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The Admiral Graf Spee Attacked

Discussion in 'Germany at Sea!' started by Jim, Sep 30, 2006.

  1. Jim

    Jim New Member

    Sep 1, 2006
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    via War44
    The first big naval engagement of the war was the battle of the River Plate fought on December 13th between the German pocket battleship Graf Spee and the British cruisers, Exeter, Ajax, and Achilles. The following actual eye-witness account of the action is reprinted front “The Star."

    A dramatic account of the battle between the Graf Spee and the British cruisers was given by a director of the Havas News Agency, who was on board the French liner Formose... "I left Le Havre on November 11th for Rio Plata," he said. "As we entered the last stage of the voyage the 'Formose' intercepted a message from the 'Graf Spee' warning the cruiser 'Ajax' to pick up the crew of a British cargo boat she had just sunk. The message did not give the position where the sinking had taken place. A few minutes later a neutral ship signalled the position of the 'Graf Spee.' The German warship was apparently then only 30 miles from the Formose, travelling at some 21 knots. Our commander, Captain Baton, immediately changed our course and sought the shelter of the coast. The danger was kept a strict secret from the passengers. The Graf Spee's position was again signalled three hour's later at 1 p.m, this time approaching the coast at a reduced speed, apparently making for Montevideo. At 6 p.m we were within sight of the Uruguayan coast. Almost at the same moment we sighted the Graf Spee. She was sailing parallel with us, and soon afterwards fired four shots at whom we could not see. She continued parallel with us for some 10 miles, reducing her speed and seeming to watch the Formose. Most of the passengers were still unaware of the nationality of the ship and thought she was having gunnery practice. At 7.30 p.m we saw another warship a long way out to sea, but approaching at a great speed. She was a British cruiser and she opened fire on the German Ship.

    Captain Langsdorff is seen here wearing his Iron cross, on a tug at Buenos Aires, surrounded by his crew. His cheerful demeanour does not suggest that he had heard the opinion of Naval men of many nations on his ships end.


    The first shell missed the Graf Spec, but the range was then rectified, and the second shot- took her fair and square in the stern. The cruiser then threw out a smoke screen to hide herself, and took up the chase at full speed. The Graf Spee, surprised by the sudden attack, increased her speed and replied with a volley of four shots, all of which fell wide. Taking advantage of her hesitation, the cruiser pressed the attack without allowing her the slightest breathing space. When night fell, about 8.30, the, Graf Spee was still firing shells, seemingly at random, and she disappeared into the darkness still pursued. At 10.15 a.m. on December 14th we sailed in to the quayside at Montevideo, passing within 100 yards of the damaged, Graf Spee.

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