A Chronology of the Battle of the River Plate

December 13th, 1939

In the South Atlantic summer of 1939, two hundred and ninety miles east of the Río de la Plata, a famous naval action was fought between a Royal Navy cruiser squadron (HMS Exeter, Ajax and Achilles) and the Kriegsmarine Panzerschiffe Admiral Graf Spee.

Events before, during and after the battle are displayed in the timeline below.

Use cursor keys ⇐ ⇒ or mouse-drag any of the bands to move them. Double-click at a particular date or time to centre the display there; click on an event title in the upper band to display the event description. Descriptions mostly use the local timezone used by both combatant forces, GMT-2. The timeline is labelled in GMT. See below for source references.

Events recorded between 1 August 1928 and 23 February 1940. Green items relate to Admiral Graf Spee and blue ones to Royal Navy ships.


(Atwill) HMS Exeter at the Battle of River Plate, Lieutenant R. Atwill DSM RN (Retd), Naval Historical Review - March 1977, republished online by the Naval Historical Society of Australia
(Burns) Devonport built warships since 1860, Lt. Cdr. K. V. Burns DSM RN; Duloe:Maritime Books, 1981; ISBN 0-9506323-7-6
(EMD) The Drama of Graf Spee and the Battle of the River Plate - A Documentary Anthology 1914-1964, Sir Eugen Millington-Drake KCMG, MA; London:Peter Davies, 1964
(Feldgrau) Feldgrau.com - research on the German armed forces 1918-1945
(Gilbey) Langsdorff of the Graf Spee - Prince of Honor, Joseph Gilbey (1999), ISBN 0-9685994-0-0
(Gregory) The Battle of the River Plate, Mackenzie J Gregory, in Ahoy, Naval, Maritime, Australian History and more
(Harwood) The River Plate Battle, Report to the Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty, 30 December 1939, as published in The London Gazette 17 June 1947, republished by Britain at War.
(NH.n) Naval-History.net
(NZH.n) New Zealand History; Nga korero a ipurangi o Aotearoa
(Toase) HMS Exeter- a Royal Marine's Story, Capt Aidan Edward Toase RM, WW2 People's War, contributed 16 September 2005
(U.n) uboat.net
(Waters) Official History of New Zealand in the Second World War, S. D. Waters, Historical Publications Branch, Wellington (1956)
(USNO) U.S. Naval Observatory

((HLS)) History Learning Site, Christopher Trueman
((Wikipedia)) Wikipedia.org

This timeline visualization was compiled by Jonathan Remick Richards, last revised 20 September 2016
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The data collection A Chronology of the Battle of the River Plate by Jonathan Richards is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.