View Full Version : divers recover bow eagle from graf spree

07-26-2006, 08:17 AM
the salvage continues on the remains of the once mighty warrior of the seas..divers brought up the 888 pound eagle that once adorned the bow..plans are under way to possibly raise the hulk of her for an international artifact..i'll try to keep current with this but info is hit and miss ...i;ve been watching this dive for a few years...some gun mounts and her famous radar/fire control have been raised . http://forums.ubi.com/images/smilies/25.gif

07-26-2006, 11:09 AM
Who recovered it and what plans do they have for it ? http://forums.ubi.com/images/smilies/blink.gif

07-26-2006, 11:19 AM
since 1998 divers have been engaged in salvageing as much as possible of the remains several of the secondary gunmounts have been raised along with the rangefinder and radar ..hector bado is the lead on the team ...as the work is ongoing in the harbor in montevideo uraguay ..info only comes up every now and then..as a wreck diver i'm always looking over the wreck diver news on ww2 wrecks http://forums.ubi.com/images/smilies/25.gif

07-26-2006, 02:27 PM
You ever have one of those moments where your brain just goes into automatic mode and bypasses its logic circuitry? I just had one of those moments when I first read this.

My mind was switching to outrage mode: Don't these clowns know that this is a war grave? I bet the Americans wouldn't let somebody scavenge one of their wrecks. Then it hit me, just like Homer: D'oh! The Graf Spee scuttled herself! There were no dead sailors aboard her, so it's not a war grave.

I'm so glad that I type slower than I think. I really would have embarrassed myself if I posted my first thought. http://forums.ubi.com/images/smilies/35.gif

07-26-2006, 02:37 PM
I do believe there was some loss of life...I know for certain the Captain shot himself after he sent a message back to....

But after reading Wikipedia, it looks like there are no crew on board the sunk ship, all were buried on shore. The scuttling was a very organized event with (I assume) no loss of life.

Kapitan zur See Hans Langsdorff killed himself three days later on shore.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/German_pocket_battleship_A...e_of_the_River_Plate (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/German_pocket_battleship_Admiral_Graf_Spee#Battle_ of_the_River_Plate)

...No wonder there are so many german names in Uraguay http://forums.ubi.com/images/smilies/shady.gif

James Cameron's on the hunt too...he's filming a documentary about the salvage...Yikes!

07-26-2006, 09:37 PM
There are no men on the Graf Spee. It is not a war grave. As stated all the men were buried in the German cemetery in Montevideo in a special Graf Spee section. I actually visited it in 1997 when I did a story on the Graf Spee for the World and I Magazine.
The Captain shot himself in Buenos Aries and is buried there not in Uruguay with the crew members. Some ask to be buried later to rejoin there old ship mates.
There is a little Museum dedicated to the Graf Spee as the Uruguayan government has never been keen on associating with the warship because of the Nazi association.
Omar never got any support and as a young boy paddled around the ship in the harbor on a row boat with his father. He is the main source for research on the subject.


Omar with a 150MM from the Panzerschiffe at the outdoor park outside the naval museum. This was the only thing salvaged until the recent activity since the scuttling. http://i5.photobucket.com/albums/y152/Wulfmann/graf-spee-150mm.jpg (http://i5.photobucket.com/albums/y152/Wulfmann/graf-spee-150mm.jpg)

One of the garves in Montevideo.
http://i5.photobucket.com/albums/y152/Wulfmann/graf-spee-grave.jpg (http://i5.photobucket.com/albums/y152/Wulfmann/graf-spee-grave.jpg)

07-27-2006, 01:39 AM
http://i51.photobucket.com/albums/f364/Janek73/AdmiralGrafSpeeinDecember1939.jpg http://i51.photobucket.com/albums/f364/Janek73/nx2uzc.jpg http://i51.photobucket.com/albums/f364/Janek73/Montevideo7.jpg http://i51.photobucket.com/albums/f364/Janek73/nqoah0.jpg http://i51.photobucket.com/albums/f364/Janek73/nx3k2a.jpg http://i51.photobucket.com/albums/f364/Janek73/nx2xk9.jpg http://i51.photobucket.com/albums/f364/Janek73/nqo3z5.jpg http://i51.photobucket.com/albums/f364/Janek73/20.jpg

07-27-2006, 04:30 PM
http://forums.ubi.com/groupee_common/emoticons/icon_eek.gif Whoa! That's pretty cool!

07-27-2006, 05:20 PM
Does anybody know the dates of design, build and launching of these ships? I'm asking because I have a feeling that many of the ships that came about because of the "Z" plan were actually planned before the Nazis took over in 1933. On another forum where I am a member, someone has posted an article about the Graf Zeppelin, calling it a "Nazi" ship. I have a feeling that it is a misnomer, based on my assumption that the GZ and at least some of the ships that Germany used in WW2 had their origins before the Nazis. I'm hoping someone will be able to answer this for me, as I feel it is unfair to call these "Nazi ships." Of all the German armed forces in WW2, the Kriegsmarine was the least Nazified. I've read that there were actually Jewish or partly Jewish officers and men aboard German ships in WW2. Admiral Raeder never used the Nazi salute as far as I know and I think Donitz also preferred the military salute to the Nazi salute, although I think he may have used the Nazi salute when "appropriate." I'd like to be able to refute that fellow's use of the term "Nazi" ships and have the truth on my side.

I sometimes get a bit ticked off when I see a documentary or read a book and someone refers to a Nazi tank or a Nazi plane or ship. Weapons themselves are apolitical. I know that some weapons would not have been used had the Nazis not come to power. Maybe there still would have been a WW2 even without Hitler, who knows? I just think that such narrators come off looking silly when they politicize a weapon. You don't ever hear a narrator in a documentary say something like, " A Democrat Sherman tank" or a "Conservative Spitfire." It really sounds stupid when someone narrates for example a documentary about the Kursk battle and refers to the "Nazi Tiger tank."

07-27-2006, 05:48 PM
Digital Tradition Mirror
Sinking of the Graf Spee
[GIF Score]

(This score available as ABC, SongWright, PostScript, PMW, or a MIDI file)
Pennywhistle notation and Dulcimer tab for this song is also available

High Tide of the Kriegsmarine

Operation Rheinubung - May 1941.

By David Atwell


It was madness, or so Captain Kurt Hoffmann of the Scharnhorst thought. Here he was, thanks to the craziest orders that he had ever seen, steaming at flank speed through the English Channel during the darkness of night. The ships of the Royal Navy were bound to be lurking out there somewhere, patrolling the waters, & thus he, & his companion ship, would be surely caught. The Gneisenau & Scharnhorst were indeed on the wildest of missions.

Having been sent to Brest, after a successful sortie into the Atlantic Ocean in late 1940, the two German battleships had all but been interned thanks to the blockade imposed upon them by the Royal Navy. Now, in early April 1941, they were involved in €œOperation Cerberus€, or the €œmad dash€ as this latest mission had been called by the more positive members of the ship€s crews, which would take the two German ships to safer waters of the North Sea, off the German coast, with Wilhelmshaven as their new home. That is if they got there, of course, as other crew members had compared this latest mission as the naval equivalent of the Charge of the Light Brigade.

No one on board either Gneisenau or Scharnhorst, however, understood why this suicide mission had been ordered. Nothing had been explained in the orders. Merely they were ordered to get out of Brest & make best speed past Dover & the Royal Navy. Fortunately for the Germans, the Royal Navy had been caught napping. Not only was the Royal Navy taken by surprise, but almost no one in Britain believed, in their wildest dreams, that the Germans would attempt such a mad undertaking in the English Channel.

Thus, when the Germans were finally caught out by chance north of Dover, only one squadron of RAF torpedo armed aircraft were available at such a short notice. At dawn they took off with much haste & immediately chased after the two German battle cruisers. Although the Royal Navy also got into action, finally, only the eight RAF aircraft would be involved in any serious combat with the German ships. Yet, even though the British pilots showed much courage & skill in their attack, none of their torpedos hit the mark. By the time the RAF squadron returned to refuel & rearm, Gneisenau & Scharnhorst had left behind anything which the British could attack with. The first step, albeit a small one, of €œOperation Rheinubung€ had been completed long before the actual operation had even begun.


