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 Captain Johan Edvard Grung ...
The vessel, of ordinary well deck type (2 hatches on each well deck) ... was in completely seaworthy condition, had been in dock at Middlesbrough for part classification survey and repairs.
The manning on the occasion was 27 men including the master. Three men, namely the cook, 1 ordinary seaman and 1 trimmer, who had been left behind, were to be replaced at the convoy port.
There was no one else on board than the crew.
Captain Grung stated that the ship's log book as well as the engine room log book, likewise all papers, went down with the ship.
The captain produced a written report reading as follows:-
Captain Grung remarked that he had prepared this preliminary report ("Preliminary Statement") during the forenoon of the 11th November and had put it before the chief officer who then countersigned the report which he had sent to the Charterer through the Agent at Middlesbrough.
The report was read out and was approved by the captain as correct.
With reference to the order about the time of meeting, the captain added that at 12 o'clock noon at the office of the Naval control at Middlesbrough he was informed that the time of meeting the convoy was 12 o'clock midnight, but it was pointed out that an alteration might be made and that such alteration would be notified by the examination vessel. That vessel arrived at about 5 to half past 3 o'clock in the afternoon, before it was dark, and the captain was then informed that 10 o'clock was the time of meeting, which order was heard by the chief officer. Later this order was altered to 12 o'clock. This order, which was the last order, the captain received in the hearing of either the chief officer or the 2nd officer, when the examination vessel hailed us again at about 9 to half past 9 o'clock, when we were practically speaking ready to leave in accordance with the previous order. At full speed we could have proceeded out in 20 minutes. On both occasions the orders were called out from the bridge of the examiation vessel, he does not know by whom. They could not distinguish between the persons on the bridge of the examination vessel. On being questioned the captain remarked that he had not heard anything in connection with these orders in explanation of the reason for the difference between these orders which of course origiated from the Naval Office at Middlesbrough. We did not see the examiation vessel later, but at about 9 o'clock in the morning he was at the Naval Office. He did not then speak about the orders from the examination vessel. And what was said to him at the Naval Office was only that the convoy had left, and no explanation was given to him about the convoy having left before 12 o'clock.
When the vessel left the anchoring place a little before 11 o'clock a fresh breeze was blowing, showery, weather of good visibility, afew rain showers. According to the list from the Naval Office the Norwegian vessel "HEIRE" was the only vessel which was going to join the convoy from Middlesbrough and the "HEIRE" was seen shortly after they had left the anchoring place, but she dispapeared in the darkness and he had not seen the "HEIRE" afterwards or heard anything about her. The "HEIRE" had probably either found the convoy or had proceeded without convoy.
On the way out when they were about half way and about half an hour's time before arrival at the meeting place they passed 4 to 5 incoming cargo vessels which came close after each other. Afterwards he heard, namely at the Naval Office, that these were from the convoy which the "Ravnanger" should have joined. He had since calculated that these vessels must have passed the meeting place at about 11 o'clock. He did not know what vessels they were.
Out at the meeting place, while they were lying at the buoy waiting, a tanker, which was coming in, passed close by. This was about 10-15 minutes before the "Ravnanger" turned round in order to proceed back to the anchoring place.
He did not remember the wording of the typewritten instructions, but the contents were that if the convoy was not met they were to put back to the anchoring place.
It might have been 5 to 10 minutes after they had turned round that they first heard and subsequently saw an aeroplane whcihe came flying in towards land from seawards.
The droning was quite plain, quite loud. It was regular, not rising and falling. The greenish light under the aeroplane could be seen the whole time. It was fairly clear and as if it should be from a lantern. But the light was not like that of an ordinary green lantern, but it was lighter in colour and was stronger. He had seen lights under aeroplanes in America and on this round trip he had seen lights under aeroplanes on the British coast. These have been red on one side, green on the other, and a white light. On this aeroplane no ordinary green and red lights, nor any quite white light could be seen, but a white light with a greenish tint. Such a white light with a greenish tint he had previously seen at times both here and in America.
Light was on, but at below half power the whole time.
