Battle of The River Plate

Discussion in 'The War at Sea' started by Thomas McCall, Feb 27, 2004.

  1. Peter Clare

    Peter Clare Very Senior Member

    Today - Channel 4. 1.15pm - 3.25pm

    The Battle of the River Plate

    World War Two drama about the famous sea battle between three British cruisers and the German battleship Graf Spee. Starring Peter Finch, John Gregson, Anthony Quayle. (U) (1956)
  2. Drew5233

    Drew5233 #FuturePilot 1940 Obsessive

  3. cally

    cally Picture Prince.

    Thanks muchly Andy I truly did!!:D:D:D
  4. Jonathan Ball

    Jonathan Ball It's a way of life.

    Worth a bump given the date.
  5. Harry Ree

    Harry Ree Very Senior Member

    It appears that there is some controversy over the future of the bronze eagle and swastika recovered from the stern of Graf Spee.The German government have expressed concern that the trophy might fall into the ownership of Nazi sympathisers should the Uruguay government decide to dispose of it.

    News item.........
  6. Smudger Jnr

    Smudger Jnr Our Man in Berlin

  7. Smudger Jnr

    Smudger Jnr Our Man in Berlin


    Apologies I missed your post and link.

  8. MikB

    MikB Senior Member

    The Graf Spee was scuttled because of 2 fundamental issues:-

    1) The steam pipe to her oil fuel purification plant had been damaged, and repair was apparently outside capabilities at Montevideo. Allegedly she had processed fuel available for only 16 hours cruising - so at best her mobility to evade or escape RN hunting groups was severely compromised, and at worst she would be quite unable to return to Germany under her own power.

    2) She had, by the statement of one of her gunnery team, only 180 rounds of 28cm shell remaining. That would feed the guns for about half an hour's rapid shooting, and typically evaluate to 6 - 10 hits on hostile ships in battle conditions - enough to sink or cripple a couple of cruisers - but she was likely to have to face more than that. I believe it took 7 hits to force Exeter's withdrawal from the River Plate action.

  9. Harry Ree

    Harry Ree Very Senior Member

    An interesting point regrading the Graf Spee fuel oil supply.I think the oil purification is likely to have been a steam heating system with an oil filter, as is normal with any fuel oil firing system on the oil heater system outlet.It was normal for ships of this era to have auxiliary steam ranges for a wide range of functions and an outage of the range would have a detrimental effect on the Graf Spee capability if its propulsion oil heating system was forced out of service.

    The Graf Spee was powered by diesels.I am not aware of the fuel specification regarding the viscosity of the fuel oil.However it is likely that the fuel oil specified may have been a higher viscosity fuel regarded as "bunker fuel oil", a heavy fuel oil with a viscosity of 3000 sec and would require a heating unit.Heating of this oil would be necessary and steam is,the best medium for heating the oil to lower its viscosity to a viscosity which the oil would be fired without flow/combustion problems in the diesel engine combustion chambers.The specification of oil for diesels without heating being required would be 28 sec viscosity oil......designated as gas oil/diesel oil.The use of this oil would not have given the ship to the capability to utilise any oil taken from captured ships,which would have been bunkered with heavy fuel oil.

    Bunker fuel oil,heavy fuel oil, sometimes referred to as residual oil is the cheapest on the market but has a high sulphur content .Recent EU legislation has been enacted to reduce emissions from shipping within the EU and the use of this high viscosity oil is to be prohibited,resulting in an increase in shipping costs of operators

  10. phylo_roadking

    phylo_roadking Very Senior Member

    Harry - there's a wrinkle ;) Somnething that was discussed recently on AHF is relevant here...

    Graf Spee may have needed an "oil purification plant" if the Graf Spee ballasted with sea water in her fuel tanks as they emptied ;) It was relatively common during the war, though it caused there were algae types that grow in any pleasure boat owner knows to his cost! And they thrive on sea water...

    Hence oil pruification plants in USN and RN vessels.
  11. Harry Ree

    Harry Ree Very Senior Member

    It would be most interesting to view a schematic of the fuel oil system together with the technical specification of the Graf Spee diesels.

