Altmark file photo [1097]


Ship ClassDithmarschen-class Auxiliary
BuilderHowaldtswerke Kiel
Ordered15 May 1936
Laid Down15 Jun 1936
Launched13 Nov 1937
Commissioned14 Nov 1938
Displacement7,021 tons standard
Length463 feet
Armament2x2-lb anti-aircraft, 4x machine guns


ww2dbaseAltmark was the German tanker and supply vessel that accompanied the pocket battleship (later re-classified as heavy cruiser) Admiral Graf Spee on the successful raiding campaign against British transports early in the Battle of the Atlantic. The gallant and honorable Hans Langsdorff of Graf Spee refused to harm one life more than necessary, and as a result most of the crew of the nine British cargo ships sunk by Graf Spee was aboard Altmark when Graf Spee was spotted and later defeated by Allied warships. For the next nine weeks, she hid in the vastness of the Atlantic, evading Allied detection, but by Feb 1940 she was running low in fuel and other supplies and must make port call. In the morning of 16 Feb, she was spotted by Royal Air Force pilots as she sailed along the Norwegian coast. She was intercepted by British destroyer HMS Cossack under the command of Captain Philip Vian at Jøssingfjord. Fearful of German reprisals if they did not interfere, two Norwegian gunboats blocked the entrance to the fjord, attempting to convince that Altmark was unarmed and did not carry prisoners. From London, Lord of the Admiralty Winston Churchill personally intervened and demanded boarding the German vessel. After warning the Norwegian ships, Vian sailed into the fjord, relieved to see no hostile action from the Norwegian ships, but was surprised by the "unarmed" Altmark firing upon his ship. While Altmark's 2-lb "pom-pom" guns and four machine guns fired on Cossack, Altmark ran aground during maneuvers, and was boarded by British troops. The boarding party opened the hatches to the empty oil tanks and yelled "are there any English down there?" A collective response from 299 captives was heard. After the British prisoners were rescued, Altmark returned to Germany and resumed her duties as supply ship to raiders, though under the new name Uckermark. On 30 Nov 1942, while docked in Yokohama, Japan, an accident by repair crew triggered an explosion of the fuel tanks and destroyed the ship, killing 43 crewmen.

ww2dbaseSources: the Last Lion, Wikipedia.

Last Major Revision: Jul 2006

Auxiliary Altmark Interactive Map


Altmark at Jøssingfjord, Norway, 16 Feb 1940

Altmark Operational Timeline

28 Oct 1939 German pocket battleship Admiral Graf Spee received fuel from and transferred British prisoners to tanker Altmark near Tristan de Cunha in the South Atlantic.
14 Feb 1940 German pocket battleship Admiral Graf Spee's supply ship Altmark reached Norwegian territorial waters off Trondheim. It was Captain Heinrich Dau's intension to remain in neutral Norwegian waters to avoid an attack by the British.
16 Feb 1940 German freighter Altmark, former supply ship for pocket battleship Admiral Graf Spee, was found by Hudson aircraft of No.233 Squadron RAF in Jøssingfjord, Norway. HMS Cossack captured Altmark and rescued 299 British prisoners of war aboard.
15 Aug 1942 Uckermarck and Ermland departed Royan, France, escorted by torpedo boats T4 and T10, in an attempt to pass through the English Channel for coast of the Bay of Biscay.
16 Aug 1942 Uckermarck and Ermland arrived at La Pallice, La Rochelle, France; they were escorted by torpedo boats T4 and T10.

Did you enjoy this article or find this article helpful? If so, please consider supporting us on Patreon. Even $1 per month will go a long way! Thank you.

Share this article with your friends:


Stay updated with WW2DB:

 RSS Feeds

Posting Your Comments on this Topic

Your Name
Your Email
 Your email will not be published
Comment Type
Your Comments


1. We hope that visitor conversations at WW2DB will be constructive and thought-provoking. Please refrain from using strong language. HTML tags are not allowed. Your IP address will be tracked even if you remain anonymous. WW2DB site administrators reserve the right to moderate, censor, and/or remove any comment. All comment submissions will become the property of WW2DB.

2. For inquiries about military records for members of the World War II armed forces, please see our FAQ.

Search WW2DB
More on Altmark
Event(s) Participated:
» Altmark Incident

Auxiliary Altmark Photo Gallery
Altmark at Jøssingfjord, Norway, 16 Feb 1940

Famous WW2 Quote
"You ask, what is our aim? I can answer in one word. It is victory. Victory at all costs. Victory in spite of all terrors. Victory, however long and hard the road may be, for without victory there is no survival."

Winston Churchill

Support Us

Please consider supporting us on Patreon. Even $1 a month will go a long way. Thank you!

Or, please support us by purchasing some WW2DB merchandise at TeeSpring, Thank you!