Maritime inquiry 1939 - 1945
The information below regarding ships in the Nortraship fleet is a direct transcript of the original source "Sjøforklaringer fra andre verdenskrig (1940 - 1945)". The informasjon is collected from maritime inquiries held during and right after the war. The information may differ from the other quality assured information in Krigsseilerregisteret.
First Witness, the Second Officer Harald Aabornes, who stated that ...
The weather was fine and the passage uneventful until the night of 4th. August, when the ship was proceeding at full speed, without lights showing, ship being completely blacked out. The Third Mate was on watch on the bridge, and the Swedish Seaman Aake Pettersen was lookout on the forecastle head. I was sleeping in my bunk, my cabin being on port side amidships.
I was awakened by a bullet which came through the port hole which was half opened, smashing the glass, a shell then came through the bulkhead a few inches above my body and continued through the opposite bulkhead into the saloon.
I got up quickly and heard a cry, I went out to the alley and saw the Swedish Ordinary Seaman, Aake Pettersen lying at the entrance half in and half out, his left foot had been torn off and a bullet hat passed through his left side in the region of his heart, he was still alive and asked for water. I pulled him into the alley way and after that the Steward Lyder Oshaug and one of the sailors took him into the saloon where they laid him on the floor.
I did not see him again but the 3rd Engineer and the Steward stated afterwards that he looked at them and died almost Immediately.
I met the Chief Officer in the alley way who asked me to find some medical stores for the injured men. He told me that the Captain was killed outside his cabin door and assisted by the 3rd. Engineer he had placed the Captain's body in the Captain's cabin on the bridge deck.
The Third Mate came down from the flying bridge about that moment heard the Captain say one word "lifeboats". He believed that the Captain died at that moment.
I went to the after deck near the storm bridge on the Port Side up to the boat deck, at that time the unknown ship started firing again with the macine guns on to the Port Side.
The crew started to lower the Starboard lifeboat, but the Chief officer gave order that the boats should not be lowered without his orders. The crew then hoisted the Starboard lifeboat again and firing re-commenced immediately.
It seemed that the fire was concentrated round the funnel. I could see the unknown ship's searchlight but nothing more. I could see the bullets going through the funnel casing.
I went to the Starboard lifeboat and saw that the after tackle was shot away. The ship was stopped when firing commenced, and I ordered the Port Lifeboat to be lowered, some got in before the boat was launched, and some jumped in the sea and swam to the boat, and some got down a rope ladder. Twenty six in all were in the boat.
I saw that one sailor remained on the ship with me, I was going towards amidships but machine guns started firing again, so I returned aft and called the sailor to me and said to him that we should try to get the Starboard boat out, so we let it go on the fore tackle only, hanging in a vertical position right up and down, the we lowerered the fore end down until the boat was in the water on an even keel but ful of water. We both got down the fore tackle and cut boat adrift by cutting the fore tackle.
When we got clear of the ship we started to bale the water out, nearly cleared the lifeboat which was a gasoline motor lifeboat, we found we had only lost the rudder, everything else was in the boat.
As soon as the motor boat was clear of the ship the two of us started to row until about a half a mile distant when we came to the other boat.
We took twelve men over from the other boat and started to row away from the ship in company, and stopped rowing after proceeding about one mile.
When we stopped rowing it seemed that there was a light alongside the "BEAULIEU", a little while afterwards I heard first one heavy explosion from the ship, and then two shells were fired from the unknown ship from big guns, after which there were two smaller explosions observed on the "BAULIEU" after which a flame shot up and we saw that the ship was burning for a long time.
We continued rowing away from the ship.
When I reached the other boat I found that there were two more men missing besides the Captain and the Swedish lookout man Aake Pettersen. The two that were missing being Chief Mate Harald Reiersen and the Cook Thoralf Jensen.
The last men who had seen the Cook were the Steward and the Third Mate, who saw him in the saloon before the second bombardment commenced. The Third Mate went aft and the Steward jumped over the side.
I believe I was the last to speak to the Chief Mate Harald Reiersen juste before the second bombardment, and it was on the bridge deck, Starboard Side, when he asked me to find the medical stores for the injured Swedish man. This was just before the second bombardment which came from the starboard quarter and I did not see him again.
It was now about two hours since we first sighted the raider. I decided to remain in Charge of the motor boat myself, leaving the other lifeboat in charge of the Third Mate.
My first order was to row both boats - keeping together until daybreak, about 5 am when we stopped.
