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.
Captain Wilhelm J. Wilhelmsen appeared and declared that he was the master of the Motorship "MINISTER WEDEL" of Oslo ...
The "MINISTER WEDEL" leftl Port of Spain, Trinidad on 28th December in company with other ships. On her departure the ship was in every respect in a whlly seaworthy conditon. He (The Master) declared that he was unable to produce the ship's log book as it was lost with the ship when sunk by enemy action on 9th January 1943.
All Condfidential papers were destroyed, Secret log-book was saved and is now in the care of Chief Officer Alf Christiansen.
He further declared that:
He had been in command of the "MINISTER WEDEL" since 15th June 1942, but he had commanded the ship previously. He was in every way satisfied with the condition of the ship and her equipment.
Sailing from Port of Spain on 28th December 1942 the voyage was normal until 3rd January when one ship in the convoy was torpedoed.
On the 8th January 1943 about 1940 hours the mt. "ALBERT J. ELLSWORTH" was torpedoed and caught fire.
On the 9th January about 0320 hours a torpedo exploded on the Starboard side, forward, causing the ship to take a heavy list. This necessitated crew taking to lifeboats immediately, and they left the ship and got in touch with the Senior Officer of the escort.
Some of the crew went on board the escort vessel, and received orders not to go back to their ship.
After daylight the Captain, Chief Engineer and three hands went bakc on board, inspected the damage and found in conference with the Senior Officer of the Escort that nothing could be done to save the ship under the circumstances.
All hands went on board the destroyer and left the lifeboats adrift.
In his opinion there is no doubt that the ship ultimately sank as he returned to the position of the occurrence on Monday 11th January 1943 in another escort vessel and found there was nothing to be seen but oil.
All the Officers and Crew were well look after by the Captain, Officers and Crew of the British Destroyer. The Captain an Chief Engineer were tranferred to another vessel where they were also well treated, and returned to the scene where the ship was hit by torpedo two days later.
The Captain and Chief Engineer were landed at Gibraltar on 20th January and were taken charge of by the Norwegian Consul, who informed them the rest of the Officers and Crew had been placed on board a British Transport by the escort vessel and had already proceeded to the United Kingdom.
Thereupon appeared as:
FIRST WITNESS, OLAF H. ELLEFSEN, ... Chief Engineer of the "MINISTER WEDEL" ...
He declared that he had been Chief Engineer of the "MINISTER WEDEL" ever since she was built.
The engines were all in good order when the ship sailed from Port of Spain on the 28th December 1942.
He saw another ship torpedoed at about 1845 hours on 3rd January 1943, the ship was burning furiously.
Nothing more unusual happened until the evening of 8th January when the "ALBERT L. ELLSWORTH" was torpedoed at about 2000 hours, she was also left burning all over from stem to stern.
At about 0320 hours on the 9th January he was in his bed in his room when he heard an explosion forward.
He went out and found the ship down by the head and she took a heavy list to Starboard.
All went into the boats and pulled away from the ship.
The Officers and Crew did not save any of their effects. He was tanken on board a British Destroyer with the Captain and remainder of the officers and crew.
After daylight he returned to the "MINISTER WEDEL" with the Captain, the Assistant Engineer, to Motormen and a W/T Operator.
They received orders from the Senior Officer of the Escort to abandon ship and return to the destroyer.
He was ordered to proceed with the Captain to a Corvette which returned to the position where the ship was torpedoed two days later, and nothing was found but floating oil. He is sure the "MINISTER WEDEL" was sunk.