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Final Scenes of the Battle of the River Plate

Discussion in 'Germany at Sea!' started by Jim, Jan 13, 2010.

  1. Jim

    Jim New Member

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    A great "naval occasion" was the dramatic engagement between the "Admiral Graf Spee" and the British cruisers on December 13th, in which the British ships, though outclassed, showed a seamanship and fighting spirit worthy of the best traditions of the British Navy. The gallant "Exeter" was around 40 to 50 times by shells three times the weight of those she could herself discharge. Nevertheless, she returned shot for shot till three of her 8-in guns were smashed and only one could be fired, and that by hand, Her steering gear was damaged, she sustained nearly a hundred casualties and numerous fires broke out on board, but she continued in the wake of the speeding battle and took up station at the mouth of the estuary until relieved by the arrival of the "Cumberland" Officers and men were, in the words of her captain, "Superb."

    This extraordinarily dramatic photograph sent from Montevideo by wireless was taken as the "Admiral Graf Spee" was sinking in flames. She was destroyed by a number of bombs placed in different parts of, the hull. They exploded with terrific force, columns of flames and clouds of smoke arose from the ship and five minutes later there was another explosion when the flames reached the magazine. For a week she continued to burn and smoulder until only a broken hulk remained of the once proud ship.

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    Shortly before he committed suicide Captain Langsdorff addressed his men, more than a thousand in number, in the grounds of the Buenos Aires Arsenal. All but the crew of the "Graf Spee" were excluded from the meeting.

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    Dramatic as was the end of the "Graf Spec," yet another sensational element was added to the story by the suicide of her commander, Captain Hans Langsdorff, on December 20th. He was found shot dead in the naval arsenal at Buenos Aires, and a significant fact is that, according to reports from reliable sources of the era, he was discovered lying on the German Imperial flag, not the Swastika of Hitler, whose instructions were "Scuttle, don't fight." He was buried the next day with full Naval honours, and his funeral was attended by Captain Pottinger, of the steamer "Ashlea," as representative of the British merchant seamen released from the "Graf Spee" before her end. When the news of the suicide was released in Germany the Nazi propaganda machine was hard put to it to explain what all the world realised was a gallant seamen's protest against the Fuehrer’s order.

    Captain Langsdorff committed suicide on December 20th and was buried on the following day. During the night his body lay in state in the Buenos Aires Arsenal guarded by members of the crew of the "Graf Spee" The Nazi flag as can be seen in the photograph hung in the background and another draped the coffin.

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  2. Kai-Petri

    Kai-Petri Kenraali

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    The propaganda in the news made the commander sink the ship. Great work. Kph
     
  3. lwd

    lwd Ace

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    40-50 11" hits? I'd be interested in seeing the sources for this.

    Note that:
    World War II: HMS Exeter, Last Days and Recent Tributes
    Suggest only 7 such hits.
     

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