For political reasons, Admiral Donitz was ironically overjoyed when he heard that the surface vessels of the Kriegsmarine were about to commit suicide, or so he believed, after he had just been informed about Hitler€s latest naval adventure - which in comparison made the €œmad dash€ appear sensible. This new mission would, for once & for all time, prove to Hitler that Germany€s surface navy was nothing more than €œexpensive tin cans floating around€. Hitler, Donitz assured himself, would then have to fund his U-Boats &, in doing so, inevitably win the war for Germany.

Admiral Raeder, on the other hand, believed that, although this sortie into the Atlantic Ocean was dangerous he, nonetheless, had good faith in Hitler€s somewhat uncanny ability to gain victories from seemingly reckless schemes. €œHad not the €˜mad dash€ been successful?€ Raeder asked his staff. The war to date had been more or less won by similar ideas & now he, Raeder, had been given the opportunity to win control of the Atlantic Ocean. By doing so, Britain would be thoroughly isolated. The result for Britain would be either starvation or surrender. The war, Raeder came to believe, could be over by Christmas 1941. Then the Soviets would hence be the next, on the long list of nations, to suffer defeat at the hands of Germany.

It was in such a mind set, thus, that Germany€s Navy, the Kriegsmarine, had been ordered to conduct €œOperation Rheinubung€. To put it simply, Hitler wanted the German Navy to conduct a large scale operation using the full potential of its capital ships. As to what purpose the mission was created for exactly, no one really knows, however, as there appears to have been Hitler€s original intention & that of Raeder€s actual conduct.

Nonetheless, regardless whether €œOperation Rheinubung€ was a large convoy raid, or that it was an effort to ensure that control of the Atlantic Ocean came under the dominance of Germany, what they got, all the same, was a battle with the might of the Royal Navy. Needles to say, such an event was probably inevitable - regardless of the intention of the original mission. In other words, a great clash between two grand navies, worthy of Jutland, was achieved. The after effects, however, only made the final result of the Battle of the Atlantic further unpredictable.


The two combatants, in May 1941, had two completely different plans for coping with the events which were about to be unleashed. The British had no idea that the Germans were about to sortie in strength, although the British well knew that the capital ships of the German surface fleet had more or less come together in great strength. Up until now, though, the Germans had mostly kept to the European coasts with their major ships, whilst commerce raiders made a dash to the Atlantic in order to make a nuisance of themselves. Only the pocket battleship Graf Spree operated at some distance from European waters & was sunk early in the war for her efforts.

As a result of the German tactics, the British blockaded the European coast. These blockade forces were thus spread out & not concentrated. This worked well for reconnaissance duties, especially against the commerce raiders, but if the Germans wanted to make a real effort, one even greater than the recently conducted €œmad dash€, to break the blockade screen, then the Royal Navy would find it hard to repulse any such attempt. With this in mind, Admiral Tovey thus kept his large capital ships back from the blockade line.

In his plans, Tovey had HMS Hood & HMS Prince of Wales stationed north-west of the Shetland Islands. Meanwhile, at Scapa Flow, Tovey usually had with him HMS King George V & HMS Rodney. The HMS Rodney, though, in May of 1941,was replaced with HMS Repulse, as the Rodney was making sail for America to undergo an overhaul. It was, however, an act of Providence that she had only just sailed, prior to the Germans commencing €œOperation Rheinubung€, & was quickly recalled to join Tovey€s task force. Other than these capital ships, Tovey also had the aircraft carrier HMS Victorious with him. Thus, on paper, the size of Tovey€s force seemed impressive. And, obviously, he could call upon these ships should any German breakthrough take place. Yet, even with such forethought, not even Tovey had foreseen what was about to take place.

Although Raeder was thrilled to finally get the German surface navy into the war in such a way, he was no fool either. He knew that the Royal Navy was not just going to let him sail into the Atlantic Ocean & take it for Germany. At some stage a major confrontation with the Royal Navy was bound to take place at some point in time. It was just a matter of when. But even before this battle could take place, the German fleet would have to achieve a breakthrough. And this meant forcing a way past the British cruisers who guarded jealously the approaches to the Atlantic. Thus Raeder, considering the two issues at hand, had little choice but to ensure that the German sortie was as strong as possible.

To that end Raeder gathered basically every German capital ship which was operational. First on the list came the Bismarck. Second were the battleships Gneisenau & Scharnhorst. Although both had some damage at the time, thanks to the €œmad dash€, they were nonetheless ordered to fix their problems as fast as possible in order to be battle ready. Finally came the Tirpitz. Raeder genuinely thought twice about Tirpitz, believing it to be far from ready, but her captain finally convinced him otherwise: this was besides the fact that only half of her secondary armament, & most of her anti-aircraft guns, were not yet operational. As a stand-by measure, just in case Tirpitz could not put to sea on time, the Admiral Scheer & Deutschland (or Luztow depending upon the date) were also added to the fleet list. In the actual event, though, both pocket battleships would sail along with the Tirpitz.

Raeder, believing that a large battle would take place with the Royal Navy, decided to also include a large cruiser & destroyer screen. Hence the Prinz Eugen, Koln, & Nurnberg would also go along with the capital ships as well as four destroyers. Raeder actually wanted more destroyers, but the heavy losses suffered by the destroyer forces in the Norwegian Campaign meant their numbers were limited.

To The Atlantic

It was a calm & beautiful night in the Skagerrak as the German fleet came together on May 20 1941. This was somewhat annoying for Raeder as he was hoping for at least overcast skies as such weather would help hide his ships from any reconnaissance. Nonetheless, U-Boats had began patrolling the area intensively the night before to ensure that the Royal Navy was no where to be seen. Thankfully for the Germans, the Royal Navy, after the fall of Norway, had withdrawn such patrols in fear of losing ships unnecessarily to either aircraft, U-Boats or even surface attacks. This, thus gave opportunities to the Germans & they were using every one of them now.

Reconnaissance missions at sea need not only be conducted by naval assets alone: there is, needless to say, aircraft which can carry out such duties as well as ships. But like their Royal Navy counterparts, the Royal Air Force considered that the airspace around the Skagerrak was far too dangerous for its aircraft. The war was still being waged in full intensity & anywhere along the coast of Europe was far from safe; especially the area currently in question. Having said all that, the British still had other means by which to keep an eye on German shipping.

Spies. Their services are as about as old as the profession of soldiering itself & the British put them to good use. Furthermore, spying no longer meant having agents in enemy territory any more. Thanks to technology, Britain could listen in on German radio &, far more importantly, thanks to ULTRA, decode many German orders. Yet, even with all this ability, it would come down to a Norwegian spy in the employ of the British, as Raeder considered €œOperation Rheinubung€ to be most secret, he forbad any radio messages about the mission. Everything was either sent via telephone or through couriers. In this regards the British were kept in the dark. But, as stated, it came down to a watchful pair of Norwegian eyes who, not long after seeing the Bismarck & Tirpitz with their escorts sail past his vantage point, radioed the British on the night of May 21 with his discovery. Alas, for his efforts, the unknown Norwegian spy was shot & killed by the Germans as his reward.

The Admiralty, even though the sighting of the Bismarck & Tirpitz were unconfirmed, nevertheless took it as granted that the two great German battleships were on the move into the Atlantic. What the British were not aware of, however, was the size of the fleet which accompanied the two German ships. But that did not matter to Tovey. More important to him was finding where the Germans were &, fundamentally, which route they would take into the Atlantic. Basically it came down to four: the direct route between the Orkney & Shetland Islands; to the North of the Shetlands; to the South of Iceland; or to the North of Iceland. To Tovey it seemed highly unlike that it would be the first route, so that left the other three. Most worrying for Tovey was that he did not necessarily have enough capital ships to cover all three routes. So he would have to take an educated risk based upon the information at hand - which was not much.

As a result of Tovey€s analysis, he had Hood & Prince of Wales patrol the far northern route past Iceland. Secondly, Tovey would take King George V &Repulse with him to patrol the Shetland Island to Iceland gap, whilst Victorious would come along in support. Finally, the heavy cruisers HMS Suffolk & HMS Norfolk, along with a number of destroyers, would advance from their current station, the Straits of Denmark, & begin searching for the German ships in the North Sea off the Norwegian coast.

The Germans, likewise, had no idea where the British ships were & were convinced that they had complete surprise. Furthermore, Raeder wanted to ensure that surprise would remain with the Germans. He was thus convinced that he would have to take the long route to the north of Iceland. Any move further south was bound to bump into a British naval patrol &, in particular, air patrols. In this regards he was correct, as anything which could fly reconnaissance missions in Scotland, were doing so over the sea approaches by dawn the next day.