    All fuel oil and lub oil will contain an element of entrained water;as received and gain further small volumes of water from condensation in tank storage and on steam turbines fron their gland steam system.Fuel oil systems and lub oil systems have design incorporated to deal with the problem and minimise the amount of water entrained which would be adverse to the proficient running of plant.Water will settle at the bottom of the tank due to the difference in density of water and oil.Modern tank designs have their oil supply take offs as floating suctions which means that oil is drawn off above the water collection line.Good husbandry will entail the drawing off of any collected water as a regular routine.Steam turbine lub oil systems have impurities and water removed by a dedicated electrically heated centrifugal oil purifier which treat oil as taken from the bottom of the tank and recirculate it back to the oil tank back at a higher level.

    All lubricating oil systems on important plant either on ships or onshore plants usually have oil purifiers fitted....normally the centrigugal type in which the brand, De Laval excels.

    As regards the Graf Spee an entry point of water would likely be if the ship had sea water cleaning and flushing out of oil tanks in addition to ballast as said where the oil tanks for some reason or other, there was water left due to incomplete drainage.I cannot see purification being rated at 100% throughput,ie in series with the fuel supply to the diesel engines.It it was, it would be a mechanical device such as filters......hard to see that centrifugal purification would be employed in line...may have been an oil purifier incorporating a steam heater drawing from the bottom of the tank and returning purified oil back at a high level of the tank .If the Graf Spee ran on fuel oil to a diesel specification,it would not require a purifier other than an in line filter in addition to the drawing off of accumulated water at the bottom of the tank.

    In the reason given for the inadequate status of the ship,it was said that the steam pipe to the oil purification plant had failed.I think it might well have been the steam supply to the oil heaters assuming that the purifier was not in line.If the purifier was steam operated and in line,I would say this design carries serious disadvantages.I would expect that an in line filter would have a bypass valve fitted which would also incorporate an auto bypass valve which would operate on a high differential pressure across the filter.

    Oh for a drawing on the job.
  12. phylo_roadking

    phylo_roadking Very Senior Member

    But then again -

    ...wasn't that exactly the problem with German interwar designs, even late interwar ones? Trying hard to make up for the stifled development after WWI, and getting many things wrong - the too-low freeboard on their destroyers so they shipped water, the unsuitable bow forms for high seas, overly-complicated internal systems etc.... They'd lost a decade of on-going development, even compared to German's aero industry - which was at least allowed to keep on developing and building civilian aircraft after Versailles...

    They could just about explain a "fast mail plane" - but hardly a "civilian battleship" LOL...and certainly not after the Washington Treaty limited them even further :)
  13. MikB

    MikB Senior Member

    I read somewhere that the wrecked steam supply was to a donkey engine incorporated in some way to the fuel purification system. I've long suspected that there must've been something a good bit more complicated than either simple heating or pumping involved, for such a pipe-break to put the plant beyond local repair.

  14. Harry Ree

    Harry Ree Very Senior Member

    That's fine need to apologise
  15. Smudger Jnr

    Smudger Jnr Our Man in Berlin

  16. Harry Ree

    Harry Ree Very Senior Member

    While further researching the technical aspects of the Graf Spee I have been able to find more of its propulsion specification in greater detail and the ancillary services for conditioning its fuel oil.I have seen the claim that the fuel oil was of diesel grade but that is not upheld by the fact that the diesels had an oil heating requirement.

    Looking at the design philosophy of the fuel path,I think that oil purifiers in line of the feed to the diesels can be discounted.

    Graf Spee had an oil fired auxiliary boiler at the base of the funnel which was hit by the RN resulting in the boiler being made u/s.This boiler was vital for auxiliary steam services feeding steam to the oil heating plant,the purifier equipment which would be heated by steam and very importantly, the desalination plant (steam central evaporator, converting seawater to potable water.)

    I do not know what form the oil purification took, a number may have been installed.However the important aspect was that after the fuel oil was drawn off the main fuel oil tanks and heated to achieve a lower viscosity and purified for diesel firing,the "conditioned" oil was fed to holding or forwarding oil tanks.From the holding/forwarding tanks, the oil would be fed to the diesels by pump....cannot see the diesels being fed as gravity feed.With this system, fuel could be conditioned,ie heated to spec and purified at any time whether at sea or not,ie,holding/forwarding oil tanks being capable of being topped up continuously irrespective of the status of the diesel engines.Starting of the diesels was by compressed air,the usual method of starting low speed high output diesel engines.

