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 Anders Skånberg appeared ...
The "TANK EXPRESS" departed from Freetown on the 22nd July 1942 in ballast bound for Trinidad for orders. On her departure the ship was in every respect in a wholly seaworthy condition. The Master produced a signed Statement since both the Engine Room and Deck-Log Books were lost with the ship.
The Master referred to the Statement and furhter declared that:-
After leaving Freetown, we followed the escort with the other ships near us in accordance with instructions previously received. The escort left us on 24th July and we proceeded on course separately as instructed. All went well until 1305 ship's time on 25th July when there was an explosion caused by a torpedo exploding in the afterpart of No. 4 Starboard wing tank. The boat deck on the Starboard side over the wing tank was smashed, starboard raft was thrown overboard. Iron stanchions of starboard flying bridge were bent causing the flying bridge to collapse.
The ship took a heavy list to Starboard and speed came down very quickly. Full spead ahead was immediately ordered, ship had been previously at economical speed.
The Captain went on to the bridge immediately after the explosion and ordered the wheel hard to Port to keep clear of the submarine.
The speed continued to decrease, and as it became evident that the ship could not avoid the submarine owing to loss of speed, orders were given to lower and man the lifeboats.
As soon as the crew were in the lifeboats and they had pulled off to a distance of about 100 yards, a second torpedo exploded in the engine room, Port side.
All hands were in the boats, the Captain was in the motor boat, the remainder of the crew in two other boats.
The captain remained in the motor boat together with the Chief Officer and eight men, the Second Officer was in charge of another boat and the Chief Engineer was in charge of the third boat.
The weather was fine with rain squalls, wind light South West, and the motor boat took both the other boats in tow. Course was set for Freetown.
The ship sank about two or three hours after being abandoned. Ship's deck and engine room log books and all the crew's effects were lost.
An S.O.S. call was reapeated four time at intervals on the W/'T before the ship was abandoned, but no acknowledgment was received.
The ship was torpedoed without warning of any kind. The submarine was only seen when the crew left the ship. During the voyage in lifeboats and the motor boat good discipline was maintained, all hands were on rations, on a basis of three weeks supply, water was caught in canvas whenever possible and ample stock was maintained for full drinking supplies for all.
The motorboat continued to tow the lifeboats until the morning of 26th July when about 15 hours stock of gasolene was reained, sails set on all three boats on a specified course for Freetown.
The boats were able to keep lashed together, no particular incident occurred until 1st August when the crew were picked up by a British Warship about 250 miles from Freetown.
On 9th August crew were landed in Gibraltar and accomodated in a British Depot Ship. On the 11th August the Norwegian Consul took charge and provided all hands with necessaries and accomodation.
The brigish Naval Officers concerned gave Officers and crew excellent treatment, providing for their requirements as best possible.
... FIRST WITNESS: The Chief Officer, Alf Riiber Christensen, who deposed that he had been serving in the "TANK EXPRESS" since July 1939, in the first place as Third Officer, and since July 1941 as Chief Officer.
The ship, lifeboats, motor boat and all life saving equipment were well found and seaworthy in every respect.
On the 25th July at about 1300 hours he was on the sofa in his room, off duty and asleep, the voyage from Feetown having been without incident until then, he heard a loud explosion which awoke him. He went out on deck and looked round, he went up to the radio office and sent out a message of distress as there was no special wireless operator on board, he sent out the message three times without listening for replies in the regular form giving ship's position, name of ship and that we were torpedoed. He then waited for about two minutes for an answer, not getting any answer he sent it out again once. He listened again for an answer for about a minute but heard no answer so went out of the wireless office to see how things were. The engines were stopped and the motor lifeboat amidships was in the water and the other two lifeboats were being launched.
He went in the motor lifeboat where the engine was already started when he came down to it. The Captain who was also in the motor boat ordered them to push off and take the other two lifeboats in tow, having counted all who were in the lifeboats and making sure nobody had been left behind on board the ship.
The first torpedo had exploded on the Starboard side of the afterpart of No. 4 Wing Tank. He saw the submarine about 250 yards away from the ship just before a second torpedo exploded on the port side of the ship he believes in the engine room because smoke came from the funnel.
Both lifeboats were kept in tow and the Submarine commenced firing at the ship with a gun. After the first hour (when they were getting clear of the ship and the submarine) course was set for Freetown.
Towage continued until the morning of the 27th July as the sea was quite calm. Then there was a slight breeze from the WNW so we set sail and the motor was stopped.
The boats were connected by a lashing to keep them together, the best sailing boat in front, then the other lifeboat and the motor boat last.
Food was rationed to start with on a basis of three weeks, rain squalls wee frequent, plenty of water being caught all the time in the canvas. Discipline was good and the boats well equipped with both food and navigation instruments.
