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.

November 23, 1940
Ca. 55g 14m N, 12g 20 m W
Torpedert [av tysk ubåt]
Sydney C. B. - Ipswich
Crew list
16 [16]
  • Abstract

    December 2, 1940
    Konsul Wm. A. Gillespie


    (In order to facilitate matters for the Consul a series of questions have been formulated to be put to the master and the witnesses. As these questions are intended cover the most freqently occuring cases, it is presumed however that the Consul on making use of them, on the one hand will exclude questions not bearing upon the case in point, and on the other hand will put forward possible necessary additional questions appropriate to the further circumstances of the casualty in question in order thereby best possible to get the cause and extent of the casualty cleared up.

    Such additional questions should be put in conjunction to those questions with which they belong i accordance with their nature. They should also be entered in full in the transcript and shold also be designated by the number in question as well as with section b., respectively c., etc.).

    1. How did the casualty occur? (A connected statement.)

    2. Was there any fault or defect in the condition of the vessel on departure from the last port?

    3. Were the instruments and the other equipment as well as the manning satisfactory?

    4. How were the boats placed and equipped and with what other lifesaving appliances was the vessel equipped? Does it appear from the log book whether the prescribed boat drills have been carried out? When was the last boat drill carried out?

    5. What was the vessel's usual intake of heavy cargo? How much did she have on board the last voyage? Was the vessel over loaded?

    6. How was the cargo or - as the case may be - the deck cargo or the ballast secured? In the case of grain cargo, how were the bulk heads and stiffeners? (Dimensions and positions).

    7. How many, and how large hatch openings were there and how were they battened down? How many cross webs were there in each hatchway? Were these cross webs fastened with bolts to the hatch coaming? Were the hatches of wood or iron and how many tarpaulins were there over same? Were they secured with booms? Did the vessel have tonnage openings? Where were they situated and how were they closed?

    8. How much did the vessel leak while in harbour and under sail or under way? How did the leskage arise and how great was this before the vessel was abandoned? Had any straining of the deck (the deck plates) or the hull previously been noticed with ore cargoes or similar heavy goods? Had the plates at any time become buckled, or had they at any time become fractured?

    9. When was the vessel last docked? Was any examination then made of the bottom valves, the rudder with gudeons and pintles and - as the case may be - the metal aheathing? Has the vessel since been aground?

    10. What does the master (the witness) lack in clothes in order - if required - to be sent home?

    11. How and by whom was the crew saved? Was the rescue connected with danger to the lives of the rescuers? What are their names, positions and addresses?

    12. Can any information be given about anything else of interest in connection with the loss of the vessel?

    13. What was, in the opinion of the master (the witness), the cause of the casualty?

    14. Have the nautical assessors anything to remark as to the statement of the master (the witness), or have they any questions that they wish to put?


    Captain Ole Torolf Brekke ... appeared and stated he was Master of the s.s. "BRUSE". Ship left Sydney C.B. for Ipswhich on 9th November with a timber cargo. Ship was seaworthy in every respect and was examined by the Port Warden whose certificate he produced, stating everything was in order. Deck cargo was 11 1/2 feet high forward, 10 1/2 feet aft, well stowed and secured to meet the requirements of Canadian Shipping Act 1934. Proceeded on voyage in convoy with nothing special to report until 22nd November when there was full storm and heavy sea breaking over the ship, direct of wind West to S.W. poor visibility convoy speed reduced to about 5 knots. At 11 p.m. a muffled sound and flash was observed on starboard side. Ships course at once altered by 40 degrees to port an dfull speed ordered to engine room. After about 5 minutes time had to slow down to convoy speed and put ship on convoy course, as none of the other ships had altered course. At 11.30 p.m. heard and saw heavy explosion on starboard beam. Their course was at once altered by 40 degrees to port and full speed in the engines, but it was impossible to force a way through the other ships so after 10 minutes time they had to resume convoy course and speed. The Master, wheelman and look-out all on the bridge. All other hands warned. On Saturday 23rd November Westerly storm heavy sea breaking over ship, poor visibility. Captain, 2nd Officer, Steward, Wheelman and Lookout on the bridge. All men warned. At 3.20 a.m. the ship was torpedoed. Torpedo probably struck the ship on starboard side close on forepart of the boiler room. There was a violent explosion. The after mast end funnel were seen to go overboard to port and soon after the afterpart of ship broke off at the bunkers and sank. On the afterpart there were 17 men. The captain at once threw overboard the secret papers and went into the wireless station to try and contact the destroyers, but wireless would not work. They put up three rockets. Immediately the torpedo struck, the second officer rang to engine room to stop the engines but got no reply. The five remaining men now collected by the raft. The ship soon took a big list owing to the deckload, after the afterpart of ship disappeared. At 4 a.m. signalled by torch to a destroyer and reported the situation. It was impossible to try to save the men in the heavy weather before daylight. At 9 a.m. began to launch the raft and after 2 hours work they got it afloat. All jumped on to the raft and pushed it forward and then rowed toward sthe destroyer which lay a bit away from the wreck. The destroyer came astern and the raft came in the lee of the destoyer and drifted alongside. About noon they came aboard the destoyer which was the Canadian "SKEENA".

