cruiser Admiral Graf Spee

German cruiser Admiral Graf Spee

German cruiser Admiral Graf Spee

The Admiral Graf Spee was a battleship of the Germany-Class, which was used by the German Navy during the Spanish Civil War and the beginning of World War II. The name was the ship in honor of Vice Admiral Maximilian von Spee, who during World War commanded the East Asia Squadron.

The first and last use of the vessel during the Second World War was a Kaperfahrt in theSouth Atlanticas part of the trade war in which nine merchant ships of 50,000 GRT were sunk without loss of life. After a naval battle with three British cruisers and a short stay inMontevideoin December 1939, the ship was sunk by its own crew in the River Plate offUruguayitself, since the captain believed due to misinformation in a hopeless situation.


Construction and first years of use

As a planned replacement for the old battleship Braunschweig the Admiral Graf Spee was on 1 October 1932 set at the Navy shipyard inWilhelmshaven on keel. After 21 months of construction, they ran on 30 June 1934 from the pile, was commissioned into the Navy took place on 6 January 1936.

First commander was Captain Conrad Patzig. In the years 1936 and 1937, the Admiral Graf Spee, the fleet flagship of the Navy and took over maritime security duties during the Spanish Civil War. In 1937, she also participated in the international naval review atSpithead during part of the coronation of King George VI. FromBritain.

The traffic for the optical signal callsign used was GS (Gustav Sophie). In early 1938, the Admiral Graf Spee was fitted with the ship’s radar FuMG Seetakt 38, which was the first ship of the German Navy, which had a radar unit. The Seetakt radar worked on a wavelength of82 cm and could ship to locate targets25 km away.


The Voyage of the Admiral Graf Spee began even before the outbreak of World War II, as the shipGermany already on 21st August 1939, left to themselves in theSouth Atlantic to go on hold. Kaperfahrt officially began on 26 September, that day was Captain Langsdorff ordered to attack Allied merchant ships. It ended with the scuttling beforeMontevideo,Uruguay, on 17 December 1939.

In the period from 30 September to 7 December could sink a ship in the Atlanticand Indian Oceans nine British merchant ships with a total of 50,089 gross register ton n, where there was not a single fatality. Before Langsdorff sank the applied ships, he left under the Prize Regulations crews enough time to leave their ships. The castaways were to be taken as prisoners of war to Germany. To 303 British sailors were transferred to the convoy ship Altmark, while the officers remained on the Admiral Graf Spee.

Extending the Kaperfahrt

On 1 September 1939, the Admiral Graf Spee met for the first time on the open sea with the fleet supply ship Altmark for diesel supplement.

The Clement (5051 GRT) of the shipping Booth Steamship Co. of Liverpool with a cargo of 500 tons of mixed cargo and 500 tons of paraffin oil on the trip from New York to Bahia, on her 30th September 1939 on the position was sunk by artillery. The crew of the ship arrived in the rescue boat near the coast ofBrazil en. Through this immersion, the British Admiralty was informed for the first time by the presence of a German armored ship in theAtlantic.

The Newton Beach (4651 BRT) lines from the Tyneside Newcastle with 7,000 tons of corn was on a trip from Cape Town to the United Kingdom, as they on 5th October 1939 on the position and applied on 8 October 1939 on the position was sunk by explosion. Prior to the sinking of the radio operator was able to send a RRR reputation by the British heavy cruiser HMS Cumberland was alerted, who was very close. However, there was not a coincidence. The crew was taken over by the Admiral Graf Spee.
The Ashlea (4222 GRT) of Cliffside Shipping Co. of Newcastle was at 7,200 tonnes raw sugar on the journey from Durban to the UK, as they on 7th October 1939 on the position was sunk.

The Huntsman (8196 GRT) of the shipping company T. & J. Harrison was from Liverpool on 10 October 1939 on the position and first applied on 17 October 1939 on the position sunk by demolition. She was with a cargo of 10,000 ts tea, leather, furs and rugs on the journey from Kolkata to London. The crew was taken over by the Admiral Graf Spee.

The Trevanion (5291 GRT) of the shipping company Hain Steamship Co. of London was 8,835 tonnes zinc ore on a trip from Port Pirie to the UK, as they at 22nd October 1939 on the position was sunk. The radio operator managed the dismissal of a RRR message, which resulted in a large-scale search of the Commander in Chief South Atlantic was that was unsuccessful in respect of Admiral Graf Spee had, however, the application of five German merchant ships to follow.

The Africa Shell (706 BRT), a British motor tanker of shipping business from London, was on a short trip from Juelimare to Lourenço Marques (now Maputo), as on her 15th November in the Mozambique sunk near Cape Zavora detonated. The entire 29-man crew in the lifeboats reached the 10 nm distant Cape Zavora.

