Admiral Graf Spee

Type:
Heavy Cruiser (Panzerschiff)
Class:
Builder:
Marine Werft
Wilhelmshaven, Germany

Hull Number:
N/A
Ordered:
August 23, 1932
Commissioned:
January 6, 1936
Keel Laid:
October 1, 1932
Decommissioned:
N/A
Launched:
June 30, 1934
Stricken:


N/A
Fate:
December 17, 1939 scuttled off Montevideo, Uruguay.


Dimensions, machinery and performance
Length:
610' 2"
Engines:
8 Nine cylinder Motorenwerke Augsburg Nürnberg
(M.A.N.) diesels
Beam:
71'
Shafts:
2
Draft:
24'
HP:
53,650
Displacement:
16,413 std. / 17,989 full
Speed:
28.5 max
Crew:
1,100 +
Range:
8,900 NM @ 20 knots


Armament
Number Carried
Type
Arrangement
Maximum Range / Ceiling
6
11"/52 (280mm)
SK C/28
2 triple turrets
39,890 yards @ 40° (22.6 miles)
661 lb. AP shell
Rate of fire 2.5 RPM

8
5.9"/55 (150mm)
SK C/28

single mounts
25,153 yards @ 40° (14.2 miles)
99.87 lb HE shell
Rate of fire 6-8 RPM

6 (a)
3.46"/78 (88mm)
SK C/31
3 twin mounts
19,470 yards @ 45° (11 miles)
AA ceiling 43,640' @ 80°
19.8 lb. shell
Rate of fire 15-20 RPM

8
1.5"/83 (37mm)
SK C/30
4 twin mounts
9,300 yards @ 45° (5.2 miles)
AA ceiling 22,310' @ 85°
1.63 lb. HE shell
Rate of fire 30-40 RPM

8
.79"/65 (20mm) MG
single mounts
5,360 yards @ 45° (3 miles)
AA ceiling 12,140' @ 85°
0.3 lb. HE shell
Rate of fire 220 RPM

8
21" (533mm)
torpedo tubes
2 quad launchers
15,300 yards @ 30 knots (8.6 miles)
6,560 yards @ 44 knots (3.7 miles)
661 lb. hexanite warhead
2 (b)
Heinkel HE-60D aircraft
Armament notes:
(a):
Replaced in 1935 with six 4.1"/65 (105mm) SK C/33 in twin mounts.
(b):
Replaced in 1939 with Arado AR-196.


Commanders
Jan. 6, 1936
Oct. 2, 1937
Kapitän zur See Konrad Patzig
Oct. 2, 1937
Nov. 1, 1938
Kapitän zur See Walter Warzecha
Nov. 1, 1938
Dec. 17, 1939

Combat Victories
Date
Name
Type
Gross Tons
Nationality
Notes:
Sept. 30, 1939
Passenger/Cargo
5,051
UK
(a)
Sept. 30, 1939
Papalemos
Cargo
Greece
Stopped/released (b)
Oct. 5, 1939
Cargo
4,651
UK
Sunk Oct. 8 (c)
Oct. 7, 1939
Cargo
4,222
UK
(d)
Oct. 10, 1939
Cargo
8,196
UK
Sunk Oct. 17 (e)
Oct. 22, 1939
Cargo
5,299
UK
(f)
Nov. 15, 1939
Tanker
706
UK
(g)
Nov. 16, 1939
Cargo
9,373
Holland
Stopped/released
Dec. 2, 1939
Cargo
10,086
UK
(h)
Dec. 3, 1939
Cargo
7,983
UK
(i)
Dec. 7, 1939
Cargo
3,895
UK
(j)
Total:
50,089
Sunk:
9
Captured:
11
Combat notes:
(a):

Sunk with five 11" (288mm) and twenty-five 5.9" (150mm) shells at position
09.05S - 34.05W. The Captain and Chief Engineer were taken POW, 47 crewmen
put into lifeboats were all rescued.

