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.
Report about the war loss of the "SILDRA"
On the 196h August 1941, at 20.20 o'clock, we were attacked by a submarine. On the bridge was Captain Bjerkenes, also helmsman and look-out man. Good look-out was kept all the time from the bridge and from the gun platform aft. Wireless operator Mjøs was on watch in the wireless room. Chief Engineer B. Midtgaard was on watch in the engine room.
The first thing we saw was the phosphorescent wake of four torpedoes. They were seen simultaneously by the Captain and the look-out man. All four were coming in towards the ship from a direction athwart on starboard. The helm was at once put hard over to port and the vessel commenced to swing. At the same time the signal was given on the steam whistle "Stand by the lifeboats". Immedately after the lifeboat signal had been given, the vessel was struck by 2 torpedoes in the forward part of the ship. It is assumed that both struck between Nos. 3 and 6 main tanks. The other two torpedoes passed in front of the bow. The vessel at once heeled over to starboard.
The boats were made ready to be put into the water. About three minutes after the first torpedoes, the vessel was struck by a third torpedo in way of the after deck on the starboard side. Orders were given to put the boats into the water and to leave the ship. It was feared that another torpedo might be fired at the engine room. The engine was stopped soon after the first explosion. It was pitch dark so that we could not see anything of the submarine, and we could not determine whether it was only one or several which attacked the vessel.
Three boats were got safely into the water, namely both lifeboats and the motor boat. We tried to send out S.O.S. signal, but the violent shaking in consequence of the first two torpedoes damaged the radio station so that we could not get the instructions to function. We therefore did not get any wireless message sent out.
All the men got safely into the boats, the whole crew as well as two passengers, and about three minutes after the third torpedo we left the ship. As soon as the last boat was clear of the ship, the vessel was again struck by a fourth torpedo at the after part of the ship on the starboard side, but forward of the engine room. All the boats came together a distance astern of the vessel in order to await what would happen next. The vessel was then heeling heavily over to starboard and was very low in the water forward. Soon afterwards two gun shots were fired at the after part of the ship. We could then only just see the conning tower of the submarine on the starboard side of the ship. It is assumed that the last gun shot must have hit the boiler room as a huge column of sparks and flames rose into the air. Thereafter, the vessel quickly settled down in the water aft. It is assumed that the funnel fell down as a result of the last explosion as nothing could be seen of it afterwards. Shortly afterwards a heavy rushing sound was heard and we assumed that it was then that the vessel went down. The men in all three boats were counted, and it was found that everybody had been saved.
Before the vessel was abandoned everything was done in order to ascertain that no one was left behind. Orders were given to the boats that they were to keep together the whole night and not to row away from the place. We wanted to await daylight in order to see whether anything could be observed.
After an hour had passed we lost contact with the port lifeboat which was manned by the 2nd Officer and 15 of the crew. The starboard lifeboat, manned by the chief Officer and 15 of the crew, and the motor boat, manned by the Captain and the 3rd Officer and four of the crew, also two passengers, kept together the whole night. At daylight the next morning we could not see anything which resembled anything from the ship. We set sail and steer towards land.
The starboard lifeboat and the motor boat made land on Thrusday th 2nd (21st ?) August at Manna Point, territory of Sierra Leone. Landed at 11.00 o'clock and at once got on touch with the inhabitants and we were all taken good care of. Men from shore came along in order to look after the boats which had already been pulled as far up on shore as we could manage. Partly on foot and partly by boat we were conveyed to Bonthe, where er arrived at 19.00 o'clock and reported to the District Commissioner. Report of the loss of the vessel and the missing lifeboat was at once telegraphed to Freetown. At Bonthe we were all well received, got food, clothes and refreshing sleep. Fortunately, no one had been injured. Left Bonthe on the 22nd August in the evneing and arrived at Freetown by train on the 23rd August at 21.00 o'clock. An aeroplane was sent out from Freetown in order to serch for the other lifeboat. It was sighted on the 22nd August off Cape St. Ann close by the shore. A patrol vessel was searching for it, but could not find it. The port lifeboat with everybody in it landed safely south of Cape St. Ann on the 22nd August at 18.00 o'clock. They soon got in communication with the Coast Guard who took very good care of them. They all had to spend the night in a hut and on the following day they were conveyed by boat to Bonthe where the first boat crews had been landed. They arrived at Bonthe at noon on the Sunday. At Bonthe they received food and clothes and wre well cared for. They left Bonthe on Monday evening and arrived at Freetown on Tuesday the 26th August at 18.00 o'clock.
The whole of the crew were accommocated in various places at Freetown in order to await the first opportunity of being sent to U.K. or Canada.
Th. Bjerkenes, Master