Factory ship Hamburg

There are still many memories of the war. The factory ship Hamburg was a pioneer project and the world’s most modern ship for processing fish in the winter of 1941.

Freezing fish

The ship was built before World War I, had a powerful machine, and was supposed to carry fruit that needed fast delivery. But things did not go according to plan and after a fire in 1938, the ship was converted into a ship to process and freeze fish. There were installed the first Bader fillet machines plus freezing. 

But it was too little. The freezing capacity was expanded with 4 rail cars on the aft deck that had freezer machinery and helped out. Freezing fish was a completely unusual way of treating the fish in 1941.

On board there was a long day of 12 hours and two shifts. Production ran continuously around the clock. It is alleged that Hamburg could process 175 tons of round fish a day. The ship also had its own cod liver oil steamery. Bones and fish heads were churned up and everything on the fish was used. The ship also had its own guide boat that went to Germany with the frozen fish. On board worked a number of German prisoners who had been given the choice between still being in prison or working on board MS Hamburg. In addition, 25 people from Svolvær were “discharged” and had to work on board. The alternative was imprisonment if you did not escape to Sweden. 

Shelled and sunk

During the Lofoten Raid on 4 March 1941, the English considered whether they could tow the high-tech ship Hamburg to England, but found that it was too dangerous. The ship was therefore fired upon and sunk quite dramatically where several Germans lost their lives. 

When the German crew was rounded up and carried in bar boxes out to the English ships, one of the German full-throated workhouse prisoners sang “Wir fahren gegen England” and was in good spirits. Something not everyone found equally funny. 

Factory ship Hamburg
The factory ship Hamburg. Photo: Lofoten war memorial museum.
Still in port

The huge ship is still in the harbour in Svolvær at a depth of only 18 m. It has been diving on it for over 50 years. The winches are still on the deck and the masts as well. One of the lifeboats stands next to the ship on the bottom. It’s an “attraction” even if we can’t see it. However, it is now in the way of others who use the area, so we’ll see how it goes.

Photograph coloured by William Hakvaag from Lofoten War Memorial Museum.

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Lofoten War Memorial Museum

The largest exhibition of rare uniforms and artifacts from World War II in Norway. Unique historic snapshots. Personal and engaging.