”The navy’s here!”

THE ALTMARK AFFAIR

ON VALENTINE’S DAY 1940, A 20,500-TON TANKER ENTERED NORWEGIAN WATERS OFF TRØNDELAG. SHE HAD AVOIDED THE BRITISH BLOCKADE TO REACH NEUTRAL WATERS, WHICH IT WAS HOPED WOULD PROTECT HER ON HER WAY HOME TO GERMANY. PROFESSOR ERIC GROVE DETAILS THE CHASE THAT FOLLOWED.

HMS Cossack pulls into Leith, Scotland, bringing home the British prisoners rescued from the Altmark.
(TOPFOTO)

On each side of the tanker’s grey-painted stern was her name written in foot-high letters. Altmark. The tanker sailed from Germany in early August 1939 and made her way through the English Channel and across the Atlantic to load 9,400 tons of diesel at Port Arthur, Texas. On August 25, Kapitän Heinrich Dau received a signal from home warning him of the imminence of war and he informed the 109-strong crew of his secret orders; in case of war they were to support the surface raider Admiral Graf Spee. Dau had more than 14,000 tons of supplies on board for the Panzerschiff (armoured ship) including food, ammunition and fuel.

Want to read more?

This is a premium article and requires an active subscription.

Existing subscriber? Sign in now

No subscription?

Pick one of our introductory offers