Worthing Second World War hero remembered on 80th anniversary of daring Altmark raid

Veterans, servicemen and women and dignitaries joined a public memorial of a Worthing war hero who took part in one of the Second World War’s defining naval operations.

Tuesday, 18th February 2020, 4:54 pm

A commemoration at Durrington Cemetery yesterday (February 17) remembered John Smith, a sailor who helped free almost 300 British prisoners in the storming of The Altmark on February 17, 1940.

Delivering a speech over Warrant Officer Smith’s grave, Commander Neil Hall said the raid represented ‘one of the most audacious feats’ of the Second World War.

“Altmark was a very important act, which at the time was a huge boost to national morale,” he said.

Parade of Navy veterans in Durrington to mark a Second World War victory. Pic Steve Robards SR20021701 SUS-200217-160712001

“It was a wonderful example of that great British seafaring tradition.”

The Altmark was a Nazi tanker that supported the battleship Graf Spee. After the Graf Spee was scuttled by the British Navy in December, 1939, the Altmark hid in a Norwegian fjord – at that time neutral territory – with 299 captured Merchant Navy seamen on board.

But it was discovered by the Navy’s HMS Cossack and boarded in a daring raid. John Smith was one of the boarders and was shot in the shoulder after entering a booby-trapped door. He was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross and served for the rest of the war, before passing away in 1973 at the age of 69. His grave reads ‘Safe harbour beyond all storms of life’.

Wreaths were laid at his grave by members of the Armed Forces and Worthing mayor Hazel Thorpe, with a military parade from the entrance to the graveside.

The seizing of the Altmark is considered one of the crucial points of the Second World War, contributing to the Nazi’s decision to invade Norway and Denmark two months later.