Wednesday, November 23, 2011

THE NOBLE AND HONOURABLE CAPTAIN OF GRAF SPEE - CAPT AJIT VADAKAYIL



Two decades ago, while driving out of Montevideo harbour I told my agent to stop his car at the Graf Spee gun turret mounted at the harbour.

 I walked to it and touched it. The British Supercargo who was sitting with his wife, in the car asked me " Captain, why did you want to touch it" .

Deep in thought I replied " You wont understand "


This is a true story.


It is about one of the most honourable men who graced planet earth--or will ever grace in future.


He was the Captain of the German battleship Admiral Graf Spee during the second world war.

His name was Captain Hans Wilhelm Langsdorff

His personal integrity , courage and honour can never be matched.


He wrote on the 19 December 1939: 

"I can now only prove by my death that the fighting services of the Third Reich are ready to die for the honour of the flag. I alone bear the responsibility for scuttling the pocket-battleship Admiral Graf Spee. I am happy to pay with my life for any possible reflection on the honour of the flag. I shall face my fate with firm faith in the cause and the future of the nation and of my Fuehrer. 

He then lay on Admiral Graf Spee's battle ensign and shot himself through the head.



There was heavy propaganda by Rothschild controlled media , who had sunk to abysmal levels of inhumanity, that the British spat on this compassionate sailor Captain’s  dead body and that of the dead German sailors.


Honour : by Ada Cambridge
Me let the world disparage and despise --
As one unfettered with its gilded chains,
As one untempted by its sordid gains,
Its pleasant vice, its profitable lies;
Let Justice, blind and halt and maimed, chastise
The rebel spirit surging in my veins,
Let the law deal me penalties and pains
And make me hideous in my neighbours' eyes.

But let me fall not in mine own esteem,
By poor deceit or selfish greed debased.
Let me be clean from secret stain and shame,
Know myself true, though false as hell I seem --
Know myself worthy, howsoe'er disgraced --
Know myself right, though every tongue should blame.



On 21 August 1939, Admiral Graf Spee left Wilhelmshaven port with orders to raid enemy commercial shipping in the South Atlantic following the outbreak of the Second World war on Sept 3rd 1939.

Despite the outbreak of hostilities, the raider was not allowed to commence warfare against Allied shipping, but was rather ordered on September 5 to avoid all contact with other shipsr. So Langsdorff kept clear of shipping routes, crossing the equator on September 8 and taking up station in a seldom-frequented area of the South Atlantic.



On September 11, Graf Spee's Arado seaplane, on a routine recognizance flight, spotted the British heavy cruiser HMS Cumberland on an intercept course with the German ships. The British lookouts did not spot the plane, which was able to alert Langsdorff to change course and avoid detection. Cumberland continued on her way from Freetown to Rio de Janeiro, none the wiser. Graf Spee remained in a holding pattern north of the River Platte - Cape of Good Hope shipping route, refueling twice from Altmark.

On September 26, Langsdorff finally received new orders. Her was to commence hostilities immediately, but with several restrictions: he was to attack only British ships, and not French ships. Actions with enemy warships were to be avoided, so as to not risk his ship.



Langsdorff  headed towards the coast of Brazil, to disrupt the flow of meat and grain to Britain along the shipping routes off Pernambuco.  75 miles northeast of the Brazilian port of Pernambuco, Graf Spee found her first victim just before noon on September 30. The captain of the 5050-ton freighter SS Clement spotted an approaching warship, and thought it was the British cruiser HMS Ajax. 

But it was Graf Spee, who's Arado 196 seaplane was launched, and few machine gun bullets were sprayed at the bridge of the freighter. Clement's captain, F.C.P. Harris, was told to stop engines immediately, and order his crew to the boats , without sending a distress message.  Capt Harris disobeyed and sent a distress message.  A few rounds from Graf Spee sank the abandoned freighter.



The sea was calm, so Langsdorff took captain Harris, his chief engineer, and a hand injured while abandoning ship on board the Graf Spee, while the rest of the crew were given the correct course back to the South American port of Maceio, all reaching that location safely the next day. 

After treating the wounded man and questioning Harris, Langsdorff stopped the Greek steamer SS Papelemos. Her captain promised not to send a signal until reaching the Cape Verde Islands (a promise which he did not keep), so the three British men were transferred to the neutral freighter and Graf Spee went on her way.

Knowing that Clement in defiance of his orders , had gotten off a radio distress signal, Langsdorff took the Graf Spee off at high speed, choosing the Cape of Good Hope - Europe route as his next hunting ground. In that shipping route on October 5 Graf Spee found the British freighter SS Newton Beach (4650-tons) with a cargo of corn. The ship was stopped and a prize crew put on board so she could be used as a source of supplies, but not before a distress message was transmitted, again in defiance of his orders.

In war, defiance can mean instant death, yet Langsdoff was merciful.

Another British merchant ship heard this call, and passed it on later in the day to the HMS Cumberland. This was the worst case scenario for the Germans: a powerful British warship was in the area, the location of the raider was known, and heavy Allied reinforcements could be rapidly dispatched from Dakar, the West Indies, and Pernambuco to track down the raider within a few days.

Heading east in the company of her prize, Graf Spee surprised the British steamer Ashlea (4220-tons) on October 7, which was loaded with sugar. 

