Sunday Photo - Battle of the River Plate

In Military History, Featured

On 13 December 1939 three British cruisers engaged Admiral Graff Spee in the first naval battle of the Second World War. The German Panzerschiff had been commerce raiding since the war began, and the Royal Navy had sent a number of hunting groups out to track it down. Eventually HMS Exeter, Ajax and Achilles found it close to the South American coast.

In the ensuing battle all three of the British cruisers suffered moderate-to-severe damage. Admiral Graff Spee fared worse, suffering critical damage that required emergency repairs. The German ship sought refuge in the port of Montevideo, but when they were informed their stay could be no longer than 72 hours the captain decided to scuttle his damaged ship rather than face the British force.

The photograph below shows HMS Achilles as seen from HMS Ajax during the battle.

Image source: Wikipedia


Osprey have a number of books looking at naval warfare in World War II, including NVG 226: Commonwealth Cruisers 1939–45, NVG 194: British Light Cruisers 1939–45 and DUE 27: German Commerce Raider vs British Cruiser.

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