September 3, 1939 – Royal Navy Claims First Victory of World War Two

September 3, 2012 — Leave a comment
HMS Ajax

HMS Ajax
CC Image courtesy of Charles McCain on Flickr

Only two days after the Nazi invasion of Poland on September 1, Great Britain declared war on Germany and dispatched the Royal Navy to clear the seas of Germany’s merchant fleet and warships. Within hours of the commencement of hostilities, the light cruiser HMS Ajax encountered the German merchantman Olinda off the coast of Uruguay and promptly destroyed the ship with gunfire. Shortly thereafter, Ajax found and sank another Nazi freighter, the Carl Fritzen. Ajax continued to serve on the South American Station until February 1940 when it returned to the UK for a refit. While on station, Ajax along with HMS Exeter and HMS Achilles accounted for the destruction of several more German merchant ships. Additionally, Ajax, Exeter and Achilles engaged the German pocket battleship Graf Spee which was scuttled by her crew after the Battle of the River Plate. Thus began a nearly six year struggle between the Royal Navy and the Kriegsmarine, Regia Marina, the Imperial Japanese Navy and even the Vichy French Navy.

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