    Apparently when the Graf Spee was berthed in Montevideo,these holding/forwarding oil tanks were down to one day use and with the auxiliary boiler forced out of service,it would have required to get the oil conditioning plant (heating and purification) system repaired.Some might think that it would not have been too much a task to rig up replacement steam pipework....repairs to the auxiliary boiler might have been more difficult due to lack of spares.As I see it this boiler would be fired by fuel oil similar to a diesel oil specification in order that the boiler could be started up from cold,ie,a design that does not require the need to preheat the oil.

    I would think that there would have been progressive engineering development from the first pocket battleships of this class,the Graf Spee following the Lutzow,commissioned in April 1933 and the Admiral Scheer,commissioned in November 1934.

    Would be interesting to see the design of the oil purification plant.
  17. Peter Clare

    Peter Clare Very Senior Member

    Prior to the Battle Of The River Plate

    On 3 September 1939 H.M.S. Ajax sank the German steam ship 'Olinda' in the South Atlantic.

    The Olinda was bound for Germany from Montevideo with a cargo of wool, hides, cotton, scrap iron and wood.

    Ajax launched two whalers which pulled across to the Olinda and took off her crew. As the nearest British port was some hundreds of miles away and the Ajax's fighting efficiency would have been considerately reduced by forming a prize crew the Olinda was sunk by gun fire.

    Was this the first gun action by the Royal Navy in WW2?

    Attachment - The steam ship Olinda under fire from H.M.S. Ajax

    Attached Files:

  18. Ramiles

    Ramiles Researching 9th Lancers, 24th L and SRY

    by The Society for Nautical Research
    The Mariner's Mirror Podcast on acast
    The world's No.1 podcast dedicated to all of maritime and naval history. With one foot in the present and one in the past we bring you the most exciting and interesting current maritime projects worldwide: including excavations of shipwrecks, the restoration of historic ships, sailing classic yachts and tall ships, unprecedented behind the scenes access to exhibitions, museums and archives worldwide, primary sources and accounts that bring the maritime past alive as never before. From the Society for Nautical Research, Presented by Dr Sam Willis.

    Great Sea Fights: The River Plate Part 1 - The Dispatches

    Great Sea Fights: The River Plate Part 1 - The Dispatches
    This episode, published on the anniversary of the Battle of the River Plate on 13 December 1939, launches our Great Sea Fights series. Dr Sam Willis begins with a brief overview of seapower at the start of the Second World War before introducing the battle. An account is then read, first gathered together by the Admiralty from the official dispatches of the Royal Naval squadron in the immediate aftermath of the battle. The Battle of the River Plate was one of the most iconic battles of the Second World War. The immensely powerful and fast German pocket battleship Graf Spee was hunted by a squadron of far smaller British cruisers and found off the River Plate in South America. She never returned home.

    Great Sea Fights: The River Plate Part 2 – The Sinking of the Graf Spee

    Great Sea Fights: The River Plate Part 2 – The Sinking of the Graf Spee
    This episode continues our first story in our new 'Great Sea Fights' series, exploring the fascinating story of the battle of the River Plate, one of the most iconic battles of the Second World War. The immensely powerful and fast German pocket battleship Graf Spee was hunted by a squadron of far smaller British cruisers and found off the River Plate in South America. She never returned home. The account continues, first gathered together by the Admiralty from the official dispatches of the Royal Naval squadron in the immediate aftermath of the battle. We have reached a crucial stage in the battle: The German pocket battleship Graf Spee has been found by a hunting group of British cruisers near the River Plate in South America and battle has broken out. The engagement is evolving at immense speed. The Graf Spee is damaged, zigzagging to keep out of harm and throwing up smokescreens. One of the three British ships, HMS Exeter, is disabled and has ceased firing. The two remaining British ships are operating at full speed to close the range with the German ship.

    Andy H likes this.
  19. Andy H

    Andy H Member


    British Reps were able to board and exam the scuttled veseel from early March.
    Though much had been removed, several samples of 'scrap' were taken, especially from its radar & comms areas,
    plus hundreds of interior pictures. In addition film from a German sailor was handed in to a British chemist to be developed, who promptly made a copy of its contents and passed them to the British consulate.


    Andy H
  20. DeeRoses

    DeeRoses New Member

    Thank you for this link. My father in law was on the AJAX at the Battle of the River Plate and it was great to hear the podcast detailing this. My husband and I thoroughly enjoyed listening to it. Thanks again for posting.
    SDP and Dave55 like this.

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