Her radio operator had no chance to send a message, and the ship was boarded. The Germans gained useful intelligence when her captain, C. Pottinger, failed to destroy his confidential instructions from the Admiralty. Clement's captain had made the same mistake, and the German raider was now in possession, among other valuable documents, of a complete copy of the code given by the Admiraly to merchant ships. Langsdorff now had Ashlea's crew was put onto Newton Beach, and Ashlea was sunk with scuttling charges.


On the evening of the 10th, Graf Spee approached the British liner Huntsman (8200-tons), on passage from Calcutta to London with a cargo of tea. The liner's captain, A.H. Brown, mistook Graf Spee for a British cruiser, and allowed her to approach. The Germans then sent a signal threatening to open fire if the radio were used. Unwilling to risk the lives of his crew, Brown complied, and a prize crew took over Huntsman. Returning to the waiting area outside the sea-lanes, Graf Spee refueled from Altmark.  Her captain joined the Graf Spee, while the rest of her crew was put on Altmark, and the ship was scuttled.



Using intercepted radio transmissions and his captured codebook, Langsdorff headed south for another try at the Cape - UK trade route. On October 22 Graf Spee, flying a French flag, approached within a mile of the 5300-ton Trevenion. Her captain, J. Edwards, recognized the pocket battleship and sent off a distress call despite orders not to do so. 

The Germans boarded the vessel, took off the crew, and scuttled her, but a British liner relayed her message to the C-in-C at Freetown. Realizing that his game was up, Langsdorff left the shipping lanes  He rendezvoused with Altmark on October 29 to refuel and transfer all of his prisoners.
Admiral Raeder in Berlin suggested new hunting grounds, and Langsdorff agreed: the Indian Ocean. It was time for the wool harvest in Australia, and the Cape of Good Hope - Australia trade route should be both filled with valuable prizes and poorly defended.

Heading southeast, Graf Spee sailed for over 3000 miles, staying far south of the cape of Good Hope, which the raider passed on November 3. A message from Berlin commended the Graf Spee for her efforts and 100 Iron Crosses were awarded to her crew.

But the Cape - Australia trade route in the Indian Ocean did not bring the prey the Germans anticipated. The wool clipping in Australia came late that year, and the ships carrying it were sitting in Australia, not yet loaded. For 10 frustrating days Graf Spee slowly cruised in search of ships, sighting none. Her engines were now in need of overhaul and the funnel belched smoke.

So Langsdorff headed to the Mozambique Channel, between the African coast and Madagascar. On November 15 Graf Spee took the tiny British tanker Africa Star (700-tons) by surprise, capturing her before a distress call could be sent. The captain, P. Dove, and his crew were taken on board Graf Spee and the diminutive tanker, loaded only with ballast, was scuttled.

The next day Graf Spee closed on another vessel, only to find that it was the neutral SS Mapia, of Dutch registry. Her neutrality was respected and she was allowed to go, but Langsdorff knew the Dutch captain would report . He sailed back to the Atlantic, passing the Cape on November 21.



Two days later Graf Spee arrived back at her original South Atlantic waiting area, where four days were spend in company with Altmark making repairs and adjustments to Graf Spee's engines. To confuse any ships that may have stumbled upon him in such a vulnerable state, Langsdorff ordered a second forward turret and second funnel constructed out of wood and canvas, radically altering the silhouette of his vessel to resemble HMS Renown.

Capt Langsdorff decided that his ship and crew were about ready to go home. Having sailed over 30,000 miles, Graf Spee's engines were in need of more repairs than could be made at sea. Langsdorff decided to make one more sweep of South America to disrupt trade along the coast to the UK, and then head back to Germany for a well-deserved overhaul for his ship and R&R for his crew. He would first hunt the Cape - UK trade route unitl December 6, and once the enemy was aware of his presence he would take his ship to the River Plate area for a final sweep against beef and wheat from Argentina, and head for Germany with the New Year.


Refueling and provisioning from Altmark on November 26, Langsdorff decided to redistribute his prisoners. Captains and first officers would return to Germany on Graf Spee, while Altmark would land the rest at a neutral port. Ironically, Langsdorff wrote that because Graf Spee's period of commerce raiding was nearing the end, it was no longer absolutely necessary to avoid action with enemy warships. Should an enemy warship sight and attempt to follow Graf Spee, he would close the range and use his ship's powerful guns to at least damage it so as to eliminate the threat of a shadowing warship calling in reinforcements.

Graf Spee made her presence known off Africa on December 2. The liner Doric Star (10,100-tons) was sighted bound for Britain from New Zealand with mutton, butter, cheese, and wool. This liner too sent a distress message despite being warned not to do so. This properly stirred up a hornet's nest in the area, and the Germans planned to put a prize crew on the liner for later use as a supply ship before dashing across the Atlantic. 

But just as German seamen boarded this valuable prize with her rich cargo, Graf Spee's seaplane ran out of fuel and had to make a forced landing. Recalling his crew he ordered the liner scuttled, and raced off to recover his valuable aircraft and its crew, which were located just before nightfall. 


At sunrise on the 3rd, Graf Spee captured the steamer Tairoa (7980-tons), sinking her after taking off the crew. Tairoa's captain Star had gotten off a distress signal before is radio room was wrecked by gunfire.  Langsdorff could have killed all the captains who disobeyed him . On December 6, Graf Spee met up with Altmark again. After exchanging prisoners for fuel and provisions, Graf Spee headed westward to the River Plate area. Captains Star and Brown (Huntsman) were also transferred to Altmark, so that they might look after the captive crewmen.

