Seville to Gibraltar Escape Route
Posted by: Bruce Bolinger
Date: December 26, 2001 07:46PM
I am researching the role of my great uncle in the Belgian Resistance during WWII during which he hid nine people from the Nazis. In telling his story, I want to be able to tell the stories of the people he helped. One of them was an American flier shot down over the Netherlands in November 1943. I have located him and have been interviewing him over the last year. He was passed through Dutch, Belgian, and French escape lines to the British Embassy in Madrid at the beginning of January 1944.
On about January 7, 1944, with several other fliers, he was taken from the British Embassy to the river port of Seville (on the Guadalquivir River) and slipped aboard one of two Norwegian freighters carrying oranges. The ships traveled together for safety. They were armed with rocket-launched cables that were supposed to protect them from German dive bombers.
The fliers were hidden in the ship?s propeller compartment reached via a hatch in the coal bunker. After the fliers entered the compartment, the hatch was bolted back into place and coal was shoveled back over it so that no one searching the ship would know of this possible hiding place. Of course, if the ship was sunk, the fliers would have had no chance to get out. Although the crew knew they were there, the ship?s Spanish river pilots did not. The fliers were in the ship?s propeller compartment for three days until the ships reached open ocean and the river pilots left. Normally a much shorter trip, the delay was caused by a breakdown in the other ship. When they were released from the compartment, the fliers were allowed to use the captain?s personal shower and given free use of his liquor cabinet, containing mainly crème d?cacao. The American flier said that he had the worst hangover in his life as a result. His ship reached Gibraltar safely on January 11. Before entering the harbor, divers went over the side of his ship to inspect the hull for limpet mines. He remembers the crew being a mix of Norwegian, British, and Estonian. He does not recall the name of the ship or of the ship?s captain.
I would like to learn more about the role of Norwegian ships in helping Allied fliers and other people to escape to Gibraltar, particularly via the river port at Seville and, if possible, I would like to identify the ship the flier was on and the ship?s captain. Might there be records of shipping from Spain to Gibraltar with dates during this period that would help me identify the ship the flier was on? Might there be memoirs by ships? captains? I have written to the Norwegian Maritime Museum but it is too early to have heard back from them yet. I have just ordered the English translation of the book, Norway?s New Saga of the Sea: The Story of Her Merchant Marine in World War II, which may have some leads. Any suggestions or information would be most welcome.