HMS Ajax & River Plate Veterans Association


FAQ 22

Why did Captain Langsdorff decide to run for Montevideo?


During the action Langsdorff had fought his ship from an exposed position on the upper bridge and had been twice wounded after which he appeared to be concussed. His officers later remarked that after being wounded he was not his usual self.


Once the cruisers had opened the range Langsdorff toured the ship to assess the damage. There was a large hole in the bows, an 8 inch shell had penetrated the armoured belt and there was severe damage and many casualties on the upper deck.


Most serious of all was the fact that the apparatus for processing diesel fuel to the purity required by the ship’s engines had suffered damage which could not be repaired at sea. He received varying estimates of how much usable fuel remained and decided to head for Montevideo.  


We know, from the Naval Historical Branch, that there was probably sufficient for him to have continued the action, had he wished.  However Langsdorff returned to the bridge and said “We must run into port. The ship is not seaworthy for the North Atlantic”.