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At dawn on 13 December 1939, smoke was seen on the horizon; HMS Exeter was told to close in and investigate. Two minutes later a dramatic signal was sent from the British cruiser – ‘I think it is a pocket battleship.’
It was. The Deutschland-class heavy cruiser Admiral Graf Spee, marauder of the South Atlantic shipping, had sailed into a trap. Three smaller British cruisers closed in on a German warship which, so Hitler had boasted, could out-sail any ship powerful enough to damage her, and out-gun any ship able to keep up with her – an invincible ship.
So began the Battle of the River Plate, story which has its duplicates in British naval history, but which nevertheless brought pride and inspiration into the hearts of a nation unwillingly at war once again.
A terrible battle was fought that day off the coast of South America, a naval encounter in the finest Nelson tradition – and true to that tradition, victory went to the men with the finest armament of all, courage.
This edition will be presented with an Appendix containing the official despatch detailing the Battle of the River Plate.
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