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.

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 following information regarding the Achilles crew list has been supplied by Thomas Heath and contains background information.


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.