german German Navy (Kriegsmarine) 1935-1945 Admiral Graf Spee [+1939]
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nationality german
purpose war
type cruiser (heavy)
subtype/class Deutschland class cruiser (ger.)
Deutschland class cruiser (ger.) Admiral Scheer (+1945)
propulsion motor vessel (diesel)
date built 1936
weight (tons) 12100  grt
dimensions 187.8 x 21.3 x 7.3 m
material steel, armoured
engine 8 x MAN diesels, 2 shafts, 2 propellers
armament 6 × 28 cm (11 in) in triple turrets, 8 × 15 cm (5.9 in) in single turrets, 6 × 10.5 cm (4.1 in) in twin turrets, 8 × 3.7 cm (1.5 in), 10 × 2 cm (0.79 in), 8 × 53.3 cm (21.0 in) torpedo tubes
power 52050  s.h.p.
speed 26  knots
about the loss
cause lost deliberate
other reasons scuttled
date lost 17/12/1939  [dd/mm/yyyy]
about people
Kriegsmarinewerft Wilhelmshaven (Prev. Kaiserliche/Reichsmarine Werft), Wilhelmshaven
German Navy (Kriegsmarine) 1935-1945
complement 1150
about the wreck
depth (m.) 8 max. / -- min. (m)
war grave
entered by Lettens Jan
entered 28/11/2007
last update Lettens Jan
last update 07/03/2013
[1] Lettens Jan06/01/2014
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  The Wreck today  

Lettens Jan28/11/2007

In February 2004 a salvage team began work raising the wreck of the Admiral Graf Spee. The operation is in part being funded by the government of Uruguay, in part by the private sector, as the wreck is now a hazard to navigation. The first major section, the 27-ton heavy gunnery control station, was raised on 25 February 2004. It is expected to take several years to raise the entire wreck. Film director James Cameron is filming the salvage operation.

After it has been raised, it is planned that the ship will be restored and put on display at the National Marine Museum in Montevideo.

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copyright: US Federal Government
 copyright: US Federal Government copyright: Unknown - onbekend - inconnu copyright: Unknown - onbekend - inconnu copyright: Unknown - onbekend - inconnu 
    copyright: UK Hydrographic Office 
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  Hydrographic Service UK  
Lettens Jan28/11/2007
  • From September through December 1939 Admiral Graf Spee sank nine merchant ships in the South Atlantic and Indian Ocean, the first on 30 September 1939. Captain Hans Langsdorff strictly adhered to the rules of mercantile warfare at the time and saved all of the crew members of these ships; not a life was lost in these sinkings.
  • Battle of the River Plate Britain formed eight hunting groups in the Atlantic and one in the Indian Ocean to look for Admiral Graf Spee, totalling three battleships, two battlecruisers, four aircraft carriers, and 16 cruisers (including several French ships). More groups were assembled later.
    On 13 December 1939, she was located by the British Hunting Group G, consisting of the 8 inch (203 mm) gunned cruiser HMS Exeter and the 6 inch (152 mm) gunned light cruisers HMS Ajax and HMNZS Achilles (of the Royal New Zealand Navy), and the Battle of the River Plate ensued.
    During the battle, the Graf Spee inflicted heavy damage upon the Exeter, forcing the latter to break off the engagement. Late in the exchange, one of Graf Spee´s shells caused some casualties on the Achilles. In return, the Graf Spee was hit repeatedly by the 6-inch shells of the light cruisers, which could not penetrate her armour but nonetheless inflicted significant topside damage.
    On the other hand, Exeter’s 8-inch hits ran through the armour easily. About 06:38 an 8-inch shell penetrated two decks then exploded in Graf Spee’s funnel area - causing crippling hidden damage.
  • Graf Spee’s main engines used diesel fuel stored in bunkers around the hull. The raw refinery fuel needed treatment before feeding the engines. A separating system routinely pre cleaned the fuel and deposited it in six ready tanks situated close to the engines. The separators used high pressure steam produced in a boiler room lying between decks, aft of the funnel and above the armoured deck. Exeter’s early 8-inch hit wrecked the boiler room - shutting down the separating system. Chief Engineer Commander Klepp advised the captain they could not repair the damage at sea. Klepp estimated the ship had about sixteen hours of running time, using pre cleaned fuel from the day tanks. They could not replace the rapidly depleting fuel.
  • Final docking
    Admiral Graf Spee entered the neutral port of Montevideo, Uruguay for repairs. The damage was spectacular looking but actually relatively superficial. There were some critical hits: for instance, damage to the unarmoured bow reduced the ship´s seaworthiness in the rough seas of the North Atlantic. Captain Langsdorff and the Chief Engineer carefully kept the fuel problem secret. Although the specific details were signaled to SKL in January 1940 this vital information lay buried from public knowledge for sixty years.
  • Under the Hague Convention of 1907, the Graf Spee was not entitled to remain in the port for more than 24 hours, without risking internment. In addition, under the same convention, the Graf Spee had to give British merchant ships 24 hours start if they left port, and the British Consul organised for the merchant ships in port to sail at 24 hour intervals, effectively locking the Spee in the port whilst at the same time spreading propaganda about the vast fleet of British warships converging on the area.
    Eventually the Uruguayan Government announced that if the Graf Spee did not sail within 72 hours of its arrival it would be interned.
  • The Admiral Graf Spee scuttled, following the Battle of the River Plate. On 15 December the ship´s dead were buried in a Montevideo cemetery. At the funeral ceremony, Captain Hans Langsdorff used the naval salute, while all others around him used the Nazi salute. A ruse by the British encouraged the captain to think that he was out-numbered, with aircraft carriers and battleships on their way (in fact, not a single additional vessel could have arrived in time), and that his escape route was cut off.
  • On 17 December 1939, with the British 6-inch (152 mm) gunned cruisers Ajax, Achilles, and the 8-inch (203 mm) gunned Cumberland waiting in international waters - inside the mouth of the Río de la Plata, and making smoke, for propaganda purposes - which could be clearly seen at the docks - the German warship sailed just outside the harbour and was scuttled by her crew, to avoid risking the crew in what Captain Langsdorff expected to be a losing battle. Captain Langsdorff committed suicide three days later by shooting himself.
Lettens Jan28/08/2008UK hydro member
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 UK Hydrographic Office

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About Owners
German Navy (Kriegsmarine) 1935-1945

Kriegsmarine is the name of the Navy of Germany during WWII, not to be confused with Imperial German Navy, which is the German Navy during WWI and before.
About Builders
 Kriegsmarinewerft Wilhelmshaven (Prev. Kaiserliche/Reichsmarine Werft), Wilhelmshaven
Kriegsmarinewerft is the name this famous naval shipyard got when the Nazi regime was installed. Before that, this yard was called Reichsmarinewerft or the Kaiserliche Werft.
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Admiral Graf Spee [+1939]
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