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February 17, 2019.

My sincere thanks to readers of my published books and many close associates over twenty-five years. I am now retired from active writing but need to bring to light a new thought on the 'Graf Spee' saga. Since 1939 - ' The Battle of the River Plate' - professional historians and investigative journalists have produced countless epistles covering every aspect of the story. One should feel certain that today in 2019, all the vital information is factually published. Sadly, this is not correct!

The vaunted diesel technology, introduced in the 'Deutschland' class panzerschiffe fell short of expectations. This 'hiccup' in Germany's naval program was covered up. To this end(cover up)Admiral Eric Raeder organized the 1940/41 raiding mission of 'Admiral Scheer'. Cooperating closely with OKM (Naval High Command) & SKL (Sea Operations Command) Captain Theodore Krancke commanded 'Scheer'.

It is my intention to publish ongoing segments of my summary in this space. Segments will be replaced each week with another new segment. I hope you may find this interesting.

Best wishes to all from Joseph Gilbey.

SEGMENT #1: PANZERSCHIFFE DIESELS TOO SLOW. Throughout the 1939 'Graf Spee' mission, Captain Hans Langsdorff wrote in his log book (kriegstagebuch) descriptive notes of his ship's engine problems. (Published 12/02/19)


In August 1939, 'Deutschland' , the initial 'PANZERSCHIFF', was assigned to commerce raiding in the North Atlantic. Vicious storms mauled and severely damaged her infrastructure and coupled with engine troubles, curtailed her mission. Back home in Germany, she was renamed 'Luetzow' and reclassified as 'heavy cruiser'.

Admiral Scheer', the second vessel of the trio, dry docked in Wilhelmshaven 1 November 1939 - for a total refit and modification. Captain Theodor Krancke, former officer commanding the Naval School, took command of the ship. But he was immediately re-assigned to supervise the navy's role in 'Weseruebung' - the invasion of Denmark and Norway. When his mission was completed, Krancke served as Chief of Staff to Admiral Hermann Boehm in Norway.

Meanwhile, international interest in the war had focused on spectacular German military gains. In May 1940 Germany seemed on the verge of military success against Great Britain. Poland and France were already defeated and B.E.F forces were scrambling towards Dunkirk. Hitler was calling the shots.

Also, reliable intelligence sources had reported strong interest among many high level British nobles and politicians for a peace settlement. Only Winston Churchill and a few close associates were determined to 'fight to the finish'.

The navy chief reviewed his options: The Fuehrer had approved the naval Z- plan. ' Bismarck' and 'Tirpitz' were well advanced in production and 'Graf Zeppelin', the first German aircraft carrier, was taking shape. Also, the keels for two super battleships in the H-class were laid down. H-39 and J-39 each displacing 60,000 tons would lead the way for four more super H-class battleships. Admiral Raeder could visualize a powerful German High Seas Fleet underpinning a new blossoming German Empire.

German submarines at this moment had a secondary priority in Raeder's mindset. But Admiral Doenitz had solid support from his U-boat commanders for a 'top priority' U-boat program. U-47 had leaped into the headlines with a spectacular strike against HMS Royal Oak in Scapa Flow. Raeder must request 'additional' funds and materials to immediately build U-boats in volume.

The navy chief put forward this request to the Fuehrer. But Hitler demanded a detailed list of specific requirements. Raeder gave this chore to Admiral Fischel. The admiral promptly produced a document with a magnitude of materials and conditions that begged for dismissal. A copy of the draft for the Fuehrer's signature, dated 10 October 1940 , was given to Goering and the Army and the Air force chiefs. Hitler refused 'additional' resources for the navy but suggested Raeder could cut back on ships already scheduled.

Admiral Raider had confidence that R&D experts would solve the H-class engine 'teething' problems. As navy C-in-C , he authorized a slowdown on super battleship J-39 - but continued building H-39 - and all other heavy warships. Thereby he postponed immediate high volume production of U-boats in 1940/41. This understandable decision may have affected the ultimate result of WW-ll.

In June 1940 Captain Krancke returned to the 'Scheer' in Wilhelmshaven. Eight months of renovations, modifications and structural changes had transformed the vessel. Multiple annoyances, including those accumulated from the active service of 'Deutschland' and 'Graf Spee', were corrected. However, many weeks of expert study and manipulations on the engines failed to resolve heavy vibrations at high shaft revolutions. Ultimately, it became certain that in extended raider missions, special provision must be considered to enable major engine repairs 'at sea'. Never-the-less, Admiral Raeder had resolved to 'prove' the viability of 'full diesel propulsion' .

The navy chief had committed to full diesel propulsion for H-class super battleships. He also wished to divert 'nosy' inquiries into naval affairs from Reinhardt Heydrich's SD. OKM must organize a Scheer mission to match or upstage the 'Graf Spee' raider cruise.

Note: Progressive segments will continue. Please keep posted.

Joseph Gilbey, Hillsburgh, Ontario, 17 February, 2019

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