miércoles, 11 de agosto de 2021

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Graf Spee: the warrior and the knight


Some time ago a work on the Battleship Graf Spee led me to read about a character that had already fascinated me in childhood: Count Spee.
I remember that my father had a book in which the history of the Battle of Malvinas was narrated. What he did not remember about that story was that Spee died during the battle, as did all the men in the squad he commanded, including her two sons.
Spee was considered a hero by the Germans, who gave his name to one of the Deutschland-class battleships.
Count Spee was a fierce warrior, who did not hesitate to give his life and that of his 2,000 men to fulfill his mission. After the start of the Great War, in July 1914, Maximilian Von Spee in command of the East Asia Squad, headed towards South America through the Pacific.
After bombing Papeete on September 22 and sinking the French torpedo boat Zelee.
On November 1, Vice Admiral Spee faced the 4th Cruiser Squadron of the British Royal Navy in the so-called Battle of Coronel, in Chile.
In the fierce combat, Spee's squad sank the Monmouth and Good Hope light cruisers, which sank with 1,600 men, including the English commander, Rear Admiral Christopher Cradock.
In Chile, the German community welcomed Count Spee and his men as heroes.
At the German Club in Valparaíso they gave him a reception and gave him a bouquet of flowers. Spee, with some pessimism, said that the flowers would look good on his grave and made it clear that he was prepared for the worst.
"They must not forget that I am a homeless person," he said. “I can't get to Germany, we don't have a safe harbor. I must fight to fight my way through the seas of the planet doing all the damage I can, until I run out of ammunition or a far superior enemy manages to capture me. But achieving that will cost the unfortunate dearly ”.
Days later, on December 8, 1914, Spee's squad faced the Invincible and Inflexible battlecruisers in the Battle of the Falklands.
The combat, in which the English wanted to avenge the dead in Coronel, was no less bloody. Both Spee's ship, the Scharnhorst, as well as the other four ships: the Gneisenau, Leipzig, Nürnberg, and Dresden, were sunk. Two thousand two hundred Germans, including Spee and her two sons, died fighting.
Twenty-five years later, the heavy cruiser Admiral Graf Spee, named after the commander of the East Asian Squadron, was scuttled in the estuary of the Río de la Plata.
The paradoxes of fate made the battleship's commander Hans Langsdorff, a sailor who had been a neighbor of Count Spee in his childhood and who entered the navy to follow in the footsteps of his childhood hero.
However, Langsdorff is not remembered for his ferocity in combat, but for his chivalry. At the start of World War II, the battleship Admiral Graf Spee sank nine English merchant ships without killing a single man.
There are those who maintain that in the Battle of the Río de la Plata, in which the battleship faced three smaller British ships, Langsdorff could have crushed its enemies, but a disinformation campaign by the English decided it to sink the Graf Spee so that it would not fall into the hands of the allies.
Langsdorff committed suicide three days later wrapped in the battleship's combat flag. Some say he did it for honor. Others maintain that he was killed by order of the Nazi authorities.

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This article was originally published in Spanish on Juan Jose Flores Weblog. It has been translated into English using Google Translate. Our apologies for any errors that may exist in the machine translation.

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