How did Harwood dispose his ships, and why?
Harwood planned to attack from two divergent bearings so as to split Graf Spee’s fire and enable each division to mark the other’s fall of shot. Initially the three cruisers were in line ahead to facilitate them opening out under various circumstances when the enemy was sighted.
This manoeuvre was practiced several times on 12th December. Exeter, the most powerful ship was on her own and the two light cruisers stayed together with Achilles following Ajax’s movements in loose formation. This would allow the two ships to concentrate their gun fire as one unit co-ordinated by Ajax and carry out a synchronised torpedo attack if opportunity offered.
Ajax and Achilles together