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 as first witness, Ole August Torkildsen ... wireless operator ...
The witness stated that the vessel's master, Captain Leif Hauge ... was missing after the casualty. The witness, who had also been acting as the vessel's secretary, produced a written report about the casualty, all the papers and books having been lost.
The following were on the navigation bridge when the casualty occurred:-
The vessel's master,
2nd officer Frithjof Busch,
helmsman,A.B. Seaman Konrad Mikkelborg.
In addition there was a man on the look-out.
The witness was on watch in the wireless station until 11 o'clock in the evening and went to bed at 12 o'clock. The light was on in the cabin. The witness was awakened by a terrific report. Everything was now in darkness. The witness ran up on to the boat deck, to the starboard lifeboat, where 6-7 men were already present. Of these the witness recognised the 2nd officer. The latter gave orders that every one should go into the boat. This was done, but a moment afterwards everything went under as the vessel sank. The lifeboat was probably smashed. The witness went under, but subsequently floated up and was floating for about 2 1/4 hours in the lifesaving jacket until he was picked up by a British naval vessel.
The witness described it as a miracle that there were any survivors from the casualty. The whole thing happened in such a short time.He did not see the master. Instructions had been given for the crew to have on their lifesaving jackets day and night.
Engine room assistant Thorbjørn Hornhauer of Trondheim was lying in the water alongside the witness for about 1/2 and hour, but he disappeared suddenly.
2. On being queswtioned as to whether the explosion could have been caused by any fault or defect in the vessel's hull, engines, boilers, pipe leads etc., or for any want of necessary or prescribed safety equipment, the witness replied: No.
3. On being questioned, the witness replied that he considered it out of the question that the explosion could have been caused by the nature of the cargo.
There were no intoxicants on board. The lifesaving equipment was in complete order. The vessel was in completely seaworthy condition.
On being questioned as to the cause of the casualty the witness stated that in his opinion it was due to a torpedo.
On being questioned by the assesors, the witness stated that the speed of the convoy was 8 1/2 miles, however the speed varied according to the circumstances.
Otherwise, the witness referred to the written report.
Appeared as 2nd witness, Hilmar Birger Lundekvam ... chief engineer ...
The witness was off duty and had turned in at about 0045 o'clock. The witness had gone to sleep when, at 0115 o'clock, he heard a blow aginst the ship's side. He assumed that the blow on the ship's side was due to vibration in the sea from the torpedoing of another vessel in the convoy.
Thereafter the witness was standing for a while in the passage talking to ordinary seaman Eriksen. It was then about 0122 o'clock. Some minutes later the "Norne" was hit. In opinion of the witness the vessel must have been struck at the forward part of the engine room on the port side. The witness heard two explosions. A huge mass of water swept over the vessel. The witness ran up on to the boat deck where the 2nd officer was standing with a torch by the starboard lifeboat. Everything went on in complete order and calmly. There was no sign of panic. The witness had a lifesaving jacket on. Orders were given to let go the lifeboat. Meanwhile, the vessel suddenly went down and everybody got into the water. There was a good deal of wreckage about and the witness assumes that some of those who perished must have been hit and knocked unconscious by this. The witness is of opinon that others must have been aken by surprise in their cabins while they were asleep and were unable to get out in the short time.
Of those who are missing the witness only saw the 2nd officer andthe engine room assistant. The witness did not see the master. The witness got on to a raft. Some time later, whilst he was lying on the raft, the witness saw a submarine about 15 metres from the raft. They then laid themselves flat down on the raft in case they should be fired at.
The witness now stated that at about 0445 o'clock (in the morning) they were picked up by a British naval vessel. He expressed the great thankfulness of those who were saved to that vessel's commander and men. He stated that there was every inducement for that ship to make use of depth charges in order to hit the submarine, but after they had heard the shouts for help from the "Norne"s" men, they did not do this in order to make sure of saving the men.
2. On being questioned as to whether the explosion could have been caused by any fault or defect in the vessel's hull, engines, boilers, pipe leads etc., or for any want of necessary or prescribed safety equipment, the witness replied: No.
3. On being questioned whether it might be thought that the nature of the cargo was the cause of the casualty, the witness replied: No.
On being questioned as to the cause of the casualty, the witness replied that this was without doubt due to torpedoing. He bases this on the fact that before the casualty of the "Norne" he had previously seen the torpedoing of another of the vessels in the convoy; further that he himself saw the submarine from the raft.
On being questioned as to how far the lifeboat was from the surface of the water, the witness replied that the boat had only been lowered about 6" by the forward falls when the water came up and smashed it.
Appeared as 3rd witness, ordinary seaman Eskil Gustav Birger Ericsson ...
... The witness was on watch, but was only standing by when the casualty occurred.
The witness was at the wheel from 12 o'clock until 0120 o'clock. They saw a vessel being torpedoed on the port side at 0110 o'clock. As is usual under dangerous conditions there was a zig-zag steering, and we were just about to turn over to port when, as a result of the torpedoing, the course was laid 4o more over to starboard in order to come away. When the witness was releieved at the wheel at 0120 o'clock, he went donw into the crew's mess room. It was from there that he heard a violent explosion. He ran up to the raft on the deck house aft. He had the lifesaving jacket on fully inflated. Directly afterwards, a terrific noise was heard and the "Norne" went down. On the raft there were in addition the following:-
Carpenter Marner Hansen,
A. B. Seaman Martin Liverød,
Greaser Niels Nielsen.
Steward Harald Albertsen was later taken up on the4 raft. He was lying floating in the sea. After the casualty he saw the submarine from the raft.
Appeared as 4th witness, Helge Mortensen ... boatswain ... He was off duty and was lying in his bunk. He heard an explosion and ran up and looked at the wake in order to find out whether the vessel's speed was such as to risk jumping over board, but the vessel had too great speed. The vessel had developed a list to port and the witness therefore ran to the starboard lifeboat. He jumped into the boat in order to get it ready, but the vessel now went under. He floated up again and together with the mess room boy he got hold of a tank which was floating about. Later he got on to a raft.
About 15 to 20 minutes after they had got into the water the witness saw a submarine about 5 to 10 metres from the raaft. He saw the whole length of the boat. Together with him on the raft were the chief engineer and the mess room boy.