GD Logo small.gif (6909 bytes)


Admiral Graff Spee - Panzerschiffe


GD mini Logo.gif (2341 bytes)


GD mini Logo.gif (2341 bytes)

 Special thanks to Michael Emmerich of for the use of images and information in this section.

Panzerschiff Admiral Graf Spee in December 1939

Named after Vice Admiral Maximilian Graf von Spee, commander of the South East Asian cruiser squadron who died at the Battle of the Falkland Islands on 08.12.1914.


After World War I the Versailles Treaty limited the construction of new warships  in Germany. It was allowed to keep six old battleships of the Deutschland and Lothringen class, six small cruisers, 12 DDs and 12 torpedo boats.  According to Article 190 of the treaty, the battleships could be replaced 20 years after they were commissioned, but the replacement must not exceed 10000 tons.

Therefore, the first replacement was ordered in 1928, the Panzerschiff A which later got the names Deutschland and Lützow . The planing first went into two directions, a heavy armed and protected monitor for coastal defenses or a cruiser like ship with a larger range but less armor. Since France was the possible enemy in this days the second alternative was chosen to build a ship that could threaten  French merchant shipping. The concept of the new  Panzerschiffe was "faster than stronger enemies" (i.e. battleships except the British BC Hood, Renown and Repulse), "and stronger than faster enemies" (CAs and CLs), which was plausible in the days before the fast battleships.

In many ways, the Panzerschiffe introduced revolutionary techniques for ships of their size, they were Diesel powered to increase their operational range and hull was intensively welded to reduce weight. Although their official size was 10000 ts, their maximum displacement was about 50% higher.

All three Panzerschiffe, which were called "Westentaschen-Schlachtschiffe" - "Pocket Battleships" outside of Germany,  had the same basic design, their outer appearance was quite different, especially the design of the command tower.

All ships were used in the international sea patrols off the Spanish coast during the Spanish civil war and had different fates in World War II. The Admiral Graf Spee was lost early in the war when it was scuttled after the famous battle of  the River Plate.



Construction Data Dimensions Commanders
Laid down:     Reichsmarinewerft Wilhelmshaven, 01.10.1932
Launched:     30.06.1934
Commissioned:     06.01.1936
Fate:     scuttled 17.12.1939 (La Plate estuary)
Costs:     82 Mio Reichsmark
Size (Max):     16023 t
Length (Total):     186,0 m
Length (Waterline):     181,7 m
Beam:     21,65 m
Draft:     7,34 m
Crew:     1001-1150


KptzS Konrad Patzig:     Jan 1936 - Oct 1937
KptzS Walter Warzecha:     Oct 1937 - Oct 1938
KptzS Hans Langsdorf:     Oct 1938 - 17.12.1939




Armour and Aircraft

Engines & Performance

28 cm L/52 C/28:     6
15 cm L/55 C28:     8
8,8cm L/75 C/32:  
later replaced with 10.5 cm L/65 C/33  
3,7 cm L/83:     8
2 cm MG L/64:     8
53,3 cm Torpedoes:     8
Deck:     45 mm (max)
Belt:     80mm (max)
Command Tower:     150 mm
Turrets:     140 mm (max)
Arado Ar 196:     2
Shafts:     2
Engines:     8
Type:     MAN 9-cyl. diesel
Total Performance:     53650 shp
Speed:     28,5 kn
Range:     17460 miles at 15 kn

Operational History

06.01.1936   Commissioned.
-May 1936   Training and trials.
09.05.1936   The Admiral Graf Spee enters active fleet service.
29.05.1936   Fleet parade at Laboe.
06-25.06.1936   Atlantic operations, visit to Santa Cruz.
20.08-09.10.1936   First Spain operation.
13.12.1936-14.02.1937   Second Spain operation.
02.03-06.05.1937   Third Spain operation.
15-22.05.1937   The Admiral Graf Spee takes part at the international fleet parade at Spithead.
23.06 - 07.08.1937   Forth Spain operation.
Autumn 1937   Autumn maneuvers, followed by visits to Wisby and Kristiansand.
07-18.02.1938   Fifth Spain operation.
29.06-09.07.1938   Training operations in Norwegian waters.
22.08.1938   Fleet parade at the launch of the CA Prinz Eugen .
06-23.10.1938   Atlantic operations, including visit to Tangier and Vigo.
10-24.11.1938   Atlantic operations, including visit to Portugal.
22-24.03.1938   Flagship during the Memel-Operations.
18.04-16.05.1939   Atlantic operations together with Deutschland , Admiral Scheer , Leipzig , Köln , Leberecht Maas , Diether
von Roeder
, the U-Boat tender Erwin Wasser and three U-boat flotillas, including visits to Ceuta and

Leaves Wilhelmshaven for the South Atlantic.

11-25.09.1939   Stays 900 miles east of Bahia.
26.09.1939   Received orders to attack allied merchant shipping.
30.09.1939   Sinks British steamer Clement (5051 t) off Pernabuco.
October 1939  

Admiral Graf Spee sinks the following ships: 

  • 05.10: Newton Beach (4651 t)
  • 07.10: Ashlea (4222 t)
  • 10.10: Huntsman (8196 t)
  • 22.10: Trevanion (5299 t)
November 1939   Sails into the Indian Ocean and sinks British steamer Africa Shell (706 t).
December 1939  

Returns to the South Atlantic and sinks the following ships:

  • 02.12: Doric Star (10086 t)
  • 03.12: Taiora (7983 t) 
  • 07.12: Steronshaln (3895 t)
06.12.1939   Admiral Graf Spee meets its supply ship Altmark the last time (25,5°S, 24,5°W)
13.12.1939   The Admiral Graf Spee runs into the British CA Exeter , CL Ajax and the New Zealand CL Achilles . The Exeter is badly damaged, the other ships are hit, too. The Admiral Graf Spee (36 dead and 60 wounded) sails to Montevideo for repairs but has to leave the port in 72 hours.
17.12.1939   Admiral Graf Spee leaves Montevideo at 6:15 pm and is scuttled in the La Plata estuary at 7:52 pm.