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.
Appeared master mariner Morten Mortensen ...
The captain produced a report about what had occurred, written on the 4th July at La Coruna.
The captain reffered to this report. He further stated:-
During the voyage they had only met with a couple of vessels, among which a Union Castle ship. There was however nothing special to note concerning the voyage until the 3th June 1940 when the vessel, about 250 miles S.W. of Land's End, was torpedoed without warning. The captain, who was on the bridge, gave ordres for the lifeboats to be put out and after the explosion ran at once down to his cabin where he took his brief case with the ship's papers, from there down on to the deck and towards aft, and by then the vessel was submerged to such an extent that practically speaking he could step straight into the lifeboat. The lifeboats rowed clear of the vessel which sank very quickly as she had broken in two and the parts were knocking against each other as she sank.
The U-boat then came to the surface and came within hailing distance, after which an officer put some questions to the captain in English, namely, where was the vessel coming from, the port of destination, the cargo, what the vessel was to do at Southampton and who had ordered the vessel there and who was the ownger of the vessel. The captain replied in English and his replies were interpreted to a superior officer who was also in the tower of the U-boat. The captain could not hear into which language the replies were translated.
The captain replied to the questions put as follows:-
Port of departure:- Dakar.
Port of destination:- Southampton.
Cargo:- No cargo, tho which the officer replied: "That's not true Captain."
The object of calling at Southampton:- Ordered there by the vessel's owner.
Who is the owner of the vessel:- The Norwegian Government.
Question:- "Who is the Head of the Norwegian Government?" to which the captain replied:- "The King."
The U-boat then made a tour among the wreckage and picked up an object which looked like a life buoy. The U-boat appeared to be of a somewhat small type and new. This latter assumption is based on the fact that in some places there appeared fredshly formed rust marks, especially round the rivets. The lifeboats hoisted sails and saild and rowed away in a north-easterly direction and with the wind from south-east.
The crew was later picked up by 2 Spanish trawlers which were on the way to La Coruna where they arrived the 2nd July in the afternoon.
... the 1st witness, Chief Officer Asbjørn Utne, who stated:-
That he came on the bridge at 4 o'clock in the morning of the 30/6 and a while later he could see a dark object forward in the grey of the dawn. He called the captain who again warned the 2nd officer, who was the wireless opreator, but the after a while the object disappeared. Thereafter, in spite of a careful look-out, we could not notice anything unusual until the vessel was suddenly torpedoed.
The officers on the bridge the ran aft to the lifeboats, which were put out, and rowed and sailed in a north-easterly direction until they met with the English s.s. "Sheridan" bound for Brazil. That vessel was requested to obtain assistance and she called in 2 Spanish trawlers which were passing at a distance. These picked up the men and landed them at La Coruna. Otherwise, he gave evidence in conformity with that of the captain.
The 2nd witness (Second Officer and Wireless Operator Tore Edvin Olsen) stated:-
That he was called to the wireless cabin at about 4.30 o'clock where he remained for about an hour occupied with listening in. Thereafter he went out on the bridge and about 10 minutes afterwards the torpedoing occurred without any warning whatsoever. The lifeboats were hailed by the U-boat which put the questions as stated by the captain and the boats then sailed in a north-easterly direction until they met with the s.s. "Sheridan". Otherwise, the witness gave evidence in conformity with the captain's report.
... The 3rd witness (Second Engineer Odd Kjeldsberg) stated:-
That at the moment of the explosion he was on watch in the engine room together with a motorman. He at once ran along and stopped the oil supply so that the engine stopped. The vessel had then been doing about 8 miles at full speed. He then ran up on to the boat deck, found a life belt and jumped into the sea and swam across to one of the lifeboats which had drifted a distance away. On meeting with the two Spanish trawlers we tried to get them to tow the lifeboats up towards the English coast, but by signs they made us understand that they would have to proceed direct to Spain with their fish. Otherwise, the witness spoke in conformity with the previous witnesses.
... The 4th witnes (A.B. Seaman Harald Strømme) stated:-
That from 4 until 5 o'clock he was on the lookout on the bridge and was thereafter at the wheel. Shortly before four o'clock they had observed a dark object on the horizon which was assumed to be a U-boat. This object remained for a time on the horizon after which it disappeared. As it was assumed to have been a U-boat which had suberged orders were given, first at 4.30 o'clock and subsequently at 5.30 o'clock, for calling out the crew with instructions to hold themselves in readiness for all eventualitites. He stated that he fell into the sea when he was about to go into the lifeboat, but was soon picked up again. He then changed over from the port to the starboard lifeboat to which he belonged. Thereafter he gave evidence in conformity with that of the other witnesses.
On being questioned by the Consul as to whether they considered that anything in particular could have been done in order to avoid the torpedoing the assessors replied that nothing could have been done and that the precautions taken were the best in the circumstances as no one was injured and all saved.