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CONSPIRACY NIGHT AT THE MOVIES: The Battle of the River Plate

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The Battle of the River Plate (a.k.a. Pursuit of the Graf Spee in the United States) is a 1956 British war film in Technicolor and VistaVision by the writer-director-producer team of Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger. The film stars John Gregson, Anthony Quayle, and Peter Finch. It was distributed worldwide by Rank Film Distributors Ltd.


An American cruiser played the Graf Spee. They didn't look anything alike. Here she is.

The film's storyline concerns the Battle of the River Plate, an early World War II naval battle in 1939 between a Royal Navy force of three cruisers and the German pocket battleship Admiral Graf Spee.

Plot

HMNZS Achilles

In the early months of the Second World War, Nazi Germany's Kriegsmarine sends out merchant raiders to attack Allied shipping. The Royal Navy responds with hunting groups whose mission is to stop them. The group that finds the heavily armed pocket battleship Admiral Graf Spee near South America is outgunned: Graf Spee is equipped with long-range 11-inch guns, while the British heavy cruiser Exeter has much lighter 8-inch guns, and the light cruisers Ajax and Achilles have 6-inch guns. Despite this, they go straight to the attack.


The British are led by Commodore Harwood (Anthony Quayle), with Captain Woodhouse (Ian Hunter) commanding flagship Ajax, Captain Bell (John Gregson) Exeter and Captain Parry (Jack Gwillim) Achilles. The British use their superior numbers to "split her fire" by attacking from different directions, but Graf Spee, under Captain Hans Langsdorff (Peter Finch), inflicts much damage on her foes; Exeter is particularly hard hit and is forced to retire.


However, Graf Spee sustains damage herself, and takes refuge in the neutral port of Montevideo, Uruguay to make repairs. According to international law, the ship may remain at neutral harbour only long enough to make repairs for seaworthiness, not to refit her for battle. With reinforcements too far away, the British spread disinformation that an overwhelming force is lying in wait, hoping to buy time: while they are initially demanding that the Uruguayan authorities send the Graf Spee out to sea within 24 hours, as the law dictates, they suddenly seem to lose interest and appear to tolerate her staying at anchor in Montevideo for as long as required. This is a bluff intended to make the Germans believe that more British warships have arrived, when only the cruiser HMS Cumberland has. Taken in by this ruse, Langsdorff takes his ship out with a skeleton crew aboard, and as she heads down the River Plate for the open sea, he orders her scuttled.

The Battle of the River Plate was the first naval battle in the Second World War and the first one of the Battle of the Atlantic in South American waters. The German panzerschiff Admiral Graf Spee had cruised into the South Atlantic a fortnight before the war began, and had been commerce raiding after receiving appropriate authorisation on 26 September 1939. One of the hunting groups sent by the British Admiralty to search for Graf Spee, comprising three Royal Navy cruisers, HMS Exeter, Ajax and Achilles (the last from the New Zealand Division), found and engaged their quarry off the estuary of the River Plate close to the coast of Uruguay in South America.

In the ensuing battle, Exeter was severely damaged and forced to retire; Ajax and Achilles suffered moderate damage. The damage to Admiral Graf Spee, although not extensive, was critical; her fuel system was crippled. Ajax and Achilles shadowed the German ship until she entered the port of Montevideo, the capital city of neutral Uruguay, to effect urgent repairs. After Graf Spee's captain Hans Langsdorff was told that his stay could not be extended beyond 72 hours, he scuttled his damaged ship rather than face the overwhelmingly superior force that the British had led him to believe was awaiting his departure.

Hans Wilhelm Langsdorff (20 March 1894 – 20 December 1939) was a German naval officer, most famous for his command of the Panzerschiff (pocket battleship) Admiral Graf Spee during the Battle of the River Plate. He held the rank of Kapitän zur See (naval captain).

Captain Langsdorff committed suicide.

'I can now only prove by my death that the fighting services of the Third Reich are ready to die for the honour of the flag. I alone bear the responsibility for scuttling the panzerschiff Admiral Graf Spee. I am happy to pay with my life for any possible reflection on the honour of the flag. I shall face my fate with firm faith in the cause and the future of the nation and of my Führer.'


Posted by Conspiracy Cafe on March 27, 2018 at 6:24 PM 265 Views