How this north Norfolk cargo ship evaded the Nazis

The previous owner of the Albatros on Wells Quayside was told to move the ship to free up space for other boats in 2009. 

The previous owner of the Albatros on Wells Quayside was told to move the ship to free up space for other boats in 2009. - Credit: Archant Library

The Dutch cargo ship Albatros has become a landmark in her own right having served as a floating bar, restaurant, music venue and B&B in north Norfolk.

Although she set sail for Maldon in Essex for a major refurbishment and refit in 2020 she has been moored at Wells Harbour for many years. 

The Albatros might have been away from her north Norfolk home a little longer than expected due to coronavirus delays and Brexit, but today we are looking back at some old archive photos and the history of this remarkable ship.

The Albatros leaves Wells bound for Belgium on October 11, 1990. 

The Albatros leaves Wells bound for Belgium on October 11, 1990. - Credit: Archant Library

History of the Albatros

Built in 1899, the two-masted sailing clipper provided a living for four generations ferrying cargos around Europe for nearly a century.

In the 1930s an engine was installed and the rigging reduced to just steadying sails, allowing her to sail as a tramp until after the second world war.

The Albatros out to sea at Wells on April 12, 1996. 

The Albatros out to sea at Wells on April 12, 1996. - Credit: Archant Library

During the second world war, the craft smuggled Jewish refugees and political dissidents out of Denmark and brought weapons for the resistance back into the country. 

A Dane named Rasmussen had bought the Albatros in 1941. Rasmussen and his shipmate Jansen were hard-drinking sailors who traded molasses from Nazi-occupied Denmark to neutral Sweden during the war.

The Albatros ship sits high and dry on marshes at Wells, Norfolk in 2002.

The Albatros ship sits high and dry on marshes at Wells, Norfolk. Date: May 1, 2002. - Credit: Archant Library

The Albatros had to be moved along the quay as part of the Wells Harbour development in 2010.

The piling rig for the outer harbour development being unloaded onto Wells Quay, so the Albatros had to be moved along the quay for the unloading of the rig. Date: February 2, 2010. - Credit: Archant Library

The Germans dismissed them as a couple of harmless alcoholics and only cursorily checked the Albatros when she left or entered the country.

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When Ton Brouwer bought the boat in 1980 it had only had three previous owners in its long history. He restored her over a five-year period between 1983 and 1988.

The Albatros returns to Wells with former skipper Tom Brouwer on August 29, 1991. 

The Albatros returns to Wells with former skipper Tom Brouwer on August 29, 1991. - Credit: Archant Library

The ship was then commissioned as a cargo vessel, sailing across the North Sea and around Europe with its captain and crew.

In 1996 after a Belgian soya contract terminated, the Albatros left Wells when an unexpected offer arrived from Greenpeace. The global campaigning network wanted to base the vessel in Amsterdam and convert it into an environmental education centre for children.

The Albatros returns to Wells with former skipper Tom Brouwer on August 29, 1991.

The Albatros returns to Wells with former skipper Tom Brouwer on August 29, 1991. - Credit: Archant Library

Ton Brouwer was the captain of the Albatros in Wells before selling it in 2020. 

Ton Brouwer was the captain of the Albatros in Wells before selling it in 2020. Date: September 18, 2014. - Credit: Archant Library

In 2005, Mr Brouwer transformed the Albatros into a popular tourist attraction and Rob Richardson, who then bought the boat in 2020, commenced the most recent refitting efforts. 

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The harbour at Wells with the Albatros moored in the foreground in 2002

The harbour at Wells with the Albatros moored in the foreground. Date: March 13, 2002. - Credit: Archant Library

The Albatros ship sits on the mud in Wells harbour in 2002.

The Albatros ship sits on the mud in Wells Harbour. Date: May 17, 2002. - Credit: Archant Library

The signs welcoming visitors to the Albatros after it returned to Wells harbour in 2019.

The signs welcoming visitors to the Albatros after it returned to Wells Harbour. Date: May 24, 2019. - Credit: Archant Library

The Albatros on a sunny day in Wells, Norfolk on September 18, 2014.

The Albatros on a sunny day in Wells, Norfolk. Date: September 18, 2014. - Credit: Archant Library

On the deck of the Albatros in Wells, Norfolk in 2000

On the deck of the Albatros in Wells, Norfolk. Date: December 23, 2000. - Credit: Archant Library

The Albatros on Wells Quayside told it has to move to free up space for other boats in 2009.

The owner of the Albatros on Wells Quayside was told it has to move to free up space for other boats. Date: April 7, 2009. - Credit: Archant Library