Battle of the River Plate, The


This is a story of sea power.

In November 1939, the war was two months old.

The blitzkrieg on Poland had given the world a

new word and the generals a new idea of battle.

At sea,

the problems were still the same.

In war, Germany could feed herself.

England could not.

If the ships bringing England's food

could be sunk or immobilised.

England would starve

and the war would be won.

For this the Germans

had three powerful weapons,

the magnetic mine,

the U-boat,

and the surface raider.

These pocket battleships were strong and swift.

There had never been anything like them.

They were the tigers of the sea.

Ten days before war was declared,

one of these raiders sailed from a German port

with secret orders.

She sailed by night off the coast of Norway,

passed unobserved through the Denmark Strait

between Iceland and Greenland,

and vanished into the southern Atlantic

where a supply ship was already waiting for her.

Months passed and nobody suspected

that a killer was lurking there,

until ship after ship failed to make its home port.

Poor little Africa Shell.

The fortune of war, Captain.

Pirates! That's what you are.

My ship was well inside

Portuguese territorial waters.

Complain to our captain. Captain Langsdorff.

Complain? What's the use of complaining?

You've sunk my ship. You've stolen my papers.

My position was clearly marked on the chart.

Your chart is inaccurate.

Here, take a look at that.

That's the coast of Portuguese East Africa, isn't it?

We're still within the three-mile limit, aren't we?

Look, there's Cape Zavora. There's the lighthouse

on Quissico Point. You aren't blind.

All I can see, Captain, are two of your lifeboats

carrying all your crew to safety.

So, you are the pocket battleship Graf Spee?


Der englische Kapitn, Dove,

von der Africa Shell, Herr Kapitn.


- Warten Sie hier, bis der Kapitn frei ist.

- Leutnant.

Well, Captain Dove?

Well, Captain Langsdorff?

How do you do, Captain?

My boarding officer has reported your protest

about the seizure of your ship.

You say that you were in territorial waters.

If you were, that makes it very difficult for me.

Not half so difficult, sir,

as it makes for me already.

I've lost my ship and everything else.

To my mind, there's not the slightest doubt

I was well within the three-mile limit.

- If I had my chart here, I could...

- Here is your chart.

- Please. Show me.

- I will. Look here.

There. See that line?

It couldn't be clearer.

We're not likely to agree, Captain.

You want the figures to prove you right

and me wrong, whereas I want...

Shall we make a compromise?

You write out your protest

and I'll give you a receipt. Is that fair?

That's fair enough, sir.

Shall we drink?


Genuine. From the steamship Clement.

Oh, so you sunk the Clement.


Also genuine?

Yes, but not from the Clement, I think.

No. From the Huntsman.

The captain of the Huntsman was a pal of mine.

Is, Captain. Is.

What, is he on board?

Well, not exactly.

Believe me, Captain, I don't like sending ships

to the bottom. What sailor does?

Nor do I like making war on civilians.

Up till now, it's the civilians

who have suffered in this war.

The Army are sitting in armour and concrete,

broadcasting to each other.

The airmen are making reconnaissance flights,

and the sailors...

Take me, for example.

I'm in command of a fine ship, a new ship,

one of the finest battleships afloat.

- We are fast.

- 25 knots.

More. I have immense fire power.

Six 11-inch guns and...

...eight or ten five-inch.

Well, you use your eyes.

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Michael Powell

Michael Latham Powell (30 September 1905 – 19 February 1990) was an English film director, celebrated for his partnership with Emeric Pressburger. Through their production company "The Archers", they together wrote, produced and directed a series of classic British films, notably 49th Parallel (1941), The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp (1943), A Matter of Life and Death (1946, also called Stairway to Heaven), Black Narcissus (1947), The Red Shoes (1948), and The Tales of Hoffmann (1951). His later controversial 1960 film Peeping Tom, while today considered a classic, and a contender as the first "slasher", was so vilified on first release that his career was seriously damaged.Many film-makers such as Martin Scorsese, Francis Ford Coppola and George A. Romero have cited Powell as an influence. In 1981, he received the BAFTA Academy Fellowship Award along with his partner Pressburger, the highest honour the British Film Academy can give a filmmaker. more…

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Submitted on August 05, 2018

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