The British turbine freighter Doric Star (10,086 tons) of the shipping company Blue Star Line from London with a cargo of grain, wool and meat was on a trip from Auckland to Great Britain, as on her second December 1939 was sunk by explosion, fire and torpedoed. The radio operator managed the dismissal of a RRR message that the British Admiralty informed about the new location of the Admiral Graf Spee. The 64-member crew was taken over complete.

The reefer Tairoa (7983 GRT) of the shipping company Furness Lines from Southampton was with 12,000 tonnes of frozen meat on the trip from Melbourne to the UK, as the third they December 1939 in the South Atlantic by shelling and torpedoing the position was sunk. The radio operator also managed the dismissal of a RRR message, by which the position of the Admiral Graf Spee was known.

The freighter Streonshalh (3895 GRT) of the shipping company Headlam & Son of Whitby was with a cargo of 5,900 tons of wheat on the trip from Buenos Aires to London, as he on 7th December 1939 on the position was sunk.

On 6 December, the Admiral Graf Spee bunkerte for the ninth and final time in the Altmark fuel. At dusk, a headlight exercise against the Altmark was set as 14 November night when stopping the Dutch steamer Holland the searchlight had not been used optimally. During this exercise, an unlit boat was discovered, whose nationality was not clear and was not attacked. As it turned out, it was a Norwegian freighter that sparked his observation immediately via shortwave toLondon.

Battle before the Rio de la Plata

Before the march back to their homeland Langsdorff would again go to the East Coast of South America, in the hope of meeting a weakly secured British convoy. After the last oil supplementation in convoy ship Altmark, the battleship took course there. On 13 December 1939 met the Admiral Graf Spee, off the mouth of the Río de la Plata on an enemy convoy, consisting of the British heavy cruiser HMS Exeter, flagship of Commodore Sir Henry Harwood, and the British light cruiser HMS Ajax and the New Zealand light cruiser HMS Achilles . Langsdorff went into the fight, although escape well within the bounds of possibility lay before equipped with steam turbines Allied warships could open up steam and a higher speed developed as the Admiral Graf Spee, with their diesel engines, which the British had made a combat advantage. Throughout the battle, the Exeter was severely damaged (loss of the heavy artillery, 61 dead and 23 wounded) and incapacitated. The two light cruisers, but the Admiral Graf Spee received damage. On the German battleship there were 36 dead and 60 injured. Langsdorff broke off the battle and ran into Montevideo for repairs and food acquisition, and then to begin the journey home to Germany. By the fighting were the food warehouse of the ship was destroyed and the diesel oil cleaning system was damaged, making the Spee had only one day of purified oil for their diesel engines.

In Montevideo

The British ambassador in Montevideo, Eugene Millington-Drake acted with the government Uruguay’s that the German pocket battleship had left the port within 72 hours – a period that was too short to carry out the urgent repairs, but long enough to be approaching the British gain. At the same time, the German Minister of Montevideo Otto Langmann telegraphed on 16 December 1939, 9:00 clock to the Foreign Ministry in Berlin include the following original passage:
According to British sources, this situation report was caused by intentional misinformation of British intelligence that the German side vorspiegelte a superior enemy battle group at sea.

The international law stipulated that no warship would leave port when in the last 24 hours before a merchant ship of the opposing side had left it. Therefore, the British ambassador made sure that every day a British merchant ship left the port and then the delayed departure of Admiral Graf Spee. The British reinforcements, which was already on the way, needed more time. Meanwhile monitored the Ajax and Achilles the La Plata estuary, together with the HMS Cumberland, which, coming from the Falklands followed, Harwood Union to replace the laid-off for repair Exeter.

The Admiral Graf Spee had suffered damage in the diesel oil cleaning system, which was only for about a day of purified diesel available. Other damage, such as the destroyed fresh water generator, needed lengthy repairs. It was estimated to seven days to repair the ship. The combat capability of the Spee had remained intact and a failed attack by enemy 15-cm gun with available materials could again be made fully operational. The presence of the vessel was also exploited to to bury the dead of the battle, were buried in the North Cemetery of Montevideo with military honors. Under pressure from Britain towards the Admiral Graf Spee, but had to run out after 72 hours, although in 1914 the British light cruiser Glasgow had been granted after the naval battle of the Falkland Islands against a German squadron for 30 days for repairs, what Langsdorff in a protest to Uruguayan government pointed out, as the ship went anke up and that he was forced to all statutes of neutrality, with a leaking ship was unseaworthy. The necessary repairs were but despite the help of living in Uruguay and German volunteers of the crews of two German merchant ships in the port of Montevideo in the 72-hour deadline to not create. For the British, a longer wait for the expiry of the Admiral Graf Spee was dangerous because the Navy could use submarines that would the lurking before Montevideo British warships lying in wait for their part, and the ship would have been improved by repairs in his combat ability. The British, the actual damage to the Graf Spee were unknown.

