Launched in 1934, Admiral Graf Spee was one of three Deutschland-class heavy cruisers that served the Kriegsmarine during the Second World War. Due to their armament of six 23cm guns, the Deutschland class were often nicknamed `pocket battleships' by the British.
A few weeks prior to the outbreak of war, Admiral Graf Spee was deployed to the South Atlantic to be in position in merchant lanes. Between September and December 1939 Admiral Graf Spee sank nine ships before encountering three British cruisers (Exeter, Ajax and Achilles) at the Battle of the River Plate. The commander decided to engage the enemy vessels and closed the distance at max speed. Admiral Graf Spee focused on Exeter and Ajax with her main and secondary guns respectively, landing three hits on Exeter and disabling her two forward turrets. Ajax and Achilles closed in, forcing Admiral Graf Spee to retreat under smoke from the fear of a torpedo attack. This allowed Exeter to attack with her stern turret, but resulted in Admiral Graf Spee landing more hits on the ship. Admiral Graf Spee also managed to hit Ajax and disable her aft turrets.
Both sides broke off the action after receiving heavy damage. Admiral Graf Spee retreated into the River Plate estuary to put into Montevideo. Damage from the engagement had destroyed the oil purification plant that prepared fuel for her engines in addition to the desalination plant. Knowing that the ship was docked, the British convinced commander Langsdorff that a superior force was on the way to destroy the ship, making him decide to scuttle the ship to prevent the loss of his crew. Admiral Graf Spee was scuttled on the 17th December 1939.
Named after Admiral Maximilian Reichsgraf von Spee.