HMS Ajax & River Plate Veterans Association


FAQs & Information

Battle Background

1 What were Captain Langsdorff’s orders?

2 What were Commodore Harwood’s orders?

3 Why did Graf Spee head for the area off the River Plate?

4 Why did Commodore Harwood concentrate his force off the River Plate? 

5 Why did Captain Langsdorff choose to attack the British warships?

6 What were the relative strengths of the two forces?

7 How did Harwood dispose his ships, and why?

8 Why did Graf Spee not use its superior gun range to destroy the cruisers?

9 What logistic support did the two sides have?


The Battle.

    Track chart of the Battle

10 Why did the British not fly air-reconnaissance on the morning of 13th December?

11 What part did Graf Spee’s radar play in the Battle?

12 (a) Why did Graf Spee not finish off Exeter?

12 Why did Graf Spee not finish off Exeter?

13 Why didn’t Graf Spee sink all three ships?

14 Damage – overview

15 Damage to Graf Spee

16 Damage to HMS Exeter

17 Damage to HMS Ajax

18 Damage to HMS Achilles

19 Could Graf Spee could not divide the fire from its two 11 inch guns and engage two targets simultaneously?

20 What were the Ships’ capabilities remaining after the action?

21 What happened in the battle after Exeter was ordered to withdraw?

22 Why did Captain Langsdorff decide to run for Montevideo?

23 What part did the gunboat Uruguay play in the action?


The Montevideo Phase

24 How long was Graf Spee permitted to stay in Montevideo harbour?

25 Why did the British first try to persuade the Uruguayans to force Graf Spee out of Montevideo and then tried to persuade them to keep her in?

26 What part did the cruiser HMS Cumberland play?

27 What were the Germans’ problems in Montevideo?

28 What were the British problems during this time?

29 What was Hitler’s reaction to the Graf Spee crisis?

30 What happened to Graf Spee’s crew after the scuttling?

31 Why did Captain Langsdorff shoot himself after the scuttling?

32 How many people were killed or died of wounds in the Battle?

33 How many honours and awards were bestowed on the British Side?


The Aftermath

34 Why has the story lasted so long?

35 What were the attitudes of the British and German Captains?

36 How has history treated Captain Langsdorff?

37 How did Rear Admiral Harwood’s subsequent career develop?

38 How did the careers of the three British Captains develop?

39 What is the significance of the flag (pennant) with the red cross on white seen covering the NMA memorial prior to its unveiling and depicted on Commodore Harwood’s bench?

40 What happened to the three Royal Navy ships after the battle?

41 Bibliography. Suggested further reading.

42 Films, DVDs and websites.