Admiral Graf Spee (1934)

Graf Spee enters Montevideo, Uruguay, after disengaging from the Battle of the River Plate. Published by the Toronto Telegram in August, 1940.

Ship Class
Ship Type
Laid Down

Admiral Graf Spee was the third and final Deutchland-class heavy cruiser begun by Weimar Germany in the early 1930s. Laid down in 1932, Graff Spee commissioned in 1936. She was powered by diesel turbines, and had good endurance, being able to cruise for 16,300 nautical miles. Displacing just under 16,000 tons at full load, Graf Spee was almost twice as big as most heavy cruisers of the time, and her six 280mm (11") guns meant that she could outgun most ships her speed of 29.5 knots couldn't let her escape. Graf Spee became flagship of the German navy after her sea trials were completed, and conducted non-intervention patrols off Spain during their Civil War. She also participated in the 1937 Spithead Fleet Review, representing Germany for the coronation of King George VI. Graf Spee was deployed to the South Atlantic in August, 1939, ahead of the outbreak of World War II in Europe. She operated as a raider, mainly in the South Atlantic and Indian Oceans, sinking nine ships before she was cornered by three cruisers at the Battle of the River Plate, 13 December, 1939. While she mauled HMS Exeter, Graf Spee was also damaged in the battle, and retreated to Montevideo, Uruguay. Low on ammunition, her oil purification plant and galley had also been destroyed, making a return voyage to Germany a poor choice. Believing British propaganda that there was an overwhelming force waiting for them, Captain Hans Langsdorff scuttled Graf Spee on the 17th. Her wreck was partially salvaged by the British in 1942-43, including her radar range finder, and further demolition work had been done since 2004.

Bonus Information

Fun Fact: Some Argentinian service pistols may have been made from metal salvaged from the Graf Spee.