The painting depicts the HMS Achilles engaging the infamous German pocket battleship Graff Spee. She is turning to starboard to commence firing. The time is 0650 hrs with visibility clear and a fresh south easterly wind blowing.
Both Achilles and Ajax are steaming line ahead while maintaining a north westerly course. A Leander class light cruiser, HMS (later HMNZS) Achilles displaced 7270 tons, measured 555 feet and was capable of 32 knots. More than half the crew were New Zealanders.
The Battle of the River Plate was the first Naval battle in World War Two, taking place on 13th December 1939.