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.
FIRST WITNESS: Chief Officer, Charles Elgenes, who stated that:-
He Sailed as Chief Officer of the Norwegian Steamship "TEJO" from Oporto with a cargo of wine on Sunday 2nd February 1941 and arrived at Gibraltar on Wednesday 5th February.
The ship left Gibraltar on Thursday 6th February in convoy the voyage was uneventful until the morning of the 9th (Sunday) February when two of the ships of the convoy were sunk by a submarine between 5 and 6 in the morning.
At about 14.50 hours we received a signal from another ship in the convoy the there were hostile aircraft in the vicinity, soon after one of the aircraft flew over the "TEJO" and fired at the ship with a machine gun.
Before the gun of the "TEJO" could be got into action a second aeroplane dropped a bomb which exploded beside the wheelhouse on the main deck, blowing up the bridge deck and everything above it.
I believe that the Captain, Leif Christensen, was in the Chart Room at the time, and the Steward, Rolf Martinsen and the Messboy, Karl Lundeberg were in the pantry just where the bomb exploded. Able seaman Alf Sverre Eke was in the wheelhouse, Ordinary Seaman Thorbjørn Arvid Gulbrandsen was also in the wheelhouse steering the ship, and I was there also.
The explosion rendered me unconscious, I learned afterwards that Odinary Seaman Thorbjørn Arvid Gulbrandsen was blown through the bridge deck into the Saloon.
A second bomb was dropped and exploded beside the fore-mast.
When I became consious again the Chart Room was on fire, I ordered the hoses to be used but before the water came on deck fired had started in the Chief Engineer's room and made it impossible to work the hoses on the bridge deck.
I did not see the Captain or either of the three missing men after the explosion.
I went aft with the Chief Engineer as we could not go to the forepart where the remainder of the crew were collected.
A British Destoryer came close and launched a boat, and with the Chief Engineer I jumped into the water to be picked up by the boat. The ship was by this time on fire and in a sinking condition, all the boats on the bridge deck were destroyed by the explosion, and the motor boat on No. 3 Hatch could not be used the steam pipes were broken by the explosion so that it could not be lifted.
After taking the Chief Engineer into the boat they took him to the destroyer, but those on board the destroyer had seen me and I was picked up by the destroyer herself, the lifeboat saved the remainder of the crew except the 2nd Engineer who also jumped in the sea and was picked up by another steamer, but was sent over to the destroyer because he was injured.
Thorbjørn Arvid Gulbrandsen was also injured, but we were all very well looked after on board the destroyer by the Doctor.
We were taken to Gibraltar on board the destroyer where we were landed and the Norwegian Consul took charge of us, the three injured including myself being sent to the Colonial Hospital where we made a quick recovery.
There is no doubt in my mind that Captain Leif Christensen and the other three men were killed by the explosion of the bomb although I did not actually see them after the explosion.
As I was suffering from concussion and shock I was taken below when I got on to the British Destroyer, the last I saw of the "TEJO" about 4. p.m. was that she was on fire and had a list to starboard. I have no doubt that she sank shortly after.
All the ship's papers were lost and the Officers and Crew lost all their effects.
The Second Witness, Second Officer JAN LUND, appeared and deposed that:-
On the afternoon of 9th February I went off watch at 1230 hours, I was asleep in my room when the first bomb exploded. I went out on deck to try and get out a lifeboat into the water, but all amidships were broken by the force of the explosion, after this I tried No. 3 Winch to get the motor boat out but there was no steam, pipes being broken.
I went to the Second Engineer's room, the Chief Engineer's room was on fire, the Second Engineer was still in there and the door and room were damaged. I tried to take him out as I found him in bed, I asked if I could help him but he said he was alright, he came out soon after, but meanwhile I tried to get on the bridge deck but could not.
There must been another explosion after I left the Second Engineer since he was hurt after I left him,
After this I went forward to join some of the crew on the forecastle head, when the destroyer's boat came I got into it with the other members of the crew and was taken to the British Destroyer about 1600 hours.
I did not see Captain Leif Christensen nor the Steward Rolf Martinsen, Messboy Karl Lundeberg og A.B. Alf Sverre Eke after the first explosion, and there is no doubt in my mind that theyt were killed although I did not actually see them dead.
I last saw the "TEJO" about 1615 hours, she was smoking all over, fore and aft, and appeared to be in a sinking condition, the list very heavy.
All the papers of the ship were lost and the Officers and Crew lost their personal effects as well.
THIRD WITNESS, ORDINARY SEAMAN THORBJØRN ARVID GULBRANDSEN, appeared and deposed that:-
On the afternoon of Sunday 9ty February I went on watch at 1230 hours and was ordered to take the wheel and steer the ship from 1400 hours.
At about 1445 hours I saw the first plane which dropped two bombs which missed the ship dropping into the water on the starboard side, then immediately a bomb struck the ship aft of the wheelhous which went through the bridge deck on to the main deck and burst, it blew a hole in the deck and I found myself in the Saloon as the bridge deck had opened up and I must have fallen through the hole blown in the Saloon. Fire started almost immediately and I walked out though the whole blown in the Saloon to the port side and went forward to the rest of the crew. Whilst I was in the Saloon a second bomb hit the ship and exploded between Nos. 1 and 2 Hatches amidships near the foremast. My left hand was badly cut whilst I was in the Saloon.
Whilst I was forward another plane flew over ship using her machine gun.
A boat from the British destroyer came to the Port side of the ship and I got into it with the others of the crew who were forward, the "TEJO" had then taken a bad list to Starboard.
I did not see the Captain after the first explosion, nor did I see the Steward Rolf Martinsen, further I did not see the Messboy Karl Lundeberg and I did not see Able Seaman Afl Sverre Eke after the first explosion and I think they were all killed.
I was taken on board the British destroyer where I was kindly treated and teh Doctor attended to my hand.
The last I saw of the "TEJO" was after I got on board the destroyer, she was still on fire, and had a very bad list to Starboard.
The destroyer arrived at Gibraltar on Thursday 13th February, where the Norwegian Consul took charge and placed me in the Colonial Hospital.