Remembering River Plate

National Flag
National Flag

“When I consider the Battle of the River Plate some 75 years on, there are many stories that come to mind.”

Rear Admiral Jack Steer, Chief of Navy

When I consider the Battle of the River Plate some 75 years on, there are many stories that come to mind. There are the actions of the German Pocket Battleship Admiral Graf Spee and her Captain Hans Langsdorf. The scuttling of the ship and therefore the saving of many lives, is rightfully seen as an honourable action. There is the significance of a decisive Allied victory so soon after the start of the war. There are the actions of HMS Achilles and her crew, which have come to mean so much to the Royal New Zealand Navy (RNZN) today.

Out of a total complement of 567, Achilles had 321 New Zealanders onboard. When Achilles opened fire on the Graf Spee on 13 December 1939, it became the first New Zealand unit to strike a blow at the enemy in the Second World War. With the New Zealand Ensign flying proudly from its mainmast, Achilles also became the first New Zealand warship to take part in a naval battle. Since then the New Zealand Ensign has flown from many RNZN ships.

The objects in this exhibition have been selected by veterans, their families and currently serving Navy personnel. They help us link crucial moments of this well known battle to some of the individuals involved. They help us to understand why a naval battle that occurred 75 years ago remains a vital part of our Navy – and indeed of New Zealand – today.

Rear Admiral Jack Steer, Chief of Navy

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