(b):
Stopped and boarded, two POW's from the Clement were transferred aboard and
the ship was released. The captain agreed not to transmit a distress signal until he
reached the Cape Verde Islands in exchange for the ship's release. He honored this
agreement.

(c):
Crew taken POW, sunk using gunfire on Oct. 8, 1939 off the coast of Angola, Africa.
(d):
Crew taken POW, sunk by charges at position 09.25S - 03.28W.
(e):
Crew taken POW, sunk by charges Oct. 17 at position 16S - 17W.
(f):
Crew taken POW, sunk using charges at position 19.40S - 04.02E.
(g):
Captain taken POW, remaining crew put in lifeboat and landed later in the day.
Ship sunk using charges at position 24.48S - 35.01E.

(h):
Crew taken POW, ship sunk by seven 5.9" (150mm) shells and a torpedo at position
19.15S - 05.05E.

(i):
Crew taken POW, ship sunk with gunfire and torpedo at position 20.20S - 03.05E.
(j):
Crew taken POW, ship sunk with gunfire at position 25.01S - 27.50W.


Timeline
Aug. 23, 1932:
Ordered as Panzerschiff C (Hull # 124).
Oct. 1, 1932:
Keel laid (Slipway #2).
Apr. 1, 1933:
Transferred to Slipway #1 after the launch of Admiral Scheer.
June 30, 1934:
Launched, christened by Gräfin Huberta von Spee, daughter of Vizeadmiral Maximilian
Graf von Spee.

Jan. 6, 1936:
Commissioned, placed under the command of Kapitän zur See Conrad Patzig.
Jan.-Apr. 1936:
Sea trials and final fitting out.
Apr. 9, 1936:
Enters active service with the fleet.
May 29, 1936:
Flagship at the Fleet Review at Kiel, Germany.
May 3, 1936:
Participated as Flagship in the honor formation at the opening of the Laboe Naval Memorial
near Kiel, Germany.

June 6, 1936:
Departed Germany for gunnery practice off the Canary Islands. Visited Santa Cruz, Tenerife
during this exercise. Returned to Germany on June 26.

Aug. 20, 1936:
Departed Wilhelmshaven, Germany for patrol off Spain in support of Francisco Franco's
Nationalists during the Spanish Civil War.

Oct. 9, 1936:
Arrived in Kiel, Germany following deployment.
Dec. 13, 1936:
Departed Wilhelmshaven, Germany for patrol off Spain in support of Francisco Franco's
Nationalists during the Spanish Civil War.

Feb. 14, 1936:
Arrived in Kiel, Germany following deployment.
Mar. 2, 1937:
Departed Kiel, Germany for patrol off Spain in support of Francisco Franco's
Nationalists during the Spanish Civil War.

May 6, 1937:
Arrived in Kiel, Germany following deployment.
May 15, 1937:
Represented Germany at the Spithead International Naval Review in England, for the
Coronation of King George VI. Departed the Solent on May 22.

June 1937:
Present at the Kiel Naval Review.
June 23, 1937:
Departed Kiel, Germany for patrol off Spain in support of Francisco Franco's
Nationalists during the Spanish Civil War.

Aug. 7, 1937:
Arrived in Kiel, Germany following deployment.
Sept. 1937:
Flagship during naval exercises.
Sept. 18-22 visited Wisby, Sweden.

Oct. 2, 1937:
Kapitän zur See Walter Warzecha is placed in command.
Nov.-Dec., 1937:
Participated in naval exercises off Norway.
Dec. 1-2, 1937 visited Kristiansand, Norway.

Feb. 7, 1938:
Departed Kiel, Germany for patrol off Spain in support of Francisco Franco's
Nationalists during the Spanish Civil War.

Feb. 18, 1938:
Arrived in Kiel, Germany following deployment.
June 29, 1938:
Departed Kiel for exercises off Norway visiting several different Fjords during this cruise.
Arrived back in Germany July 9.

