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New Zealand and the Battle of River Plate


Cover of the Pamphlet (Battle of the River Plate)

The 70th anniversary of the Battle of the River Plate, the first major naval battle of the Second World War which took place in the South Atlantic, is being commemorated in Montevideo, Uruguay in mid-December 2009.

The commemorations  - which include a wreath-laying ceremony, historical presentations and the opening of a River Plate Battle Room in the Uruguayan Naval Museum - will be attended by New Zealand's Ambassador to Uruguay, Lucy Duncan, and the former Deputy Chief of the New Zealand Navy and current New Zealand Defence Advisor to the United States, Commodore David Anson. 

The Battle of River Plate involved three British-flagged ships - the HMS Ajax, the HMS Exeter and the New Zealand ship HMS Achilles - and the more powerful German pocket battleship the Admiral Graf Spee.  The Admiral Graf Spee was engaged near the estuary of the River Plate off the coast of Argentina and Uruguay on 13 December 1939.  Although the British flagged Royal Navy ships were heavily damaged, the Battle ended in Allied victory. 

The Battle cost 108 lives, including two New Zealanders. The Admiral Graf Spee was shepherded into Montevideo, the capital of Uruguay, by the HMS Ajax and the HMS Achilles, before being scuttled several days later. 

To commemorate the New Zealand involvement, the Ministry of Culture and Heritage has published additional information, including archival photos, audio material and maps. See below:

With assistance from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade's Latin America Strategy Fund  the information has also been translated into a Spanish-language pamphlet  to be displayed and distributed by the Uruguay Naval Museum. See the English and Spanish versions below:

To hear Radio New Zealand's audio track on the Commemorations use the link below:

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Page last updated: Monday, 08 February 2010 16:23 NZDT