On account of the aeroplane having a light he took it for an English aeroplane. The aeroplane passed a little astern of the vessel. Then it turned outwards. As it turned he caught sight of a column of water in the sea. He was probably the only one to see this whcih might have been 2-3 ship's lengths from the vessel. As the aeroplane went ahead of the vessel, judging by the sound - he did not see the aeroplane - an explosion occurred forward. At the moment of the explosion he was standing by the side of the 3rd officer on the starboard side of the bridge and looking up into the air. He saw a flash from the port side of the forward part of the ship. Pieces of glass from the windows in the side houses were flying about so that he had to take cover, but did not observe the damage forward on the ship, but the forward part of the vessel soon commenced to sink. The ship at once commenced to heel over to port. The vessel shook by the explosion, but he was not knocked down. The sound was a hollow crash, not particulartly powerful in comparison with mine explosions that he heard during the last war. He gave the 3rd officer ordres to call the crew to the boats with the steam whistle. The 3rd officer, the look-out man and the helmsman at once went to the boats and at the same time the rest of the crew came on deck, having been awakened by the explosion and the shaking of the vessel, and went to the boats. Everytning went quietly and calmly. He, himself, remained standing on the bridge for a moment in order to see whether there was any possibility for the vessel to keep afloat, but when he noticed that the watertight bulkhead between Nos. 1 and 2 holds had been damaged he left the bridge and went to the port lifeboat. The forward part of the vessel was then settling down quickly in the water. Before he left the bridge he had seen that the motor boat, which was on the starboard side and was sung out, was being put into the water by the crew. He went to the port lifeboat in order to assist in putting it into the water. He, himself, belonged to the starboard boat, but there were only 5 men over by the port boat. The motor lifeboat came quickly into the water. The port lifeboat came into the water about 5 minutes after. When they had commenced the lowering of this lifeboat he went down from the boat deck with the intention of saving the ship's papers as well as the accounts and some valuables which were lying packed in a despatch case in the saloon. Having come down on the amidship deck the water had started to come up there so he found it most advisable to go back to the lifeboat. The port lifeboat got hung up under the forward davit and became forced under water with the result that all in the boat came into the sea. The spare lifeboat, which was standing on the inside, and the two lifesaving rafts, which were standing on top of the engine room skylight, came floating past. He managed to get up on one of the lifesaving rafts after having been in the water for a couple of minutes, likewise the chief engineer and the look-out man, A.B. Seaman Sverre Hansen, the two others got up on the other lifesaving raft. The rafts were lying just by the ship of which the stern was the only part to be seen. The vessel had stopped, she having taken the bottom. There was about 20 feet of water. The rafts were carried by the current towards aft clear of the after part of the ship and there they caught sight of the motor lifeboat, which was then being rowed, and they were picked up by it. As soon as he came into the motor lifeboat he ascertained whether all the men were there, then got to know that every one had been saved except 3rd engineer Karlsen. After some attempts they got the motor to work and commenced proceeding up towards the ship in order to look for the 3rd engineer. Wreckage was floating about. The motor lifeboat was lying deeply in the water on account of there being so many men (26) in it and was shipping some water. The sea was steep, choppy , and was continuously washing over the boat. For this reason the attempt at getting closer up to the ship had to be given up.
We came up alongside the pilot boat which was lying moored at a small quay and roused the men there and informed them of what had occured and we wee taken up to the pilots' boarding house. From there the Naval Authorities at Middlesbrough were at once informed about the sinking and given furhter particulars in connection therewith. The Military Authorities, who were stationed near the pilot station, were also informed and they proceeded there. It was a little before 5 in the morning that we came to the pilot station. After about 1 1/2 hours' time we were taken from there by a bus and brougth to the Seamen's Institute where we got dry clothes and breakfast. During the forenoon he made a report to the Naval Authorities. Later during the forenoon he prepared the produced Preliminary Statement. The 3rd engineer belonged to the port lifeboat. After having come ashore he made some enquiries among the officers and men in connection with the missing 3rd engineer and he was then infomed that the 3rd engineeer had shut off the engines and had come up on the amidship deck where he was spoken to by the chief engineer as well as the 2nd engineer that he would have to hurry to the lifeboat. A couple of men, he cannot remember who, had seen the 3rd engineer on the boat deck and that he had come down again from there. This may be explained by the 3rd engineer having tried to save a gold watch and chain from his cabin. He has then probably been shut in there. This is a probability bordering on certainty.
Appeared the 1st witness, Herman Parelius Kndusen ...
He had been on watch until 12 o'clock.
At the moment of the explosion he was in his bunk in his cabin justby the port engineers' passage (the 2nd and 3rd engineers had cabins further forward).
There was a heavy hollow crash and the vessel shook.
As he came out of the door he noticed that the engine had been stopped. He saw the 2nd engineer on the platform and was called by him. At the same time he also saw the 3rd engineer who rushed past towards aft. He got the impression that the man was dazed. He did not see the 3rd engineer afterwards.
