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.
Utdrag av sjøforklaring
Kaptein Arne Grønningsæter fremsto ... Besetningen besto av Kapteinen, hans kone og barn, samt 31 mann.
M/T "BIANCA" avgikk fra Clyde i konvoi 6. mars 1941 for å gå til Curacao iflg. ordre og etter rute instruksjoner. Skibet var fullt bemannet og i enhver henseende godt utrustet.
Når man unntar flyangrep mens skibet gikk i konvoi, foregikk reisen uten uheld inntil 15. mars kl. 7.30 fm., da vi var i ruten gitt av Amiralitetet, noe vestenom Azorerne. Et skib med stor fart kom opp aktenfra, ogvi forandret kurs for å se om det fulgte oss. Før vi var sikker på dette, ble vi beskutt fra langt hold, ca. 32.000 yards. Granatene sprang tett ved om styrbord, og gjorde endel skade på broen, radiostasjonen, motorbåten samt på skibets skrog. 3die styrmann ble såret i foten. Vi stoppet maskinen og heiste vårt kjenningssignal. Samtidig signalerte krigsskibet ved hjelp av sin lyskaster "bruk ikke Deres radio". Jeg ga ingen ordre om å benytte radioen av hensyn til mannskapets sikkerhet, samt fordi jeg trodde at det var til liten nytte å bruke den om dagen midt i Atlanteren.
Der etter beordret jeg mannskapet i båtene, da jeg anså det sikkert at et skib i ballast ville bli senket. Vi ble beordret ombord igjen, såsnart de var sikker på at skibet hadde tilstrekkelig bunkers til å komme i havn. Et prisemannskap på 15 mann ble satt ombord, og skibet ble navigeret østover inntil den 20de mars, da vi ble stoppet av et britisk krigskib. Da det tyske prisemannskap fant at det var umulig å unnslipe sprengte de bombene som de hadde plaseret i maskin- og pumperummet, samtidig som de åpnet alle bunnventiler.
Da de engelske kom ombord forsøkte de alt mulig for å stoppe lekkasjen som var oppstått som følge av eksplosjonen, men skibet var allerede for dypt i vannet til å kunne bjerges og ble forlatt i synkende tilstand. Livbåtene måtte forlates.
Hele mannskapet ble brakt inn til Gibraltar. De mistet alle sine eiendele, men bjerget sine papirer. Maskin dagboken ble bjerget, samt visse skibspapier, såsom målebrev og Nasjonalitetsbevis. Dekks dagboken gikk tapt. Mannskapet ble vel mottatt ombord på de britiske krigskib, og den Norske konsulen tok seg av dem etter ankomsten til Gibraltar.
First witness Sverre Einarsen, who declared that the M/V "BIANCA" left the Clyde in ballast on the 6th March bound for Curacao. Whilst the ship was in convoy the ship was attackted from the air but no damage was done, and the voyage continued after leaving the convoy on the 9th March without incident until the 15th March whilst I was on watch on the bridge when at about 7.30 a.m. a large warship was sighted astern and we changed course.
About ten minutes after sighting the warship it commenced firing at us with range of about 32 kilometers.
The shells burst about 200 meters from the "BIANCA" on the starboard side and caused damage to no. 11 tank, bridge, radio room etc. The 3rd Mate was slightly wounded by a shell splinter hitting his leg.
The engines were stopped and we hoisted our call letters, the warship signalled with her search light "do not use radio". The Captain ordered us to take to the boats, I threw the weighted bag containing confidential books overboard and then assisted in lowering the boats, all hands left the ship in the two lifeboats.
The warship came up and lowered a motorboat, our Captain was ordered on board the warship.
A prize crew of 15 Germans was sent to the "BIANCA" with the Captain, and we were all ordered to go back on board.
The lifeboats were hoisted again and a course set Eastward. The ship's officers were not allowed on the bridge and Germans of the prize crew were closely watching the Engineers on duty in the engine room.
On the 19th March, British Aircraft were sighted, and on the 20th March about 9.00 a.m. British Aircraft were again sighted and about two hours later a large British warship was sighted astern on the port side.
We were warned by the Germans to make the lifeboats ready and then to get into the boats with ten of the prize crew leaving five men on board who explosed bombs in the engine room and pump room and open valves on deck and the went in the boats.
The British warship launched a motorboat and the British seamen went onboard the "BIANCA" to try and save the ship but she was too deep in the water, the pump room being about three quarters full of water and the engine room about half full.
The crew of the "BIANCA" also went back onboard and we closed all the deck valves but it was found impossible to keep her afloat. The British Commander ordered all hands into the boats and we were taken onboard the British warship where we were very well treated.
We saved none of our belongings, the ship's papers were saved by the captain, the crew saved their personal documents.
The Norwegian Consul took charge of us and provided necessaries after we arrived at Gibraltar.
The Second Witness, George Gøthesen, appeared and deposed that the M/V "BIANCA" left Clyde on the 6th March, all went well with the engines during the succeeding days excepting a stoppage of one hour to renew a cooling pipe on the main engine on the 10th March. At 9.05 in the morning I was in the engine room and the telegraph ordered "Stop", this order was obeyed immediately.
I heard the shell burst before the engine stopped.
I went up on deck the 4th engineer remaining below.
I saw the warship signalling with her searchlight.
I returned to the engine room to call the watch on deck.
We were ordered to go into the lifeboats and we pulled away from the ship, the Captian was the last to leave the ship.l
The Captain was ordered onboard the warship, and after some time we were ordered to return to the "BIANCA" and a German prize crew of 15 was put onboard.
Engines started again at 10.22 a.m. the same morning and when I went on deck I saw that the course was in an Easterly direction. All went well with the engine on the succeeding days except for a stop of 25 minutes on the 16th inst. due to a defective inlet valve, until 19th inst. when I was on deck and sighted an aeroplane. On the 20th March about noon another aeroplane was sighted and shortly afterwards a large British warship came up. The German Prize Crew ordered us all in the boats, put bombs in the engine room and pump room and also got in the boats. A party from the British warship went onboard the "BIANCA" and I went onboard later and saved the engine book. I lost all my effects as we had to leave the ship quickly and the British warship could not wait until we took anything from the lifeboats which were abandoned in mid-ocean.
We were all very well treated on the British Warship and after we arrived at Gibraltar we were looked after by the Norwegian Consul.