'Graf Spee' Pays the Full Price of Defeat

The War Illustrated, Volume 1, No. 19, Page 591, January 12, 1940.

All Montevideo's quays, piers, breakwaters, and adjacent coastline were densely crowded with people breathlessly watching the German corsair. The crowds stood silent as the great ship passed to sea. Suddenly she turned, not as they expected to seaward where the ships of Britain watched, but westward towards the setting sun... Her speed dropped to dead slow, then she stuck her nose into a mudbank and stopped and her anchor was dropped.

The hour was 8 p.m. and the sun was dipping below the river's western rim. Suddenly there was a flash of flame and a double explosion which shook the air, and the centre of the ship was blotted from view by a cloud of dense black smoke. The concussion had not died away before a blinding burst of flame shot from the after part of the ship high above her masthead, and a thunderous roar deafened the ears of the watching crowds. The whole ship seemed to life and crumple as though inferno itself had burst forth from her vitals...

Out to seaward could be seen the flicker of a Morse lamp and the distant flash of a searchlight from a British cruiser going about her business.

From a message to the "Daily Telegraph" by a Special Correspondent in Montevideo, Captain Henry Daniel, D.S.C.

Photo: Admiral Graf Spee aflame. Aflame from bow to stern, the "Graf Spee" is slowly sinking into the waters of the Plate. This dramatic photograph was taken by Captain Henry Daniel. The white funnel has collapsed in dense clouds of smoke. "Sheets of flame spread over the tranquil sea", wrote Captain Daniel, "as the oil from the bunkers of the riven ship came to the surface and caught fire. Dense clouds of smoke rose in the air, and soon the wreck was a blazing inferno from stem to stern. It was the end of the tragedy." Photo, Courtesy of the "Daily Telegraph".

Articles in the The Battle of the River Plate serie