July-Aug., 1938:
Refit in Kiel, Germany
The six 3.46"/78 (88mm) guns were replaced with 4.1"/65 (105mm)
guns on the same mount.
FMG G(gO) (FuMO 22 type) "mattress" radar was installed on the rangefinder.
The single-searchlight platforms either side of the superstructure were replaced
with a single searchlight on the front.

Aug. 22, 1938:
Present at Kiel for the launch of the cruiser Prinz Eugen and Fleet parade.
Sept. 1938:
Flagship during Fleet exercises.
Oct. 6, 1938:
Departed Germany for a training cruise in the Atlantic including visits to Tangier, Morocco
and Vigo, Spain. Arrived back in Germany Oct. 23.

Nov. 1, 1938:
Kapitän zur See Hans Langsdorff is placed in command.
Nov. 10, 1938:
Departed Germany for a training cruise in the Atlantic including a visit to Portugal.
Arrived back in Germany on Nov. 24.

Jan. 1, 1939:
Homeport changed to Wilhelmshaven, Germany.
Mar. 22, 1939:
Flagship of naval force during the annexation of Memelland, East Prussia (Klaipeda Region
Lithuania). Engaged in this operation until Mar. 24.

Flagship of naval exercise in the Atlantic under overall command of Admiral Hermann
Boehm. The other ships involved in the exercise were:
Admiral Scheer, Deutschland, Leipzig, Köln, Z1 Leberecht Maas, Z17 Diether von Roeder,
Erwin Wasser (U-boat tender) and 3 U-boat flotillas.
During this exercise they visited Lisbon, Portugal and Ceuta, Spain (Spanish North Africa).

May 16, 1939:
Arrived in Germany following the exercise.
May 29, 1939:
In Hamburg, Germany to welcome the Condor Legion home from Spain.
Departed the area on May 31.

Aug. 21, 1939:
Departed Wilhelmshaven, Germany for the South Atlantic in preparation for war.
The crew included 227 extra men for prize crews, the total on board was 1,153 (some
sources give the number 1,155). The ship is positioned about 900 miles east of Brazil.

Sept. 1, 1939:
Germany invades Poland.
Sept. 3, 1939:
Britain and France declare war on Germany.
Sept. 3, 1939:
Rendezvoused with the Altmark for the first time. As they approached the Altmark
they flashed the pre-arranged signal G-U-S-T-A-V S-O-P-H-I-E (Graf Spee) to the
captain of the Altmark Heinrich Dau, who was steaming away because he thought the
approaching ship to be an enemy vessel. Admiral Graf Spee was refueled and resupplied
Two radiomen from the Admiral Graf Spee were put aboard the Altmark to assist her crew.

Sept. 11, 1939:
Rendezvoused with the Altmark, while refueling the Admiral Graf Spee's AR-196 aircraft
was launched and spotted the cruiser HMS Cumberland some 30 miles away. Cumberland
did not sight the two ships or the aircraft.

Sept. 26, 1939:
Rendezvoused with the Altmark for the last time before combat operations began.
The ship was refueled and resupplied. At this time Langsdorff received orders from the
High Command to begin "Restricted action against merchant shipping".

Sept. 30, 1939:

Captures and sinks the SS Clement at position 09.05S - 34.05W.

The Arado 196 from Admiral Graf Spee was launched and signals were sent warning the
ship not to transmit a distress signal, however this was ignored and the radio officer
continued to transmit her position and that they were being attacked. The Arado fired
several bursts of machine gunfire at the Clement. After warning shots were fired at
the Clement the transmissions stopped and the captain had the ship's papers thrown
overboard. One man was injured by the gunfire from the aircraft and was treated by
medical staff of the Admiral Graf Spee.

