Friday, 2 November 2012

Montevideo & Battle of Rio Plata

Montevideo is a nice small capital. Uruguay has 3m people of which 50% live in Montevideo. The river is 80 miles wide at this point and there is a coastal road that runs around the city. Shame the water is coffee coloured.

I wanted to see the Graf Spee museum. Father arrived at Montevideo on his ship just after the Graf Spee was scuttled (1939) so it had added interest. The museum was not exactly busy and did not have a lot of exhibits but what there was were interesting.

This gun was recovered from the river and points to the spot where the ship went down. There are nice  personal artefact's of Cmdr Harwood and Cptn Langsdorff, the chief protagonists in the battle.

There are more interesting facts (to me) than there is time to put in here. Langsdorff wanted to be a Priest not a fighter. Every time he sunk a Merchant ship (9), he made them stop, took on board all crew and then sunk the ship (he never killed a merchantman and treated all his prisoners well). He had a banner across the front of the ship in English "Stop wireless or I open fire". What was not so good was that they initially flew a French tricolour to confuse.
The British, despite having 3 ships (Exeter, Ajax and Achillies), were hopelessly out gunned by the Graf Spee, still managed to inflict some damage on her thinly armoured hull.
The Graf Spee, could not have fought its way out as it was low on ammunition. Neither could it have made it back to Germany as the on board refinery that turned crude oil in to fuel oil was damaged (no I didn't know they had such things either).

When it came to burying the German dead after the battle (it was filmed) Langsdorff was the only person to give the traditional "Imperial" salute as opposed to the Nazi salute (Hitler hated him for that)
After some great manoeuvring by the British Ambassador (wonderfully named Millington-Drake) to Uruguay, Graf Spee had to leave the Neutral port in consequence he decided to scuttled the ship, saving at least 1,000 lives. He was persuaded not to go down with the ship by his officers but he shot himself 3 days later. Hitler hated him for not going down fighting but told the German public that he had gone down with his ship as a propaganda stunt.

Sorry this is probably too much information.

I also went to the cemetery where some of the British sailors are buried. Unfortunately they have vandals here too.
After the museum I decided to walk back in to town. This the most expensive part of town Pocitos, a 2 bedroom apartment here will cost you $250,000. The beach is lovely but doesn't seem to have the same attractions as the Rio beaches!

The walk was so long I managed to blister my feet, shows how long it is since I walked in shoes!

1 comment:

  1. Enjoyed the account of your visit to the Graff Spee museum. I would have visited that had I been there. Good man Langsdorf. Any spare lugers, just in case?

    Cheers, William Derek