Locked in Montevideo. Pravda newspaper about the pocket battleship

Fight of the German battleship “Admiral Graf Spee” with British ships. Fig. contemporary artist

“A wicked man, a wicked man walks with lying lips, blinks his eyes, speaks with his feet, gives signs with his fingers; deceit is in his heart: he designs evil at all times, sows strife. But suddenly his death will come, suddenly it will be broken – without healing. “
Proverbs 6: 12-15

History in documents. This material appeared by chance, outside the plan, but it could not but appear, since it is based on very interesting information. But let’s start with an introduction that precedes the topic itself. Its essence is as follows: we cannot know anything about the events around us and in the world around us, without information obtained by someone and, accordingly, prepared and submitted to society about these events. No journalist, no event. There is no newspaper, and there is no event either. And we also get information from textbooks, books, and now also from the Internet. Eyewitness accounts? Yes, these are also sources of information, but we all know and remember the saying: he lies as an eyewitness. A journalist eyewitness? He “lies” less because he fears that his “colleagues” will remind him of “unprofessional distortion of facts”. And if they are distorted professionally, skillfully? Then everything is all right. “And I see it that way! It’s my opinion! I have been writing for a long time – I have every right to do so! ” And isn’t that so? So, of course, so! We trust authorities, including in the field of information. But it also happens that the sources of information of the journalist himself are limited and he is not too accurate against his will, does not know much, he himself has not seen, writes from hearsay, and even fulfills a social order. And then the information “pearls” are obtained, which are very far from the real coverage of events. Although outwardly very plausible. And decades pass before we can evaluate this or that information more or less objectively. As much as 79 years have passed since the moment of the event that will be discussed here …

And it so happened that while looking through the filing of the Pravda newspaper for the autumn of 1939 in search of articles on the Soviet-Finnish war, I came across this rather large material. It reported, with links to various news agencies, that on December 17, 1939, the German raider – “pocket battleship” – “Admiral Graf Spee”, after a battle with British cruisers at the mouth of the La Plata River, was blocked in the Uruguayan port of Montevideo.

Here is this material

It was also reported here that nine English ships, including the battleship Barham, were waiting for the German ship at the exit from the mouth of the river, and in addition there was one submarine that had already taken part in the sea battle of three English cruisers with the German raider, but that her torpedoes were did not hit because the German battleship “skillfully maneuvered.” Already one – this statement for a specialist is an obvious “cranberry”. How can a submarine, along with three cruisers, pursue a fast battleship, and then in a submerged position, when the boxes are in full swing, shoot torpedoes at anyone? But … it is written!

The newspaper goes on to say that the cruiser Rinaun is to arrive in Montevideo, as well as the aircraft carrier Ark Royal, and that both of these ships are “on their way” to Montevideo.

Langsdorf’s message

Further in the newspaper was published … the message of the battleship commander Langsdorf about the details of the battle and the damage inflicted on his ship, as well as the damage that his ship inflicted on the British cruisers. An excerpt from the New York Daily News report that the British cruiser Exeter demonstrated in this battle the high efficiency of its eight-inch guns, but also that it has severe damage from the fire of a German battleship.

Here is the message about the use of poison gas in naval combat!

The next material, printed here, concerned the fact that … “the British are bad”, because they use poisonous gases! How? Obviously in the shells. And how to check? From the material it is clear that “the doctor checked.” And again, only experts could say that there are no such idiots to pump gas into the shells of naval guns. You can’t pump a lot, especially into an armor-piercing projectile, and turning a high-explosive into a chemical one is unrealistic, because there will be little sense from it at sea. And what could the sailors have suffered from? Yes, simply because the British used shells filled with liddite (trinitrophenol or picric acid), which, when exploded, produced a thick acrid green smoke that really had an irritating effect. Nevertheless, this smoke is not a poison gas. But for Dr. Walter Meerhof it was profitable to assert this, and it was equally profitable for Soviet journalists to reprint this obvious lie. After all, how convenient – a certain mood and attitude is created for the reader, but we, it turns out, have nothing to do with it – we have faithfully reprinted the message of foreign newspapers. Obviously stupid and tendentious? Well, after all, we do not know how this is so. We translated what we wrote. No comment!

Announcement of casualties on the cruiser Exeter

Further, we find a message about the sinking of the battleship by order of the German command, new fabrications by Meerhof about poisonous substances and a protest from Germany that Uruguay did not give the German ship enough time to repair the combat damage. Moreover, a funny effemism is used – “a ship that suffered an accident” in relation to a warship-raider, damaged in a sea battle. But … the Germans were then our friends and we wrote well about them. The British are enemies and we wrote badly about them. Then all this changed, but that was only later. As always, everything is as easy as shelling pears.

But now the years have passed and, based on the materials of British and German authors who based their writings on declassified documents and memoirs of very specific persons, Vladimir Kofman writes his book “Pocket battleships of the Fuhrer – corsairs of the Third Reich”, in which he describes in detail the sea battle at the mouth La Plata.

And also materials related to … the informational component of this battle were made public. First of all, it turned out that there was no battleship Barchem or a submarine at the mouth of the river. The aircraft carrier “Ark Royal” and the cruiser (and the line cruiser!) “Rhinaun” were not there either. That is, it is clear that somewhere there they had a place to be, however, they would not have been able to get to La Plata and intercept the corsair before he can repair himself and leave!

The sinking of the battleship Admiral Graf Spee.

But then specialists from the special operations department came to the aid of the sailors. Appropriate instructions were sent to the British Consul in Montevideo, Y. Millington-Drake, who had a very large influence in this country, and even a former friend of the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Uruguay. Massive “leaks” of information began. Either the fishermen saw a “ship with big guns” in the sea, then the whores in the port began to call the Germans – “Love for the last time!”, Then the British quite officially demanded to accept “Rhinaun” and “Arc Royal” and began to buy food for them, then radio traffic between the ships blocking the port increased several times, which means that there were more targets at sea at once, in a word, everyone immediately learned that the Germans were “shining the grave.” And it is not at all surprising that the very next day one of the officers of the raider, who was on duty, noticing an impressive warship on the horizon, identified it as the battle cruiser Rhinaun, while in fact it was to help two damaged English lungs the cruisers were approached by the heavy cruiser Cumberland. How it could happen that a naval officer confused the three-pipe “Cumberland” with the two-pipe “Rhynown”, now it will not be possible to explain and will have to leave it on the conscience of this observer, but from a psychological point of view, everything is very clear and understandable: what was most afraid of, then he saw …

This is the book. Very interesting and detailed!

Langsdorf, on the other hand, considered that after the approach of Rhinaun he had not the slightest chance of success, although in fact the Cumberland had only eight 203-mm guns against its six 283-mm, and the other two cruisers had largely lost their combat effectiveness. But Langsdorf did not know all this, and during negotiations with the headquarters of the Kriegsmarine, he convinced his superiors that there were only two options: either to intern the ship in Argentina, or … simply to flood. He did not even consider an attempt to break through, Langsdorf considered its chances to be zero. Well, in the end, everything happened as the newspapers described it: the ship was sunk, the crew was interned, but Langsdorf himself then shot himself in a hotel in Buenos Aires.

And it is clear that none of this was known in 1940, and then this event looked completely different than it looks now, right? The reason: the lack of information at that time and its availability now. Now we know everything about the fate of the pocket battleship “Admiral Graf Spee” and its unlucky commander. This page of history is safely closed. But how many pages are still written on the basis of incomplete information! And, in fact, their content is not much different from the idle and incompetent speculations of the “OBS agency”.

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