Captain F. C. P. Harris RNR and Chief Engineer W. Bryant were taken aboard the Admiral
Graf Spee as POW's and questioned. The other crewmen were given directions to
Pernambuco, Brazil. Capt. Harris and Chief Bryant were put aboard the Greek steamship
Papalemos, which was stopped and searched later the same day, they were landed in the
Cape Verde Islands on Oct. 9.

The other 47 crewmen were in four lifeboats, one boat with 16 on board was
picked up by the Brazilian ship Itatinga on Sept. 30, the other 31 crewmen landed at
Maceio, Brazil on Oct. 1.

Clement was sunk with five 11" (288mm) and twenty five 5.9" (150mm) shells after
opening the seacocks and scuttling charges failed to sink the ship. Two torpedoes were
also fired, but both missed.

Sept. 30, 1939:
Stops and searches the SS Papalemos, Captain F. C. P. Harris RNR and Chief Engineer W.
Bryant from the Clement were transferred aboard and the ship was released. The captain
agreed no to transmit a distress signal until he reached the Cape Verde Islands in exchange
for the ship's release. He honored this agreement.

Oct. 2, 1939:
The British Admiralty receives the first report that a German raider is operating in the
South Atlantic, at this time they believe it is the Admiral Scheer. First Lord of the
Admiralty,Sir Winston S. Churchill orders several Royal Navy ships to begin searching for
the German ship.

Oct. 5, 1939:
Captured SS Newton Beech at position 09.35S - 06.30W.

The Admiral Graf Spee sighted the Newton Beech at a distance of 24.5 km and set an
interception course at 21 knots flying the French flag. When 1,800 meters away the French
flag was dropped and the Kriegsmarine ensign was hauled up. The Newton Beech was
taken by surprise, but as soon as Capt. J. Robison recognized the German raider he had
radio officer M. Prior transmit a distress signal. He sent three groups of four letters
"R-R-R-R" (signaling that they were being approached by a raider) and also sent their
position and that they were under attack. Oberleutnant zur See Heinrich Schünemann and
a 16 man prize crew boarded the Newton Beech and recovered the Admiralty papers,
which had not been thrown overboard. The 34 man crew were taken POW, but remained
on the Newton Beech.

Oct. 7, 1939:
Captured and sunk SS Ashlea at position 09.00S - 03.00W.

Ashlea is captured by surprise, however the captain had time to throw overboard all
important papers. The crew was taken POW and two tons of supplies were removed
before the ship was scuttled. The 35 man crew is transferred to the Newton Beech and
Ashlea is scuttled with charges.

Oct. 8, 1939:
The crews of Newton Beech and Ashlea are transferred to the Admiral Graf Spee and the
Newton Beech is scuttled with charges after removing 2 1/2 tons of supplies.

Oct. 10, 1939:
Captured SS Huntsman at position 08.30S - 05.15W.

Huntsman is approached by the Admiral Graf Spee which is flying the French flag. When
within firing range the French flag was lowered and the Kriegsmarine flag was raised.
The Huntsman's Radio Officer, B. C. McCorry had already transmitted a signal giving her
position when they were ordered to stop and not to transmit any messages. Capt. Brown
complied with both orders as the Huntsman was unarmed.

Oberleutnant zur See Heinrich Schünemann and a prize crew boarded the ship and asked
for the ship's papers. According to the diary of Capt. Brown the papers had been thrown
over the side, however the KTB from the Admiral Graf Spee states that the papers were
captured. Langsdorff orders his radio officer to transmit a false signal, this signal is sent
three times, (S-S-S-S and T-T-T-T) this indicates the ship was under submarine attack by
torpedo. He also sends a false longitude and latitude and the name Newton Beech, this
designed to confuse the British. The 84 man crew are taken POW, but remained on the
Huntsman.

Oct. 12, 1939:
The Arado 196 aircraft is returned to service with a "dirty grey-blue paint scheme
designed to confuse the British.

