The Sunderland men who were rescued from a prisoner ship in the Atlantic

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Prisoners rescued from a German ship

A group of Sunderland men had a dramatic story to tell from a famous incident in the Second World War.

They were all being held as prisoners on board the German tanker Altmark when it was at the centre of a drama involving British destroyers in the South Atlantic.

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Hand to hand combat in the Atlantic

It was 84 years ago when the Altmark came face to face with the British destroyer HMS Cossack.

Its prisoners were British sailors whose ships had been sunk by the pocket battleship Graf Spee.

The Sunderland-built steamer Newton Beech was one of the Graf Spee's conquests and she was sunk on October 5, 1939. She was a small ship, 4,615 tons, with a crew of 35 and was owned by Ridley, Son and Tully of Newcastle.

The civic reception for the prisoners which was held in February 1940.The civic reception for the prisoners which was held in February 1940.
The civic reception for the prisoners which was held in February 1940. | se

The Altmark was eventually cornered and there was hand to hand combat when British forces boarded the the ship, leaving 8 German sailors killed and 10 wounded.

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A heroes welcome home

The prisoners were rescued and the Sunderland contingency was given a civic reception on their return to Wearside on February 20, 1940.

Pictured at the Town Hall were, left to right, seated, Messrs W L Dumble, Noel Bevan, the Mayor Coun Wayman and Mr H Saville.

Standing are the Town Clerk Mr G S McIntire and Mr J Dumble.

The year of 1940 was one of the most trying for the people of Sunderland with the constant threat of air raids as well as rationing and the rigours of war.

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The damage to Joseph's store in 1940.The damage to Joseph's store in 1940.
The damage to Joseph's store in 1940. | se

Joseph's toy store was damaged when a German bomb struck Sunderland's railway station.

The force of it hurled a 20-ton train carriage across Union Street and into the window of Joseph's store.

Tell us if a member of your family was involved in the incident, by emailing [email protected]

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