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 Officer Per Roseth, ... who stated that the chief officer is missing and that the vessel's master, who received injuries to his foot, is lying in hospital.
Officer Rolseth asked for chief engineer Lavold, A.B. Seaman Kiikka and wireless operator Morris to be examined. Statement was thereafter taken, without nautical assessors, from officer Rolseth who would on Monday the 6th May, appear with the witnesses.
Officer Rolseth stated that the vessel was of the well deck type ...
Officer Rolseth stated that on departure from Blyth the vessel was in good seaworthy condition. All lifesaving equipment as per regualtions was available and was in the prescribed order.
The 2 ordnary lifeboats were placed amidship on the boat deck, one on each side, and had since departure been hanging swung out in the davits. The motor lifeboat was standing in chocks amidship on the starboard side at the forward part of the boat deck. One of the ordinary lifeboats had been obtained in December 1940 at Gourock and at the same time the other one was repaired in consequence of heavy weather damage. The motor lifeboat had been obtained during the autumn of 1939, no doubt at Leith. During survey in February this year at Sunderland, all 3 boats received completely new equipment. There was no spare boat.
The 2 lifesaving rafts were lying loose amidship on the boat deck, one on each side at the after part of the boat deck. The were fully equipped although without spray hoods. They had been obtained at the New Year 1940 at Gourock.
There were 2 life buoys. They were on the bridge. There were life belts in sufficient number so as to allow one for each man. They were lying in a chest on the bridge and some were hanging on the engine room grating.
The lifesaving jackets on board were of kapok. Cannot remember the mark or name. They had been obtained at various times. They had been distributed to all the men and had been found to function splendidly. There were some extra jackets in a chest on the bridge.
Officer Roseth produced a report, prepared by him ...
There was some sea, speed 8 1/2 miles, steady course, the night was dark and he did not see anything on the sea, neither before nor after the explosion. No one on deck. The look-out man had gone down from the bridge in order to call the chief officer.
He felt a violent blow, the vessel was heavily shaken, he was himself flung down towards port, heard a heavy report (did not notice any preceeding sound) saw some greenish gleam and sparks, noticed the smell of gun powder, saw that the No. 2 hatch burst open, pieces of hatches (nothing else) in the air (nothing of the cargo).
The vessel at once began to sink with the bow first and disappeared below the surface of the sea, he thinks, in less than 2 minutes. Very quickly a heavy list to port.
There was no time to lower lifeboat. He and Kiikka cut the lashings of the port lifeboat and was lowering with the forward tackle, but he was then thrown into the sea.
Officer Rolseth stated with regard to those missing that he, personally, had not seen any of them on board and not later either. He produced a list of those missing and those saved ...
Forward in the berths of the deck crew were the A.B. Seamen Jacobsen, Sivertsen and Lekven, who were off duty. Aft in the quarters of the engine room staff were donkyman Hansen, fireman Olsen and fireman Eriksen, also trimmer McCorrigan.
The Estonian look-out man, Konstantin Saar, had gone down from the bridge before the explosion in order to call the chief officer. As to whether Saar had a lifesaving jacket on he is unable to say.
Cries were heard from the Estonian look-out man, A. B. Seaman Konstantin Saar, by A.B. Seaman Kiikka who was then on the boat deck.
Roseth thinks that the Swedish fireman Larson, who was on watch in the engine room, lost his life in the sea. Larson, with lifesaving jacket on, was seen by trimmer McCorrigan.
A.B. Seamen Jacobsen, Sivertsen and Lekven probably lost their lives on board as the vessel at once began to sink bow first.
Roseth thinks that steward Petter Jacobsen, cabin amidship, lost his life on board. The cabin was on the port side. Jacobsen was club-footted on both feet.
... 1. witness, chief engineer Johannes Lavold ...
The weather was overcast with some sea. The witness was to have been on watch at 4 o'clock. After the explosion he was called by the 2nd engineer and ran out on deck with engineer Kopstad in front of him, who had trousers and shirt on, but no lifesaving jacket. This was the last that the witness saw of Kopstad.
Having got on the boat deck he saw donkeyman Hansen in trousers and shirt, but without lifesaving jacket, standing at the after part of the amidship over by the starboard lifeboat. Hansen had on a lifesaving arrangement to be inflated. By the side of Hansen stood fireman Oscar Olsen in pyjamas without lifesaving jacket. Otherwise, he saw no persons.
Hansen and Oscar Olsen jumped into the sea whilst the witness ran bakc to his cabin and put on a leather jacket and a lifesaving jacket. When he came out, the vessel had heeled right over, and the witness went into the sea from the starboard side of the ship. This time the witness did not see any one.