Oct. 14, 1939:
Rendezvoused with the Altmark and remained together until Oct. 17. The crew of the
Huntsman is transferred to the Altmark. The stores and any other useful items from the
Huntsman were taken aboard the Altmark between Oct. 14-17.

Oct. 17, 1939:
Huntsman is scuttled with charges.
Oct. 18, 1939:
The crews of Newton Beech and Ashlea are transferred to the Altmark.
Oct. 22, 1939:
Captured and sank SS Trevanion at position 19.40S - 04.02E.

Trevanion was located by the Arado aircraft, the Admiral Graf Spee approached flying
the French flag until very close, then the French flag was hauled down and the Kriegsmarine
flag was raised.

Radio Officer N. C. Martinson sent a distress signal and continued to do so until the radio
shack was machine gunned by the Admiral Graf Spee. The cargo was 8,835 tons of zinc
and no use to the raider so the ship was rigged with charges and sunk.

The 32 man crew were taken POW aboard the Admiral Graf Spee.

Oct. 29, 1939:
Rendezvoused with the Altmark, the crew of the Trevanion is transferred to the Altmark.
Nov. 1939:
Langsdorff moves the Admiral Graf Spee into the Indian Ocean.
Nov. 15, 1939:
Captured and sank the SS Africa Shell at position 24.48S - 35.01E.

Africa Shell was stopped with a shot across the bow, when boarded Captain Patrick G. G. Dove protested that he was in Portuguese waters and being stopped was a violation of international law. The ship was traveling in ballast and was sunk with 2 charges. The 29 other crewmen were put into lifeboats and landed later in the day. When the survivors landed they reported to the authorities that they had been sunk by the Admiral Scheer.

While engaged in sinking the Africa Shell the Japanese cargo ship Tiuku Maru passes the
scene, the ship is not stopped.

Nov. 17, 1939:
Stopped and searched the SS Mapia off the coast of Mozambique, Africa, she was released
a short time later because she belonged to a neutral country.

Late Nov. 1939:
Langsdorff moves the Admiral Graf Spee back to the South Atlantic.
Nov. 29, 1939:
Rendezvoused with the Altmark to refuel and resupply. Langsdorff orders the captains
and many of the chief officers being held in the Altmark to be transferred back to the
Admiral Graf Spee. Seventeen men are transferred.

Dec. 2, 1939:
Captured and sunk SS Doric Star at position 24.48S - 35.01E.

After being located by the Arado aircraft Radio Officer William Comber began to send a
distress signal, the Admiral Graf Spee warns the Doric Star to stop sending signals and
fires 2 warning shots after which the signals stop. Fifteen minuets later the signals start
again. Fifteen minuets after this the Admiral Graf Spee captures the Doric Star and removes
the crew, 19 bars of silver are also removed from Doric Star. Scuttling charges are placed
on board but fail to sink her and she is finally sunk by seven 5.9" (150mm) shells and a
torpedo.

The 64 man crew is taken POW aboard the Admiral Graf Spee.

Dec. 3, 1939:
Captured and sunk the SS Tairoa at position 20.20S - 03.05E.

Tairoa is located by the Admiral Graf Spee at 05:18, the cruiser approaches and orders
the Tairoa not to send a distress signal, there is also a banner on the superstructure of the
Admiral Graf Spee that reads "Stop wireless or I open fire!" (photo seen on Page 6 of the
Admiral Graf Spee photo gallery
). Radio Officer P. J. Cummins transmits a distress signal
which is heard on the Admiral Graf Spee, Langsdorff opens fire with the 1.5" (37mm)
machine guns destroying the radio. Cummins used a makeshift radio and continued to send
signals until the ship was fired on again. Some documents were captured from the radio
shack and the crew were taken POW and moved to the Admiral Graf Spee. Tairoa is then
sunk using the 5.9" (150mm) gun and a torpedo.

The 81 man crew is taken POW aboard the Admiral Graf Spee.

