Plaque, commemorative [HMNZS Achilles]; Badges and Crests Ltd; 1980s; 2009.6.3


Plaque, commemorative [HMNZS Achilles]

About this object

Commemorative plaque; a wooden, shield-shaped plaque with a three dimensional emblem representing the HMNZS Achilles. The emblem consists of a crown over a pentagon containing a profile of a Greek soldier, below this is a banner reading: "Fortiter In Re", meaning 'Firmness in action'.

HMNZS Achilles was a Leander class cruiser which served with the Royal New Zealand Navy in World War II. She became famous for her part in the Battle of the River Plate, alongside HMS Ajax and HMS Exeter.

In the early morning of 13 December 1939, a force consisting of Achilles, HMS Ajax and Exeter detected smoke on the horizon, which was confirmed at 06:16 to be a pocket battleship, thought to be Admiral Scheer but which turned out to be the Admiral Graf Spee. A fierce battle ensued, at a range of approximately 20 kilometres. Achilles took some damage: four crew were killed, and her captain, W. E. Parry, was injured. In the exchange of fire, 36 of Graf Spee’s crew were killed.
The range reduced to about 4 nautical miles at around 07:15 and Graf Spee broke off the engagement around 07:45 to head for the neutral harbour of Montevideo which she entered at 22:00 that night, having been pursued by Achilles and Ajax all day. Graf Spee was forced by international law to leave within 72 hours. Faced with what he believed to be overwhelming odds, the captain of the Graf Spee, Hans Langsdorff, deliberately sank his ship rather than risk the lives of his crew.


Badges and Crests Ltd

Maker Role


Date Made


Place Made

Oceania, New Zealand, North Island, Auckland

Medium and Materials

Organic, vegetal, wood; processed material, cement/plaster, plaster.


h 200mm x l 170mm x w 122mm

Subject and Association Keywords

military science, war

Credit Line

From the collection of Owaka Museum Wahi Kahuika The Meeting Place "a rest on your journey"

Object Type


Object number


Copyright Licence  

All rights reserved