Luck still, though, favoured the Germans. As the British began their air patrols, the weather changed for the worst. Raeder€s hope that bad weather would cover his break-out attempt now eventuated. The British were down to a handful ships in the North Sea trying to conduct the impossible task of finding the German ships. For a full day, the British thus stumbled around in a fruitless effort to find the Germans, all the while not knowing the true strength of the German fleet. It was a dangerous venture.

Fortune, however, favours the brave & this was certainly case for the British - finally. In a desperate bid in order to find the Germans, Victorious began launching aircraft whilst the weather backed off for a short time. Limiting their mission to the most suspected sea routes open to the Germans, after four long hours one of the German ships was spotted. This, needless to say, was reported to Victorious, & Tovey quickly ordered Suffolk & Norfolk to the area.

Not long afterwards, the two cruisers soon discovered, albeit at long distance, the presence of the German ship & began to shadow it using radar. When it was decided that the ship was a cruiser, Norfolk broke away & began looking for other ships. It soon found, via its radar, another two ships, one of which it was concluded to be a cruiser whilst the other was either Bismarck or Tirpitz. Needless to say, these reports were sent to Tovey with much haste.

Tovey had been right. The Germans were indeed heading north &, more probable than not, trying to use the sea route north of Iceland. He was satisfied that he had done all that he could so far in this endeavour & had, through foresight, stationed Hood & Prince of Wales in the perfect position to intercept the German ships. The calculations suggested that, based upon the current speed & direction of the Germans, the two naval task forces should meet sometime shortly after dawn. Although the Germans & the Royal Navy would have an equal number of capital ships, Tovey was certain that Admiral Holland, on the Hood, could do the job required. Furthermore, even if the Germans turned around & ran, they would do so right into the guns of Tovey€s task force. Yes, Tovey thought, tomorrow, May 24, was to be a great day for the Royal Navy.


It was around dawn on May 24 when Admiral Holland, on board Hood, was finally satisfied that everything was ready. Reports from Norfolk & Suffolk indicated that at least one battleship & two cruisers were heading his way. His force of four destroyers & two British battleships were more than enough in dealing with this German task force, even if one of the German battleships seemed to have disappeared.

Sighting the Germans, however, was another matter altogether. Visibility this morning, as it had been for the last few days, was down to four miles. This caused some concerns, but both Hood & Prince of Wales had reasonably efficient radar which was, needless to say, utilised to the full. Having said that, it was not radar which spotted the first German ship but a pair of watchful eyes thanks to a sudden clearing in the weather. Prince of Wales signalled to Holland that the enemy was in sight.

Holland wasted no time & immediately ordered flank speed towards the direction of the sighted German ship. At speeds approaching 30 knots, both Royal Navy battleships thundered & crashed their way through the rough seas of the Atlantic Ocean fearing nothing. Holland did not want to waste a second in his attempt to intercept the Germans, besides the fact that if he could surprise this one off vessel, before the Germans could react, so more the better.

Employing such tactics, however, had several drawbacks. The first was the simple fact that only the forward turrets on the British ships could fire. The second were the rangefinders. With the spray gushing high over the bows of the ships, everything, especially the rangefinders for the guns, were made totally useless. It may have made for a dramatic sight to anyone watching, but it made the Royal Navy€s battleships all but impotent at the same time.

Nonetheless, as the two British battleships got closer, it soon became apparent that there was more than one German ship to their front. Soon a second then a third German ship loomed in the distance. This did not bother Holland overly much as this confirmed the reports from Suffolk. But then a fourth German ship appeared thought to be a battleship. If so, Holland now knew the location of both the Tirpitz & Bismarck. This, hence, did not overly concern Holland, but when more ships were sighted, Holland feared that a trap may be in the offering. Immediately he ordered a turn to port of 20 degrees. Not long afterwards, both Hood & Prince of Wales opened fire on the leading German ship.

Regardless of the difference in firepower, the Prinz Eugen was nevertheless a ship to be respected. Upon discovering, to his horror, that he was up against two battleships, the captain of the Prinz Eugen stayed on course. Thankfully, for the Prinz Eugen, Hood & Prince of Wales soon shifted their targeting, as it was realised that behind the Prinz Eugen, steamed the Tirpitz & Bismarck. And not long thereafter, when the two main German battleships became the targets for the shells of the Royal Navy, they in turn returned fire.

Alas for Holland, it soon became apparent that other German battleships were also present, one to the port & another to the starboard of Tirpitz & Bismarck, as other large caliber guns could be seen coming into play. The Gneisenau & Scharnhorst, having been missed by all British attempts at reconnaissance, now opened fire on the two British battleships. But that was not all. Two other ships, thought to be cruisers due to their size, & that they were deployed on the flanks of the battleline acting in a supportive role, also opened fire. It was thus realised, in Hood€s bridge, that these so-called cruisers were actually the pocket-battleships Admiral Scheer & Deutschland.

Holland now knew that he was in deep trouble. As he had feared, only a few minutes before, this was indeed a trap. Yet before he could signal his intention to withdraw under the cover of smoke, Hood exploded in a horrific blast of fire & smoke. No warning whatsoever had been indicated that something was wrong. It would be fair to say that everyone was stunned, regardless whether they be German or British. Nonetheless, after a short lull, battle recommenced. And, considering the new circumstances, Prince of Wales had little choice but to retreat & began making smoke.

In order to cover the withdraw of Prince of Wales, however, the supporting destroyer force had to make a dash at the Germans. This thankless task, though, would not be overly successful. The Germans, now at a good speed, & noticing that Prince of Wales was trying to withdraw, cared little for the destroyer threat & ploughed on regardless through the sea, ignoring exploding shells & the threat from potential torpedoes. Knowing that a great victory was in stall for the Kriegsmarine, Raeder wanted the remaining British battleship destroyed & no four Royal Navy destroyers were going to stop this mighty achievement. As a result, all four destroyers bore the might of the large German guns & were promptly dealt with.

Prince of Wales, even with the sacrifice of the destroyers, was still in serious trouble. Now being chased by all six German capital ships, which could not only match her speed but also outpace her, a running battle at high speeds soon began. It was, however, merely a matter of time. Yet Captain Wake-Walker, of the Prince of Wales, was not going to surrender his ship. The Germans, though, did not care too much for the niceties of surrender as the German gunnery began to find its mark more often than not. By 08:00 hours, some 2 hours after the first shell had been fired, Prince of Wales began to sink. Most of her crew went down with her.

Picking Up The Pieces

Suffolk had witnessed the entire engagement from the sidelines. No one on board the heavy cruiser could believe what they had just seen. Knowing it would be folly to launch an attack, even with her sister ship nearby ready to assist, her captain decided to return to her previous duty & continue to shadow the German fleet, now armed with the full knowledge of its true size. It had been a colossal blunder to say the least, but Suffolk, nonetheless, reported the situation to the Admiralty in full.

Tovey was thoroughly briefed not long afterwards & was said to have been in shock. Nonetheless, from Scapa Flow he ordered his own task force of King George V, Repulse & Victorious to sea & Rodney, which had only left Scapa Flow a day earlier, was ordered to rejoin Tovey€s task force. But now knowing the true size of the German fleet, Tovey need more ships. And to this end he demanded, not requested, reinforcements.

The Admiralty, well aware of the full gravity of the situation, immediately agreed to Tovey€s demand & a rush of orders went out to numerous combat vessels within range of the Germans. Although these Royal Navy ships had other pressing wartime duties, these quickly took second place to the sudden crisis at hand.

As a result, Force H, based around HMS Ark Royal & HMS Renown, was ordered from the Mediterranean Sea into the Atlantic Ocean to a rendezvous point to the west of Ireland. Elsewhere, the battleships HMS Revenge & HMS Ramilles, were ordered from their convoy duties & directed towards H-Force€s rendezvous position to the west of Ireland. Finally, the old aircraft carrier, HMS Furious, was also ordered to sea along with the heavy cruiser HMS Dortsetshire as escort.

Cat & Mouse

Raeder & the German fleet did not wait around for long. Only slight damage was suffered by Bismarck whilst Tirpitz received no damage at all. That was not to say that Tirpitz did not have its problems, but they were related to the fact that, despite her captain€s claim, only half of the ship€s secondary weaponry & anti-aircraft guns were operational. After allowing the German destroyers to conduct some rescue missions for the horrified British survivors, the Germans turned south-west in order to head for the convoy lines in the Atlantic Ocean.