On the evening of December 7, Graf Spee sighted the freighter SS Streonhalh (4000-tons) bound for Britain from Montevideo. Her captain, J. Robinson, hoped that Graf Spee was a British cruiser and delayed sending a distress call until it was too late. Robinson attempted to dispose of his secret documents in weighted bags, but a German sailor saved one before it sank. 


From this packet Langsdorff learned that British shipping leaving Buenos Areas and Montevideo steered for a point 300 miles east of the River Plate, before turning north-northeast past Pernambuco for Freetown. Langsdorff now knew where to find rich pickings before heading back to Germany. After taking off the crew, the ship was scuttled, bringing Graf Spee's total to nine vessels totaling more than 50,000 tons, without a sailor on either side being killed or wounded.

Langsdorff was warned of the great numbers of British and French warships hunting for him.

Four British cruisers were known to be off South America, but they were expected to be operating independently either on patrol or escorting merchant ships. Alone, each was no match for Graf Spee. Langsdorff headed for the newly discovered British shipping route, and planned to intercept a convoy of four ships that would sail from Montevideo without escort on December 10.

On December 11, Graf Spee's seaplane took off for its usual dawn patrol, sighting nothing. But the Arado 196  plane suffered another in a series of cracked engine cylinders, due to design fault of splashing cold sea water while landing, and Graf Spee was fresh out of spares, so Langsdorff would no longer have the benefit of his eyes in the sky.

December 13, Graf Spee reached the point 300 miles from Montevideo where she expected to find her final four victims. The lack of aerial recognizance caused Graf Spee's luck to run out: dawn broke, but no merchant ships were sighted. Instead, at 0552, two, and then four masts broke the horizon. Graf Spee went to action stations at 0600, and by 0610 her lookouts had correctly identified the newcomers: the heavy cruiser HMS Exeter, and the light cruisers HMS Ajax and HMAS Achilles.

Outnumbered and with a speed disadvantage of seven knots, Graf Spee had no chance to outrun her opponents. Langsdorff turned his ship at the British cruisers, ran his ship up to 24 knots (the most it could do with a fouled bottom and bad engines), and engaged the enemy. The raiding cruise of the Graf Spee was about to come to a dramatic end at the Battle of the River Plate.


Near the end of her cruise, Graf Spee no longer had to avoid enemy warships at all costs, and Langsdorff planned to engage and disable any warship capable of shadowing his ship. Destroyers were ships Graf Spee could not hope to outrun, but could easily destroy. More importantly, destroyers were used to escort convoys. The German lookouts soon corrected their mistake, identifying the heavy cruiser HMS Exeter at 0600, and correctly identifying two light cruisers by 0610. But Langsdorff continued the approach, knowing that he could not outrun, but did outgun, the British ships.


The British warships were under the command of Commodore Henry Harwood, along with a fourth ship under Harwood's command, were collectively known as Force G. Harwood had previously had his ships spread out to cover a wide area of the ocean: The light cruiser HMS Ajax watched the River Plate estuary, the light cruiser HMAS Achilles patrolled further north off Rio de Janeiro, while the heavy cruisers HMS Exeter and HMS Cumberland guarded the Falkland Islands to the South. Harwood flew his flag from the Ajax, to be closest to the center of the patrol areas.

Harwood had guessed right: soon after dawn his lookouts spotted smoke on the horizon, caused by Graf Spee's diesel engines, which were badly in need of overhaul. At 0604 Exeter reported sighting smoke, and at 0616 signalled, "I think it is a pocket battleship." 

Langsdorff was faced with three opponents, the slowest of which had a speed advantage of seven knots over his tired vessel. Avoiding combat was not an option, so the question became how to best engage his numerically superior, but smaller gunned opponents. He could turn away and keep his distance as long as possible, firing his 11.1-inch guns at long range, hoping to disable at least one of the enemy vessels before they could get into range to reply, and then use the superior weight of his larger guns to disable or drive the remainder off. 


But in doing so he would waste tremendous amounts of his limited ammo: hits were rare at long range, especially firing only the three guns of the aft turret, and he might expend all 300 shells in the aft magazine without disabling all three British cruisers.
So instead, Langsdorff ran toward the enemy at full speed, closing to 20,000 yards, and then turned broadside to bring all six main guns and half his secondary guns to bear, hoping the greater weight of fire at shorter range would more quickly tell on the most powerful British ship, Exeter. At 0618, Graf Spee opened fire, expecting her weakly armored and armed opponents to shadow or retreat.

Graf Spee drew first blood and her salvo straddled Exeter, amidships where it killed the crew of the starboard torpedo mount and disabled both of Exeter's Walrus seaplanes, denying Harwood their use during the battle. ret without exploding. Soon a salvo, struck the front of "B" turret, putting it out of action and sending splinters across the bridge, killing everyone except the captain and two other officers, all of whom were wounded. 


The wheelhouse was damaged also, severing communication with steering and engineering; the ship went out of control, and listed heavily to starboard. Captain Bell, bleeding from a wound to the face, set up command in the secondary conning position and passed orders with messengers.
Meanwhile two more shells struck the ship forward, one of which blew a six-foot by eight-foot hole in the bow after striking an anchor, the other of which started a fire in the forecastle. Soon another sprayed splinters across "X" turret, temporarily disabling it.  In exchange, Exeter's gunners scored but on hit on Graf Spee, which struck her control tower killing several officers and instrument operators, damaging communications, and destroying the main rangefinder.


