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.
As first witness appeared, First Officer Nicol Hjorth Olsen ... who handed in a full written statement and list of the ship's crew. There were only five survivors and it was decided to call in all five as witnesses.
Olsen stated verbally as follows:-
On the 1st of April about 9.30 a.m. I was in my cabin when the bo'sun called and said German planes were approaching and ordered all men under deck. At the same moment I heard shots followed by a heavy thud and saw through the floor flames coming up from the after part of the ship. With the bo'sun and the steward iI rushed up to the Bridge Deck to report to the Captain who with part of the officers and crew were working to get the motor boat out. I had heard that the helmsman had been shot dead and therefore rean up to the bridge and tried to turn the ship, but with no effect. I then went back to the motor boat. There was one man in the motorboat while we lowered it down and he suddenly cut the rope, and the boat drifted alongside the ship and in flames. I then tried to make a raft on the foredeck with two others when we saw the steward trying to get out the dinghy and we all ran for that boat. The boat was safely put out with two men on board. I then jumped overobard and after about ten minutes swimming managed to reach this boat. With the help of the others I got into the boat with the steward who had also reached us and about twenty minutes later we were pickedup by the "YORK CITY". During the night there had been a heavy gale and the sea was still rough with heavy seas.
We were on board the "YORK CITY" which ship was keeping watch and firing at the planes, which respectedly came back, and it was about 6 p.m. when we started for Milford Haven.
I was below deck but went up occasionally and saw our ship still burning. I asked the Captein of the "YORK CITY" to seach round the "HIDLEFJORD" for possible survivors in the sea.
I should like to mention that with the type of lifebelts we all had it is impossible without help to get out of the sea into a drifting lifeboat.
We wereall very swell treated on board the "YORK CITY".
As next witness appeared Second Engineer Egil Arnesen ... and he stated:
I have seen and signed the Chief Officer's statement. I was on watch when I suddenly felt a terrible shock and saw the deck plates bending and twisting and the same instant I heard an explosion. The whole engine seemed to be thrown out of order but I managed to stop both main motors and starboard auxiliary motor while the port auxiliary motor was stopped by the shock. I rushed up on the starboard side of the deck which then was free of flames but full of smoke. I could see nobody. I went up on the boat deck when I saw some men on amidship trying to get the gig out. I then tried to hang outside the ship's rails prepared to jump when the gig was afloat but the heat got so severe that I had to jump into the water. After swimming about for some time I saw the "YORK CITY". I swam to her and was picked up.
It seems to me that most of the crew made a fatal mistake in making for the port side of the ship which was in flames instead of starboard which was covered in heavy smoke.
Then appeared Third Officer Johannes Buens ... who stated:
I was on watch and saw the planes coming for us. I was at the time working on the motor boat when the shooting started and I ran up on to the bridge. The first plane was just above us and dropped two bombs, followed by a terrible explosion. I ran for the motor boat and when that drifted away I went for the gig and with the wireless operator started to get i out. I tried to get more men to come out but nobody came except the gunner. We had to use all our strength to keep the boat from capsizing. We were picked up by the "YORK CITY" on board which I stayed on deck all the time and when we about 5.30 left the scene I still saw our ship burning and it seemed to me that she, by that time, started sinking.
I have nothing further to add what is mentioned in the Chief Officer's statement.
Next appeared Steward Nils Olaf Bjune ... who stated:
I have read and signed the Chief Officer's report. I was working in the Captain's cabin when I saw three planes coming towards us. I went downstairs to the saloon where I met the Chief Officer and the bo'sun when we suddenly heard a terrible explosion. I went to my cabin and put on the lifebelt and then ran up to the boat deck and for the motor boat. When this boat was cut adrift I went for the gig and helped to get it out. When the gig was in the water I went to the foredeck and waited for an opportunity to jump. The captain came up beside me and we both jumped practically at the same time. For a while we were together in the water but when the Captain turned round on his back I swam on and managed to reach the gig. With the others' help I managed to get into the boat and we were later picked up by the "YORK CITY".
As last witness appeared Anton Karl Fredriksen ... who stated:
I have read and signed the Chief Officer's statement.
I was on watch fixing something by the motor boat when I heard shooting a short distance away and saw three planes coming towards us. I ran up to the machine gun on the birdge but before I could do anything the gun protection and I was blown off and fell down on the bridge deck. At the same moment I heard a terrible explosion and saw the after part enveloped in flames. I ran to the motor boat and when that drifted away I went to the foredeck trying to make a raft but when I saw somebody trying to get the gig out amidships I went up there. We could not get anyone else to come with us as they said that such a small boat would stand no chance in the heavy sea.
We were later picked up by the "YORK CITY" and when I last saw our ship it seemed to me that the flames had spread to the amidships.
On request the First Officer stated that as far as he could judge the ship's position when the accident happened was about ten miles off the Smalls.