By now, however, Raeder was well aware that he was being shadowed by at least one if not two Royal Navy ships. Indeed this was actually the case as both Suffolk & Norfolk, once again, commenced their dangerous mission of following, albeit now at a respectable distance, the German fleet. Before Raeder could take up station in the middle of the Atlantic, though, he wanted to loose his unwanted lingerers. But he would have to wait until dark before he would employ a cunning plan.

Because of the situation, both the Suffolk & her sister ship shadowed the German fleet from the east. This way they could keep an eye on the flank of the German fleet & be, hopefully, out of harms way should the Germans turn on their unwanted stragglers. Raeder decided to use this positioning to his advantage as, apart from the Deutschland & Nurnberg, the rest of the German ships were both unsighted & beyond radar range. Then, as part of his deception ploy, Raeder started a zig-zag pattern as if to allude British submarines. This all appeared suspicious to the British cruisers, but they stuck to their task nevertheless.

Nothing, however, seemed to be overly wrong until Deutschland & Nurnberg, instead of conducting a turn towards the south-west at midnight as expected, continued in a north-westerly direction. Although it seemed strange, their British shadows continued after them. For two hours the German ships, including the four escorting destroyers, continued this course & then turned towards the north-east. Then, at 02:00, Deutschland, Nurnberg & the accompanying destroyers, turned north & thus further away from the main German fleet, which had, incidentally, already turned towards the south-west 2 hours earlier.

Again the British cruisers continued to follow Deutschland & Nurnberg, even though some concerns was being raised as to the German tactics. But before an answer could be found, just as dawn approached, Deutschland suddenly turned & began to fire at the leading British ship Norfolk. Needless to say, Norfolk, even with Suffolk in support, had no intention of taking on a battleship, even a small pocket-battleship, not knowing if the other ships of the German fleet were also heading in her direction. As a result, the British ships quickly turned away with much haste. Both cruisers, alas, soon lost contact with the German cruiser & pocket-battleship. Then, as part of Raeder€s plan, the six German ships made a successful dash for the safer waters off the Norwegian coast.

The British were now in a quandary. The last report from Suffolk indicated that the Germans were possibly heading home. But that did not make much sense. Furthermore, contact had been lost & there was no way of knowing what the Germans were actually up to. Nonetheless, Tovey, aware that a large force of Royal Navy ships were gathering west of Ireland, & thus covering the convoy routes, decided to see if the Germans were indeed heading for home. Henceforth he decided to head for the North Sea, even though he had no proof that the Germans were actually heading that way.

Although the British cruisers had not regained contact with the Germans, did not mean that other means were unavailable to the British for reconnaissance. Sutherland flying boats, operating out of Iceland & elsewhere, now began a desperate bid to discover the location of the Germans. Hours went by without any sighting. Unfortunately, however, for the Germans, the weather finally began to clear. That, though, did not mean that they were immediately discovered. Instead, it took until 18:10 on May 25 before the main German fleet was sighted whilst heading south-south-west from Iceland. They were, unfortunately for Tovey, at some great distance from his task force.

Tovey, nevertheless, immediately realised his error & reversed course. Furthermore, Victorious was, along with an escort of four light cruisers, dispatched at best speed in an effort to catch up with the Germans & launch an air strike. Thankfully for the British, being at some distance behind Tovey€s battleships meant that Victorious was not all that far from the Germans as aircraft range goes. Having said that, the newest aircraft carrier of the Royal Navy would have to wait until the next morning before any air strike could commence.

Those Venerable Stringbags

Raeder, meanwhile, was confident that his location was unknown to the British. As a result, it came as a rude shock when, at 10:30 on May 26, several obsolete looking aircraft, that being twenty British Swordfish aircraft armed with torpedos, began an audacious attack upon his battleships. Immediately the Germans commenced anti-aircraft procedures against the Swordfish of Victorious. But, regardless of the courage on display by the British pilots, only one torpedo found its mark on Bismarck causing minor damage. The Germans, on the other hand, were no better with their anti-aircraft fire & only caused limited damage to four Swordfish.

The British, needless to say, were far from happy with the results of the morning air raid. Victorious was ordered to launch another air strike which, incidentally, the captain of the British aircraft carrier had already authorised. Meanwhile, Ark Royal had likewise launched an air strike, but its Swordfish had mistaken the cruiser HMS Sheffield to be one of the German ships. How this was possible, no one seems to know, but the Sheffield had the unenviable experience of being attacked by twelve aircraft from its own side. Fortunately for the Sheffield, Ark Royal had been recently issued with new magnetic triggers for their torpedos which proved to be extremely faulty. Most exploded upon impacting the water. A few, though, headed towards their target, but Sheffield managed to evade these torpedos. Thankfully, the Swordfish finally identified the true nature of the ship, called off the attack, & returned to base.

Unlike the experience of the Ark Royal€s Swordfish, those from Victorious were back in the air & heading towards their target by 16:00. Raeder, however, anticipating further air attacks had placed Admiral Scheer, Gneisenau & Scharnhorst to the east in order to offer some protection for Bismarck &, especially, Tirpitz. Although this would see both his main battleships through the next attack unscathed, it was not to be the case with his other ships.

The airmen from the Victorious decided to attack the first target spotted. This, as it happened, turned out to be the Admiral Scheer. Being thus swamped by eighteen angry Swordfish, regardless of the efforts of the ship€s crew, the Admiral Scheer was in serious trouble. By the time the attack had finished, three torpedos had found their mark midships & the German pocket-battleship was seriously damaged below the waterline. After listing to port, ten minutes after the attack, the ship was abandoned by her crew. Admiral Scheer would shortly thereafter roll over & sink half an hour later.

Raeder now became deeply concerned. The loss of the Admiral Scheer was significant, even though his four other battleships were still fully operational. But, if the British aircraft continued to concentrate their attacks on a single ship, rather than as before being spread over several ships, then clearly he could lose another ship or two. At this point Raeder now believed that it would be better to head for the French coast near Brest in order to, not only gain air cover from the Luftwaffe, but get support from U-Boats operating out of the French port. Thus the order was given. Unbeknownst to Raeder, though, he was heading straight for the Royal Navy rendezvous point to the west of Ireland.

If Raeder thought that he, by a change in direction, could evade another air attack, he was unfortunately mistaken. At 20:00 hours, both Ark Royal to the south-east & Furious to the east, launched the final air-attack for the day. Tovey had made it clear to the aircraft carriers that the Germans had to be slowed down somehow & they were the only ones who could do it. Although the Royal Navy€s Force H (Plus) was rather powerful, having the 15 inch guns of Renown, Revenge & Ramilles to use, Tovey well & truly now believed that it was probably not enough. Thus, in order to ensure that the Germans would indeed be defeated, the three battleships with his task force would have to be added to those of Force H (Plus). As luck would have it, he would get his dire wish fulfilled.

At 21:00, as light was beginning to fade, twenty Swordfish from Ark Royal (now rearmed with the older contact trigger torpedos) came upon the German fleet more so through accident than design. They immediately radioed their discovery, along with the new direction of the German fleet, then attacked. Ten of the Swordfish went after the Gneisenau, whilst the others took on Scharnhorst. This time around, however, the anti-aircraft fire was far better than that from Admiral Scheer & six British aircraft were shot down. Nevertheless, each ship was hit once, causing some, albeit limited damage. Both, though, were still fully operational.

The same, however, could not be said for Bismarck. Not long after the attack of Ark Royal€s Swordfish, fifteen Swordfish from Furious arrived thanks to the new coordinates given by their fellow naval airmen. But instead of going after either Gneisenau or Scharnhorst, they went after bigger fish. Bismarck was next in the line of ships & it was too much of a tempting target to ignore. Yet, as was the case with the air-defence of the two smaller German battleships, the anti-aircraft fire from Bismarck was even more horrendous. Of the fifteen Swordfish attacking the great German battleship, seven were shot down, but not before two torpedos found their mark. The first torpedo hit midships & caused little damage. The second, however, hit Bismarck€s aft destroying her steering gear. As a result, Bismarck, although still fully operational weapon wise, had her speed reduced to a mere 5 knots.

