Admiral Graf Spee
The ship Admiral Graf Spee was a Cuirassé of pocket belonging to the Kriegsmarine. It was the last left a series of three buildings. It carried out a campaign in the Atlantique southern, before being damaged with the Bataille of Rio of Plata, then scuttled.
After the First World War, the Traité of Versailles limited the tonnage of the ships of battle of the German navy to 10 000 tons and their guns with a gauge of 280 Misters Before receiving the Christian name Admiral Graf Spee , it was referred under the name of Panzerschiff C and Ersatz Braunschweig , since it was to replace the old battleship Braunschweig in the inventory of the fleet. Its construction cost 82 million Reichsmark.
Technologically, the Admiral Graf Spee was in advance over its time, in particular with regard to its speed. The construction of its hull welded with the arc and not Rivet ée as it was current to do it, allowed an enormous weight saving and its powerful diesel engine enabled him to combine speed and protection. All this ensured an exceptional maneuverability to him, it could thus carry out changes of course much more quickly than the majority of the other battleships.
With dimensions one of the armament, it was not remains about it with its six gun S of 280 mm laid out in two triple turrets with before and with the back of the ship. Those could fire their projectiles until a distance from 27 km and with a rate from 2 shells per minute. Moreover, they were equipped with a high degree of accuracy thanks to optic equipment and electronic very powerful for the time. In addition to its principal armament, the battleship had also eight guns of 130 mm, several anti-aircraft batteries and a great number of heavy machine guns.
Moreover the Admiral Graf Spee was equipped with its own means of recognition and observation, thanks to both Hydravion S embarked on board. Those of type Arado Ar 196, were catapulted starting from the ship; once their finished mission, they had gone back to edge thanks to a crane. Unfortunately, these supposed apparatuses to increase its effectiveness and its protection by locating the ships were not at the point and in fact were often in repair in the hangars of the ship.
But the principal innovation on this ship was the presence of a Radar; it was besides one of the first to be equipped about it. At that time, this instrument was presented like an immense asset making it possible to locate the ships without being oneself located. However the radar equipping the Admiral Graf Spee was an antiquated model hardly left the laboratories and did not allow to locate the ships that at a distance of 15 km either less than the range of principal artillery. Moreover the zone of operation assigned to the building being the South Atlantic and this one generally profiting from a good visibility, the equipment was not great utility.
Following the treaty of Versailles which prevented the Germany from reconstituting a powerful marine, this one was before the entry in war with a fleet of combat much lower of number than that of the English. The Kriegsmarine was thus in impossibility of leading a traditional naval war. This being, the Lord High Admiral Erich Raeder, commander-in-chief of the German naval forces, did not feel able to take part effectively in the war which was announced. He had even the conviction that its forces could not durably defend the littoral and the German sea traffic.
Being given the weakness of the German marine, this one was assigned to missions of corsairs.
The mission assigned to the Admiral Graf Spee and its crew ordered by the commander Hans Langsdorff was thus to run the maximum of ships of supply bound for England. With this intention, at the beginning of the month of August 1939 and in the greatest secrecy, two Pétrolier S special installed: it was of the Altmark and the the Westerwald . Their mission was to go to Port-Arthur and there to fill the tank with fuel. Once this made they were to join each one their position of waiting in order to be used as nurse respectively with the Admiral Graf Spee and the Deutschland .
At the beginning of September, the battleship and its supply craft were found for the first time in order to supply. September 3rd, the Graf spee accepted a message coming from Raeder, informing it of the entry in war of the France and the Great Britain. The instructions of countryside were thus carried out but with a restriction emanating of Hitler, enjoignant not to attack the tradind ships French until new order.
The battleship thus travelled towards its zone of operation, a band parallel at the west coast of the Africa, by where the majority of the British commercial traffic passed forwarding by the Cape of Good Hope. But on September 5th, Raeder sent a counter-order, enjoignant with the Graf Spee to move away from its zone and to be held quiet. It thus took a position of waiting in a zone deserted between the islands from the Ascension, of Sainte-Hélène and Trinité. Finally it accepted green light on September 27th, and left in direction the Brésil.
