Tactically Victorious, the Embattled Admiral Graf Spee is Scuttled Outside Montevideo
The now defenseless Exeter would have been doomed if alone, but the Ajax and Achilles fired furiously at the Graf Spee with their 6" guns. Incapable of destroying Graf Spee, these weapons could still inflict considerable damage to less well armored portions of the ship and so they could not be ignored. And more critically, they still had torpedoes to use. Ajax fired a spread at her enemy, and in response was struck by an 11" shell that knocked out half of her primary armament. But the tenacious attack served its purpose: Admiral Graf Spee turned away from the fight and made for Montevideo at full speed.
The Graf Spee made Montevideo in the early morning hours of the 14th of December. As it was a neutral port, Graf Spee could only remain for 72 hours, and the Germans could not hope to complete repairs in only three days. Making matters worse, the British spread rumors of massive reinforcements arriving in short order - although only the damaged Ajax, the Achilles, and another heavy cruiser, the Cumberland would be in the area for some time. Efforts to secure Uruguayan permission for Graf Spee to remain in harbor for more than 72 hours were fruitless.
Faced with the prospect of his crew dying in hopeless battle, Hans Langsdorf sailed with a skeleton crew to the mouth of the port, and had the German pocket battleship Admiral Graf Spee scuttled. Several days later, he committed suicide to demonstrate that he chose to scuttle Graf Spee not out of cowardice or fear of personal injury, but to save the lives of his sailors.
He is buried in Buenos Aires, Argentina, and Graf Spee remains where she sank at the conclusion of The Battle of The River Plate.
Janes Fighting Ships of World War II, 1946 Janes Publishing Company, 1994 reprint edition
Barrie Pitt, The Battle of the Atlantic, 1977 Time Life Books
Winston Churchill, The Second World War, 1959 Time Life
Images courtesy of (respectively) Ferdinand Urbahns, Deutsches Bundesarchiv (German Federal Archive), United Kingdom Government, United States Navy: all via Wiki Commons