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 Thorbjørn Aleksander Roy Bøttger ... master of the s.s. "Janna".
The captain produced the following report about what had occurred:-
The captain referred to what was entered in the statement and said that the pilot left the s/s "Janna" outside Halifax on the 29th June 1940 at about 12.15 o'clock. As arranged with the British Naval Authorities at Halifax the "Janna" was to join a convoy after the pilot had left and the "Janna" had been given her number in the convoy. and was about to form convoy it set in with thick fog so that the captain was on on the bridge when the "Janna" left Halifax and he states that there was fog and rain mist on departure, but increased as they came outside the river. The "Janna" was the last vessel but one whcih proceeded out from the river and when the "Janna" was about to take her place in the convoy she could not, on account of the thick fog, see any of the other vessels and take her place in the convoy. The s/s "Janna" then proceeded on her own in accordance with the courses which had been given to her. During the first two days after departure there was thick fog the whole time; when it cleared the captain did not see anything of the convoy anywhere. The voyage was continued in accordance with the British Naval Control's courses and nothing noteworthy occurred until the 11th July 1940 at 4.20 o'clock (true time). During the voyage the "Janna" had been listening for radio signals, but had heard nothing.
Th 11th July at 4.20 o'clock the captain was in his cabin on the lower bridge when he heard a violent explosion and the whole vessel lifted up. The captain at once ran out on deck and ordered all the men into the boats. The "janna" at once developed a heavy list to port and was, soon after the explosion, lying with the forecastle in the water. The captain is of opinion that the vessel was hit by a torpedo amidship on the port side below the bridge. The torpedo probably penetrated into the after part of No. 2 hold.
All the men came quickly on deck and 3 lifeboats, of which 1 motor boat, were put into the water. While the lifeboats were being lowered the captain went into his cabin and fetched some ship's papers which he had been keeping in a despatch case. All the men got into the lifeboats and none were killed in consequence of the explosion, neither were any of them injured to any noteworthy extent.
When, after the explosion, the captain came out on deck it was clear weather with good visibility, fresh breeze and rough sea. He could not see any submarine in the vicinity or other vessel. When the men were going into the boats the captain saw an English aeroplane circling over the "Janna". The aeroplane flew towards land and the captain thought that it was going to report about the torpedoing and obtain assistance, but no assistance came. After about 1 hour's time the aeroplane came back and circled round the place of the torpedoing.
The position last ascertained was at 4 o'clock in the afternoon of the 10th July. In the opinion of the captain the position of the "Janna", when the explosion occurred, was 50o 34' North Latitude, 12o 10' West Longitude.
The captain stated that when everybody had got into the lifeboats - 1 motor lifeboat and one ordinary lifeboat - the course was set for Fastnet light, the south-west point of Ireland. When the "Janna" was torpedoed she was probably about 110 nautical miles 245 (degrees) off the Fastnet light. The 13th July at 5 o'clock in the afternoon they were all taken on board an English patrol vessel, the s/s "Love", about 4 to 5 nautical miles from the Mizzan Point (Mizen Head) and landed at Milford Haven the 14th July 1940 at about 8 o'clock in the evening.
The captain stated that on the 12th July at about 3-4 o'clock in the afternoon an Estonian vessel, the "Kay", passed the lifeboats. The "Kay" stopped and hailed the lifeboats and the captain understood that the "Kay" was going to take them on board. The lifeboats then rounded the stern of the "Kay" in order to come up along her leeward side, but the "Kay" then set the engine going and went away from the lifeboats. The "Kay" was loaded with timber and was steering approximately south-east, probably for England.
The s/s "Janna" sank in the course of 10 minutes. The "Janna" had a cargo of 819 fathoms of pulpwood. The "Janna" gradually went down by the bows until she became standing straight up and down. The captain saw the "Janna" disappear from the surface of the water.
In the opinion of the captain the "Janna" was hit by a torpedo.
The captain stated that when the explosion occurred, the 2nd officer Rolf Larum was on watch on the bridge, ordinary seaman Ernst Hedman was at the wheel, and A.B. Seaman Petter Brandal was the look-out man, who is at present under treatment in hospital, but not on account of any injury sustained by the explosion. The 2nd engineer Adolf Johansen was on watch in the engine room.