Raeder was now in a bind. He could leave Bismarck behind, to whatever fate awaited her, & continue at best speed towards the French coast; or stay behind & escort the wounded battleship to Brest. If he were to chose the former, the German fleet would survive, although Bismarck would surely be sacrificed. This would mean, however, his head once he arrived in Brest. If he kept the fleet together, though, it would probably mean another major naval engagement. Yet, considering what happened to Hood & Prince of Wales, there was every likelihood that the Kriegsmarine would, once more, enjoy another glorious victory. Thus, after weighing up the pros & cons, Raeder decided to stay with Bismarck & fight it out.

The Battle of Great Sole Bank

The German Admiral€s decision to stay with the wounded Bismarck suited Tovey just fine. Because of the German fleet€s limited speed of 5 knots, Tovey, with a speed of 22 knots, would quickly catch up with his prey. During the night, moreover, the rest of the Royal Navy were not necessarily waiting for Tovey to enter the current battle. An audacious torpedo attack, to further impede the Germans, was attempted by several destroyers of the Royal Navy. Alas, for the destroyer force, it was repulsed without any German loss, whilst two of these small daring British ships were sunk.

Tovey, like his fellow Royal Navy sailors, was far from idle. A flurry of messages were going to & fro between Tovey & Force H (Plus). Much of the radio traffic was about Tovey€s plan for the forthcoming morning battle. Although somewhat complicated, it was nevertheless a rather straight forward plan. The battleships of Force H (Plus), Renown, Revenge & Ramilles, would form a battleline to the south-east of the Germans. Tovey, meanwhile, would form another battleline towards the north-east of the enemy using Rodney, King George V & Repulse. Hence the Germans would be attacked simultaneously by both battleship squadrons from two directions. The aircraft carriers would hold back & not participate in the battle, as the experience with the Sheffield convinced Tovey that the same event may be repeated to one of his battleships, & that was the last thing he wanted during the forthcoming battle.

Dawn broke over the German ships without the enemy in sight. Although this relieved Raeder to some extent, he could not ignore the fact that the British, thanks to aircraft, knew is general location. He had already given the alert to expect renewed British air strikes in the morning if not a surface attack. By 08:00, when no air attack came, Raeder became more convinced that a surface engagement was not far from taking place. At 08:43 his expectation was met when Koln reported that the enemy was in sight towards the south-east. Two minutes later Gneisenau reported enemy ships towards the north-east. Raeder, at first, did not know what to make of these reports, but as further information arrived he soon realised Tovey€s tactics.

Nonetheless, even though Raeder understood the intentions of the British, due to Bismarck€s slow speed, there was little he could do other than form his line of battle. This, unfortunately for the Germans, ensured that the two Royal Navy battleship squadrons had little trouble getting within range of the enemy. As a result, Tovey€s three ships were to take on Tirpitz & Gneisenau, whilst the Force H (Plus) ships were to take on Bismarck & Scharnhorst.

The first shots of the Battle of Great Sole Bank took place just before 09:00 as the Rodney, with its 16 inch guns, announced that combat had begun. Soon, the other British capital ships joined the Rodney in what would be the biggest surface naval engagement of World War II. But if the British thought that this business would be over quickly, they were in for one rude shock. Not long after the Rodney had opened fire, Bismarck & Tirpitz replied in kind.

Thirty minutes would go by before there was any hint as to who may have gained an advantage. Even though the Germans were outnumbered at every level, their superior gun skill made up the difference. Repulse was the first to show signs of serious damage & soon several explosions rocked the ship. Her "A€œ turret had exploded as a 15 inch shell penetrated its armour. As a result, the ship disappeared in smoke. The worst fears of Tovey were soon set at ease, however, when Repulse€s rear turret was seen to continue firing even though it was impeded visually.

Alas for the Germans, although it appeared that the balance of the battle may have actually begun to swing their way, Tovey ordered both Rodney & King George V to concentrate their firepower on Gneisenau. This was an attempt to give Repulse some cover whilst she dealt with her damage. Five minutes later & it was soon apparent that the Germans were now in trouble as the Gneisenau had suffered several hits & was, like Repulse, surrounded in smoke.

If the battle, towards the north-east, seemed to be finally going the Royal Navy€s way, the same could not be said for the capital ships of Force-H (Plus). Within fifteen minutes, Revenge was already in serious trouble. Both her €œA€ & €œB€ turrets had been put out of action, although she had no intention of leaving the battleline just yet. The Germans, on the other hand, were doing better, although Scharnhorst had suffered some damage whilst Tirpitz only had her main armament operational. Little damage had been suffered by Ramilles. Renown, on the other hand, had fires raging midships yet was still firing as normal.

The battle, however, would not be decided by the engagement taking place towards the south-east, but by Tovey€s efforts. Now that Gneisenau was seriously damaged, Tovey ordered a change in the concentration of firepower towards the wounded Bismarck. Unlike Gneisenau, which was able manoeuvre to much degree before her demise, Bismarck had no such advantage. Soon the mighty German battleship suffered an horrendous hammering, which by 09:50, could no longer return fire.

Simultaneously, Repulse & Gneisenau had engaged in a death struggle in an effort to see which ship could send the other to the bottom before the other joined her. Sure enough, by the time King George V shifted her guns back towards Gneisenau, the German ship suffered a terrific explosion which ripped her in two thus sinking the German battleship in the process. Repulse would win this deadly contest, only to sink herself some ten minutes later.

As Rodney continued to pound Bismarck, King George V left this engagement & headed towards Tirpitz. This, the Tirpitz did not need, even though she had witnessed the sinking of Revenge &, along with Scharnhorst, was keeping the two remaining British battleships at bay. The situation, however, was about to change as King George V re-engaged the enemy at 10:08. Not long afterwards, Tirpitz was taking a hammering from an enemy she had no chance of replying to. Soon, the damage began to mount up, but like Bismarck, Tirpitz had no intention of sinking easily. Nonetheless, both Ramilles & Renown now concentrated their firepower on Tirpitz which ensured that the German battleship soon went silent at 10:22.

Meanwhile, seeing all was lost, Captain Hoffmann of Scharnhorst, ordered a retreat. After completing a 180 degree turn, Scharnhorst went to flank speed in an effort to escape the carnage taking place around her. Koln, having escaped much of the fighting so far, witnessed the attempt by Scharnhorst to flee & copied the actions of the remaining operational German battleship. In a similar fashion, Prinz Eugen decided that it was also time to leave. Unlike her two compatriots, however, she turned west instead of north.

If Captain Hoffmann thought that Scharnhorst would escape, then he was sadly wrong. Heading north, he ran straight into the guns of King George V which was not in any mood to let the last German battleship to leave. But before Scharnhorst began a running battle with the British battleship, the surviving crew of the Bismarck abandoned ship & tried scuttled her. Yet, even then, the mighty German ship would not sink. That would take place later thanks to three British torpedos. Not long afterwards, the Tirpitz would meet the same fate.

Yet, as Bismarck was meeting her fate, Scharnhorst continued to steam north at flank speed whilst now exchanging gunfire with King George V. In the middle of this new battle, Koln now joined, but after several salvos from King George V€s rear turret, the Koln soon found herself with serious damage. Then came several shots from Rodney, which had now left Bismarck behind for the cruiser Dortsetshire to deal with & was making every attempt to catch Scharnhorst. This, however, was impossible due to the speed advantage of the German battleship, but the fate of the somewhat crippled Koln was a different story. The German light cruiser did not last much longer.

The destiny of Scharnhorst would, however, mirror that of her fellow battleships. Although she was holding her own against King George V, due to her direction, she unknowingly ran straight into Suffolk & Norfolk. After losing contact with the German fleet some days ago, both British cruisers had steamed at flank speed in order to catch up with the enemy. Although they were to miss the main part of the battle, the two British heavy cruisers would now take on Scharnhorst whilst she was preoccupied with King George V. After a twenty minute engagement, between the three British ships & the lone German battleship, Scharnhorst began to sink. Her captain, like his comrades on this dreadful day, would go down defiantly.


The British were able to claim a great victory at the Battle of Great Sole Bank, but it was gained at great cost. Not only had they lost Repulse & Revenge during the battle, but an extremely damaged Renown would sink on the way home. At least the crew of the Renown were rescued prior to the demise of the battle cruiser, unlike the crews from her fellow sunken ships - both British & German. The list of causalities at Great Sole Bank were not the only Royal Navy casualties of this business, as Hood & Prince of Wales should also be included having been sunk a few days earlier off the western coast of Iceland.