Langsdorff let go Exeter which was listed to 10 degrees . 61 officers and men were killed, and 23 wounded. Graf Spee now shifted his attention on Ajax and Achilles , the light cruisers. With communications down and the main director gone, the turrets fired on local control. The British cruisers dropped back, a final hit from Graf Spee carried away Ajax's topmast, eliminating her wireless communication. Langsdorff  was injured, being knocked unconscious by an exploding shell and cut by splinters from two other. 


He received damage reports from all over the ship, did a tour of his command. What he found distressed him: a six-inch shell had penetrated the starboard quarter, destroying an ammunition hoist and cutting the electricity to the forward 11-inch turret; another had passed through the ship leaving a three-foot by six-foot exit wound as it passed out the port side; a third destroyed a four-inch gun and its ammo hoist. A gun mount, the ship's galley, the main rangefinder and the radar were destroyed by shellfire, and fire had destroyed the scout plane, three of the ship's boats, and Langsdorff's cabin.

The onboard plant to purify her diesel fuel for her engines was damaged beyond repair, there were six leaks below the waterline, and a shell had wrecked the bridge as it passed through without exploding. There were 36 dead and 59 wounded, and there was much repair work to be done before the ship could attempt the long voyage home. Langsdorff told his navigator, Jurgen Wattenberg, "We must run for port, the ship is no longer seaworthy."


Langsdorff  had two choices to put Graf Spee for repairs. Montevideo and Buenos Aires. Montevideo was closer,and he could call there without a pilot.  On the other hand , the waters of the River Plate are some of the most dangerous in the world, and the estuary is littered with literally thousands of wrecks; Graf Spee would have to stop to take on a pilot, unthinkable with the British close behind. 

Also, the Panzerschiff drew 22 feet of water, even without any damage. This meant that she would have to stay in the narrow dredged channel to reach Buenos Aries, while the British cruisers, which drew only 16 feet, would have freedom of movement. The channel was only 23 feet deep at some places, so if the British scored a hit below the waterline Graf Spee would ground, unable to move.

Even if she did not run aground, the German ship's water intakes for the cooling system of her diesels were at the lowest part of the ship's bottom, and any mud sucked in would cause the tired engines to overheat very quickly, immobilizing the ship. Disabled or stuck, Graf Spee would be easily destroyed, but would not sink, allowing the British to capture her. Buenos Aries was out; the ship would head for Montevideo. Langsdorff sent a brief action report to German High Command, and announced his intention to enter Montevideo. Admiral Raeder replied in agreement with the plan.

Langsdorff sent someone to check on his prisoners, 62 British officers and seaman who had escaped injury in their compartment deep within the ship. They were fed, and all breathed a sigh of relief at their mixed blessing: while they had wished the Royal Navy victory, the destruction of the Graf Spee would have meant their deaths. They were not yet free, but they were alive.


Exeter  was of no further fighting value, so Harwood ordered her to Port Stanley. With some luck and fair weather, she would make the 1000-mile voyage without sinking. Cumberland was ordered to leave the Falklands immediately to replace Exeter.  Shewould arrive in 36 hours.


At 1104 Graf Spee sighted a merchant ship, the British steamer SS Shakespeare bound for the UK of Montevideo. Langsdorff altered course to intercept, intending to sink the ship with a torpedo as he went by and claim one last victim. Always chivalrous, Langsdorff signalled his intention to the steamer's captain, telling him to abandon ship, and also to Harwood, asking him to "Please pick up lifeboats from British steamer." The German captain used his ship's correct call sign, and for the first time the British knew what ship they had been fighting. Shakespeare's captain hove to, but did not abandon ship.


Without the time to wait, and never being one to sink a vessel with unarmed sailors on board, Langsdorff turned Graf Spee back towards Montevideo without firing.  Senseless slaughter was not Langsdorff's aim and that iswhy he let go crippled Exeter and  diverted his fire to the two light cruisers, which were rapidly closing range. 

At the height of the action, while still in the foretop, Langsdorff was injured by shrapnel and was knocked unconscious. Diggins called for the executive officer (Commander Kay) to take control of the ship, but by the time he arrived in the foretop, Langsdorff had recovered consciousness and said he would continue in command. 


The flagship of the National Navy, the 1,150-ton gunboat Uruguay under the command of Captain Fernando J. Fuentes, sailed out to investigate. Around 1800 hours, Uruguay's lookouts spotted Graf Spee, and settled in to watch the action.

Harwood ordered Achilles to follow Graf Spee into the wide estuary of the river, International Law allowing 'hot pursuit' to override the respect for neutral territorial waters, while Ajax turned south to prevent the Germans from suddenly doubling back. At 1915, Graf Spee suddenly turned broadside and fired two salvoes at Ajax at the range of 26,000 yards, causing the cruiser to turn away and make smoke. At 2048, just after sunset, Graf Spee fired three salvoes at Achilles, compelling that vessel to keep her distance and reply with five salvoes of her own.




A few minutes late, a German officer unlocked the door to the compartment that held the British prisoners and told them that Langsdorff would release them in the morning. Under International Law, Graf Spee could not hold prisoners and claim "havarie," the privilege of sanctuary for damage caused at sea.

Reinforcements were on the way, with Cumberland already en route and scheduled to arrive the next day. The battle cruiser Renown,  the carrier Ark Royal, the cruiser Neptune , and the heavy cruisers Dorsetshire and Shropshire were proceeding towards Montevideo.