The voyage in the boats continued without incident until about 21.30 GMT on 1st August when they were picked up by a British warship, where they were very well treated.
He stated that the ship was torpedoed without warning and the Master, Officers and crw lost all their effects, the ship's log-book and engine room log books were also lost.
On 9th August they were landed at Gibraltar and accomodated on a British Depot Ship. On the 11th August the Norwegian Consul took charge and arranged to provide accomodation and necessaries ashore.
SECOND WITNESS: The Second Officer, Ingolf Remø appeared and deposed that:-
He joined the "TANK EXPRESS" as Third Officer in November 1941 and was appointed Second Officer in April 1942.
On the afternoon of 25th July he was Officer of the Watch.
At 1305 he was on the bridge on the Port side, he heard a loud explosion on the Starboard side at the afterpart of No. 4 Wing Tank.
The ship took a list to starbaoard immeidately and lost speed. He went into the wheel house and the Captain came up and enquired which side has been struck by the torpedo.
He (th 2nd Officer) ansered "Starboard Side" and then he (the Captain) ordered the wheel "Hard aport" and the engines full speed and the speed was slowing down, the ship was going very slowly after being torpedoed.
They decided by conference that they could not get away from the submarine with such slow speed and the Captain ordered all hands into lifeboats. The Captain stopped the engines.
He threw all Secret papers overboard. As soon as the motor boat was launched the other two lifeboats were towed form the ship they could then see the periscope of the submarine and a second torpedo exploded on the Port side probably on the forepart of the engine room.
The Submarine came above water and started shelling the ship on the Starboard side, which later turned over about one hour after the first torpedo.
The course was set for Freetown in the boats, on the 1st August at about 21.30 they were picked up by a British warship where they were well treated and got all they needed. They arrived at Gibraltar on 9th August and after being accomodated in a British Depot ship for two days were taken charge of by the Norwegian Consul who provided necessaries and accomodation.
The crew lost all their effects, and the ship's log book and engine room log book were also lost.
The ship was well found, the motor lifeboat, lifeboats and life saving equipment was verry effective. Rations were arranged for twenty days. Fresh water supply was plentiful as water was caught from rain squalls.
THIRD WITNESS: Ordinary Seaman Hjalmar Sivle, appeared and deposed that:-
He had served as Ordinary Seaman on board the "TANK EXPRESS" since April 1942.
On the 25th July he went on watch at noon and was on duty at the wheel from noon to 1300 hours. At 1300 hours he was relieved at the wheel and went to take post as lookout on top of the chartroom above flying bridge. When he had just got up he heard a loud explosion from Starboard side about the pump room. He saw nothing of the submarine or any torpedo before the explosion.
He decided to to down from the chart room. On the way down he met the Captain who first asked him what had happened, then ordered him to inform all the crew to stand by the lifeboats aft.
He was in the Starboard lifeboat when it was lowered and the remaining members of the boats crew not already in place came down the falls. We had been in tow of the motor boat for a few hundred yards when another explosion was heard from the Port side of the ship. Then for the first time he saw the periscope of the submarine, and shortly afterwards the submarine came to the surface and it started to shell the ship.
The lifeboats were towed away from the ship by the motor boat.
He lost sight of the submarine after about half an hour and the lifeboats proceeded in tow.
Food was rationed in the lifeboats and there was always plenty of water.
On the 1st August they were picked by a British Warship and they were well treated on board.
On 9th August they arrived at Gibraltar and were fist accommodated in another British warship, on 11th August they went to accommodation arranged by the Consul and were provided with clothing and other necessaries.
The lifeboats were well fitted out with food, stores and necessaries.
FOURTH WITNESS: Able Seaman Thorleif Hansen, appeared and deposed that:
He had served on the "TANK EXPRESS" since March 1939, first as Saloon boy and since about October 1941 as Able Seaman.
On 25th July he went on watch at noon and took post as look-out on top ot chart room, about 1300 hours he relieved Hjalmar Sivle at the wheel, who went to take post as look out on top of the chart room.
He heard an explosion on the Starboard side but saw no periscope or submarine.
The Captain ordered the wheel "Hard Port" and the Captain ordered him to remain at the wheel.
The ship swung about 90 degrees and lost speed. After an interval the Captain told him to go to his lifeboat aft.
He got into the lifeboat when it was in the water and it was taken in tow by the motor boat.
When they had got about two hundred yards from the ship there was another explosion from the Port side of the ship. Then he first saw the periscope and the the submarine which commenced shelling the ship.
He saw the ship turn over and had no doubt that it sunk.
A British warship picked us up on the 1st August and they were well treated ont he warship. They arrived at Gibraltar on 9th August where they were accommodated on another British warship. On the 11th August they went to accommodation arranged by the Norwegian Consul who provided everything necessary.
The lifeboats were well found and supplied with everything necessary for life saving.