The latter belonged to the port lifeboat.
He, himself, went calmly through the engine passage and up on to to the boat deck to the port lifeboat. By then 4 men had arrived there, namely the captain, the chief officer, the 3rd officer and A.B. Seaman Hansen, but he did not see the 3rd engineer. He was occupied with the slackening of falls and tackle.
The boat came into the water, but bacame jammed and was capsized, everybody in the water for about 3 minutes, got up on the lifesaving raft, was on the raft for perhaps 10 minutes and was picked up by the motor lifeboat, this was about 400 metres astern of the ship. He asked:- "Are we all here?". After a while it was found that the 3rd engineer was not there.
The motor was working. They called out and shouted and scanned the sea. They steered towards the poop which was standing up almost perpendicular, no one to be seen. After half an hour course was set for the shore.
3rd engineer Karlsen was in good health and fit, but was not of a cool disposition.
From the motor boat he saw an aeroplane going to and fro above and below the layers of cloud. It had a light, cannot remember the colour. Did not hear any sound from it.
Appeared the 2nd witness, Anders Kaldefoss, ... 2nd officer and wireless operator. ...
He was on watch from 8 p.m. until 12 midnight. During the watch the weather was showery to commence with. It was raining until 9.45 o'clock when the anchor was lifted, after which it did not rain. The weather gradually became clear. The moon was almost at second quarter.
There were 3 vessels outward bound. The "Ravnanger" was to have been the leading ship. The others were the Norwegian s/s "Heire" and a tanker, no doubt English.
The "Ravnanger" started on her way at about 11 o'clock from the anchoring place, a small buoy in the roadstead and arrived at the meeting place, a red buoy (No. 20), at about 11.30. As soon as they had started on the way from the anchoring place the red buoy couyld be seen.
The other two which were lying in the same anchoring place followed. Out by the meeting place he saw the "Heire", but not the tanker. The "Heire" carried dimmed lights, he did not remember what the tanker may have carried.
The "Ravnanger" carried side lights and forward mast head light all of which were dimmed about as much as they could be dimmed. As the leading ship, the "Ravnanger" carried a white light above a read light, placed immediately above the bridge by a flag line. These convoy lights were not dimmed. They were up from the departure and approximately until 5 minutes to 12 o'clock midnight.
He did not see anything suspicious on the way out.
About half way out they met some incoming cargo vessels. As to whether these carried lights he cannot say with certainty, but he thinks they did.
The convoy must have seen the "Ravnanger's" convoy lights at a distance of 4 to 5 nautical miles. He remembers that by measuring he found the distance from the anchoring place to the meeting place to be 5 nautical miles. Even if the convoy had been at the meeting place as early as 11 o'clock he is of opinion that the convoy could have seen the "Ravnanger's" convoy lights.
He did not think that the aeroplane had seen the convoy lights of the "Ravnanger" as he had not heard the droning of the aeroplane from the "Ravnanger".
He left the bridge some minutes past 12 and thereafter he went to his cain on the middle bridge. He went to bed at once at 12.15 o'clock. Just as he had got into bed he heard an aeroplane, he ran to the door and looked about, but by then he neither heard nor saw anything. Neither did he later on see anything of the aeroplane. Having got back to bed the explsion occured which he only noticed as a bump and that the ship seemed to collapse.
He ran from his cabin along to the motor lifeboat and was the first man to arrive at it. The launching went smoothly.
The 3rd engineer belonged to the port lifeboat. He did not see anything of the 3rd engineer.
When the motor lifeboat pushed off there was no one to be seen on the ship and he shouted up to the deck to ascertain whether there was any one there and he could also see that there was no one on the deck. The vessel was then down by the bows, water coming approximately to amidship.
The current carried the lifeboat past the stern before they got the oars out.
At first they did not see anything to port, but subsequently a light (torch) and picked up the 5 men who were on the rafts.
A roll call was then made and it was found that the 3rd engineer was not there. They were then 2-3 ship's lengths from the poop.
There was no one to be seen on the poop. There was a great deal of wreckage on the port side and if the 3rd engineer had got into the water he would have been carried by the current towards the motor lifeboat.
They quickly understood that it was hopeless to get nearer to the poop than they were already. The motor lifeboat was lying farily deeply in the water. Besides, there was a choppy sea caused by the current. The current was setting in very strongly. Further, it was found that for some reason or other the motor could not be regulated and that it could only go at full speed. To proceed with it straight aginst the wind was absolutely dangerous. Some spraying seas were shipped.