While the diplomatic and legal maneuvering began in Uruguay, there was celebration back in Britain. Harwood was an instant hero, and was promoted instantly to Rear Admiral and awarded the Knight Commander of the Order of Bath (KCB), while Bell, Parry, and Woodhouse were awarded the Companion of the Order of Bath (CB).

Before daylight on the 14th, the German Minister Dr. Otto Langmann boarded the Graf Spee. Uruguay, were profiting from trade with Rothschild and Britain. General Alfredo Baldomir, President of the Republic of Uruguay, and his ministers of Foreign Affairs and Defense, Dr Alberto Guani and General Alfredo Campos, prepared to hear arguments from the British and German ministers before they decided the fate of the warship they now hosted in their harbor.

At issue was the interpretation of the Hague Convention of 1907, the relevant International Law. This law stated that a belligerent warship could only stay in a neutral port for 24 hours before that neutral power was obliged to intern it for the duration of hostilities. However, a warship could extend their stay past 24 hours if it claimed "havarie," or the right of sanctuary, because it had suffered damage while at sea. If damage had been suffered, then the neutral power could not force the wip tip to go to sea until repairs were complete.

Langsdorff said it would take 15 days to make repairs to allow the Graf Spee to make a breakout, followed by a run past the Home Fleet for Germany.

The British minister, Eugen Millington-Drake, argued that because Graf Spee had sailed 300 miles at good speed to Montevideo after the battle she was indeed seaworthy, and should not be granted sanctuary for repairs that were to make the ship battleworthy, not seaworthy.


President Baldomir  did not want to upset relations with either Britain or the pro-British USA, Uruguay's two largest overseas trading partners. They informed the German minister that Uruguayan technical experts would board the Graf Spee to inspect her damage and make their own estimates for repair.  Langsdorff kept his promise, and ordered all prisoners released. The British merchant captains Dove and Pottinger went to pay their respects and say goodbye to the German warrior, who had acted more as a host than a captor.

Langsdorff greeted them, and gave each of them a cap tally from one of Graf Spee's dead, apologizing that they had been on board for the battle and expressing thanks that none of the British merchant seamen had been injured. A the British merchant officers and seamen mustered on the quarterdeck to be dismissed by the master-at-arms, they passed 36 coffins sitting under the guns of the aft turret; not everyone on Graf Spee had been as lucky as they.



Soon after Langsdorff freed his prisoners in the afternoon, and landed his dead and wounded for hospital treatment, the technical experts toured the ship.  The Hague Convention had a clause in it to protect unarmed merchant ships from raiders: if a merchant ship belonging to a belligerent power left a neutral port, then a warship belonging to the other could not leave that same port for 24 hours, thus giving the merchant ship a fair chance to avoid capture.

Britain pulled strings and quickly arranged for the British steamer SS Ashworth to leave Montevideo at 1800 on the 15 th prematurely.y.  Guani and Campos made their decision: Graf Spee could not sail before 1800 on the 16th, but had to sail before 2000 hours on Sunday the 17th.

Meanwhile, the crew of the Graf Spee had been busy. Repairs had been started as best they could be, as Montevideo's one shipyard and all local firms refused to help, on instigation by Churchill. The crew of the Graf Spee , who looked upon Langsdorff as a father, labored not as men celebrating a victory over British warships, but as disciplined men preparing for a battle they knew they could not win.

In the evening of the 14th, Langsdorff met with his officers. The pro-Allied government must not intern the ship, nor could it fall directly into British hands. He intended to attempt a breakout at night.


The next morning Graf Spee buried her dead in a funeral attended only by a few of the crew and a handful of petty officers, as everyone else was busy working on the ship. A naval band let the procession from the dock to the Northern Cemetery on the outskirts of Montevideo. 

Crowds lined the streets to see the spectacle, including many of the British seamen formerly held on Graf Spee. In a poignant scene that seems out of place in the 20th century, where bitter enemies approached each other and exchanged best wishes and handshakes. There was not a dry eye.

After giving a short eulogy at the gravesite, Langsdorff walked down the row of caskets sprinkling dirt on each one. At the end of the row, he came face to face with captain Dove, who stood saluting his former captor. Langsdorff paused, looked him in the eye, and stood at attention to return his salute. Dove left a wreath, which said "To the brave memory of the men of the sea from their comrades of the British Merchant Service."
As a last salute to the fallen Germans was given, photographers immortalized the moment: Everyone stood with their arm outstretched in the Nazi salute, except Langsdorff who gave the traditional salute of the old German Navy. The propagandists had reported that the British had spat upon the coffins of the fallen German heroes along the funeral route. 

There propaganda efforts went out the window when the crew of the Graf Spee vehemently denied these charges, and the photos of the funeral were splashed across the front pages of the world's newspapers.

British propagandists were equally annoyed, as their attempts to paint all Germans as heartless villains were dispelled by Captain Dove's radio interviews about how chivalrously the British sailors had been treated.


With the departure of the SS Ashworth, Graf Spee's window to leave Montevideo narrowed to just one day. Langsdorff's hopes of a surprise exit from harbor that night were gone. The German Captain met with his crew, which one officer recorded in his diary as being ready to follow their captain blindly, even to certain death. Langsdorff told some of his sailors that he would fight if he could, but if he could not he could not he would not let Graf Spee and her crew 'become a target in a shooting match'. 

