Reading and learning are two of my passions and it is my pleasure to share these books with you.I have read them all and have found them to be both insightful and engaging. I encourage your feedback and I hope that you enjoy them as much as I did.
Maj Chris Buckham
Saturday, 24 January 2015
Langsdorff and the Battle of the River Plate - David Miller
Title: Langsdorff and the Battle of the
River Plate Author: David Miller
Illustrations: 19 B/W, 4 maps
Publisher: Pen and Sword Publishing
Images of the German Panzerschiff Graf
Spee scuttled in the River Plate estuary outside the Uruguayan port of
Montevideo are some of the most well-known photographs of the Second World War.
Debate has raged ever since amongst historians and scholars surrounding the
decision making process that led the highly respected and competent Captain of
the Graf Spee, Kapitan-zur-See Hans Wilhelm Langsdorff, to reach the conclusion
that scuttling his ship was the only honorable course of action available to
him. David Miller has undertaken to shed light on the ship, the man and the factors
that influenced his decision and, in doing so, provide insight into
Starting out by providing historical
context to the tradition of independent surface raiders as a doctrinal concept
in the German Navy, Miller creates, for the reader, a sense of the degree of
independence afforded to these Captains in the execution of their duties. Also,
he provides a clear indication of the difficulty in strategic communications in
the days before radar and adequate radio systems.
Following this, Miller looks at the
design features of the Panzersciff (armoured ship) of the Deutschland–class
warship. Much has been written about the capabilities of these ships and the
ingenuity of the design falling within the 10,000 ton Versailles Treaty limit.
While much is true, this class of ship also had significant shortfalls
including armour, hull design, galley location and command and control
structures that made themselves readily apparent only after Graf Spee was well
into her operational cruise to the south.
The real central focus of the book
follows with a detailed study of Langsdorff the Officer and career Navy man and
a very comprehensive synopsis of Graf Spee’s first operational cruise
culminating in the Battle of the River Plate. This is critical as the author
not only provides an excellent summary of the significant events of the cruise
and battle but also an evaluation of Langsdorff’s actions within the context of
these activities. What information was he provided/have access to? What were the
misinformation activities of the British and how successful were they? How did
international law and the role of neutral countries affect his freedom of
action? How effective was the support and direction given to him by the
Reichsmarine? How did the damage to the ship and crew casualties affect
decision making? What was his frame of mind and how was he affected by injuries
sustained during the Battle? All of these questions are reviewed and answered
in a balanced and even-handed manner utilizing an in-depth review of primary
The author does not passively summarize
information that he has gleaned from source material available. Each section is
analyzed with a view towards understanding why Langsdorff made the decisions
that he did. This is the primary strength of this book and the reader can
easily follow the logic applied by the author to reach his conclusions.
This is a fascinating study into this
famous battle. Without doubt, the decision to scuttle one’s ship has to be the
loneliest and most difficult decision that a Captain may have to make. Why an
officer, with the sterling reputation and obvious capability of Langsdorff,
would take such a step is a question only he can answer with any degree of
clarity; however, Miller has done a noteworthy job of shedding light upon the
ship, crew, Captain, battle and environment that influenced the final fate of
the Graf Spee. This is a book well worth reading.