Friday, April 9, 2010

Battle of the River Plate

Date of Issue: December 13, 1974
Scott #: 237 - 240

Falkland Islands issued a set of four stamps to commemorate 35 years of the Battle of the River Plate between British ships and the German battleship Admiral Graf Spee.The Battle of the River Plate was the first major naval battle in the Second World War. The German pocket battleship (heavy cruiser) Admiral Graf Spee had been at sea at the start of the Second World War in September 1939, and she had sunk several merchantmen in the Indian Ocean and South Atlantic Ocean without loss of life due to her captain's policy of taking all crews on board before sinking the victim.

The Royal Navy assembled 9 forces to search for the surface raider, and Admiral Graf Spee was found and engaged off the estuary of the River Plate off the coast of Argentina and Uruguay in South America. Force G, the South American Cruiser Squadron, comprised the heavy cruiser HMS Exeter and two Leander-class light cruisers - HMS Ajax and HMS Achilles.

The force was commanded by Commodore Henry Harwood from the Ajax, which was captained by Charles Woodhouse. The Achilles was of the New Zealand Division (precursor to the Royal New Zealand Navy) and captained by Edward Parry. The Exeter was captained by F. S. Bell. A County-class heavy cruiser, the HMS Cumberland, was self-refitting in the Falkland Islands at the time but available at short notice.

In the ensuing battle, Exeter was severely damaged and forced to retire, while all other ships sustained moderate damage. Ajax and Achilles then shadowed the Graf Spee which entered the neutral Uruguayan capital Montevideo. After Hans Langsdorff, the captain of the Graf Spee, was told that the limit of his stay could not be extended beyond 72 hours he scuttled his damaged ship - rather than face the overwhelmingly superior force that the British led him to believe had been assembled.
Although the actual engagement between the German and Allied forces could be regarded as a German victory in terms of losses, the subsequent actions resulted in the overall battle being an Allied victory.

The battle was over in an hour and twenty minutes; and on December 17th, at sunset, the GRAFF SPEE steamed slowly out towards the British, who were waiting at action stations prepared for battle. Just outside the harbor, Langsdorf obeyed Hitler's orders and blew up his ship.

In 1956, the film - The Battle of the River Plate (U.S. title: Pursuit of the Graf Spee) was made of the battle and Admiral Graf Spee’s end. HMS Achilles, which had been recommissioned in 1948 as INS Delhi, flagship of the Royal Indian Navy, played herself in the movie. HMS Ajax was "played" by HMS Sheffield, HMS Exeter by HMS Jamaica and HMS Cumberland by herself. The Graf Spee was actually the US heavy cruiser Salem.

The battle is re-enacted with large-scale model boats throughout the summer season at Peasholm Park in the UK seaside resort of Scarborough.

Click here to read complete details of the battle at Wikipedia.

Text Source: Wikipedia

1 comment:

  1. Beautiful philately from the early decimal era, and rightly from the very aesthetic quality of Falklands Philately. Thanks for the background information on this first major Naval battle of WWII, quite amazing history!


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