He saw no one in the water. He saw no one from the raft. They heard shouts from several, but could not differntiate between them. After a short while the U-boat came past the raft at a distance of perhaps 50 or 75 metres and after a short while she disappeared.
The U-boat was nearer to those who were lying in the water than was the raft, and the U-boat could therefore have heard the shouts. The witness does not know if any one has seen anything of the others who are missing.
When it began to get light in the morning, the other raft was seen abotu a hundred metres away. They managed to get two boards broken loose and by means of these as oars they reached the other raft. There was no one to be seen or heard in the sea.
Appeared the 2nd witness, Sulo Viktor Kiikka, ... A.B. Seaman on board.
The weather was overcast with a fair amount of sea. He came to the wheel at 1 o'clock. After the explosion the 2nd officer gave whistle signal. The witness ran down on to the boat deck together over to the port lifeboat and commenced to lower it. There was no time to use the lifeboat.
The witness juped on to the port raft whilst the raft was on board; when this had come into the sea the witness assisted Roseth on to the raft.
Whilst the witness was on board by the lifeboat, he heard Saar calling out for the witness. Saar was then inside amidship. The witness thinks that Saar may have been in the galley making coffee for the chief officer.
The witness saw no one from the raft, but heard shouts from several without being able to differntiate as to who they were.
After perhaps 10 minutes the U-boat came up, perhaps 25 metres away, between the vessel, of which the funnel could be seen, and the raft. The U-boat went past the raft. She was seen for about 5 minutes. She was nearer to the "Rimfakse" than the raft. On board the U-boat they should have heard the shouts from those who were in the water. On the raft the shouts were heard for perhaps a couple of hours, but then only from a couple of men.
There had been no oars on the lifesaving rafts as long as the witness had been on board.
Got two small planks loose when i became light, and the other raft was seen about 200 metres away. They used the planks, and if they had not had them they would not hav overtaken the other raft. The two rafts were lashed together.
The rafts were new when obtained at Glasgow. New lifeboat at Glasgow, and the lifeboats wre then put into the sea, but not later. Boat muster was held every morning at 8 o'clock at sea.
When it became light, an upturned lifeboat was seen far away. This was seen first, and thereafter the raft was seen as previously stated.
Appeared the 3rd witness, William Fredrik Morris, ...
He was sleeping in his cabin on the boat deck. He got up straight away. The light was still on. He tried the main transmitter, and the dynamo for same commenced all right but almost immediately after the light went. He would say the that light went about 1 1/2 minute after the torpedo struck.
He then tried the emergency transmitter, but the valves would not work. Meanwhile the ship had taken a heavy list to prot. Water was coming over the boat deck so he went out towards the deck and intended going to the port boat where several men were using torches and had this boat half swung out, but due to the force of the water, coming over the boat deck,- he was forced over the side.
The next thing he knew was that he was 30 yards from the ship. The torches previously mentioned on the boat deck went out about a minute after he was in the water. That was the last he saw of the ship.
After 2 or 3 minutes, he saw one of the rafts with some of the men on her, was pulled abouard the raft, and two other men joined the raft 5 minutes later.
Just before these men had joined, a submarine surfaced 10 yards away and proceeded towards where the ship had been and passed out of sight. Just as daylight was breaking, another raft was sighted. With the use of two pieces wood taken from the raft, it was paddled towards the other raft. They were joined together.
One of the seveal men he saw hear the port lifeboat was the first mate. The first mate had his uniform, topcoat and cap on. He had a torch in his hand and directed the men with the lifeboat.
The Estgonian seaman came to his cabin and said: Torpedoed. This was when the light was on. He came another time and said again: Torpedoed. This was when the light was out. That was the last he saw of the Estonian seaman.
He heard some callaing whilst on the raft from someone in the water. The calling was in Norwegian language so he did not know what was said. The shouts were answered every few minutes by men of the raft, but after 2 hours they stopped. He never thought there was more than one man calling as the accent and direction sounded the same all the time.
Appeared again the 2nd witness, A.B. Seaman Kiika, who stated that it was just as he got on to the raft that he heard Saar shout twice from inside below.
Appeared again Officer Rolseth, and the statements of the 2nd and 3rd witnesses were put before him.
The rafts had been moved the day before the departure from Lockview. They had breviously been standing, oner on the fore deck and one on the after deck. The oars had been removed during the moving. They were lying in the boat deck in one of the life boats. It was an oversight that the oars had not been placed on the rafts.
Officer Rolseth promised to send in a list with the full navmes and personal details of those missing.