In the motor boat they could not understand why the 3rd engineer had not come up on the boat deck as he had been seen to come up from the engine room. There was talk about him having probably got a shock.
At a quarter to 10 he had gone on to the forecastle in order to be ready to heave down (? in) the anchor. The captain came on the bridge 5 minutes before 10 o'clock and gave the order to heave in. After having hove down (? in) the anchor and having come on the bridge again the examination vessel (the guardship) arrived and gave the order, which was called out from the bridge, that the time of meeting was 12 o'clock.
According to earlier instructions the time of meeting was 11 o'clock. In the chart room he had seen a printed form on which there had been 5 o'clock a.m. the 11th november, but instead of this there had been put 11 o'clock the 10th November.
Liefsaving jackets had been distributed to every one. The chief officer had given orders that the lifesaving jackets were to be worn while on watch.
The witness had lost a typewriter and radio books (no sextant).
Appeared the 3rd witness, Ragnvald Espenæs ... 3rd officer on board. ...
He was in bed from 8 o'clock.
At 12 o'clock turned out on watch on the bridge. The weather was clear with slight moonlight and increasing sea. The captain was also on the bridge. At 0.13 o'clock course was set for return to the anchoring place.
After about 10 minutes the droning of an aeroplane was heard and directly afterwards an aeroplane was seen flying low, perhaps a couple of hundred feet up, passing astern of the ship with course from the sought cutting across the vessel's course. After having been out of sight for a short while, perhaps one minute, the aeroplane was seen to come with course straight for the ship. The aeroplane was seen indistinctly, but it carried a light. He did not notice more than one light. This was greenish. The aeorplane passed ahead of the bow and did not come straight over the ship. directly afterwards, perhaps a copule of minutes after the aeroplane had passed ahead of the bow a report was heard and at the same time he saw a flame just by the No. 1 hatch. The sound of the explsion was hollow. The shoe of the vessel shook, she was lifted up and then quickly sank under him at the same time as she heeled over to port. It definitely seemed to him that the aeroplane did not pass over the ship, but ahead of her, and that the explosion occurred after the aeroplane had passed the vessel.
When he first heard the droning he informed the captain who had also heard the droning. There was no talk with refernce to the aeroplane. He assumed that it was an English aeroplane as it carried a light.
The captain remained on the bridge, but the witness and the helmsman at once went to the port lifeboat. On arriving there only one man had as yet come on the boat deck. He was not sure as to whether it was the chief engineer or the look-out man. Whilst they were lowering the boat it seemed to him that he saw the 3rd engineer, but it could easily have been the chief engineer as the two were fairly alike in the dark.
They had a mishap with the lifeboat and were thrown into the water from where they got on to the raft and were afterwards picked up by the motor boat. The latter was then lying one cable length astern of the poop. The motor boat was then being rowed, but the motor was soon got going again and in order to come up towards the hull, course was set against the sea, but by then the current had carried the motor boat further away. He did not think they got nearer to the poop than one cable length. In his opinion the position was dangerous. The boat was lying heavily in the water and on account of damaged to the motor it could only go at full speed in the high sea which was increasing. The captain and crew were considereing what should be done. He remembered that the 2nd officer was pointing out that there was danger of getting the boat full of water if they continued against the sea.
It was finally decided to set course inwards. He knew the 3rd engineer very well. The latter suffered from a weak heart. He was inclined to think that the 3rd engineer had rushed very quickly up from the engine room and had been unable to stand the strain.
In conversation, the 3rd engineer had been rather despondent and had mentioned that if any torpedoing should occur he would perhaps not be able to stand the strain.
The witness had lost navigation books to the purchase value of about Kr. 100.-, no instruments. In addition a silver watch with gold chain, and furthermore clothes and personal effects for over Kr. 1000.-.
Appeared the 4th witness, Arne Holte ... fireman on board. ...
He came on watch at 12 o'clock, cleaned the fires and trimmed, then went into the engine room where the engine was going at slow speed and spoke a few words to the 3rd engineer who was well and in cheerful mood. The engine room clock was 25 minutes past 12 when he went back to the stokehold platform. He was just about to pick up the shovel in order to stoke when the explosion occured, everything became dark, clinkers etc. were flying around. He went direct from the stoke-hold to the boat deck, he did not see any one on the way. On coming to the motor lifeboat there were a couple of men there and he at once went into the boat. After those who were on the raft had been taken into the boat they rowed around searching for the 3rd engineer. There were such seas and the boat was so heavy that they could hardly move against the wind. Kept on rowing for a while. The motor was set rowing. Course was set for Middlesbrough.