One of Graf Spee's engine-room mechanics recorded Langsdorff's famous words to the effect that he would not let his ship be shot to pieces by a greatly superior force, and that to him a thousand young men alive were worth more than a thousand dead heroes.

Langsdorff reported back to Berlin: he was trapped, could not leave until at least 1800 on the 16th, and would be interned at 2000 on the 17th.

The German minister, Langmann, commented, "I regard internment as the worst possible solution. It would be preferable in view of shortage of ammunition, to blow her up in the shallow waters of the Plate and to have the crew interned." The German minister pressed for another extension, but under pressure from the Churchill , Guani and Campos held firm.

The Captain then met with his officers to discuss options. There was a slim chance that the ship could make Buenos Aries without being destroyed, grounding in the channel, or being disabled by mud in the cooling system, but no guarantee that the government of Argentina would be any more willing to let Graf Spee stay past 24 hours than Uruguay had. 


But then the whole discussion became pointless: as a final insurance against a surprise exit by the German warship, the British steamer SS Dunster Grange had sailed from Montevideo, again by Rothschild and Churchill pulling strings. Graf Spee could not leave before 1800 hours Sunday. With only a two-hour window, there would be no chance to surprise the waiting British by leaving early.

The die was cast. On the night of the 16th, repair work on Graf Spee was halted. She was filled with the sounds of hammering and small explosions, as the fire control installations, radios, radars, and other equipment were blown up. Dials and electronics were smashed with hammers, gun elevation gear was destroyed, and the breach blocks from the main guns were removed and tossed overboard. The British would learn nothing when they boarded the wreck, and Graf Spee's guns would never be used against Germany.


Secret documents were destroyed, and the ship's bell, battle ensign, the portrait of Admiral Graf von Spee, and other historically significant items were sent ashore to be carried home in a diplomatic pouch. Powder charges were stacked inside the turrets around a torpedo warhead, flash doors were opened, a torpedo was wired in the engine room, and detonator wires were rigged. Langsdorff instructed that the wires be run to the conning tower, where he would set them off manually and die with the blast. But his officers stonewalled him , and rigged up a timer instead.

As live radio carried real-time reports to the world, an estimated three-quarters of a million people crowded along the cost to watch the Graf Spee depart and face the waiting British warships.

At 1830 Graf Spee ran up two large battle ensigns and weighed anchor. 700 of her crew had been transferred to Tacoma, which under Captain Hans Konow weighed anchor as well, following about a mile behind the warship as she entered the South channel to the sea. Just outside the breakwater, Tacoma stopped and transferred the German sailors to the Argentine tugs Gigante and Coloso, which had been hired out of Buenos Aries. The Uruguayan National Navy quickly turned Tacoma back into Montevideo where she would be interned for the duration for the war, as she had sailed without proper authorization and assisted in a hostile act.

In the south channel, just outside Uruguay's then three-mile territorial limit, Graf Spee swung west, turned out of the dredged channel, and dropped anchor. The timers on the charges were set for 20 minutes, and the order to abandon ship was given. Langsdorff and the last five officers hauled down the ship's ensigns, made sure the remaining crew was safely off, boarded the captain's launch, and moved about a mile away.

Just before sunset, Graf Spee shuttered from the powerful explosion of the torpedo warhead in her engine room. A second later she was ripped apart in a tremendous explosion. Her rear turret was blown clear of the ship, the stern was severed, and flame belched high into the sky. The forward turret did not explode, probably because the initial explosion damaged the firing circuit. But the ship was in flames from one end to the other, and quickly settled into the shallow water with her main deck awash. The fires would burn for two days.

Langsdorff ordered the final entry into the Graf Spee's log: "Graf Spee put out of service on December 17, 1939, at 2000 hours."


Langsdorff and the rest of the crew would reach Argentina, where the German community greeted them with great hospitality.. But the Argentine Government's reception was hostile as they did NOT want to upset the British and USA.  Confirming the suspicion that Graf Spee was no more welcomed in Argentina than in Uruguay, the officers and crew were not treated as shipwrecked sailors, but were rounded up and interned for the duration of the war.

16 officers escaped in the next two months, and 17 more in August, and a handful in 1942. A few ratings also escaped, and like the officers managed to return to Germany via a variety of routes, including through Japan and the Soviet Union. But the rest went to prisoner of war camps when Argentina joined the Allies in 1943. Six officers and 894 ratings were repatriated in February 1946, aboard the British liner Highland Monarch, fittingly enough escorted by HMS Ajax, while 168 chose to stay. Hundreds more returned, and some 500 of Graf Spee's crew eventually settled in Argentina.

Langsdorff enjoyed the company of his officers  until about midnight. He was wounded and had hardly slept for the past few days.  Going back to his hotel room, he lit a fine cigar, poured a glass of a favorite Scotch, and wrote a letter each to his wife, his parents, and the German Ambassador. 





After sealing and addressing the letters, Langsdorff spread the Graf Spee's battle flag out, laid on it, and shot himself in the head.

The next afternoon he was laid to rest in Buenos Aries, at a funeral attended by his officers, crew, and Argentinean officials.  SS Ahlea's Captain Pottinger, attended to represent the British merchant sailors once held captive on board Graf Spee.

All of those released spoke highly of their treatment and of noble Langsdorff, who spoke perfect English and lent them English books to pass the time.