Ironically, even though the British had won, the German€s loss in shipping was, in fact, less than their enemy. Both combatants had five battleships sunk, although the Germans lost a cruiser. This German loss, however, was more than off set by the sacrifice of several British destroyers. Essentially, & most importantly, the British still had the numbers in combat ships to ensure that the Atlantic Ocean would be completely safe from any future German surface raids, as the only German survivor of the great naval battle was Prinz Eugen. Henceforth, in one week, the German surface navy was drastically reduced to one pocket-battleship, the Deutschland, & a handful of cruisers including Prinz Eugen & Nurnberg.

Everything, though, was far from lost for Germany. Donitz would get his wish. Hitler, now that his love affair with the surface ships of the Kriegsmarine was well & truly over, took heed in what Donitz was stressing about his U-Boats. Thus, not long after Prinz Eugen made it, albeit bruised & battered, to the safety of Brest, all construction on future German surface combat ships ceased. In their place, however, the soon to be feared U-Boats would be produced as fast as they could be built.

Unfortunately for the British, even though the Battle of Great Sole Bank may have been over, with the Royal Navy victorious, the real Battle for the Atlantic was about to begin€¦

Sinking of the Graf Spee

Oh there was a jolly ship built in Nazi Germany,
And the name of that ship was the Admiral Graf Spee;
And she looted merchantmen of ev'ery nationality
As she sailed upon the rolling, bowling,
As she sailed upon the rolling sea.

She met three cruisers of the British army,
And to stop them she knew would put Berlin on the spree.
Their commander laughed aloud: 'Now merry game there'll be,
For I'll sink them 'neath the rolling, bowling,
For I'll sink them 'neath the rolling sea.'

She fired her mighty guns, did the Admiral Graf Spee;
Her captain laughed aloud, and hugged himself with glee,
But he swore a hasty oath as the little cruisers three
Came dashing over the rolling, bowling,
Came dashing over the rolling sea.

'To the helm, quick,' he cries, 'and turn face right merrily,
Or our Fuhrer's small moustache we never more may live to see.'
With his tail between his legs, in his ear a lively flea,
He went scurrying through the rolling, bowling,
He went scurrying through the rolling sea.

Yes, the 'bear' he went to cover where his wounds
the world could see,
For the British bulldog bite had hurted painfully,
And the foeman speeding forward knew the fight that he had seen
Would end beneath the rolling, bowling,
Would end beneath the rolling sea.

Yes, and this was the end of the Admiral Graf Spee,
And perhaps it was for this that a pocket ship was she,
For in Davy Jones's pocket, scuttled most ingloriously,
She rusts beneath the rolling, bowling,
She rusts beneath the rolling sea.

The Admiral Graf Spee was scuttled in Montevideo harbor in 1939
to prevent its capture by by Ajax, Achilles and Exeter. Big morale
boost to the Allied forces.RG

Song based on Golden Vanity (VANTYGL*)
from a newspaper in County Armagh
Printed in Roy Palmer, Oxford Book of Sea Songs

Thanks to Mudcat for the Digital Tradition!
Contents: ? A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z Main Page

07-27-2006, 08:47 PM
Nice writing, BR. It sounds so real. You do this yourself?

07-27-2006, 09:42 PM
The war for Germany could have gone better if Hitler had had any idea of naval warfare. Problem for them was that he didn't. The decision to go to war was solely Hitler's, and with Nazi Germany's government setup, one vote for war was all it took.

In 1939 Germany had the jump on the other European nations as regards readiness of the land and air forces. The German Navy on the other hand was caught with its pants down, in the middle of a reconstruction scheme. If Hitler had decided on a peaceful path, it was thought that the German navy would have been up to planned strength by the mid to late 1940's. At that point it may well have been a real threat to British hegemony of the seas. Mind you, had the Germans kept the peace and pursued a massive naval buildup, I doubt that the British and Americans would have stood idly by and watched their naval superiority eroded.

On the outbreak of war in 1939 the Germans had about five dozen U-boats, but only about 22 of these were suitable for Atlantic operations, which would be the decisive arena in the Battle of the Atlantic. Nonetheless, this embryonic force did well; in the first month or so of the war sinking a carrier and a battle cruiser as well as enjoying successes against Britain's merchant shipping.

The Royal Navy was also somewhat unprepared for war as well. There was a chronic shortage of escort vessels for the convoys. To Britain's credit, it was very quick in reintroducing the convoy system for merchant shipping, that lesson having been learned well in WW1. As well as there being a shortage of escorts, was the inability of convoy escorts to sail end to end. Convoys sailing west and east could only be escorted part way, due to the limited endurance of the pre-war escorts. There was a quick fix for this in the corvette. Corvettes had the much required endurance, being able to sail the whole way across the Atlantic without requiring refueling. As a further bonus, their construction was less time consuming and expensive than that of destroyers. Their main disadvantage was that they were not very fast; U-boats were able to outrun them on the surface. In spite of this, they were a valuable vessel and helped buy time until the production of destroyers suited to long range convoy duties.

From the outset there was no possibility of another Jutland. The few major surface vessels of the Kriegsmarine could not dare to challenge the supremacy of the Royal Navy. At best they could menace the convoy lanes, provided they could operate undetected and escape again. But with the Royal Navy's cruisers and search planes, that would be difficult at best to achieve, as the account of the Bismarck would demonstrate. Thus the only real way to hurt Britain was in its Achilles Heel: the Atlantic supply line. To this the U-boat was well suited.

From the outset the Germans enjoyed tactical superiority. The British thought that with Asdic, their underwater U-boat detector, the U-boats would be easy prey. The Germans failed to operate in the way the British thought they would, as submerged hunters. It was soon realized that Asdic was useless at detecting surfaced U-boats. U-boat aces like Prien and Kretschmer demonstrated how well powerfully the U-boat could operate surfaced at night against the convoys. A surfaced U-boat could operate quite closely to a convoy without being sighted visually. Daring Kaleuns like Kretschmer even took their U-boats inside the perimeter of the convoys! Individual commanders soon racked up huge tonnage scores and demonstrated how woefully unprepared were the British for this new war against their Atlantic shipping.

Had there been sufficient numbers of U-boats available at the outset of war as Donitz had hoped, Britain may have been forced out of the war due to the inability to sustain the war effort. Fortunately, there simply were not enough U-boats, no matter how successful individual commanders may have been, to throttle Britain's merchant shipping. Due to the operational cycles of the U-boats, there were times when there were only a dozen or fewer U-boats at sea. There were occasions when none were on station in the Atlantic. After one year of operations, the number of new U-boats was offset by the number of losses in the first year of operations.

Meanwhile, the British, although also not ready for war when it came, nonetheless began to take matters in hand. They set up a training school to teach their escort units how to fight the U-boats. Scientists worked on developing smaller radar sets to take aboard smaller surface units such as destroyers, and eventually succeeded in miniaturizing them sufficiently to mount them on planes. Shipyards began to produce properly designed ASW vessels. Equally important were the efforts of code breakers and naval intelligence.

The British realized long before Hitler that this was going to be a long war and set about properly to fully mobilize their whole economy and labour pool and more importantly invested into research and development. The Germans had some very smart people on their side, but Hitler's shortsightedness and fixation on a quick and cheap victory handicapped Germany's ability to fight a protracted war. It was not until the defeat of Germany's surface navy that Hitler finally realized that the only way to defeat Britain and the Royal Navy was through making U-boats the number one priority, ahead of surface units and even the land and air forces.

In the final outcome, the Battle of the Atlantic was decided by who could more quickly develop and field the technology vital to securing the sealanes. The Germans neglected this vital theater and it ultimately cost them the war. Britain stayed in the war in 1940, due to the success of Fighter Command. Thereafter was the buildup until the Allies could once again take to the Continent. That buildup could not occur and be sustained until the U-boats were defeated. Losing the Battle of the Atlantic cost Hitler the war.

07-28-2006, 03:51 AM
Panzerschiffe Admiral Graf Spee

01 Oct 32: Laid down as Panzerschiffe C, although it was initially known as Ersatz Braunschweig.

30 June 34: Launched.

01 Jan 36: Commissioned into the Kriegsmarine at Wilhelmshaven as Panzerschiffe Admiral Graf Spee.

Jan - May 36: Testing, training, and shooting trials.