    A.B. Løkvik, one of the seventeen men who were aft when ship was torpedoed was already on the destroyer.

    They were well treated aboard the destroyer. Most of the ship's papers were lost when thety were being taken aboard the destroyer.

    On 25th November, 4.30 p.m. they were landed at Gourock. He reported to the destroyer that the forepart of the ship might be towed in, and he wirelessed for a tug. Position of ship when torpedoed was about N 55.14 and Longitude W 12.20.

    To the numbered questions he replied as follows:- (1) By torpedo. (2) No. (3) Yes. (4) Boats swung out on davits aft. Two rafts on top of deckload. Boat drill on 5th November. (5) 773 stds. loaded in Canada. Ship not overloaded. (6) Properly secured by chains and manilla ropes. (7) Four hatches steel. (8) Not leaking in port. (9) Middle August 1940. Not been aground since. (11) By destroyer "SKEENA". (12) No. (13) Sunk by torpedo attack.


    First Witness. Hans Jansen ... 2nd Officer. The ship loaded timber in Canada for Ipswich and sailed from Sydney on 9th November, 1940. Voyage continued until 22nd November, storm and heavy sea. At midnight he came on watch and was told there had been torpedo attacks on the convoy, and he had heard explosions when he was below. At 3.20 a.m. he was on the bridge along with the Captain, Steward, and steersman. The "Bruse" was struck by a torpedeo. He rang tho engine room to stop the engines but got no reply. They then made for the boats aft, but they were gone. The aftermast and funnel had also gone overboard. They then collected at the raft which was secured on top of deckload, but decided not to try to launch it until daylight. The after part of the ship had broken off at the boiler room bulkhead and sunk, taking the lifeboats with it.

    After daylight they started to launch the liferaft. To do so they had to cut away the decload supports, and at last got the raft afloat. They came alongside the destroyer and got aboard and were landed at Gourock on 25th November.

    To the numbered questions he replied as follows:- (1) By torpedo. (2) No. (3) Yes. (4) 2 Life Boats in good order, also one good motor lifeboat, and two rafts. Boat drill before sailing. (5) Ship not overloaded. (6) Deckload secured by chain and manilla ropes. (7) Four hatches of steel secured by screws. No tonnage openings. (8) Ship not leaking. (9) August 1940. not been aground since. (10) Everything lost. (11) Canadian Destroyer (12) No. (13) Torpedo attack. ...

    Second Witness. Thomas Semmerud ... Steersman. On 23rd November from midnight 22nd/23rd November, at about 3 a.m. the ship was struck by a torpedo. There was a violent explosion. He came out of the wheelhouse and met falling coal and debris. He went down to the lower bridge and saw that the mast aft and funnel had disappeared as well as the whole of the after part of the ship. He went forward on top of deckload and heard cries from the water aft. He went as far aft as possible but could see nothing and he could do nothing to save them. They sent up three rockets. Signals were made by torch to the destroyer. At daybreak he assisted in launching the raft and came aboard the Destroyer which landed them in Greenock.

    To the numbered questions he replied as follows:- (1) By torpedeo. (2) NO. (3) Yes. (4) Botas swung out aft and two liferafts. (5) In Sydney before sailing. (6) By good chains and manilla well-secured. (8) No leakage. (9) August 1940. Not been aground since. (10) Everything lost. (11) Saved by a Destroyer. (12) No. (13) By torpedo attack.


    Third Witness. Johan Loekvik ... able seaman, who stated he come off watch midnight 22nd November. He was not asleep when s.s. "BRUSE" was hit by a torpedo. About 3 a.m. 23rd November he heard a violent explosion. The electric light went out and it was dark. He went at once on deck to the port lifeboat. They were five men at the boat, but as the mast fell it crushed this lifeboat and the motor lifeboat. He went from port to starboard but the starboard boat had disappeared. The pram remained. One man stood at starboard davit, but he did not know who he was. The after part of the ship was sinking fast, so he jumped overboard, and was sucked down twice. When he got to the surface again he swam about, and found the starboard boat, or rather what remained of it. Four other men were in the water swimming, but none came to the boat although the S.O.S. lamp was lighted, and he was replying to their cries for help. A Destroyer was circling round putting up flares and he could see the men in the water, but could do nothing to help them as the part of the boat he was in was filled with water. The boat floated on the tanks. He was picked up at 7 a.m. by the Destroyer, and reported at once to the Officer that there were men in the water in the neighbourhood and the destroyer circled round but failed to find any one. Later on the destroyer picked up the Captain and the other men saved, off the raft.

    To the numbered questions he replied:- (1) By torpedo. (2) No. (3) Yes. (4) Two lifeboats and a motor lifeboat on davits aft. All in good order. Two rafts. (5) No. (6) Well secured by chains and ropes . (9) August 1940, not been aground since. (10) Everything lost. (11) A Destroyer saved survivors. (12) No. (13) By torpedo attack.