... 1st witness:- Rolf Larum (2nd officer) who stated that on departure from Halifax there was fog and it became thicker by the time the "Janna" came out of the river. On account of thick fog the "Janna" could not join the convoy. The "Janna" was the last vessel but one which proceeded out from the river. As on account of fog the convoy could not be formed, the "Janna" proceeded to the positions given where formation should then be effected. The positions had been given by the Naval Authorities. When the "Janna" arrived at the positons given nothing was seen of the convoy. The fog lasted until a couple of days after the departure from Halifax. The voyage was continued without anything noteworthy until the 13th July. The witness was on watch on the bridge from 4 o'clock. I t was clear weather with high sea, force of wind 4 to 5, the wind probably nort- north-west. When the witness came on the bridge he scanned the sea, but did not notiece anything. The witness then went into the chart room for a moment in order to put the clock on 10 minutes and then went out on the bridge again. When the witnes had walked a couple of turns across the bridge he heard a violent report and he almost fell down. A huge coloumn of water rose up in the air and fell down on the bridge. After the explosion the witness told the helmsman to go down on the boat deck to the boats in order to make these ready; the witness himself went down to the wireless room in order to send out distress signals. When, however, he noticed an English aeroplane which circled round the "Janna" he thought that it would report about the casualty and he therefore did not send out any signals. Directly after the explosion the "Janna" developed a list to port, at once very severe, but it improved a little after the shock. In the opinion of the witness the explosion took place on the port side in way of the forward part of the bridge. The s/s "Janna" sank in the course of about 10 minutes. There was no time to save any clothes. All 3 lifeboats were lowered; the 2 best, of which one motor lifeboat, were used and the equipment of the 3rd boat and of the rafts swere put into the 2 boats which were used. There was high sea when the boats were put into the water and later the sea increased.
The witness is of opinion that the vessel's position, when the explosion occurred, was 50o 34 North Latitude and 12o 10' West Longitude, and that the vessel was about 110 nautical miles off the Fastnet light. After having been rowing about for well over 2 days they were taken on board the patrol vessel s/s "Love". The "Janna" (? The "Janna's" lifeboats) was (were) then probably about 5 nautical miles off land. The whole of the crew was landed at Milford Haven in the evening of the 14th July.
Probably the 12th July in the afternoon an Estonian vessel was seen, apparently the "Kay", which came up alongside the lifeboats after rockets had been sent up. The "Kay" reduced her speed and the witness is of opinion that question was made from that vessel as to whether the shipwrecked wanted to come on board, to which there was replied yes. When the lifeboats were right astern of the "Kay" in order to proceed over to the leeward side, the "Kay" suddenly commenced to put on speed and disappeared. The "Kay" was proceeding in about the same direction as the lifeboats, a little more southerly. There was fairly high sea when the lifeboats encountered the "Kay".
The witness stated that when he had come into the lifeboat after the explosion he saw the "Janna" disappear in the sea, stem first.
The sitnes is of opinion that the explosion was caused by a torpedo and not a mine because in the latter case the deck would have been more damaged. The port side of the amidship was the more damaged and the derricks on No. 2 hatch were broken. If the vessel had been hit by a mine the witness is of opinion that the explosion would have take place further forward. The witness had not seen any trace of any submarine before the explosion occurred, nor afterwards.
Appeared the 2nd witness, Ernst Hedman, ordinary seaman, who stated that there was thick fog on departure from Halifax.
The witness further stated that he came to the wheel at 4 o'clock on the 11th July. It was fine weather, fairly high sea. The witness did not see any vessels or U-boats when he came to the wheel. When the witness had been at the wheel for about 20 minutes he heard a violent report, it shook the vessel and a column of water came down on the bridge. After the witness had recovered freom the shock he ran, in accordance with orders from the 2nd officer, down on the boat deck in order to make the boats ready. After the explosion the "Janna" developed a list to port and commenced sinking by the stem. When the witness had come into the lifeboat he saw the "Janna" disappear into the sea.
The "Janna" had been damaged on the port side forward of the bridge. The look-out man, Peter Brandal, who was standing on the port side of the bridge was hurled down on the boat deck.
The day after the witness had gone into the lifeboat they hailed an Estonian vessel, the "Kay", which stopped. When the lifeboats had come astern of the "Kay" in order to row up on the leeward side, the "Kay" suddenly put on speed and disappeared. The "Kay" had approximately the same course as the lifeboats.
The witness is of opinion that the "Janna" was hit by a torpedo and not a mine. He stated that just before the explosion the "Janna" had come a little off her course and in order to get the vessel on her right course he gave starboard wheel. The witness is of opinon that in this way the "Janna" would hav turned away from any possible mine. The witness is of opinon the the explosion cannot have occurred on board the vessel, but was owing to some external cause.
Appeared the 3rd witness, Kåre Johannessen, ordinary seaman, who was serving in the engine on departure from Halifax and stated that there was fog on departure from Halifax. The fog became thicker outside the river so that only vessels which were close by could be dimly seen.
The witness came into the engine a little before 4 o'clock on the 11th July. When he was standing on the platform at about 4.20 o'clock just inside the engine room he heard a violent explosion and directly afterwards he got a column of water over him. When he subsequently came on deck the witness saw that both derricks on the No. 2 hatch were broken, and the cargo had shifted. After the explosion the "Janna" heeled over and commenced sinking by the bows. When the witness had come into the lifeboat he saw the "Janna" disappear into the sea.
The witness is of opinion that the "Janna" was hit by a torpedo and not a mine as the vessel was struck on the side. The explosion did not take place inside the vessel, but in the opinion of the witness must be ascribed to an external cause.
The witness is of opinion that it took about 10 to 15 minutes from the time of the explosion until the "Janna" went down. When he was sitting in the lifeboat he did not see any trace of submarine or ship, but he saw an aeroplane. The witness is of opinion that the torpedo struck between the iron bulkhead of hte No. 2 hatch and the boiler room on the port side.