09 May 36: Joined the rest of the German fleet, and served as the fleet flagship.

29 May 36: Took part in the fleet parade at Kiel for the dedication of the naval memorial at Laboe.

06 June - 26 June 36: Training in the Atlantic, dropping anchor at Santa Cruz in the Canary Islands.

20 Aug - 09 Oct 36: Operations in Spainish waters.

13 Dec 36 - 14 Feb 37: Operations in Spainish waters.

02 Mar 37 - 06 May 37: Operations in Spanish waters.

15 May - 22 May 37: Took part in the Spithead Roadstead international naval review in British waters for the occassion of the coronation of George VI as King of England.

23 June - 07 Aug 37: Operations in Spainish waters.

18 Sept - 20 Sept 37: Cruise to Visby, Sweden.

01 Dec - 02 Dec 37: Cruise to Kristiansand, Norway.

7 Feb - 18 Feb 38: Operations in Spainish waters.

29 June - 09 July 38: Training cruise in Norwegian waters.

22 Aug 38: Took part in the fleet parade in Kiel Bay on the occasion of the state visit of Admiral von Horthy of Hungary. Discontinued service as the fleet flagship at this time.

06 Oct - 23 Oct 38: Training in Atlantic waters, making port at Vigo and Tangier.

10 Nov - 24 Nov 38: Training in Atlantic waters, making port at Bilbao.

22 Mar - 24 Mar 39: Took part in operations during the annexation of Memel.

18 Apr - 16 May 39: Service in Atlantic waters on naval manuvers along with Panzerschiffe Deutschland, Panzerschiffe Admiral Scheer, Kruizer Leipzig, Kruizer Koln, a Zerstorer, a Uboat tender, and various submarine flotillas. Made port at Ceuta and Lisbon.

30 May 39: Along with Panzerschiffe Admiral Scheer, Aviso Hamburg, 3 Zerstorer and a number of Torpedoboots, Graf Spee escorted the transport fleet of the Legion Condor arriving from Spain. The transport fleet consisted of the ships Wilhelm Gustloff, Robert Ley, Der Deutsche, Stuttgart, Sierra Cordoba, and the Oceana. The ships were escorted into the harbor at Hamburg.

21 Aug 39: Left Wilhelmshaven for South Atlantic waters.

11 Sept - 25 Sept 39: Held in a waiting position more than 900 miles east of Bahia.

26 Sept 39: Released for operations against Allied merchant shipping in the South Atlantic and Indian Oceans.

30 Sept 39: Graf Spee finds and sinks its first victim, the British freighter Clement (5051 BRT) while off of Pernambuco in South America.

Oct 39: In the steamship lane in the Atlantic between Capetown - Freetown.

05 Oct 39: The British freighter Newton Beach (4651 BRT) is stopped and occupied by crew from the Graf Spee.

07 Oct 39: The British freighter Ashlea (4222 BRT) is stopped and sunk.

08 Oct 39: The Newton Beach (see above) is sunk.

10 Oct 39: The British freighter Huntsman (8196 BRT) is stopped and occupied by crew from the Graf Spee.

17 Oct 39: The Huntsman (see above) is sunk.

22 Oct 39: The British motor ship Trevanion (5299 BRT) is stopped and sunk.

04 Nov - 19 Nov 39: The Graf Spee moved into the Indian Ocean.

15 Nov 39: The British motor tanker Africa Shell (706 BRT) is stopped and sunk.

Dec 39: Graff Spee returns to its earlier operations area in the middle Atlantic sea lanes.

02 Dec 39: Sinks the British freight steamer Doric Star (10,086 BRT).

03 Dec 39: Sinks the British refigerator ship Tairoa (7983 BRT).

06 Dec 39: Graf Spee meets the German supply ship Altmark at 25.5 degrees south, 24.5 degrees west. The Graf Spee had met the Altmark 9 times to refuel, and this was its last meeting with the ship. Also at this time, the Graf Spee heads towards La Plata off of Uruguay to hide its intention of actually heading back to Germany.

07 Dec 39: The Graf Spee sinks the British freight steamer Streansalh (3895 BRT).

13 Dec 39: The Graf Spee ran into the cruiser pack of the British South American Squadron, consisting of the Heavy Crusier Exeter, and the Light Cruisers Ajax and Achilles. The result of this meeting is known as the epic Battle of the River Plate. The fight took place in the La Plata estuary off the coast of Montevideo, Uruguay in South America. The Graf Spee put the Exeter out of action, and seriously damaged the Ajax, while only lightly damaging the Achilles. The Graf Spee received a number of hits during the battle and was forced to take refuge in Montevideo for repairs - International law allowed ships to take refuge in neutral harbors for repairs for a maximum limit of 24 hours, depending on the wishes of the neutral host.

14 Dec 39: Uruguayan authorities board the Graf Spee to assess the amount of damage the ship received, to decide if the ship would be allowed to stay in their neutral harbor for more than the 24 hour maximum allowed by international law.

15 Dec 39: After looking over the evidence gathered on the 14th, and after serious consideration of all the suggestions from the Americans, French, Germans, and British, a Presidential decree was declared stating that the Graf Spee would be allowed 72 hours to make any and all repairs. The time limit would end at 8:00pm on the 17th of December, 1939. Also on the 15th, 320 crew members in full uniform were allowed to land and bury the Graf Spee's dead. In attendance was the ships captain as well.

17 Dec 39: Unable to complete repairs of the Graf Spee within the alloted time, unable to dash acros the harbor to Argentina, under strict orders by OKM not to go into internment in Uruguay, and wishing to avoid being taken by the British ships waiting and arriving in the region, Kpt.z.S. Langsdorff ordered his ship outside the harbor of Montevideo and to prepare to be scuttled. The ships crew were transfered to the German merchant ship Tacoma, and later to various Argentine tugs - all of which were soon after interned by Uruguayan authorities. Interestingly enough, the crew was under orders not to be interned in Uruguay, so with the permission of the Uruguayan authorities, they were transfered to Argentina, which was not under British influence and pressure as was Uruguay, and they spent the rest of the war there. Just after sunset, the Graf Spee was blown up with a series of well placed charges, causing it to sink in shallow water, coming to rest on the soft bottom in plain view of the coast. The Graf Spee sank intact and rested on the bottom with much of the ship still above the water line.

19 Dec - 20 Dec 39: Kpt.z.S. Hans Langsdorf, while in his room in the Naval Arsenal in Buenos Aires where the ships officers were being held, committed suicide with a shot to the head. He was found the morning of the 20th wrapped in the ensign of his ship. He was later buried in the Cementerio del Norte in Buenos Aires - his final resting place.

1948: The Graf Spee, still in place where it had been scuttled in 1939, had now sunk into the mud so that only its foretop was visible.

Today: The faint remains of the ship can still be seen in the shallow water and mud where it was scuttled in 1939.

Kpt.z.S. Langsdorfs funeral in Buenos Aires shortly after 12.20.39

Commanders Kpt.z.S. Konrad Patzig 1.06.36 - 1937
Kpt.z.S. Walter Warzecha 1937 - 1938
Kpt.z.S. Hans Langsdorff 1938 - 12.17.39

07-28-2006, 04:10 AM
Nice one http://forums.ubi.com/images/smilies/25.gif

07-28-2006, 03:10 PM
TY for that wonderful post! http://forums.ubi.com/images/smilies/11.gif

As always, a very thorough, insightful & enlightening summary of things. And you have very good points regarding the (mal)practice of referring to objects as being nazi. "a Democrat Sherman tank" Priceless! A perfect example by contrast!

07-29-2006, 11:37 AM
The reason Graf Spee could not sail was never accurately reported by any media. What I learned in Uruguay in 1997 was the boiler located in the stack had been destroyed.
Langsdorff needed two weeks to build a replacement.
Here is an excerpt from €œMystery Solved, the Scuttling of the Admiral Graf Spee€

Wulfmann http://i5.photobucket.com/albums/y152/Wulfmann/g-spee-wi-1.jpg (http://i5.photobucket.com/albums/y152/Wulfmann/g-spee-wi-1.jpg)

The Germans requested two weeks to make repairs, but the Uruguayan authorities would allow only 72 hours, the international limit for a combatant in a neutral port. Uruguay did not wish to harbor a German raider and advised the Germans to leave or the ship would be interned. With Uruguay being pro British, this meant the Graf Spee might fall into enemy hands. Meanwhile the British had been sending false radio transmissions to give the impression that a large allied fleet had gathered, waiting to crush the Graf Spee if she dared come out. Actually, the two light cruisers had only been reinforced by the H.M.S. Cumberland, a heavy cruiser, although many allied warship where on the way.
People all across the world listened to "live" radio broadcast from the docks of Montevideo harbor, waiting to hear the results of the impending sea battle with this great German man of war and the many British and French warships supposedly waiting to take it down. Besides the allied cruisers, the radio was reporting the arrival of the great battlecruiser H.M.S. Renown, armed with 15 inch guns that could cut through the Graf Spee's thin armor like a hot knife cuts through butter. The aircraft carrier H.M.S. Ark Royal with torpedo bombers, the same ones that would cripple the mighty Bismarck eighteen months later; were said to be waiting outside the River Plate.

