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The Battle of the River Plate was the first major naval confrontation of the Second World War, and it is one of the most famous. The dramatic sea fight between German pocket battleship Admiral Graf Spee and the British cruisers Exeter, Ajax and Achilles off the coast of South America caught the imagination in December 1939. Over the last 60 years the episode has come to be seen as one of the classics of naval warfare. Yet the accepted interpretation of events has perhaps been taken for granted and is ripe for reassessment, and that is one of the aims of Richard Woodman's enthralling new study.

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