I found the the log books had been lost, none of the ships papers saved and none of the crew had saved any of their effects.
We then started sailing both together but the boats did not keep togehter until we put a line between them, course S. W. true.
I ordered the water to be rationed, we had sufficient for 15/13 days allowing each man about 1/4 litre per day, that is to day we had just over 100 litres with us.
All boat stores were good, boats compasses were in good order, we only ran the motor for about fifteen minutes the first day, and twenty minutes the second day, the motor gave trouble because the gasoline had been stored for a long time i a galvanized iron drum.
Nothing special happened the first day in the boats (Monday 5th August) the boats reamaining until the morning connected by the line. The we let go the line and sailed independently but the Port boat sailed faster than the motor boat.
During this day William James the Mess boy jumped twice into the sea, we had to turn round and pick him up each time.
We ran the engine for about 20 minutes the second day as stated above. On the night of the second day we connected the boats again by means of the line.
At daybreak on Tuesday 6th August we cast off the connection Line and continued sailing the whole day course S.W. true.
At night we connected the boats again by means of the line and kept on sailing as best as possible, we sent up a rocket in case there might be a ship in the neighbourhood.
On Wednesday 7th August at daybreak cast off line and contiued sailing same course, the engine ran for about 20 minutes on this day, we connected the boats again at night. The Port boat sent up a rocked and we had the lights burning in boath boats every night execept the first.
On the morning of Thursday 8th August we cast off the line, and tried to start the engine but it would not work at all, about noon the Chief and Third Engineers got down over the stern on a plank and took of the propeller and tailshaft.
We did not connect the boats on Thursday night but kept together on the same course, we sent up two rockets, one from each boat during that night.
On Friday morning 9th August about 7.20 am. the Port boat being nearly half a mile ahead of us altered course to steer nerly North, they had sighted a ship's mast and funnel, which we saw afterwards. We altered course accordingly. About 8 am. both boats came up to the British Tanker "CYMBELINE" chich altered course and came towards us as soon as our boats were sighted.
We were taken on board the "CYMBELINE" and treated with the utmost kindness by the Master, officers and all hands, the ship reached Gibraltar on the evening of Thursday 22nd Augst when after the formalities, the Officers and crew of the "BEAULIEU" were allowed to land and arrangements were made by the Norwegian Consul for their accommodation.
As the Officers and crew had lost all their effects and clothing they had to be fitted out by the Norwegian Consul.
... The Second Witness, Third Officer Peder Nilsen, appeared and deposed that :-
On the night of 4th August I went on watch at 8 pm., the ms. "BEAULIEU" was proceeding on her course 220 true from noon, at about 8.55 pm. I saw a dark shadow on the Port bow, I saw it was a ship all blacked out, her course was crossing ours, she was about three points on our Port bow and about 300 yards away.
I put on the Navigatieon lights and ordered the helmsman "Hard Starboard" in order to avoid collision.
At this same time the ship started to fire at us with machine guns and heavier guns, they fired tracer bullets at the bridge wireless room and boat deck. After a few seconds the Captain came on the bridge. He asked me if I had put on the Navigation Lights, I told him I had already done this, he ordered the engines to stop, I carried out this order.
Then the Captain went down again, bullets were falling like rain, so the helmsman and I went to the wheelhouse and lay down on the deck. I told the helmsman to go into the chart room behind the wheel house, and went there myself, I saw the wireless destroyed by bullets.
We stayed in the chart room until the firing stopped, it having lasted between five and ten minutes, then we went out on the bridge in order to go down below, the Chief Mate Harald Reiersen came up from below he said the the Captain is lying on the boat deck and he is shot, he said the Swedish lookout man is shot too.
I went down below to the boat deck followed by the Chief Mate, the Captain was lying on the boat deck, I tried to help him to his feet, I saw the bullet wounds in his body and legs, but he could not stand and felldown again on the deck. He did not speak.
I went to look at the Port lifeboat aft, the boat already swung out and already to lower away, most of the crew were on the boat deck ready to lower the boat, so I went back amidships and asked the Chief Mate if we were going to lower the boats or not, the ship was still moving although the engines stopped.