This is what the press was reporting. In fact, though these two ships where steaming for Montevideo at top speed, they where still two days away. On December 17, 1939 with its time up, the Graf Spee slipped out of port. It stopped three miles outside the harbor and blew herself up.

On shore the crowds watched as huge flames shot into the sky and thick smoke poured from the once powerful raider, Graf Spee's captain, Hans Langsdorff, set the charges off himself. Two days later, in Buenos Aires, Langsdorff wrote his wife. "A captain with a sense of honor, can not separate his destiny with that of his ship." He explained. He then shot himself, wrapped in the Graf Spee's battle ensign and not in an old Imperial German Navy flag, as the British press reported.

Although Hitler was reportedly furious that the ship had not fought to the death, German authorities offered no explanation for the ship's scuttling. The allied press had a field day, calling the Germans cowards. To this day, the most common belief is that Langsdorff, believing he was hopelessly outnumbered, saw no reason to sacrifice his crew without the slightest chance for success. Since he had shown concern for the safety of even his enemies, this was a reasonable assumption. But German warships were expected to "fight to the last shell." Had not Admiral Count von Spee. the ship's namesake, and his two sons fought to the death at the Battle of the Falkland Islands in 1914? Spee's cruisers where hopelessly outgunned by the bigger British battlecruisers. What was so different in this case?
It turns out that a technical problem prevented the Graf Spee from fighting. The Germans preferred the embarrassing propaganda to the allies finding out the real reasons for the warship's scuttling. The diesel engines that powered the ship used a thick oil that had to be thinned by heating before it could be injected into the motors. This was accomplished with a large boiler located at the base of the smoke stack. This boiler was, uncharacteristically for a German design, unprotected and was completely destroyed by British gunfire during the Battle of the River Plate. What should have been a flesh wound, had crippled the powerful warship. Trying to use the unprocessed oil unthinned would be like trying to use motor oil as fuel in one of today's automobiles. It would only clog the injectors.
Such was the dilemma facing the German commander entrapped in Montevideo. Langsdorff requested two weeks for repairs because he knew it take that long to build a new boiler. The small amount of ready fuel was only enough to allow the ship to crawl three miles beyond the harbor. Even if it could have fought its way past the blockade, the Germans would have soon been adrift, a helpless target. The ship was trapped. Langsdorff could scuttle his ship or have it interned in a pro-British country where it most likely would fall into enemy hands. Given his options, scuttling was his only choice.

So why has the real story gone unreported for sixty years? The Germans, although embarrassed by allied propaganda, may well have kept quiet to protect the other two ships of like design. Knowledge of this Achilles heal by the allies would have curtailed the use of these important vessels. A year later the Admiral Scheer, sister ship of the Graf Spee, spent five months in the Atlantic and Indian Oceans wrecking havoc on allied shipping. She returned safely to Germany after sinking seventeen merchant ships of 113,233 tons and their desperately needed cargoes. The Admiral Sheer and Lutzow survived till the last month of the war performing their most important roles in the conflict, providing gunfire in support of vessels rescuing refugees from the advancing Soviet armies.

One by one, the crew of the Graf Spee made their way back to Germany to fight again. Most took neutral freighters to Lisbon, but two men made a particularly daring trip. They dressed as gauchos (cowboys), rode horses through the Andes Mountains to Lima, Peru, and from there they booked passage on a ship to Los Angeles. They took a freighter from L.A. to Japan, crossed Asia to Moscow and finally arrived in Berlin. They even wrote a book about the adventure after the war. When the war ended many of the crew returned to Uruguay and Argentina and still reside there to this day.

07-29-2006, 11:46 AM
sometimes rality is stranger than fiction.

Nice find http://forums.ubi.com/images/smilies/25.gif

07-29-2006, 03:38 PM
Another very interesting historical thread http://forums.ubi.com/images/smilies/25.gif

I had always wondered what became of the Graf Spee's crew. Neither the film or the documentaries I've seen make it clear what happened to the crew, only the ship and the captain. That story about the two sailors round-the-world trip to Berlin sounds amazing!

Originally posted by Kaleun1961:
The war for Germany could have gone better if Hitler had had any idea of naval warfare.

That's a very thought-provoking point...

When you consider that Hitler's fundamental goal was to build an empire, how could he be so naive about naval warfare's role in this strategy, after what happened in WW1? How could he overlook the performance of the Imperial Navy's U-boats against both merchant shipping and warships, resulting in a near-strangulating siege of Britain? And how could he ignore the successes (albeit to a lesser extent than U-boats) of certain German warships, such as the Emden? Perhaps Hitler was too concerned by the bitter lessons learned about Britain's formidable navy after its WW1 blockade of Germany, the Battle of the Falklands, Heligoland Bight, Dogger Bank, Jutland, etc?

Because epic fleet vs. fleet battles were not exactly Germany's strong point in WW1, perhaps Hitler decided to concentrate on what he knew and trusted best - a predominantly land-based military campaign, supported by his friend Goering's Luftwaffe.

Is it fair to say that Hitler supported his fighting forces in the following order of priority:

1. Wehrmacht/SS, 2. Luftwaffe, 3. Kriegsmarine?

Was this balance also influenced by the nature of Hitler's relationship with Raeder (essentially a non-Nazi), compared to Hitler's relationship with G¶ring (a committed Nazi)?

Perhaps Germany's geography, as a central European territory bordering numerous countries, was also a factor in the comparitive lack of emphasis for the Kriegsmarine? By comparison, the island of Britain had, over the centuries, learned that sea-power is all-important in building and defending an empire.

Or was it simply that the Treaty of Versailles and the German High Seas Fleet's destruction at Scapa Flow left Germany in too weak a position to build an adequate navy in time for the commencement of hostilities in 1939? We know that D¶nitz wanted many more U-boats to take into battle but, in the circumstances, he was lucky to be able to covertly create any kind of useful U-boat force before September 1939.

Raeder and D¶nitz knew the required strategy for success at sea, but I think they failed to gain enough of Hitler's support because they did not overtly reciprocate support for Nazi politics in the way that G¶rring did.

from Wikipedia:
Raeder was not a supporter of the Operation Sealion, the planned German invasion of the British Isles. He felt that the war at sea could be conducted far more successfully via an indirect strategic approach, by increasing the numbers of U-boats and small surface vessels in service. This, in addition to a strategic focus on the Mediterranean theater including a strong German presence in North Africa, plus an invasion of Malta and the Middle East.

He argued strongly against Operation Sealion because of his doubts about a decisive German air superiority over the English Channel and the lack of regional German naval superiority. Air superiority was prerequisite to counter the expected catastrophic harassment of the German invasion force by the Royal Air Force.

I think it's somewhat ironic that, following Hitler's suicide and G¶ring's 'exile' before the end of the war, it was D¶nitz that became 'president of the Reich'.

Incidentally, am I right in thinking that there was no equivalent of the SS in the Kriegsmarine and Luftwaffe? If so, why? Or rather, why was the SS a land-only force?

07-29-2006, 03:49 PM
Because of the communist unprising by the High Seas Fleet in 1918 and generally a fear of the sea Hitler did not like or trust the navy.
It was borderline anti-Nazi.
In fact it refused to dismiss Jewish personal as well as adopt the Nazi salute when ordered. Hitler finally made a compromise allowing the navy to keep its Jewish men and also a hands off to Jewish family members of Gentile personel as well as keeping the non political military salute in exchange for the navy recognizing the Nazi party as the legitimate government of Germany. Both sides kept the agreement and it may seem strange that there were Jews fighting under the crooked cross..
Imagine showing up in Haifa to enlist in the new Israeli navy with an excellent service record and oh yeah! It was the Kriegsmarine in which I served!
Probably not the problem most might assume considering former SS Panzer men were hired guns in Israeli tanks in the 1948 war (As an old merc tells me)