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I saw the Admiral Graf Spee Attacked

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I saw the Admiral Graf Spee Attacked

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I saw the Admiral Graf Spee Attacked.
The first big naval engagement of the war was the Battle of the River plate, fought on 13 December 1939. Between the German pocket battleship Graf Spee and the British cruisers HMS Exeter, HMS Ajax and HMS Achilles. The following actual eyewitness account of the action is reprinted from The Star.

A dramatic account of the battle between the Graf Spee and battlecruisers was given by a director of the Havas News Agency, who was on board the French liner Formose. I left Le Havre on 11 November 1939 for Río Plata. As we entered the last stage of the voyage the Formose intercepted a message from the Admiral Graf Spee warning the cruiser HMS 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 only 30 miles from the Formose, travelling at some 24 kn. Our Commander Captain Baton, immediately changed course and sought shelter of the coast. The danger was kept a strict secret from the passengers. The Admiral Graf Spee's position was again signalled three hours later at 1300 hrs, this time approaching the coast at a reduced speed, apparently making for Momtevideo at 1800 hrs, we were within sight of the Uruguayan coast. Almost at the same moment, we sighted the Graf Spee. She was saving Carlisle with us, and soon afterwards fired four shots at whom we could not see. She continued parallel with us, but 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 1930 hrs, we saw another warship a long way out to sea, but approaching at great speed. She was a British cruiser, and she opened fire on on the German. The first shell missed the Graf Spee, but the range was then rectified, and the second shot took her fair and square in the stern. The cruiser then threw out a smokescreen 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 has a hesitation, the cruiser pressed the attack without allowing her the slightest breathing space. When night fell about 2030 hrs, the Graf Spee was still firing shells, seemingly at random, and she disappeared into the darkness still pursued. At 1015 hrs on 14 December 1939. We sailed into the quayside at Montevideo, passing within 100 yards of the damaged Graf Spee.

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Admiral Graf Spee picture 2

Admiral Scheer picture 1

HMS Exeter picture 1

HMS Exeter picture 2

HMS Achilles picture 1

HMS Ajax picture 1

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Sources

The Second Great War.
Edited by Sir John Hamilton

The War Illustrated.
Edited by Sir John Hamilton

2194 Days Of War.
ISBN-10: 086136614X

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