The Graf Spee met its first targets on September 30th. It was about the Clement , a cargo liner which came from Bahia. When the cargo liner seen the battleship, it did not worry in addition to measurement thinking of dealing with British cruiser. But a few minutes later, it was taken by storm, the crew had to join the coast in the boats and the ship was run. Some hours later, it hailed a Greek neutral cargo liner and the captain of the Clement entrusted to him makes captive and asked his captain not to transmit a message before to have traversed 600 miles and to say that it had been victim of the battleship Admiral Scheer , in order to maintain confusion.
By learning the news of the loss of the Clement due to one armoured from pocket, Winston Churchill, first Lord of Admiralty, and Dudley Pound, first Lord of the sea decided to give hunting to the battleship. 23 buildings were mobilized in 9 groups of combat, of which the Eagle , the Glorious , the Ark Royal , the Furious , the Hermes , the Renown , the Repulse for the British and the Strasbourg , the Algérie and the Dupleix for French. In parallel the British Admiralty decided to make circulate the ship of supply in convoys.
Following the Clement , the Graf Spee put the course towards the east and on October 5th he saw a new target, he acted of the Newton Beach . The crew was taken by surprised and the radio operator have hardly time to emit a S.O.S. The crew was made prisoner but there was a problem, because there was not sufficient place for prisoners on the battleship. It was thus decided to keep them captive on their own ship under the German monitoring and the cargo liner would follow remotely. But on October 7th, the battleship located the Ashlea , the crew was made prisoner and the ship was run. But the commander of the Admiral Graf Spee decided to take all the prisoners on his board and to also run the Newton Beach . It wished in makes install those on the Altmark which laid out of more than place. He thus put himself in search of his nurse. But meanwhile it crossed the cargo liner Huntsmann . The Graf Spee which cannot more accommodate prisoners, Langsdorff assigned a zone where the cargo liner should wait under the control of a German team which it returns with Altmark . He saw this one on October 14th but with its great astonishment he escaped believing to deal with British ship. He had to renew contact. Langsdorff explained to the commander of the Altmark which it could not keep the prisoners and which it should leave them on the supply craft. October 16th, it was again in the sight of Huntsmann which it ran after having transferred the prisoners.
October 22nd the Graf Spee ran the cargo liner Trevanion which went Cape to Freetown. Then the 28 it gave its prisoners to the tanker which had order to await it in trimmings of the island Tristan da Cunha. Faithful to its tactic, Langsdorff moved away quickly from its last target. And on November 15th, it ran the tanker Africa Shell . All this started to accredit the rumor circulating in Royal Navy according to which the battleship was endowed with the gift of ubiquity or that there was several raiders in the oceans. The 26 it was again near the Altmark . And after being itself supplied, it put the course at the North-East in order to cut the road of the Cape. December 2nd it ran the refrigerated Ship Doric Star , but this one had had time to prevent by radio which it was attacked by the Graf Spee . The following day it ran the cargo liner Tairoa but this one also succeeded in transmitting a message. The battleship then put course at south-west with the idea to cut the road between the Argentine and the Europe and also to find the Altmark in order to remake the full one and to get rid of its prisoners. The meeting took place on December 6th, it will be the last meeting between the two ships. The Altmark had then on its board nearly 300 prisoners.
The battleship moved then on Argentina. On the way it crossed its last target a cargo liner of 4000 tons named Steonshalh . The ship was run and its thirty men were made prisoners.
Until now the Admiral Graf Spee had disconcerted the forces launched to its continuation while appearing here and there, and had succeeded in escaping to them, and this in spite of the data increasingly precise data by the attacked cargo liners. However, one of the persons in charge of the allied forces, the commander Hartwood, chief of the force G had calculated that the battleship moving at a cruising speed of 15 knots would reach the zone of Rio of Plata between the 12 and on December 13rd. Being given the great quantity of trading vessels in this zone, it constituted a target of choice for the battleship of pocket, and required to be defended. It thus laid out its forces on the spot before the date of arrival envisaged of the Graf Spee .
