The battle of the River Plate was the first significant surface naval action of the Second World War, and saw the pocket battleship Graf Spee seek refuge in Montevideo after suffering fairly minor damage at the hands of a much weaker squadron of British cruisers.
This covers an impressively wide range of topics, including the design of the warships themselves, the commerce raiding carrier of the Graf Spee, the Allied hunter for her, the eventual battle itself, and the final drama that was played out and off Montevideo.
Captain Hans Langsdorff, the commander of the Graf Spee emerges as a poor choice for his mission. He was famously chivalrous to the crews of the merchant ships he sank, but he lacked the killer instinct required to deal with the threat posed by the Exeter, Achilles and Ajax. Graf Spee's 11in guns outranged the British 8in and 6in guns, provided much more punch than the smaller guns (firing a 661lb shell, compared to 256lb for the British 8in gun and only 112lb for the 6in gun).
This is a very familiar story, so it is nice to see so much supporting information, which greatly adds to the value of the book. The account of the battle, and the attempts to explain Langsdorff's actions are also useful, helping to make some sense of his decisions.
The Strategic Situation
The Battlefield Today
Author: Angus Konstam