On 16 December night by 1 clock sent Langsdorff a radio report to the High Command of the Navy to Berlin by suggesting: Buenos Aires, the capital of Argentina’s lies to the south of La Plataestuary, where they hoped to better opportunities for further finding fate of the ship. That same day, the German Navy High Command approved the proposal. An implementation of the breakthrough to Argentina was not possible, because it turned out that the Spee had stayed during the extension because of the shallow waters of theLa Plata Estuary long tied to the ship canal and could not have maneuvered militarily, while the British ships at sea, a slight target would have had their guns.

Scuttling of the ship

On 17 December 1939 at 18:15 clock left the Admiral Graf Spee, the port of Montevideo. Thousands had gathered to watch the departure. After three nautical anchor, Captain Langsdorff and make explosive devices throughout the ship sharp. The remaining crew of 40 men – most had already left the ship secretly in Montevideo – disembarked. At 19:52 clock detonated the explosives, the ship lay on the ground just a few meters deep mouth of the river La Plata and burned for three days. The crew of the Admiral Graf Spee went to Buenos Aires now. There, Captain Hans Langsdorff shot at sea on 19 December. Three days later he was buried in the German cemetery of Buenos Aires with great participation of the population. The commanders and officers of the sunken vessels hijacked and attended the burial and laid a wreath. Later, left many crew members of the Admiral Graf Spee in the small town ofVilla General Belgrano, near the Argentine city ofCórdoba down, showing up today in architecture and traditions of German marks.

Telegram from the German Ambassador

On 22 December 1939, the following telegram from the German ambassador Otto Langmann from Montevideoto the Foreign Office in Berlinwas canceled:
Albatross ship Altmark

The convoy ship Altmark, led by Captain Heinrich Dau tried now fend alone in the home. First, it swerved to the south, where the British assumed the ship the least. A few weeks later, the tanker ventured north again, and passed unmolested to the equator, the North Atlantic and the Denmark Strait. In mid-February, 1940, he arrived at Trondheim neutral waters. Negotiations with the Norwegian Navy, the purpose of pilot position and continue within the three-mile limit, proved difficult. On 16 February, the Altmark, spotted in the company of Norwegian torpedo boat, first by British aircraft and later by British destroyers. Despite the neutrality rules the destroyer approached and tried to force Altmark in the open sea. This then fled into the Jössingfjord. After dark, followed by the British destroyer. A Rammversuch by the Altmark ended when she ran aground. HMS Cossack came alongside, and British forces freed 303 captured British sailors. Seven German sailors were killed. (For the whereabouts see main article.)

Salvage attempts

Despite protests from the red-green government, which saw the Federal Republic of Germany, as the owner of the battleship, began in February2004 inorder to raise the wreck of a floating crane from eight meters. This salvage operation funded private investors and the government inUruguay, since the wreck increasingly vulnerable shipping. On 25 February 2004, the first major piece was salvaged. It was one of the two optical rangefinder with his armored rotating hood has a weight of 27 tons and was mounted on one of the two Artillerieleitstände.

In February 2006, the 400 kg, standing on a wreath of oak leaves with a swastika bronze eagle was rescued. The eagle is about six feet tall, has a wingspan of 2.8 meters and has graced the stern of the Admiral Graf Spee. In August 2006, released the announcement of the private salvage company to try to sell the eagle against the will of the Uruguayan government, a fierce debate. Neo-Nazi groups are keen to buy the eagle. The Frankfurter Rundschau reported that an unknown person was willing to pay $ 3 million dollars.

The salvage of the entire wreck should be completed in 2007. An exhibition of the recovered wreckage was planned. Further salvage attempts are up to 2012 but again failed to legal and technical difficulties, not a result or end in sight.

Raising the anchor of the Admiral Graf Spee forms for some years the center of the monument, which is in a restricted area of theport ofMontevideo, which is only accessible to tourists who use the ferry toBuenos Aires.


6th January 1936 to 1 October 1937, Captain Conrad Patzig

Second October 1937 to October 1938, Captain Walter Warzecha

October 1938 to 17th December 1939, Captain Hans Langsdorff

Cinematic Reception

The events surrounding the Kaperfahrt in 1956 inthe UKunder the title The Battle of the River Plate: filmed (German pocket battleship Graf Spee).

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