This crew list is taken from the Ledger of HMS Ajax for the Quarter ended 31st December 1939 (with the Battle for the River Plate having taken place on 13th December 1939). It is unclear where this list orginated but it is incomplete as there are only 513 names listed and Ajax would have had a total crew of between 570 and 840. In addition, 7 were killed in the Battle (see previous list) and the Association has details of further Association members not appearing on the Ledger and several other names supplied through the website.
The Town of Ajax has a comprehensive list of those on the 3 ships at the River Plate, in Ajax during the WW11 and the 1976 Frigate crew
List of those at the Battle of the River Plate
ACHILLES POINT, AUCKLAND
The headland was known as Te Pane o Horoiwi (the head of Horoiwi) in te reo Maori, named after Horoiwi who arrived on the Tainui waka. The name Achilles Point dates back to 1940 when the Auckland Council decided to honour the New Zealand-crewed ship HMS Achilles. It participated in the defeat of the German cruiser Graf Spee in the 1939 Battle of the River Plate, the first major naval battle of World War II. Four naval ratings gave their lives during the battle.
A plaque at Achilles Point declares that "This Reserve is dedicated to commemorate the gallant performance of HMS Achilles and the bravery of her Captain, Officers and Ship's Company in the victorious naval battle fought in the South Atlantic off the River Plate on December 13th 1939.
December 1939. In the South Atlantic the Pocket Battleship Admiral Graf Spee, (Captain Langsdorff), was sinking British merchant ships. Commodore Harwood, Commanding the South Atlantic Squadron, ordered HMS Ajax, Achilles and Exeter to the River Plate. On the morning of 13thDecember, Exeter signalled, I think it is a Pocket Battleship. Graf Spee initially concentrated her fire on Exeter. Ajax and Achilles closed on Graf Spee causing significant damage. Exeter retired from the battle. Ajax and Achilles shadowed the Graf Spee into Montevideo in neutral Uruguay. Langsdorff requested 14 days to repair her damage but Uruguay allowed 72 hours. Knowing that escape was no longer an option Graf Spee scuttled in the River Plate on 17th December. Two days later Captain Langsdorff shot himself.
The Battle of the River Plate
The following information regarding the Achilles crew list has been supplied by Thomas Heath and contains background information.
Commanding the South Atlantic Squadron
Commodore Henry Harwood OBE, later Admiral Sir Henry Harwood, KCB, OBE.
HMS Ajax (Cruiser)
Captain Charles Woodhouse, R.N. (later Admiral Sir Charles Woodhouse, KCB.
Displacement 7000 tons. Speed 32 knots. Crew 680. Armament: 8x 6 inch (15 cm) guns (110 lb (52 kg) shells) 8x 4 inch (10 cm) guns. 8x 21 inch (53 cm) Torpedo tubes. One Fairey Seafox aircraft
HMS Achilles (Cruiser)
Captain William Parry, R.N, later Admiral Sir William Parry, KCB, CBE.
Displacement 7000 tons. Speed 32 knots. Crew 680, 8x 6 inch (15 cm) guns (110 lb (52 kg) shells) 4x 4 inch (10 cm) guns. 8x 21 inch (53 cm) Torpedo tubes.
HMS Exeter (Cruiser)
Captain Frederick Bell, R.N., CB.
Displacement 8400 tons; Speed 32¼ knots. Crew 630. Armament: 6x 8 inch (20 cm) guns (250 lb (116 kg) shells); 4x 4 inch (10 cm) guns. 6x 21 inch (53 cm) Torpedo tubes. Two Supermarine Walrus aircraft
Panzerschiff Admiral Graf Spee (Pocket Battleship)
Captain Hans Langsdorff .
Displacement 12000 tons; Speed 29½ knots. Crew 1070. Armament: 6x 11 inch (28 cm) guns (670 lb (304 kg) shells); 8x 6 inch (15 cm)guns. 8x 21 inch (53 cm) Torpedo tubes. Two Arado Ar196 aircraft