Apepared the 5th witness, Olav Reklev ... fireman on board. ...
He came on watch at 12 o'clock, 3 minutes before the explosion he was in the engine room, where the engine was going at slow speed, speaking to the 3rd engineer who seemed to be fit and well.
After the explosion he went up through the fidley, could not get the door opoen, went down and out through the engine passage. The 3rd engineer was not in the engine room at that time. The dynamo was working. The lights were full on. He passed the chief engineer's cabin and through the doorway he saw the chief engineer dressing. Otherwise he did not see any one until he came to the motor lifeboat.
When the men on the raft had been picked up the motor lifeboat was about 400 metres from the ship of shich only the stern could be seen. Rowed for a good while against the wind and got a little nearer to the ship. Then they got the motor started.
He had been signed on in July this year at New York, had not previously known the 3rd engineer, but the witness had heard that the 3rd engineer had been referred to on board as being nervous.
At about half past 11 o'clock he saw some vessels, about 300 metres away, on the starboard side, on their way inwards. There was bright moonlight.
From the boat deck, on his way to the motor lifeboat, he saw an aeroplane which was flying rather low. It was ahead on the starboard side. It carried a light. He heard the droning which was heavy.
Appeared the 6th witness, Ingolf Arthur Thornquist ... chief officer on board. ...
He was soundly asleep when the explosion occured and went to toe port lifeboat, he did not se any one on the way there, he did not then nor later on see any aeroplane, but on the way inwards in the motor lifeboat the droning of an aeroplane was heard.
At the time they came from the raft into the motor lifeboat they were approximately one cable length from the ship of which only the stern could be seen.
Rowed about in the motor lifeboat for a while in order to search for the 3rd engineer. They did not dare to come too near to the ship on account of danger from vortex. There was no none to be seen on the stern. He thought that a person could have been seen if any one had been standing on the stern. It was moonlight.
During the voyage from America the 3rd engineer had all the time been complaining that he slept badly. Every now and then the witness had given him sleeping pills.
Appeared the 7th witness, Haakon Hilland ... 2nd engineer. ...
He was asleep in his cabin when the explosion occurred. When the witness came out through his cabin door, which was just opposite the exit from the engine, the witness saw the 3rd engineer and said:- "Come on Karlsen, we have no doubt been torpedoed". But the 3rd engineer did not reply. It was dark in the passage. Since then the witness had not seen anything of the 3rd engineer.
The 3rd engineer was stoutish and easily got out of breath.
The witnesses, 1-7, appeared and the captain's written report as well as the captain's statement entered in the protocol were read out.
The 1st witness and the 7th witness remarked that they did not think that the 3rd engineer went down into his cabin.
The 2nd witness remarked that according to the previous orders the time for meeting was 11 o'clock, not 10 o'clock.
Otherwise the witnesses had nothing to remark.
Captain Grung appeared and made himself acquainted with the statements of witnesses 1-7.
To the statement made by the 2nd witness, 2nd officer Kaldefoss, the captain remarked that the time when the examination vessel hailed them on the first occasion was at 3 to half past 5 o'clock and on the second occasion at 9 to half past 9 o'clock. The instructions given by that vessel as regards the time of meeting was on the first occasion for 10 o'clock and on the second occasion for 12 o'clock.
It would not take more than 20 minutes to proceed out.
The anchor had already been hove down (? in) when the examiation vessel hailed them on the second occasion and the vessel had only just commenced to turn outwards.
2nd officer Kaldefoss was on the bridge when the examination vessel came on the second occasion. The captain is of opinon that there has been a slight misrecollection on the part of officer Kaldefoss when the latter stated that he went on the forecastle at a quarter to 10 o'clock and came on the bridge at 5 minutes to 10.
There is likewise a misrecollection when officer Kaldefoss stated that the printed order had been altered to 11 o'clock. It had been altered to 12 o'clock and the said alteration, from 5 o'clock to 12 o'clock, had been done before the Naval Office gave the captain their instructions as regards the time of meeting.
On being questioned, the captain could not remember who it was who had mentioned something about the 3rd engineer having been seen on the boat deck and having been seen to go down from the boat deck. It is possible at it was the 3rd officer who said something about the 3rd engineer having been seen on the boat deck. The captain's recollection about this is af is some one else had said something about the 3rd engineer having, or perhaps having, gone from the boat deck down into his cabin in order to fetch something.