Dec. 6, 1939:
Rendezvoused with the Altmark, refueled and resupplied for the last time. The crews
from Doric Star and Tairoa are transferred to the Altmark. Captain Albert H. Brown of
the Huntsman, at his request, is transferred back to the Altmark so he can remain with his
crew, Capt. W. B. S. Starr of the Tairoa also chooses to remain with his crew on the Altmark.

Dec. 7, 1939:
Captured and sank the SS Streonshalh at position 25.01S - 27.50W.

Streonshalh is captured by the Admiral Graf Spee without incident. The ship's papers are
thrown overboard, but several important reports are captured by the boarding party.
These include shipping reports from Montevideo and a recent photo of the cruiser HMS
Cumberland taken Nov. 9, 1939 showing the latest camouflage scheme.

Three charges are placed on the Streonshalh, but fail to sink her. Several 5.9" (150mm)
shells are fired at the waterline and Streonshalh sinks within minuets.

The 32 man crew are taken POW aboard the Admiral Graf Spee.

Dec. 13, 1939:
The Battle of the River Plate, engaged cruisers HMS Ajax, HMS Exeter and HNZMS Achilles
at position 34.28S - 49.05W, 400 miles east of Montevideo, Uruguay. During the battle
Admiral Graf Spee is hit at least 25 times by 8" and 6" shells, 36 of her crew are killed
and 60 are wounded, 2 died later of wounds.

HMS Exeter received 11 hits and was so badly damaged she had to withdraw after just
over an hour of battle, 60 of her crew were killed and 24 were wounded.

HMS Ajax had both X and Y turrets and one of the 6" guns on a forward turret knocked out
of action, her mainmast was also badly damaged, 7 crewmen were killed and 2 wounded.

HNZMS Achilles received minor damage, but 4 of her crew were killed and 3 wounded.

Dec. 14, 1939:
Admiral Graf Spee dropped anchor in Montevideo, Uruguay at 00:10 hrs. As this was a
neutral port Langsdorff was told he must leave within 24 hours, however because of the
extensive damage he was granted and additional 48 hours to make repairs and bury his
dead. It was not until after her arrival in Montevideo did the British realize that they had
been in fact chasing the Admiral Graf Spee, from the beginning they believed it was the
Admiral Scheer who was operating in the South Atlantic.

Dec. 17, 1939:
While a quarter of a million people gathered on shore to watch what they were sure would
be a great battle the Admiral Graf Spee weighed anchor. The ship began her departure at
about 18:30 hours and headed for the open sea followed by the Tacoma. Just outside the
breakwater the Tacoma stopped and transferred the crew to two waiting tugs from
Argentina. Shortly after this action the Uruguayan Navy escorted the Tacoma back to
Montevideo where she would spend the rest of the war interned.

The Admiral Graf Spee now outside the three mile limit dropped anchor. She sat there for
about half an hour during which time the battle ensign's that were raised before she
departed Montevideo were taken down and Langsdorff and the remaining crew members
boarded the captains launch and moved away from the ship. The Admiral Graf Spee
exploded sending the aft turret into the air and clear of the ship, severing the stern and
wrecking the superstructure. The ship burning from stem to stern sank into the shallow
waters off Montevideo. Langsdorff's final entry in the ship's log "Graf Spee put out of
service on December 17, 1939 at 20:00 hours"

The wreck remains today where it sank. There have been a number of artifacts removed
from the wreck including the range finder, anchor and the stern eagle. An effort is currently
underway to raise and preserve the wreck.

Dec. 20, 1939:
Just after midnight Kapitän zur See Hans Langsdorff committed suicide.
Dec. 21, 1939:
Kapitän zur See Hans Langsdorff is buried in the German Cemetery in Buenos Aries, Argentina.


Additional information for this page was provided by:
John Asmussen
Hugo R. Sochi
General Enrique R. Dick.


Builder's Data
Page published May 18, 2008



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