British officers boarded the Graf Spee as soon as the fires were out, but found nothing of value. One of the Royal Navy's top divers attempted to enter the forward turret to recover the advanced gyro-firing system (actually destroyed before the scuttle), only to become trapped and drown. The wreck of the Graf Spee slowly sank into the mud, until by 1948 only the control tower could be seen above water. In a few years even that was out of site, and the Graf Spee was just another of thousands of wrecks in the River Plate estuary.

Due to poor design, the vulnerable heavy oil fuel purifiers took a hit, and Graf Spee had just 16 hours of fuel. No spare parts were available, in the 72 hour window period. Her engine speed had reduced from 28 knots to 22 knots, and was guzzling fuel. Her fresh water generator was destroyed. There was no way Graf Spee could get back to Germany avoiding all hostile British warships, waiting outside .

Adolf Hitler, though he said that Graf Spee should have shown no mercy to the crippled HMS Exeter, gave a pension to Capt Langsdorff's wife.

Today in this Internet age, all tales of German and Japanese honour, and tales of abject and disgraceful British and US dishonour ( like DELIBERATE drowning of more than 2000 Bismarck's German sailors, as a punishment for scuttling their latest design ship --this will be my next post  ) long buried by Jewish Rothschild controlled media, are slowly getting exhumed.

Thousands of confessions by British and American soldiers and sailors, on their death beds to clear their conscience , hoping to be at the pearly gates to  meet their maker, are forcing revisionists to publish the truths with proper evidence , witnesses and signed affidavits.

It must not be forgotted that Churchill's

mother Jennie Jerome was Rothschilds.

You must read my post WINSTON CHURCHILL HERO OR HENCHMAN- VADAKAYIL.

Rothschild controlled press and electronic media , keeps giving rigged polls about how popular Churchill is .  But the information super-highway afforded by the Internet does NOT lie.

Dont believe the free Wikipedia , available on the first page of Google-- for this propaganda piece is controlled by the Jews.  As per Wikipedia Lord Krishna of Mahabharata of 4000 BC, was a contemporary of Greeko King Alexander.

Every Jewish achiever will be tagged as JEWISH in Wikipedia , with parentage -- which they do NOT apply the same yard stick to Hindu or Buddhist or Islam or Christian or whatever.


Thousands of children who lost their fathers in battle , must know about the "hidden cause of Israel", sponsored by Zionist Jews -- US President FD Roosevelt, General Eisenhower the supreme commander of Allied forcs,  and British Prime Minister Winston Churchill -- for which so much blood was shed and this planet was put to the flaming torch.


It is better to be united in truth
Than to be united in error.

It is better to tell the truth that hurts - then heals,
Than to tell a lie that heals then kills.

It is better to be hated for telling the truth, Than to be loved for telling a lie.

It is better to ultimately win with the truth, Than to temporarily succeed with a lie.

- US State Senator Edwin Gochenour (1953 1999)



Dont miss this.

Punch into Google search  -

AN OFFICER AND A GENTLEMAN,  KARL VON MULLER, CAPTAIN OF SMS EMDEN  VADAKAYIL








CAPT AJIT VADAKAYIL

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5 comments:

  1. Hello Capt. Ajit,

    I traced your details from my blog 'tipofindia' wheer you left a mark. Fascinated about your life and writings. Unique, perhaps it is the classical Calicut, od spice traders that lives on. Do write back when you are ashore. May be you are in the deep seas now !

    Pradeep
    pradeepprj@gmail.com

    ReplyDelete
  2. CH
    October 13, 2014 at 6:35 AM
    Respected Captain,

    What is special about Tamil Nadu?

    How come it is able to continuously produce word geniuses like Ramanujam, Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar, C.V. Raman, A.R. Rahman, Abdul Kalam, Venkatraman Ramakrishnan, Viswanathan Anand, Illayaraja, etc?

    Even till recently the Chief Justice of India, the Finance Minister, the RBI governor are all Tamils?

    Is there any scientific reason behind this? Because no other region has produced such super genius people in such numbers.

    Regards

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    Capt. Ajit Vadakayil
    October 13, 2014 at 7:06 AM
    hi ch,

    i am sure if i were a lawyer, i will NEVER EVER become CJI.

    i am sure if i were an economist, i will NEVER EVER become finance minister.

    you want me to continue ?

    when i was on my training ship in mumbai with 250 other cadets ( two years ) -- the biggest TELUs ( oily and slimy ) and SNEAKS ( snitches ) became SCC ( senior cadet captains ) , CC ( cadet captains ) , CL ( cadet leaders ) etc.

    i used to be in the CAPTAINS MONTHLY BREAKFAST PARTY ( cadet with maximum negative marks for OFFICER LIKE QUALITIES ) -- to be chewed up for breakfast every month .

    i got an EXTRA FIRST in every subject --except OFFICER LIKE QUALITIES.

    now what are OFFICER LIKE QUALITIES-

    being a son of a bit#h, being a sneak, being a hypocrite, being a as$ kisser , being a leader who will sell out his team, being a back biter, being an informer , being the best in playing to the gallery.

    so, so--

    at the passing out parade --most of the cadets who got all PRIXES were leaders -- they all got BOOOOOEEEEED !

    I remember i got only one prize--for being the best REPORTER IN ENGLISH -- the claps I got from the entire hall still resound in my ears -- along with another ROC ( royal officer cadet -who did NOT care to become a sold out leader ).

    and mind you -- i was in every single team which made my TOP ( starboard fore top ) the champion TOP.

    i was a champion sailor, rower, signaller, marks in subjects, soccer team in both years --

    but i lacked OLQ ( officer like qualities ) of being a FU#KIN' SLIME BALL.

    so in my passing our certificate , after two years of training -- i had an EXTRA FIRST in all subjects -- except OLQ where i was third grade

    so i guess they held a special meeting and GRACED ME TO FIRST CLASS --a young 18 year old boy -- .TEE HEEE !