The Chief Mate replied not yet, we will get some men to help the two men who are shot (the Captain and the Swedish Sailor), then the Third Engineer helped to carry the Captain to the Captain's own room, the Sweedish seaman was in the saloon. The last time I saw the Captain was after they had brought him in there, then the Chief Mate and I examined him and we saw that he was badly wounded, his eyes cleared for a moment and he said one word "lifeboats", then he lost consciousness. This was the last I saw of the Chief Mate. I went down into the saloon and saw the Swedish seaman, one of his feet was badly wounded, he was unconsciuous, the raider started to shoot again. I went to my cabin close by, the Steward and the Cook was in the saloon, the Cook was praying to God. One of the ordinary seaman was there too and I him to liedown on the floor of a cabin.
After this the firing became very heavy, heavy shells exploded, the lights went out, midships was filled with the fumes of exploding shells. This was the last I saw of the Cook. I stayed in my cabin for about five minutes. Then firing then stopped, on the Port side all the deck near accomodation was opened up by exploding shell.
It was the same in the saloon and the pantry.
Then I heard the Port lifeboat being lowered, so I went aft, the lifeboat was going down to the water and I jumped in. The raider turned on the searchlight and I heard more bullets on the Ship's side.
Some men came down into the boat after it was in the water and we picked up the Steward who was swimming round.
We let go the tackle and I took command of the boat and ordered the men to row away from the ship and then we stopped again after a few moments because I saw there were still men on board the ship, and lay to about 100 yards from the ship. We heard the Starboard boat fall down to thewater. The crew were very anxious to get away as quick as possible, because we saw something which might have been bullets falling between us and the stern of the ship. We rowed for about five or six minutes, the Second Mate and one A.B. came up in the Starboard boat, we sent a few men over to help them bale out the boat.
We remained with 14 men in each boat, we rowed away about 1 1/2 miles and we stopped rowing again and had a council as to what to do as there were people left on board.
We were of opinion that we should wait until daylight and not go too far away from the ship. After daylight the intention was to go back to the ship and search for the missing men.
After about two hours we saw a heavy explosion, which was followed by two smaller explosions and flames went up in the thip. Then we realised that there was nothing more to be done as regards saving lives.
Being fine weather the raider may have gone alongside the "BEAULIEU" after we left.
The two boats kept company and were roing until daylight, then we stopped rowing and set sail, our course was about S.W. true.
We told the men we must keep strict rations of water and ships biscuits.
The boat end stores were in good order, in accordance with Regulations.
We kept company by day and night until the morning of Friday 9th August when we sighted the masts and funnel of a ship, we altered course and steered towards the ship, which altered her course as soon as she saw us. We sent up two rockeds and made some smoke.
The ship observed us, altered course and came towards us and picked up the crews of both boats at about 8 am.
We received every attention from the Captain, Officers and crew of the British ss. "CYMBELINE" from the time we went on board until we left the ship, who did their best for us in every way.
The ship's log books were lost with the ship, Officers and crew lost all their effects.
The Third Witness, Reidar Schroen, Chief Engineer ... appeared and deposed that :-
On the night of 4th August I was in the provision store taking a glass of iced water when I heard machine gun fire. I went on deck, Starboard side and down to the engine room where Elmar Roots was in charge of the watch with one greaser, the engines were still going full speed ahead, but as I was going to the control platform I heard "STOP" rung down from the bridge. I stopped the engine.
Then I went up on deck, the Assistant and greaser coming up as well, there I met the Chief Mate who was asking for and electric torch, and I went to the 2nd Engineer and got a torch from him.
Then I met the 2nd Mate who said it was not necessary to have the torch so I put it in my pocket and went back to the engine room.
I started the colling water for cylinders and pistons, I told everyone to go up on deck and got out lifebelts.
I went on deck myself and went amidships, the engine room being aft. I went to the Captain's room and saw him, he was lying on the floor having blood on his shirt showing he had bullet wounds in the body. He was not quite dead but evidently at his last gasp, as far as I could judge.
I then went down to the saloon and saw the seaman Aake Pettersen on the floor and I thought he was qute dead.
I then went aft to my room on Starboard side, I took my cap, shirt, watch, cigarettes and matches, went over to Port side and up to the boat deck, the Port boat was in the water and I saw the Starboard boat was still up on the boat deck.
My place was in the Starboard boat so I started to go over there but the Second Mate said the fall was shot away, so I went back to the Port boat and got into it by going down the rope ladder.
The Cook, Thoralf Jensen was with the Steward in the provision room when I went for my glass of iced water, but I do not remember seein him after that.
I was the last to get into the boat be the rope ladder, but the Steward climbed in from the sea. The raider directed his searchlight right on to the boat for a short time.
The Third Mate was in charge of the boat and we pulled away from the ship.
