Jump to content
You need to play a total of 20 battles to post in this section.
11thACRColdsteel

Memo to All History Buffs: Churchill's announcement of the sinking of the Graf Spee

7 comments in this topic

Recommended Posts

440
[BLKHS]
Beta Testers
1,612 posts
8,174 battles

You gotta love Winston Churchill.  Tomorrow is the anniversary of the first naval battle of WWII - the Battle of the River Plate, December 13, 1939.  

 

3 Brit Cruisers (Exeter, Ajax, and the New Zealand Cruiser Achilles) took on the German Pocket battleship Graf Spee.  

 

Below is a link to Churchill's announcement of the sinking of the Graf Spee.  It's classic.  Notice he intentionally mispronounces the name of the ship (to rhyme with a human bodily function), and doesn't talk so much about the brilliance of the battle as much as the low character of the Germans ....and he keeps using the phrase "POCKET battleship" as if to make fun of it....this is beautiful...where are these kind of orators today?

 

Hope you enjoy it...here's the link:

 

  • Cool 4

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
4,791
[HINON]
Beta Testers, In AlfaTesters
8,856 posts
3,680 battles

"Pocket Battleship" was not made to make fun of the Spee, it was a term invented by the British press to make the British look like the underdogs. Can you Imagine the press had classified the Spee as a cruiser and the British people watched the damaged Exeter, Ajax and Achillies come sailing into port and say to themselves "Wow, one German cruiser did this much damage to THREE of our own!!" That would not be very good on morale. By calling it a pocket battleship it makes the British cruisers sound like the underdogs and makes the damage they took more understandable in the eyes of the average Englishman.

 

While Churchill makes the attempt to label the Germans as cowards for not coming out to fight we have the benefit of knowing what he didnt... that Spee's fuel lines were damaged and she would not have been able to make it back to Germany even if she did manage to fight her way past the British cruiser squadron. Fighting would not have been "honorable" it would have been a waste of human life. Langsdorf's decision to scuttle the ship was not an act of cowardice, but and act of compassion and mercy on his crew.

 

Furthermore, i do not believe Churchill intentionally mispronounced "Spee", he's not German, he's English. I could write down "Graf Spee" on a piece of paper and go to the mall and ask a bunch of people to pronounce it and I'm sure the vast majority of them would pronounce it just like Churchill. 

Edited by dseehafer

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
440
[BLKHS]
Beta Testers
1,612 posts
8,174 battles

"Pocket Battleship" was not made to make fun of the Spee, it was a term invented by the British press to make the British look like the underdogs. Can you Imagine the press had classified the Spee as a cruiser and the British people watched the damaged Exeter, Ajax and Achillies come sailing into port and say to themselves "Wow, one German cruiser did this much damage to THREE of our own!!" That would not be very good on morale. By calling it a pocket battleship it makes the British cruisers sound like the underdogs and makes the damage they took more understandable in the eyes of the average Englishman.

 

While Churchill makes the attempt to label the Germans as cowards for not coming out to fight we have the benefit of knowing what he didnt... that Spee's fuel lines were damaged and she would not have been able to make it back to Germany even if she did manage to fight her way past the British cruiser squadron. Fighting would not have been "honorable" it would have been a waste of human life. Langsdorf's decision to scuttle the ship was not an act of cowardice, but and act of compassion and mercy on his crew.

 

Furthermore, i do not believe Churchill intentionally mispronounced "Spee", he's not German, he's English. I could write down "Graf Spee" on a piece of paper and go to the mall and ask a bunch of people to pronounce it and I'm sure the vast majority of them would pronounce it just like Churchill. 

I partly agree and partly disagree.  Graf Spee was in functional shape to carry on a direct fire battle, especially with the two remaining cruisers on station.  The Exeter had to withdraw so only Ajax and Achilles were left, the two smaller cruisers and somewhat beat up. Ajax in fact had two turrets inoperable.  Langsdorf could have stayed in the battle with the two remaining cruisers to destroy or disable them, before heading to the neutral port for repairs.  It would seem from all accounts he withdrew from the fight prematurely.

