The Millington Drake Papers

Who owns the wreck of the Admiral Graf Spee?

During preparation to for a TV documentary in 2008 was asked to find out who the right full owner of the wreck of the German Pocket Battleship Admiral Graf Spee is. Admiral Graf Spee was scuttled 17th December 1939 in the mouth of the Rio del la Plata, Montevideo.

During salvage operations in Feb. 2004 German TV stations broadcasted that the wreck belongs to Germany because it was a German warship! The Uruguayan goverment of course was sure that the wreck belongs to Urugay because she lays in Uruguayan water.

Countless books and documentaries are telling their version of the truth but obviously nobody bothered to ask the people who should know, Millington Drake & Co..

Here are the papers giving the answer who actually owns the wreck of Admiral Graf Spee:


PAPERS from ADM 116/4472 

A: Memorandum 11.2.40 from Eugen Millington Drake, His Britannic Majesty’s Ambassador to Uruguay (`EMD’): details of wreck and outline of purchase arrangements. (4 pp.)

B: Minuted exchanges 11.2.40 to 6.3.40 on German offer to sell wreck, including comments from Director of Naval Intelligence (`DNI’). (13 pp.)

C: Telegram 16.2.40 from EMD on purchase nominee Senor Julio Vega Helguera and visit to wreck, with better prospects for salvage value and urging speedy decision to protect Vega. (3 pp.)

D: Minutes 18.2.40 to 4.3.40 from Director of Military Intelligence (‘DMI’) etc, urging purchase and noting Treasury acceptance of plan. (2 pp.)

E: Handwritten memorandum 19.2.40 from Under Secretary of State, Foreign Office (FO), authorizing use of naval funds to buy wreck and detailing involvement of Senor Vega. (3 pp.)

F: Memorandum 20.2.40 to Ministry of Economic Warfare with confirmation of agreement for funds for purchase by the Admiralty. (2 pp.)

G: FO telegram 20.2.40 to EMD confirming allocation of not more than £20,000 to purchase of wreck. (1 p.)

H: Telegram from EMD 23.2.40 confirming purchase price of £14,000 for wreck. (1 p.)

J: Telegram from FO to EMD 24.2.40 specifying Admiralty relationship with Vega in this transaction. (1 p.)


K: FO telegram to EMD 26.2.40 authorizing draw of £14,000 for purchase. (1 p.)

L: Memorandum from EMD 26.2.40 detailing latest in respect of wreck and relationship with Vega, and his activities. (3 pp.)

M: Papers 1.3.40 from Under-Secretary of State, FO, with letter from EMD detailing sale of wreck by German government to Senor Vega and copy of Vega letter containing details of Deed of Sale. (7 pp.)


N: Memorandum from Admiralty 1.3.40 on change of arrangement with Vega, making him nominal purchaser only. (2 pp.)

P: Memorandum from EMD 1.3.40 with Uruguayan Foreign Affairs Minister’s consent for sale and confirmation Vega has possession of wreck. (1 p.)

Q: Telegram from EMD 4.3.40 confirming British relationship with Vega and commending his actions. (2 pp.)

R: Minuted exchanges 18.4.40 to 30.5.40 on details of purchase of wreck by Vega. (10 pp.)

T:  Memorandum to DNI 13.11.42 re contract signed by Vega with Greek divers for salvage work on wreck, aimed at “breaking it up completely.” (2 pp.)

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