When the lifeboat was about 20 yards astern of the "BEAULIEU" something passed between the lifeboat and the stern of the ship which might have been a torpedo, it seemed to go past the "BEAULIEU" and then turned round twice, but it never hit the "BEAULIEU".
We then started to row straight astern from the "BEAULIEU" som of the crew wantet to row away immediately, but I wanted to stand by to see if any more men could be picked up. We rowed a short distance and then we stopped again. We then heard a splash of the Starboard boat hitting the water. We waited for it to come and by good luck it came towards us.
Some men from the Port boat went over to the Starboard boat and we started to row in both boats. We carried on in company with the other boat until 5 am. on the Monday morning.
We then had biscuits and water and put up sail, sailing the whole day. The Mess boy William James was suffering from nerves.
We kept company with the other boat by means of a line at night.
On the Tuesday the Messboy Wiliam James jumped over the side into the sea twice and the boat was turned round and he was saved both times. We started the engine on the Tuesday it ran for about 15 minutes then stopped, I beleive due to the gasoline having been for too long, stored in a galvanized tank.
On Wednesday 7th August I again started the motor which ran for 20 minutes then stopped again.
On Thursday 8th August Tried to start the motor again but unable to make it run at all, so I went over the stern and cut the tailshaft of with a hacksaw to make the boat sail better.
On Friday 9th August sighted a ship which turned out to be the British Tanker ss. "CYMBELINE" which came towards us as soon as we were sighted and piced us up about 8 am.
The eninge room logbooks were lost with the ship. Effects of Officers and crew all lost.
I particularly desire to record the good treatment we received on the "CYMBELINE", the Master, Chief Engineer, Officers and crew all did their best to assist us in every way, giving medical treatment to those who required it, refreshment, clothing, tobacco and accomodation to all.
... Fourth Witness, Lyder Oshaug ... Steward of the m.s."BEAULIEU".
At about 9. pm. on the 4th August, I was in the provision storeroom aft, on the m.s. "BEAULIEU" with the Cook, Thoralf Jensen just having finished taking stores out for the next day, the Chief Engineer came down for some iced water. When down there we heard two shots and to hard knocks on the Ship's side.
We did not know what had happened and thought that something had gone wrong with the engine.
We ran up on deck as soon as possible, bullets were flying all round us, we went in through the Engineers entrance, and in there we met the Third Engineer, and he and the Chief Engineer went down to the engine room.
The Cook stayed with me until the firing stopped, then I went over to the meat safe which was on the Port side aft, I went into my pantry amidships, there I met the Second Officer and he told me to look after the Swedish sailor who was injured.
A sailor helped med to carry the Swede from the Officer entrance to the Saloon smoking room. I fetched some cold water to clean the Swede, I brought a bottle of wine and gave him a drink. Whilst I was doing this the Cook came and he stayed with me in the saloon, I went up to the Chief Mate on the bridge deck and asked him what to do with the Swede. He told me that the Captain had been hit by a bullet in the body, when on the bridge deck I saw some of the crew working to launch the Starboard lifeboat aft.
The Chief Mate told them to stop as they were not going into the lifeboat yet.
I went back to the Saloon smokeroom, the Cook was praying to God to save the Swedish sailors life, I prayed with the Cook not having anything else to do. After a short time the firing started again, we stayed together for some minutes I looked at the Swede and he was unconscious or dead.
After a few minutes a big explosion took place apparently from the Chief Mate's room adjoining, I went out on deck, I do not remember clearly the details, I did not see or hear anything of the Cook Thoralf Jensen after the big explosion.
When I came out of the entrance I saw that the Port lifeboat was being lowered, I thought I should not have time to get into the lifeboat therefore I jumped over the side into the sea. I swam aft, I was in the water some minutes and feeling tired had to take my trousers off in the water. I struck out from the ship's side called out to the boat and they picked me up.
When I was in the water I saw shots coming from the raider striking amidships and on the poop, the raider did not appear to be shooting at the lifeboats in the water.
I stayed in the Starboard lifeboat commanded by the Third Mate until we were picked up by the British Tanker ss. "CYMBELINE" on the morning of 9th August.
I do not know if the Cook Thoralf Jensen is alive or dead, he was not wounded until the big explosion came and I do not know what happened after.
The boat was in good order as regards provisions and water, we had sufficient for 18 or 20 days.
We were very well treated on the British ss. "CYMBELINE" and soon recovered from the effects of five nights in the open boats.