Altmark Incident

Altmark Incident

Infobox Military Conflict
conflict=Altmark Incident

caption=German dead are brought ashore for burial after the incident.
partof=World War II
date=16 February 1940
place=Jøssingfjord, Norway
result=British Victory
commander1= Heinrich Dau
commander2=Philip Vian
strength1=supply ship "Altmark"
strength2=Royal Navy destroyer HMS "Cossack"
casualties1=4 killed
5 wounded
casualties2=1 injured
299 POWs rescued ["The Times (London)", Monday, 19 February 1940, p.10]

The Altmark Incident (Norwegian: "Altmark"-affæren) was a naval skirmish of World War II between the United Kingdom and Nazi Germany, which happened on 16 February 1940. It took place in what were, at that time, neutral Norwegian waters. It has the unique distinction of being the last major boarding action fought by the Royal Navy [ [] BBC Home. The Last Boarding Action of the Royal Navyby WatTyler] .

In February 1940 the German supply ship "Altmark" was returning to Germany with 299 [ [ "The Rule of Law in International Affairs" (Brian Simpson 2003), page 215] ] British merchant sailors on board; prisoners of war that had been picked up from ships sunk by the pocket battleship "Graf Spee". On its way from Southern Atlantic to Germany, the "Altmark" passed through Norwegian waters. It was investigated three times on 15 February by officers from Norwegian vessels, who boarded the ship and carried out cursory searches, taking the Germans' word that the vessel was conducting purely commercial business. First the tanker was boarded by the torpedo boat HNoMS "Trygg" off Linesøy Island, then by the torpedo boat HNoMS "Snøgg" in the Sognefjord, and finally personally by Admiral Carsten Tank-Nielsen and the destroyer HNoMS "Garm" in the Hjeltefjord. After the third boarding, "Altmark" was escorted southwards by torpedo boats HNoMS "Skarv" and HNoMS "Kjell" and the guard boat HNoMS "Firern". The British prisoners held in the ship's hold reportedly made strenuous efforts to signal their presence, such as shouting loudly and banging on the sides of the hull, to the point where the German crew had to drown out the noise by running winches. However, the Norwegian search parties did not inspect the hold, and allowed the ship to continue on its way.

"Altmark" was then spotted off Egersund later the same day by a British aircraft, which raised the alarm in the Royal Navy. After being intercepted by the destroyer HMS "Cossack", captained by Philip Vian, the "Altmark" sought refuge in the fjord Jøssingfjord, but "Cossack" followed her in the next day and forced it to ground. The British then boarded the "Altmark" at 2220 hrs, 16 February, and after some hand-to-hand fighting with bayonets, overwhelmed the ship's crew and released the prisoners. HMS "Cossack" left the Jøssingfjord just after midnight on 17 February. It was, supposedly, the last incident in which cutlasses were used in anger by a boarding party. Fact|date=July 2008 The Norwegian escorts protested, but did not intervene. The official explanation later given by the Norwegian government was that, according to international treaty, a neutral country was not obliged to resist a vastly superior force.

The Norwegians were angered that their neutrality had been infringed, but they did not want to be dragged into a European war. Nonetheless the Altmark incident sowed doubts about the Norwegian neutrality among the Allies, as well as in Germany. Both sides had contingency plans for military action against Norway, primarily to control the traffic of iron ore, on which the German armament industry depended in the early stages of the war. The Altmark incident convinced Adolf Hitler that the allies would not respect Norwegian neutrality, and on 19 February he decided to intensify the planning for Operation Weserübung, the occupation of Denmark and Norway, which eventually took place on 9 April 1940.

The "Altmark" incident gave the British a short-lived but sorely needed morale boost during the "Phoney War". The incident also had a more lasting propaganda effect in German-occupied Norway during the war, when the Norwegian collaborationist government tried to neutralize their nickname "Quislings" by using the location of the skirmish (Jøssingfjord) to coin the derogatory term "jøssing", referring to pro-Allies and anti-Nazis. Their efforts backfired, as "jøssing" was immediately adopted as a positive term by the general public, and the word was finally banned from official use by 1943.


*Frischauer, Willi; & Jackson, Robert, "The Navy's Here! The Altmark Affair"
*Janusz Piekałkiewicz: Der Zweite Weltkrieg mit Vorwort von Sebastian Haffner. Düsseldorf 1985, ISBN 3-89350-544-X

External links

* [ Ships of the World: Altmark]
* [ Halford Mackinder's Necessary War] An essay describing the Altmark incident as part of a cunning plan to embroil Russia in war with Germany.

Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Altmark (pétrolier ravitailleur) — Pour la région allemande, voir Altmark. Altmark L’Altmarck en arrière plan. Norvège, février 1940 Autres noms …   Wikipédia en Français

  • German tanker Altmark — Altmark was a German tanker and supply vessel, one of five of a class built between 1937 and 1939. She is best known for her support of the German commerce raider, the pocket battleship Admiral Graf Spee , and her subsequent involvement in the… …   Wikipedia

  • Norwegian Campaign — Part of the Second World War German forces advancing near Bagn in Va …   Wikipedia

  • HNoMS Kjell — was the final ship of twenty seven 2nd class torpedo boats built for the Royal Norwegian Navy, launched at the Royal Norwegian Navy s shipyard in Horten on 12 March 1912 with build number 106. Kjell saw more than 32 years of service, the first 28 …   Wikipedia

  • Philip Vian — Infobox Military Person name=Sir Philip Louis Vian lived=15 June 1894 27 May 1968 placeofbirth=London placeofdeath=Ashford Hill, Hampshire near Newbury, Berkshire caption= nickname= allegiance=United Kingdom branch= Royal Navy serviceyears= 1907… …   Wikipedia

  • Phoney War — The Phoney War Date 3 September 1939 – 10 May 1940 Location Maginot Line, Siegfried Line Result …   Wikipedia

  • HNoMS Garm — The destroyer HNoMS Garm , known locally as Torpedojager Garm (litt.: torpedo hunter ), was the third destroyer built for the Royal Norwegian Navy, and was a Draug class destroyer. Garm was constructed several years after her two sisterships, but …   Wikipedia

  • HMS Cossack (F03) — HMS Cossack (L03/F03/G03) was a Tribal class destroyer which became famous for the boarding of the German supply ship Altmark in Norwegian waters, and the associated rescue of sailors originally captured by the Admiral Graf Spee . Cossack was… …   Wikipedia

  • Participants in World War II — [ Axis Powers in black, and neutral countries in grey.] The participants in World War II were those nations who either participated directly in or were affected by any of the theaters or events of World War II.World War II was primarily fought… …   Wikipedia

  • Operation Weserübung — Part of the Norwegian Campaign of the Second World War German forces advancing near Bag …   Wikipedia

Share the article and excerpts

Direct link
Do a right-click on the link above
and select “Copy Link”

We are using cookies for the best presentation of our site. Continuing to use this site, you agree with this.