The Battle of the River Plate, a Grand Delusion

The Battle of the River Plate was an important propaganda coup 
for Great Britain and the Commonwealth. As such, there was 
inevitably some development of myth. The author has produced a 
very readable review of the action that reassesses the event. 
Highly recommended.

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NAME: The Battle of the River Plate, a Grand Delusion
FILE: R23834
AUTHOR:  Richard Woodman
PUBLISHER: Pen & Sword
BINDING: soft back 
PAGES:  164
PRICE: £12.99
GENRE: Non Fiction
SUBJECT: WWII. World War 2, Second World War, World War Two, Naval 
architecture, international agreement, Royal Navy, arms control, 
cheating, standards, tonnage, regulation, commerce raiders, sea 
routes, David and Goliath, South Atlantic
ISBN: 1-47384-573-4
IMAGE: B2384.jpg
BUYNOW: http://tinyurl.com/jq6wpon
LINKS: Current Discount Offers http://www.pen-and-sword.co.uk/sale 
DESCRIPTION: The Battle of the River Plate was an important 
propaganda coup for Great Britain and the Commonwealth. As such, 
there was inevitably some development of myth. The author has 
produced a very readable review of the action that reassesses the 
event. Highly recommended.

The German 'pocket' battleship was one of the creative products of 
the Washington Treaty and the London Treaty. Technically, the ship 
was a heavy armoured cruiser, but it had two triple turrets mounting 
11 inch guns and a heavy secondary armament. She exceeded the Treaty 
limitations and was an example of the level of Treaty cheating that 
went on between the two World Wars.

The German Navy was considering the construction of a fleet of 
surface commerce raiders because the potential capabilities for 
U-boats were not appreciated. The general approach was to follow the 
WWI experiences and select merchant ships for conversion into 
commerce raiders by adding guns in disguised mounts and creating a 
false identity for each ship so that they would be able to close an 
unsuspecting merchant ship and win a quick victory. Graf Spee and 
Admiral Scheer were the alternative and much more costly approach of 
building capital ships that were optimised for operations far from a 
friendly base against British merchant shipping routes.

To help long-range operations, supported only by isolated supply 
vessels, these 'pocket' battleships were given diesel engines rather 
than steam turbines, heavy armour and, by commerce raiding standards, 
huge guns. The concept was that they could outgun the likely enemy 
warships in their operational area and outrun any larger warships 
sent in to catch them. A grid chart system was developed to enable 
raider and supply ship to meet up regularly for resupply of munitions 
and fuel. In attacking merchant ships, fresh and refrigerated food 
would be a perk of seizure of merchant ships.

After an initially successful cruise in the South Atlantic and Indian 
Ocean, the Graf Spee was caught off the River Plate Estuary by three 
much smaller cruisers. Two were light cruisers, having similar guns 
to the destroyer leaders of the time, and one was a heavy cruiser that 
was stillheavily outgunned by the Graf Spee.

The British and Commonwealth ships out-fought the Graf Spee which 
should have been able to comfortably sink them in turn before they 
got close enough to shoot back. In the event the heavy cruiser Exeter 
had to limp to the Falklands for emergency repairs, but after the 
German ship had committed to a run for the safety of a neutral port. 
What happened then was a very interesting story of bluff and diplomacy 
as intelligence service played a masterly part in keeping the Graf 
Spee in Montevideo while feeding false stories about a massively 
powerful British Fleet standing off the port ready to deal a killing 
blow if Graf Spee attempted to come out. In the end, the Graf Spee 
was scuttled and no further engagement took place.

The author has provided new interpretation in an enthralling fresh 
study.