Story: Second World War

HMS Achilles in the Battle of the River Plate

HMS Achilles in the Battle of the River Plate

New Zealand's first significant military action in the war was when HMS Achilles, one of New Zealand's two light cruisers, became involved in the hunt for the German warship Admiral Graf Spee which had sunk nine British merchant ships. Eventually, with two other cruisers, the Achilles intercepted the German warship and attacked it on 13 December 1939. The Admiral Graf Spee fled into the neutral port of Montevideo, Uruguay, but eventually the commander took it out of the harbour and scuttled it. Four men had been killed on the Achilles. When the ship returned to New Zealand in early 1940 there was a huge welcome. This painting of the Achilles is by Frank Norton.

Using this item

Archives New Zealand - Te Rua Mahara o te Kāwanatanga
Reference: AAC 898 NCWA Q223
Gouache by Frank Norton

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How to cite this page:

Ian McGibbon, 'Second World War - New Zealand’s involvement', Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, (accessed 24 September 2021)

Story by Ian McGibbon, published 20 Jun 2012, updated 10 May 2016