    AT SEA, THE SAILORS DO NOT CARE FOR YOUR FOUR STRIPES- THEY ONLY CARE FOR WHO YOU ARE--

    AT SEA PEOPLE WHO KNOW ME , OR HAVE HEARD OF ME -- OR SAILED WITH ME, WILL VOUCH--

    CAPT AJIT VADAKAYIL WAS A SLAVE MORE POWERFUL THAN THE MIGHTY FU#KIN' CAESAR -- BY LIGHT YEARS .

    this has now passed on to LORE -- never ti happen again in the annals of sea .

    am i boasting ?

    -- so be it !

    humility is NOT about having a low opinion of yourselves to please the JEALOUS party.

    see, this would have been part of my post-- GAMES CAPTAIN PLAYED--

    you made me reveal it prematurely --with your TAMIL PRIDE ! TAKE IT EASY !

    check out my training ship-

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MwpFBPMtnj4

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k0BxC3kFET8

    capt ajit vadakayil
    ..

    ReplyDelete
  3. Capt. Ajit VadakayilOctober 15, 2014 at 8:02 AM
    Philip Oommen
    October 15, 2014 at 7:54 AM
    When British authorities found out about S S Emden's visit to Cochin port , did they force the king of that time to renounce his throne. As a young kid I had heard that Emden gained access to Cochin port by threatening to harm the kings son who was studying medicine at Germany at that time. Is there any truth in this.

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    Capt. Ajit Vadakayil
    October 15, 2014 at 8:02 AM
    hi po,

    there was a malayali on board -- and the captain needed fresh water , food and fuel.

    PERIOD !

    http://ajitvadakayil.blogspot.in/2012/09/drchempakaraman-pillai-unsung-freedom.html?showComment=1413384883843#c6852977924813755163

    capt ajit vadakayil
    ..

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    Capt. Ajit Vadakayil
    October 15, 2014 at 8:10 AM
    I HAVE EXHUMED ONE OF THE GREATEST HEROES OF THE SEA--IN THE POST BELOW-- DONT MISS IT .

    WHO IS A HERO ?

    TODAY CHOOTS HAVE BECOME HEROES--BEGGARS HAVE DRESSED UP AS KINGS.

    WELL KALKI AVATAR WILL TAKE THEM DOWN.

    http://ajitvadakayil.blogspot.in/2012/09/an-officer-and-gentlemen-karl-von.html

    http://ajitvadakayil.blogspot.in/2011/11/noble-and-honourable-captain-of-graf.html

    WARM YOUR HEARTS BY READING ABOUT THESE TWO HONOURABLE GERMAN SHIP CAPTAINS !

    WHAT IS HONOUR ?

    FIND OUT !

    WHAT IS DISHONOUR?

    http://ajitvadakayil.blogspot.in/2011/11/no-glory-and-honour-sinking-of-bismarck.html

    I WOULD LIKE MY READERS TO COMMENT AFTER READING THE THREE EXHUMED POSTS ABOVE.

    WHY DO YOU THINK MY BLOG SITE IS RIDING THE CREST IN UK/ EUROPE ?

    capt ajit vadakayil
    ..

    ReplyDelete
  4. Capt. Ajit VadakayilOctober 21, 2014 at 7:38 AM
    STOP PRESS:

    I AM DELIGHTED TO READ AN ACCOUNT BY AN EX-CADET OF MY ALMA MATER -- A PAKISTANI .

    http://sayeedsjournal.wordpress.com/chapter-6-the-three-dufferin-years1939-41/

    our anthem was --

    We’re on the road, we’re on the road to anywhere,

    With never a heartache, with never a care.

    Got no home, got no friends,

    Thankful for everything the good Lord sends.



    We’re on the road, we’re on the road to anywhere,

    And every milestone seems to say,

    That the road to anywhere, the road to anywhere,

    Will lead to somewhere some day.

    WE HAD TENORS AND TONES -- FOR EACH LINE.

    once a minister in a dhoti , came to inspect a march past -- and we sang this anthem.

    HE CRIED-- WHY DO YOU SAY YOU HAVE NO FRIENDS ?

    I AM YOUR FRIEND -- HE WENT ON AN ON -- LITERALLY FROTHING FROM HIS MOUTH -

    we had our contingent for the 26th jan republic day march past in delhi .

    and we would have a photo session with the PM and President.

    how time flies !

    capt ajit vadakayil
    ...

    ReplyDelete
  5. As a World War II buff and someone with deep respect for the lessons that history teaches us .... lessons that we always seem to forget far too soon... I was ecstatic to read the detailed version of the life & times of the Graf Spee.
    Last year when I sailed past Montevideo harbor, on my way to Buenos Aires, I was excited to see; and deeply saddened at the same time; passing a few hundred meters off the final resting place of the magnificent Graf Spee. It is true that not only 'to the victor goes the spoils'; but also that history is always written by the Victor. Several tales of honorable conduct of the Germans have been buried under story upon story of atrocities likes the Malmedy Massacre. Both sides in the war had their nut-jobs....and their supreme heroes!

    ReplyDelete