Posted by: Mark D. Dodge
Date: November 12, 2001 11:03AM
Information discovery on the Norwegian Freighter "SILVAPLANA" from "Hirschfeld, The Secret Diary of a U-Boat" (as told to Geoffrey Brooks) Written by Wolfgang Hirschfeld, Orion Press. London, 1996. Hirschfeld, a petty officer (NCO) telegraphist aboard U-109 remembers the events as such. Extreme thanks to Jim in Townsville who saw my earlier request and Siri for the wisdom to keep this site alive!
QQQQ radio alert sent from "SILVAPLANA" at 26.06 S 164.25 W near Raratonga (Pacific Ocean) 10SEPTEMBER1941.
German prize crew of 15 officers and men placed aboard from the Raider ATLANTIS (Kapitan Rogge) - departing area during the last week of September.
November 2nd 1941, U-109 on patrol off the U.S. coast receives coded instructions to proceed to a position east of Bermuda to rendezvous with, escort and protect the SILVAPLANA beginning on November 10th until arrival in Bordeaux, France. U-109 met the ship close to the ANTON CORRIDOR, an internationally agreed sea lane for neutral ships.
The Norwegian crewmembers were still aboard. U-109 led with SILVAPLANA about 1000 meters astern following at ten knots, towards Spain. By November 15th U-109 and the SILVAPLANA were off Cape Estaca. U-109 left her charge to proceed inside Spanish territorial waters and inside the three-mile limit, while U-109 remained just outside the limit along the coast to Gijon to Bilbao. Near Santander, Spain SILVAPLANA set her navigation lights and met up with four minesweepers which escorted her towards Biarritz.
On November 17th the escorts was requested to meet at Ile de Croix at 0600 on the 18th. A German anti-submarine group was operating between Biarritz and Lorient so U-109 and SILVAPLANA diverted via the Bay of Biscay to proceed to Lorient by ROUTE GREEN, the approved U-boat approach into port. Here Kapitanleutnant Heinrich (AJAX) Bleichrodt of the U-109 relinquished his duties as escort heading for resupply at the submarine pens. SILVAPLANA reached Bordeaux successfully.
Am searching for news or narratives by the crewmembers who may have kept diaries of this voyage. One of the 'guests' placed aboard SILVAPLANA was a Briton named Dr. ROBERT STARLING. He was aboard the ZAMZAM when it was also captured by ATLANTIS back in mid-April. He was a chiropractor hoping to set up a clinic in the Cape Town area. Because of his injuries during the attack, Dr. Robert Starling was detained along with two-Americans, NED LAUGHINGHOUSE and FRANK VICOVARI who were also seriously wounded.
When SILVAPLANA was boarded, the German's found a copy of LIFE magazine from June containing the news of the ZAMZAM sinking. Kapitan Rogge of the ATLANTIS was planning to transfer both of his remaining guest's to the SILVAPLANA until this development. Dr. Starling was told to grab his kit and said goodbye to Frank after 5-months of sailing the ocean's aboard the Raider.
Mr. Vicovari was the commander of a 24-member volunteer ambulance group that was bound for the East African Front when their ship sailed from New York back on March 20th. Frank would remain aboard the Raider until she met her fate at the hands of the HMS DEVONSHIRE near to the very time when Dr. Starling was arriving in Bordeaux. Mr. Laughinghouse was a tobacco auctioneer headed for the seasonal auctions in Salisbury, Rhodesia. He was the most seriously injured and only survived 10-days after the attack.
If anyone remembers news of this Dr. STARLING or memories of the Norwegian crewmembers of the SILVAPLANA, please let me know. There is an active group of ZAMZAM survivors and we would like to know what became of this 'lost' passenger and extend our thanks to those crewmembers for helping to keep his spirits up. All comments are welcomed and appreciated. Best regards, Mark Dodge - (USA)