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.
Evidence was heard from Capt. Alexander Schach, motorman Walter Ofsbo, O.S. Ronald Jones, O.S. Michael O'Handly. All officers and engineers having been sent to Bombay from Aden, it was impossible to obtain witnesses from amongst them.
A written declaration made by the Master was read out in his precence to three members of the crew. ...
Attention is particularly drawn to the Master's statement that the official Logbook and other ship's papers, including wages account, were lost with the vessel.
The witnesses then retired with the execption of the Master who, on interrogation, stated that at the time at which his ship was torpedoed, he was in his cabin and that on feeling the shock and seeing the inrush of oil into his quarters, he quickly dressed and ran aft. The Master stated that the Chief-Officer had already ordered the lifeboats to be lowered and considering it advisable to leave the ship, he (the Master) joined the crew already in the starboard lifeboat. Captain Schach added that owing to the speed at which the ship took a heavy list and commenced to sink, there was no time to save ship's papers and confidential documents, and he is convinced that these either went down with the vessel or were destroyed by fire prior to the ship sinking. The master stated that when in lifeboat, he last saw a heavy pall of smoke at 1600 hours on the 3rd December 1942, which he presumed was due to an explosion evidently caused by fire having reached the ammunition locker.
Appended to this declaration is a full and complete list of names, nationality, positions and addresses of the crew, and the Master has reported that all members were landed safely and uninjured. The evidence was read over and acknowledged whereupon the Master retired.
... first witness, Walter Øfsbø, who stated that he was on duty at the time in engine room. He ran on deck and called to the crew to get into the lifeboats. He, himself got into the starboard lifeboat. This witness was asked if he considered the deck wathces to have been adequate during navigation in the zone in which vessel was torpedoed and his reply was in the affirmative. He added taht an assistent engineer was keeping customary watch in the engine room.
The second witnes, Ronald Jones stated that he was at the wheel when vessel was struck and on looking out from the wheel house found everything "blacked out" by oil thrown into the air by the explosion. He added that the boatswain suddenly appeared and told him to get under cover. He was later ordered to proceed aft and get into the starboard lifeboat. This witness stated that the Chief-Officer and the bosun were on the bridge at the time.
The tird witness, Michael O'hanley stated he had just left the bridge to verify the fresh water tank and was in the officers' bathroom when vessel was struck. Noticing the heavy inrush of oil on deck, he realised vessel had been hit and he proceeded aft to the starboard lifeboat.
All witnesses affirmed that the submarine was a large one and that the shelling of the "BELITA" was carried out with tracer bullets from a gun, forward of the conning tower. They all agreed that on account of the vessel's heavy list, it was impossible to retaliate.