 

As to Churchill's pronunciation, he knew full well how to properly pronounce "Graf Spee" and intentionally mispronounced it.  This is common with belligerents when referring to opposing leaders or key propaganda assets of an opponent.  

 

For example, consider George H.W. Bush pronouncing Saddam incorrectly on purpose:

 

Still, a vague sense of discomfort is felt by some editors, who worry that perhaps they are being manipulated by a White House seemingly intent on war, as they were 12 years ago when the president's father, George H.W. Bush, deliberately mispronounced Saddam Hussein's name. Putting the emphasis on the wrong syllable, experts say the first President Bush also converted the meaning of the name in Arabic, from sa-DAM, which means one who confronts, to Sad-um, which means a barefoot beggar.

"During the last war, you saw Saddam in print more because the first President Bush decided to have fun with the pronunciation," said Edward Turzanski, who teaches political science at La Salle University in Philadelphia and who used to be a government analyst.

http://articles.latimes.com/2002/sep/30/news/lv-saddam30

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
4,791
[HINON]
Beta Testers, In AlfaTesters
8,856 posts
3,680 battles

I partly agree and partly disagree.  Graf Spee was in functional shape to carry on a direct fire battle, especially with the two remaining cruisers on station.  The Exeter had to withdraw so only Ajax and Achilles were left, the two smaller cruisers and somewhat beat up. Ajax in fact had two turrets inoperable.  Langsdorf could have stayed in the battle with the two remaining cruisers to destroy or disable them, before heading to the neutral port for repairs.  It would seem from all accounts he withdrew from the fight prematurely.

 

As to Churchill's pronunciation, he knew full well how to properly pronounce "Graf Spee" and intentionally mispronounced it.  This is common with belligerents when referring to opposing leaders or key propaganda assets of an opponent.  

 

For example, consider George H.W. Bush pronouncing Saddam incorrectly on purpose:

 

Still, a vague sense of discomfort is felt by some editors, who worry that perhaps they are being manipulated by a White House seemingly intent on war, as they were 12 years ago when the president's father, George H.W. Bush, deliberately mispronounced Saddam Hussein's name. Putting the emphasis on the wrong syllable, experts say the first President Bush also converted the meaning of the name in Arabic, from sa-DAM, which means one who confronts, to Sad-um, which means a barefoot beggar.

"During the last war, you saw Saddam in print more because the first President Bush decided to have fun with the pronunciation," said Edward Turzanski, who teaches political science at La Salle University in Philadelphia and who used to be a government analyst.

http://articles.latimes.com/2002/sep/30/news/lv-saddam30

 

Watch your video again, Churchill mentions that HMS Cumberland had arrived on scene to replace the damaged Exeter. So yeah, Spee could have wiped the floor with the damaged Ajax and Achilles, but the fresh Heavy Cruiser that was the Cumberland meant that a victory was not so easily guaranteed. Furthermore, while Spee was was in no danger of sinking and none of her fire-control equipment or guns had been severely damaged she was running low on ammunition, so she couldn't sustain combat for long. Sinking 3 cruisers, damaged or not, is no quick ordeal. 
Edited by dseehafer

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
440
[BLKHS]
Beta Testers
1,612 posts
8,174 battles

 

Watch your video again, Churchill mentions that HMS Cumberland had arrived on scene to replace the damaged Exeter. So yeah, Spee could have wiped the floor with the damaged Ajax and Achilles, but the fresh Heavy Cruiser that was the Cumberland meant that a victory was not so easily guaranteed. Furthermore, while Spee was was in no danger of sinking and none of her fire-control equipment or guns had been severely damaged she was running low on ammunition, so she couldn't sustain combat for long. Sinking 3 cruisers, damaged or not, is no quick ordeal. 

