Battle of the River Plate from Gavin Roser

Gavin Roser

Graf Spee



Shipping industry and current affairs expert Gavin Roser is a charismatic and highly engaging speaker whose presentations are informative and entertaining. Gavin has been in the shipping & logistics sector industry for 47+ years and we were delighted to have him speaking about the Battle of the River Plate, the first naval battle in the South Atlantic of WW2 at our Tuesday zoom meeting.

Crammed full of fascinating facts, descriptive detail and staggering historical statistics, Gavin took his audience on a wartime naval battle excursion, where in December 1939, the German heavy cruiser Admiral Graf Spee, bristling with 11 inch guns and a 100mm amoured belt, captained by Hans Langsdorff, engaged a Royal Navy squadron, (3 cruisers Exeter, Ajax, Achilles) commanded by Commodore Henry Harwood.

In the ensuing battle, said Gavin, Exeter was severely damaged and forced to retire, whereas The Ajax and Achilles suffered only moderate damage. However damage to the Graf Spee, although not extensive, was critical because her fuel system was crippled. With his audience now hanging onto his every word, Gavin explained that the British ships shadowed the German ship until she entered the port of Montevideo, the capital of neutral Uruguay, which favoured the Allies, to effect urgent repairs.

Captain Langsdorff was told his stay could not be extended beyond 72 hours, having been convinced by false reports the British had gathered a superior force awaiting for his ship to emerge, just outside in international waters, he ordered the Graf Spee to be scuttled. Three days later, Langsdorff, an honourable man with conviction, committed suicide.

After many questions from Rotarians, Harry Jackson gave a worthy vote of thanks