The River Plate and Christmas

There are some aspects of social media that I really like. If you have an experience that you enjoy and you know someone else would, you can let them know very easily. And you can follow things that capture your interest.

I follow a tweeter called RealTimeWWII, they share tweets about things that happened at this time in WWII. We’re up to late 1939. At present I’m learning about the Admiral Graf Spee, a German raider.

It started at 6.10am on December 14th when:
“British cruisers HMS Exeter, Ajax, & Achilles, hunting German ship Admiral Graf Spee in South Atlantic, have seen smoke on horizon.”
“L.T Dennis on Ajax: “Most of us were washing so we’re at action stations in shorts, half-naked. Admiral dressed in uniform jacket & pyjamas”
“Exeter signals: “I think it is a pocket battleship!” Graf Spee advancing; commander, Langsdorff, has mistaken cruisers for merchant convoy.”
“6.17AM Graf Spee has opened fire on Exeter; German ship has much more powerful guns firing 11-inch shells, compared to British 6-8 inches.”
“6.24AM All 3 cruisers now in range of Spee, but Exeter is being smashed to pieces: front gun turrets gone, bridge crew dead to splinters.”
“6.37AM HMS Exeter’s Captain, Frederick Bell: “I’m going to ram the bastard. It will be the end of us but it will sink him too”
“6.50AM Graf Spee turning to split fire, shelling Ajax & Achilles also. Shrapnel from ranging shots has swept Achilles’ control tower.”
“Lt Cdr Washbourn, on Achilles: Control tower “looks like a slaughterhouse. 1 youngster has to sit on the unpleasantness that once was a man.”
“Door jammed by splinter; medics couldn’t get in. The wounded never murmured. 1 man quietly applied a tourniquet to himself; saved his life.”
“7.20AM Graf Spee tried to turn her broadside to sink Exeter, but heavy fire from Achilles & Ajax forcing her away – German gunfire “ragged.”
“7.45AM British cruisers have moved back, short of ammo; they’re shadowing Spee as it limps SW, to take shelter in River Plate estuary.”
“11.03AM Graf Spee, to distract pursuing Ajax & Achilles, orders crew of passing UK merchant ship SS Shakespeare to lifeboats –  they refuse.”
“Damaged German raider Admiral Graf Spee has reached neutral port of Montevideo, Uruguay British cruisers Ajax & Achilles wait outside.”

Then the action moves to the next day, December 15th
“HMS Exeter, heavily damaged after yesterday’s battle, has stopped to bury her dead at sea. En route to Falkland Islands.”
“German Graf Spee in Montevideo; international law gives 24hrs for repairs before Spee must leave. UK warships waiting.”

December 16th:
“Graf Spee’s Captain Langsdorff must decide: leave port in 72 hrs & fight UK cruisers with damaged ship, or be interned.”

And 5 hours ago:
“1.30PM Berlin: Hitler & Admiral Raeder agreeing Graf Spee’s captain Langsdorff must choose to sail for pro-German Buenos Aires or sink ship.”
“The Führer closes the message to Langsdorff: “For me, the fate of the ship and its crew is as painful as to you”
“UK ships broadcasting fake radio signals to fool Graf Spee’s crew they face huge force; actually only Ajax & Achilles, 2 damaged cruisers.”

So you know the battle is coming. Maybe it’s just me, but I find that totally fascinating and a real insight into what naval war was like in WWII.

The other thing I did this morning was read some articles about Christopher Hitchens who died yesterday from cancer. He was an amazing writer and one comment I particularly like was from MP Denis McShane who was at Oxford with Hitchens. He said, “He could throw words up into the sky, they fell down in a marvellous pattern.”

Yesterday afternoon Nana T and I picked Lucas up from his last day at school for 2011 and went to a Christmas Fair, a pet shop and an ice-cream shop. The Christmas Fair was in the old Cambridge Town Hall. Nana T used to go to dances there when she was a young girl, her first comment was “I didn’t realise it was so small inside. There was a balcony up there.” It was rather beautiful to see 88 explaining to 5 what the hall used to be like. The trees were amazing and SO beautifully decorated and there were two model railways in operation and lots of lights. Lucas was absolutely transfixed. Then we went to our local pet shop and they were fantastic with him. He had a tame budgerigar on his finger and held a Sydney silky puppy and some other puppies nibbled his fingers. We saw a guinea pig asleep on top of a large black rabbit, rats and mice and birds and some fish with bulging eyes and a blue tongued lizard. Roll on next week!

Writing tips will return tomorrow, this post is quite long enough. Anyone want to take a bet on the Graf Spee surviving?

A world of decorations


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