WWII Vet tells story of bold raid on one of the German navy’s largest battleship – the Tirpitz

Commander John Lorimer is the last of the twelve brave soldiers who went to raid one the German navy’s largest battleships in Europe and “pride of the German fleet” during the Second World War. Seven decades after, the commander reveals how they accomplished the bold and suicidal raid.

Commander Lorimer, now 91, is now the only member alive of the twelve men who raided the Tirpitz. Their mission was to sink the giant German battleship while on board midget submarines. The Second World War veteran retired to his home in Ayrshire after the war.

The STV News reports that of the twelve, six died during their dangerous mission on September of 1943. Commander Lorimer revealed that he first came to know of the mission when he volunteered in response to an Admiralty advertisement seeking sailors who “liked swimming”. He was then 19 during that time.

After volunteering, he found himself being subjected to intense training. He trained to operate the X-craft, a midget submarine. He also did physical training on long-distance trekking and diving.

“You don’t think about it. If you think you’re going to get killed you won’t do it, simple as that,” the commander commented about the dangerous mission.


Their submarines were based at Loch Cairnbawn and were headed towards a Norweigian fjord. Their target was the 43,000-ton huge, fast and powerful sister ship of the Bismark, the Tirpitz. Compared to their midget submarines, the huge German vessel was at the advantage. The mission was a top priority because of the threat that the Tirpitz pose on the British navy in the Arctic region.

The team infiltrated the Tirpitz and planted mines beneath its hull. They were discovered when the periscope of a submarine hit an uncharted rock and caught fire. They had no choice then but to hit the surface and get caught.

They were captured by the Germans. The British sailors were being interrogated while on board the Tirpitz when the explosives blew up.

“They captured us before the explosion,” Commander Lorimer said. “They were curious about us, but they were very cross when the explosion went off.”

The prisoners were about to be put to death when a German admiral stopped the firing squad from shooting.

“The German admiral came back and said you can’t shoot these people, they’re prisoners. I always meant to write to him after the war but never got round to it,” added the commander.



Siegphyl is one of the authors writing for WAR HISTORY ONLINE