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 Carsten Muller who stated that he was the master of the M/S "THERMOPYLÆ" ...
The captain produced a written report concerning the sinking to which he referred and he had nothing further to declare.
On being questioned, the captain stated:-
That the two joints on the steering engine, which blew out, were in good condition on departure from Alexandria and that previously there had been no trouble with these;
That the reason why the two glands were smashed was a mishap and not due to any neglect;
That it was solely on account of strong wind and rough sea that the speed was down to 10 1/2 miles on the 18th January before orders were given to alter course for Benghazi;
That nothing could be done to avoid the bombs during the attack on the 195h January and that it would have made noe difference if the vessel had been proceeding on a zig-zag course;
That the engines stopped immediately the bombs had struck the vessel;
That it was impossible to try to extinguish the fire which arose in the engine room when the bomb dropped as the fire extinguishing apparatuses could not be got at. These were on the upper platform in the engine room which was a complete mass of flames;
That when the bomb dropped, only the three men who lost their lives were in the engine room;
That, after the explosion, it was impossible to get down into the engine room owing to fumes and flames;
That it was the English destroyers which finally sank the vessel as she was dangerous to shipping;
That the vessel's log books, accounts and papers were all lost. These had been placed in a lifeboat, which was put into the water with some of the crew, and when these members of the crew were picked up by the destroyer, they overlooked the case and it was lost as the lifeboat was sunk by the destroyer.
... the first witness:- Chief Officer Hans E. Eliassen who stated that he was acquainted with the produced written report to which he had nothng to add.
On being questioned, the witness stated:-
That it was solely on account of the rough sea and strong wind against the ship that the speed was down to 10 1/2 miles in the morning of the 18th January;
That he was on the bridge when the attack occurred on the 19th January;
That nothing could be done to avoid the bombs during the attack which came so suddenly that it would have been impossible to alter course;
That it would hav made no difference if the vessel had been proceeding on a zig-zag course as the bombs struck amidships;
That when the bombs dropped it sounded as if the port engine slowed down. The starboard engine continued working. 'The 3rd engineer tried to shut off the oil supply, but did not manage to do so as he had been badly burtn on both arms. Both engines slowed down until, shortly afterwards, we succeeded in getting the oil supply stopped from the boat deck;
That it was impossible to try to extinguish the fire which arose in the engine room as we received no reply from the men in the the engine room and that consequently it was impossible to pump water on to the fire;
That when the bomb dropped, no one besides the three men, who lost their lives, were in the engine room;
That it was impossible to get down into the engine room after the explosion amidships owing to fumes, smoke and flames;
That one of the destroyers came alongside and put out two hoses in order to try to extinguish the fire, but this proved to be completely useless.
Appeared the second witness:- Chief Engineer Oluf Hansen who stated that he was acquainted with the produced written report to which he had nothing to add.
On being questioned, the witness stated:-
That the two joints on the steering engine, which blew out, were in good condition on departure from Alexandria and that previously there had been no damage to the steering engine;
That the resaon why the two glands were smashed was that there was knocking of the rudder which had to be shored. There was no question of any neglect on the part of the men who were doing this work;
That when the explosion occurred the main motors stopped practically at once. Witness could not give any exact information about this as, owing to the explosion, he could not hear anything until later when he was on deck and then the engines had stopped;
That it was impossible to make any attempt to extinguish the fire as the fire extinguishing apparatuses were in the engine room where it was impossible to get to owing to the heat and smoke.
Appeared the third witness:- Motorman Erling Oliversen who stated that he was acquainted with the produced written report to which he wished to add that it was not on account of flames that he could not get down into the engine room, but owing to fumes and smoke. He had nothing further to add.
On being questioned, witness stated:-
That when the explosion occurred he was in his cabin; when it was clear to him that the vessel had been struck he ran along to amidships where there was smoke everywhere. It appeared to him as if practically all the cabins were on fire. Thereafter he ran back and put on his lifebelt and took his private papers;
That as his best comrade was in the engine room he tried to come to his assistance through the emergency exit, but this was found to be impossible owing to smoke and fumes escaping through same;
That it was also absolutely impossible to get down into the engine room in any other way;
That when the bomb dropped, there were only three men, who lost their lives, in the engine room.
Appeared the fourth witness:- Ordinary Seaman Rolf Jensen who stated that he was acquainted with the produced written report to which he had nothing to add.
On being questioned, he stated:-
That he was at the wheel when the vessel was bombarded and that, without having heard any explosion, he suddenly saw pieces of wood and other objects flying over the bridge. Thereafter, he went out of the wheel-house in order to see what had happened and found heavy black smoke coming up from the engine room and fire at the forward part;
That, thereafter, he went down to his cabin for his private papers which, however, he did not get hold of.
That, when he had got down into the motor boat, he saw flames coming out through the port holes of the cabins on the port side.