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Article: Merchant Seamen P.O.Ws.

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    Merchant Seamen P.O.Ws.

    17 Comments by Charles Webb Cooper Published on 12th January 2021 02:57 AM
    My uncle, Percy Appleby, was Chief Steward of the "Huntsman" when it was sunk by the 'Graf Spee' very early iin the war. and he was taken aboard as a P.O.W. He was later transferred to the "Altmark", which was a supply ship for the ‘Graf Spee’. The raider was scuttled in the River Plate by its Commander, after a fierce gun battle with the R.N. but the ‘Altmark’ escaped detection until it had nearly reached safety in Germany. In Feb.1940 it was intercepted off the coast of Norway by the destroyer “Cossack", and ran for cover in a fjord. The Navy followed her in and boarded her with drawn cutlasses and fixed bayonets. After a short fight, all 300 Merchant Navy seamen, who had been locked in the holds, were released. I was told (first hand) that after the fighting was over the Navy were kept busy picking up crew members of the Altmark who were apparently trying to escape by swimming to shore. There seemed to be dozens of them until it was discovered that as fast as they were put back aboard the Altmark, the Merchant Navy seamen would hustle them through the accommodation and pitch them over the other side!

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    Default Re: Merchant Seamen P.O.Ws.

    My relief on a Chowgule ship in Japan was a little Welshman who was a 16 year old on the Altmark at the time. Having a senior moment at the moment and when his name comes back will stick on here. JS.
    Told you it would come back name was Norie Smith.Now deceased he finished up with World Wide Shipping H.K As master. Had a visit from him in the uk about 1975 he was on a ship in Middlesborough shipyard wanted me to go mate with him, before he retired , said there was some future there, at time however I was back in British ships so had to turn down. Nice bloke though if a bit wild. JS.
    For those who went to Narvik on the ore carriers would have crossed the scene of the affray many times maybe without knowing it. There are also cemeteries in Narvik no doubt with corpses from both sides. JS
    Last edited by j.sabourn; 12th January 2021 at 03:23 AM.
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    Default Re: Merchant Seamen P.O.Ws.

    Thanks for the Post , just how many were taken POW by the Germans and the Japanese during the War.
    And a terrible loss of life as well during those Years. Sad times, but those were the War Years and both sides i suppse had their losses. But we will remember all those Brave that Served.
    Cheers

    Pic just for interest.

    huntsman.jpg (1772×1069) (wrecksite.eu)

    And this of interest as well

    Merchant Seaman Held Captive on the German Prison Ship Altmark – HMS Cossack


    The Altmark Incident – The Royal Navy Freed 299 POW But Caused Norway To Be Invaded By Nazi Germany (warhistoryonline.com)
    Last edited by Doc Vernon; 12th January 2021 at 05:30 AM.
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    Default Re: Merchant Seamen P.O.Ws.

    Vernon I wonder if the T Smith is the same one I knew, although he was known to me as Norrie maybe that was another name he preferred as against the T whatever it was. There is no info. about him this could be as he wouldnt of appeared on the Articles, as being an apprentice would of appeared on a young persons list with all his relevent particulars. Maybe this was not available. However this is just guessing. Paperwork as such after the event still leaves a lot to be desired, the people who had the say after the Piper Alpha incident said I beleive there were 228 people on the platform according to them, I was speaking to the control room an hour before the initial explosion and was informed there were 229 souls on board and this was entered in the deck log. Who is right, its the person with the microphone in his hand at the time. I still have recourse to believe the Control Room on the platform that their word was good enough for me. The shore statements either said 227 or 228 , and still havent produced the name of a mystery person . An easy way to solve my self made quandry is to produce the deck log and see what number I wrote in there, unless of course the book no longer exists or has been altered , which should stand to be checked. If Norries name is not on the list for coming off the Altmmark there is something amiss. Cheers JS

    PS have looked again and is there S, N. Smith apprentice. Must be going blind. JS
    Last edited by j.sabourn; 12th January 2021 at 06:30 AM.
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    Default Re: Merchant Seamen P.O.Ws.

    Sorry JS I am a bit confused here, when you mention T Smith, as all i see in my post is one of another Ship ???
    Smith T SS NEWTON BEECH
    Thanks I may be missing something??
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    Not as confused as me , there must be two lists there and I only looked at one with a T.Smith and no info. On looking again at another list Norrie is there as S.N. Smith. My mistake and lack of observation. Haven’t have had a beer yet either , was saving myself for tonight. JS
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    Default Re: Merchant Seamen P.O.Ws.

    Very interesting thread / topic.

    Thanks.

    Keith.
    "Our veterans did not forget about us .... Let's not forget about them." From Michael Levesque

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    Default Re: Merchant Seamen P.O.Ws.

    With reference to the Graf Spee/ Altmark story, I sailed with a Captain W. Woodman on the Border Terrier 1958/59 & Kazimah 1960. He was 3rd Mate on the Newton Beech when captured &sunk by the Graf Spee, I remember him telling me that he was coming on watch at 0800 and saw a huge battleship off the quarter flying the largest French tricolour he had ever seen. As he watched this ensign was replaced by the German naval ensign and they were ordered to heave to. His recollections of Capt. Langsdorf were very positive, he looked after his prisoners and respected the code of the sea, however the Altmarks Capt. Was a different character, carrying a massive chip on his shoulder seeing his role as a dogsbody supply vessel to the glamorous warship. The Navy was shadowing the Altmark when she approached Europe with the prisoners from several merchant ships and prevented her from returning to Germany, forcing her to flee to a Norwegian fjord. This prompted the Altmark Incident a highly contentious raid by the Royal Marines to rescue the prisoners bringing into question Norways neutrality. Several photos appeared recently in the Daily Express in a " memories " supplement of released prisoners returning to Newcastle central station. "Willy"Woodman was a great guy and a wonderful Master to sail under, incidently readers may or may not know that Mechant Seamen were not paid any wages by shipowners from the day their ship was sunk, happy days!

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    Default Re: Merchant Seamen P.O.Ws.

    Quote Originally Posted by John Swan View Post
    With reference to the Graf Spee/ Altmark story, "Willy"Woodman was a great guy and a wonderful Master to sail under, incidently readers may or may not know that Mechant Seamen were not paid any wages by shipowners from the day their ship was sunk, happy days!

    can only say the old man on a tanker i was on was released from the altmark ....and was one gentleman i will never forget ,,,,,he did actually give great thought to crew members overall and although it was months on the indian coast in the 5os i remember him as a very kind soul i believe he was an apprentice or 3rd mate but do not know from which vessel cappy
    Last edited by Doc Vernon; 20th January 2021 at 07:16 PM.

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    Default Re: Merchant Seamen P.O.Ws.

    I can remember when we had 'sing sing' sessions at sea.
    Someone always sang.
    The Altmark.
    I have asked this before.
    Does anyone know the song?
    I just recall some of it.

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