Commodore Harwood rightly calculates 'GRAF SPEE'S' probable move to THE PLATE. Her last meeting with 'ALTMARK' (Dec. 6th), to which are also transferred prisoners from the last two ships sunk. But 29 senior officers from all ships sunk are retained on 'GRAF SPEE' as Captain Langsdorff intending to return with them to Germany in January.
1.5 After sinking the last British merchantman 'STREONSHALH' (Dec. 7th) and taking officers and crew on board 'GRAF SPEE' approaches THE PLATE as foreseen by Commodore Harwood. He concentrates 'AJAX', 'ACHILLES' and 'EXETER' 250 miles eastward off THE PLATE (Dec. 10th-12th).