The Battle of the River Plate
Graf Spee left Wilhelmshaven 21 August, 1939, with orders to take position in the South Atlantic. Beginning her raider cruise on September 30th, she sank SSClement. During October she sank SSNewton Beech, SSAshlea, SSHuntsman and MVTrevanion. Prowling the Indian Ocean in November, she sank MVAfrica Shell. Four large hunting groups of Allied capital ships were now hunting the elusive raider. Homeward bound in December, she sank SSDoric Star, SSTairoa and SSStreonshalh. A total of nine British freighters (50,000 tons) went to the bottom but no-one lost their lives. In accordance with the Hague Conventions the crews were taken off before the ships were sunk.
On December 13, 1939, the Battle of the River Plate burst into world news. Ajax, Achilles and Exeter met Graf Spee in deadly combat. Exeter was disabled and Graf Spee received hidden critical damage. More than 100 brave young sailors lost their lives.