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The Graf Spee

In the Battle of the River Plate, one of Germany's fabled pocket battleships (Westentaschen - Schlachtschiffe) faced violent action for the first time. Germany built these armored ships (panzerschiffe) to add strength and prestige to the fleet that was badly depleted after World War I. Conceived in 1928, the new warships were designed according to weight restrictions (10,000 tons) imposed by the 1919 Versailles Treaty. Carrying massive 11-inch guns and bearing high, dominant control towers they resembled small battleships. The brilliantly engineered warships, with prototype diesel engines and electrically welded hulls, remained an enigma to potential enemies. Reputed to be faster than a battleship and more powerful than a cruiser they caused some alarm in international naval circles. Admiral Graf Spee, commissioned in 1936, was the most modern of these ships.
The Graf Spee
Admiral Graf Spee

Dubbed pocket battleships, Deutschland, Admiral Scheer and Admiral Graf Spee held the premier position in the German fleet in the thirties. They presented a powerful face to the world's navies. But, although the ships exceeded the weight restriction of Versailles they lacked compatible armored protection for their class. Their 3 1/2-inch (80mm) armored side-belt and skimpy decks belied any claim to battleship status. This was a well kept secret until the Battle of the River Plate when Graf Spee fell short in the clinch.

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Content ©2006, 07, 08, 09, 10, 11, 12 Joseph Gilbey.