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T. Heath "Thomas"

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The Battle Of The River Plate [DVD] [1956]
The Battle Of The River Plate [DVD] [1956]
Dvd ~ John Gregson
Price: 3.40

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Remember Them..., 14 Oct 2013
Glad to see a British classic from the 1950's restored and digitally remastered. The image and sound is clean and crisp. Bonus features thin on the ground, but given the price I'm not complaining.

My father was a sailor aboard the HMS Achilles in 1939. She left the South Pacific at the end of August 1939 with orders to show herself in South American waters; partly to protect British shipping; partly to make sure that German merchant ships reported her presence; partly to act as goodwill ambassadors with the various South American nations they would visit.

Their first port of call was Valparaiso, Chile and over the next six weeks they visited sixteen ports along the South American west coast from Buenaventura, Colombia in the north to Puerto Montt, Chile in the south. Rounding the Horn of South America the Achilles called in at the Falkland Islands before sailing to Rio del Plata to join Commodore Harwood's Force G task force. The Achilles then went on to patrol the east coast of South America from Brazil down to Argentina making many ports of call.

My father always told me as a boy that he was impressed with many of the South American cities they called on. When he visited them in 1939 he described them as modern, clean and beautiful. In many respects they were even model cities of the time. It was certainly everything a young man in his 20's from New Zealand who had joined the Royal Navy to see the world wanted.

He was aboard the Achilles when they went up against the Graf Spee (I have my father's military records which confirm this fact) but it was the beauty of the cities and the friendliness of the people that he spoke of. Even the German sailors they encountered were friendly and respectful.

This movie was one of the first inklings I had as a child that my father had seen battle during WWII and been part of something that had made a world-wide impact at the time. Even now, some 74-years later, scholars are still writing books about it. I'm grateful to the movie for preserving colour footage of the cruiser my father served on during 1939-41.

Found this bit of trivia with an NZ connection on the movie from the IMDB website notable: "filming started on 13 December 1955, the 16th anniversary of the battle. The River Plate Association in Auckland sent a good-luck message to the crew. "Congratulations on choice of day. Hope your shooting will be as successful as ours!"."

Having just re-watched the movie last night I noticed an error in the sequence of events during the battle. The movie shows Ajax opening fire before Achilles. This is incorrect. The actual order of events during initial exchange of fire is: Graf Spee sighted at 6:14am. Graf Spee opens fire at 6:18am. Exeter replies at 6:20am. Achilles opens fire at 6:21am. A full two minutes later at 6:23am Ajax get off their first salvo.

As the son of a member of Achilles' gun crews I feel I would be remiss if I did not point out this divergence from the actual facts of history. :)

For those with either family or close connections to the crew of the HMS Achilles or those otherwise interested in this action I have posted a crew list of the Achilles from December 1939 that I inherited from my father. The HMS Ajax and River Plate Veteran's Association have very kindly made it available from their website here : [...]

Next year (2014) marks the 75th Anniversary of the Battle of the River Plate. There are now literally only a handful of survivors who were there and witnessed first-hand what this movie portrays. In the excitement to mark the 100th anniversary of the Great War don't forget these brave men who stepped up and did their duty even though the odds were stacked against them and achieved great things at a time when it was sorely needed. Though few they are still with us.

This movie is a worthy time capsule of the ships and the actions of the men from both sides.
Comment Comments (3) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Nov 24, 2013 1:07 PM GMT

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