Those were made up of the cruisers Ajax of 7000 tons, Exeter (8400 T) and Achilles of 6800t. If the British forces were higher of number and of speed compared to the battleship of pocket, this one was more operating and had a heavy armament and a range more important.
December 13rd towards 5:50 the watchtowers of the Graf Spee saw then two masts at the horizon. The commander thus ordered to sink above. Unfortunately it was of the Ajax and the Achilles . and little time after it transfers a third mast, that of the Exeter . Only it was too late to make half-turn. The Graf Spee thus started the combat. On their side the British transfer the battleship towards 6:20, they were divided into two groups so that the Graf Spee disperses its shooting and that it undergoes a cross shooting. The combat began with 6:25, the first ship with being damaged was the Exeter . The battle finished towards 7:40 when the last two British cruisers were folded up behind a smoke screen: indeed the Exeter seriously damaged had been already dodged. The commander of the Graf Spee then decided to go to Montevideo to carry out the most urgent repairs and to await reinforcements conveyed either by submarine or by building of surface.
In order to gain the maximum of time in Montevideo for repairs and the helps, the commander Langsdorff showed himself reconciling with the authorities Uruguay ennes while allowing the official ones to go up on board and it released the British prisoners. On his side, the ambassador of the Reich intervened with the authorities to make accept the presence of the ship in the neutral port. Him 48 were given H as international conventions stipulate it.
It was obviously impossible to repair the extensive damage caused by the battle in if little time, more especially as the Uruguyan workmen did not put at it of their. In the port, the ship was continuously épié by British sailors. It was thus impossible for him to escape in secrecy. December 17th, the dead German sailors were buried. This day there it was still possible with the Graf Spee to leave without encumbers because the English were still far from to have gathered a fleet as important as they wanted to make it believe. Only the cruisers Ajax and Achilles reinforced by the Cumberland awaited the battleship. Langsdorff thought of dealing with the imminent arrival of the Renown , the Ark Royal and of the Dunkirk . However the international agreements prevented the Graf Spee from leaving the port before 24:00
During this time the commander of the battleship which had required instructions of Admiralty, receipt the answer of Raeder: “So impossible to force the blockade, to scuttle the Graf Spee ! ” .
End of the ship
December 17th with 18:15, the battleship weighed the anchor accompanied by the Tacoma , a German cargo liner, and two Argentinian Remorqueur S. The crew was transhipped and with 20:00 the Graf Spee exploded. The crew was led in Argentine where it was interned.
The following day, the commander Langsdorff will be found died on his bed, extended on the house of the ship, a drawn ball in the temple.
List ships victims of the Graf Spee
- the Clement (cargo liner of 5000 T), cast on September 30th, 1939;
- Newton Beach (cargo liner of 4600 T), captured the cast on October 5th, 1939 then the 7;
- Ashlea (cargo liner of 4200 T), cast on October 7th, 1939;
- Huntsman (cargo liner of 8000 T), captured the cast on October 10th, 1939 then the 16;
- Trevanion (cargo liner of 5000 T), cast on October 22nd, 1939;
- Africa Shell (Oil), cast on November 15th, 1939;
- Doric Star (Ship refrigerating of 10 000 T), cast on December 2nd, 1939;
- Tairoa (cargo liner of 8000 T), cast on December 3rd, 1939;
- Streonshalh (cargo liner of 4000 T), cast on December 6th, 1939.
- Exeter (cruiser of 8400 T), seriously damaged on December 13rd, 1939;
- Ajax (cruiser of 7000 T), seriously damaged on December 13rd, 1939;
- Achilles (cruiser of 6800 T), seriously damaged on December 13rd, 1939.
Officers having ordered the ship
- Captain Konrad Patzig: January 1936 - October 1937
- Captain Walter Warzecha: October 1937 - October 1938
- Captain Hans Langsdorff: October 1938 - December 17th, 1939
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