Not really accurate. The HMS Cumberland did not arrive on station until the following evening on December 14.   https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/HMS_Cumberland_(57)

 

So the Spee should/could have hung in there and taken on the Ajax and Achillles....

Edited by 11thACRColdsteel

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
4,169
[SYN]
[SYN]
Members
9,313 posts
18,914 battles

The question to me in the follow up to River Plate, is not 'could AGS have sunk Ajax/Achilles?' but rather, 'could Ajax/Achilles have maintained contact with AGS until Cumberland arrived?'.

 

Both sides were pretty low on ammunition, British I think were even worse off though I think they'd refuelled. The Leander's were faster in a straight line but accelerated more slowly, and in a big sea a big ship has an advantage. I don't think at long range that Spee would be able to drive them off, but a combination of squalls/darkness/smoke could have let her break contact. I'd need to double check, but if the Brits had their aviation facilities intact they would have a good chance of re-acquiring her.

 

With AGS low on ammunition and Cumberland a far more formidable ship than Exeter a re-match would possibly, on the basis of AGS's ammunition go to the British. Exeter opened fire at 6:20 but lost B turret by 6:26 and A turret by 6:38, Y turret being masked or in local control for a lot of that time. That's 4 gun salvo's for just 6 minutes and 2/4 gun salvos for another 12 minutes. Not a long engagement - take home is that A) AGS put out the hurt quickly and effectively and B) Exeter, although out gunned and out armored did manage with limited guns on target to land 2 damaging hits.

 

 

As for damage, it would have appeared pretty light on Ajax/Achilles though bad on Exeter when she came back home some months later. The British psyche in my experience loves a tough fight over a cake walk and seeing ships come home with battle scars but victorious, especially if you paint AGS for what she was - a cruiser about twice the standard displacement of a Leander - wouldn't be bad.

  • Cool 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
440
[BLKHS]
Beta Testers
1,612 posts
8,174 battles

The question to me in the follow up to River Plate, is not 'could AGS have sunk Ajax/Achilles?' but rather, 'could Ajax/Achilles have maintained contact with AGS until Cumberland arrived?'.

 

Both sides were pretty low on ammunition, British I think were even worse off though I think they'd refuelled. The Leander's were faster in a straight line but accelerated more slowly, and in a big sea a big ship has an advantage. I don't think at long range that Spee would be able to drive them off, but a combination of squalls/darkness/smoke could have let her break contact. I'd need to double check, but if the Brits had their aviation facilities intact they would have a good chance of re-acquiring her.

 

With AGS low on ammunition and Cumberland a far more formidable ship than Exeter a re-match would possibly, on the basis of AGS's ammunition go to the British. Exeter opened fire at 6:20 but lost B turret by 6:26 and A turret by 6:38, Y turret being masked or in local control for a lot of that time. That's 4 gun salvo's for just 6 minutes and 2/4 gun salvos for another 12 minutes. Not a long engagement - take home is that A) AGS put out the hurt quickly and effectively and B) Exeter, although out gunned and out armored did manage with limited guns on target to land 2 damaging hits.

 

 

As for damage, it would have appeared pretty light on Ajax/Achilles though bad on Exeter when she came back home some months later. The British psyche in my experience loves a tough fight over a cake walk and seeing ships come home with battle scars but victorious, especially if you paint AGS for what she was - a cruiser about twice the standard displacement of a Leander - wouldn't be bad.

 

Well thought out post....great points.   I think the only problem with the AGS outrunning the two operational cruisers is the fact that the fuel system on the AGS was hit and damaged by fire by one of the last shots from the Exeter, leaving the AGS with only 16 hours cruising capability.  No matter where they went in 16 hours, it would have been a neutral port, with the same problems they ran into.   Langsdorf was wounded twice and knocked out once during the fight - so he may not have been in the best decision making condition. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    No registered users viewing this page.

×