December 21-22, 2020


Honourable Opponent


eighty-one years ago a battle

on the one side

Ajax, Achilles and Exeter

under Sir Henry Harwood

and on the other side

the Admiral Graf Spee

under Hans Wilhelm Langsdorff


(did you know that in all his battles,

amid all his resounding successes

as a North Atlantic commerce raider,

he kept to the Hague Conventions

not killing any of his captive foes

but treating them with honour

despite the rule of ignoble evil)


at the Battle of the River Plate

on the one side

Ajax, Achilles and Exeter

and Sir Henry Harwood

ultimately successful

went on to further glory

while on the other side

strategically defeated

Admiral Graf Spee was scuttled

her honourable captain sacrificed

to the ego of ignoble evil


their fame lives on above our streets

many carried the gloried names

of honourable friend

of equally honourable foe

honour, valour, courage

equally placed


only recently have we changed too far

we no longer have a street

beneath Hans Wilhelm Langsdorffs name

he is once again sacrificed

on the reputation of ignoble evil


it is a world too sad to endure

in which an honoured foe is despised

for an evil far more ignoble



We had, until recently, a Langsdorff Drive here in Ajax,

but someone was bothered that we honoured a German,

so council is changing it to something less offensive.


This is not how my parents taught me to view a foe,

if they fight with honour, they are worthy of honour.


Honourable Opponent
A poem by Peter Rhebergen

Copyright 2021

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