Fred. Olsen & Co., Oslo
(Norwegian Homefleet WW II)
Back to Breda on the "Homefleet Ships starting with B" page.
Erling has also sent me this picture of Skagen, D/S Skienfjord & D/S Breda (in the middle) at Kristiansand before the war (Skagen was the Kristiansand-Hirtshals ferry, sold in 1939).
Tonnage: 1260 gt, 761 nt, 1700 dwt.
Delivered in Apr.-1915 from Akers Mekaniske Verksted, Kristiania (bnr.376) as Breda for A/S Ganger Rolf (Fred. Olsen), Kristiania. 1916: Firm renamed Fred. Olsen & Co. (this info received from a stamp collector).
Captain Thorstein Skaug.
Breda is listed in the Norway-U.K. Convoy HN 5 in Dec.-1939, returning to Norway in Jan.-1940 with Convoy ON 7. The following month she shows up in Convoy ON 12, which left Methil for Norway on Febr. 13, and early in March that year, we find her in Convoy HN 16 from Norway, general cargo for Grangemouth. Towards the end of March she joined Convoy ON 22, leaving Methil for Norway on March 24-1940.
Erling Skjold, Norway has told me that Breda was taken as prize in Bergen in Apr.-1940 carrying contrabande cargo, but she was freed as she was in a German controlled area. He adds that the helmsman has told him that all the officers and some of the crew on Breda ran an "intelligence service", making lists of all the ships in the various ports, including information on their cargoes and port of destination. This information would then be passed on to the Swedish pilots who in turn would hand it to the proper, interested parties on shore. Breda was also used as mail courier to and from Sweden / Norway (again via the pilots). Mail from Sweden would then be posted from various ports in Norway.
Torpedoed in air attack outside Emden on September 6-1944 (so must have been under German control by then).
Erling Skjold has also sent me more details on the events surrounding Breda's loss. He says she was on a voyage from Bremen to Bergen with grain when the attack took place near Rotersand light in the Weser inlet. He has done extensive research on this ship for many years because his grandfather, John Oskar Skjold was the 2nd engineer on board, and was one of the casualties of the attack.
Her armament consisted of 1 - 20 mm anti aircraft gun and 2 machine guns. A total of 200 - 20 mm shots were fired, 170 with the machine guns. Erling has spoken with surviving members of the Norwegian crew, including the galley boy who remembers how the stern gun, complete with gun crew, flew through the air while still firing. Breda was not in convoy at the time, but she sailed with the Swedish cargo ship Rosafred (built 1922, 1348 gt), which was also sunk, but with no loss of life. The fact that there were several German naval vessels in the area (in transit, not escorts) must have led the allied pilots to believe they were dealing with a convoy.
Captain Skaug was on the bridge and ordered the helmsman to keep a steady course and speed when he saw the aircraft approaching. The attack force consisted of 26 Beaufighters (13 from 455th Squadron, 13 from 489th Squadron), with only 6 aircraft of the 489th carrying torpedoes, the remaining 20 aircraft had rockets and they all had 20 mm cannons. 6 aircraft from the 455th attacked Breda with rockets while 3 torpedo aircraft dropped torpedoes. She was hit by about 32 rockets, a great number of 20 mm shells and 2 torpedoes. The survivors stated that the captain, the German pilot and the helmsman sought shelter on the boat deck, where the pilot was killed by a shell, while the captain went down when the ship sank. When the helmsman came to he was in a damaged lifeboat.
The galley boy, who was only 15 years old, was doing the dishes when the galley and the cabins were perforated by the 20 mm shells, which "blew the cook to pieces" less than 1 meter away (Berner J. Mørch Olsen). Erling's grandfather was in the cabin next door and probably suffered the same fate. The galley boy managed to get to the deck where he arrived just as the ship exploded. What he remembers the most is the steam gushing up from the engine room and the horrifying screams from the men there. The midship was blown away and the masts touched eachother before she sank straight down in a matter of seconds. Survivors, none of whom had lifevests on were picked up by vessels from the 12th Vorpost Flotille and taken to Cuxhaven. The wreck of Breda was "buried" by sand shortly afterwards and is at a depth of about 1/2 a meter today (20 meters at the time of loss).
At the time he sent me this info the exact number of casualties was unknown to him, but he has since spent a week doing research at Freiburg, and after more than 15 years of searching he has now been able to confirm that 11 Norwegian crew members were killed, as well as the German pilot Heinrich Lübsen (born Dec. 2-1885), making the total number of casualties 12, not 11 or 13 as stated in many sources. Members of the German anti aircraft crew were also thought to have been killed, but Erling now says that 10 men from 5th Company of the 3rd "Marinebordflakabteilung" (stationed in Oslo) and all the soldiers are listed in the relevant KTB as having survived, 2 had been injured.
Lightship E - Emil (Norderney II, built 1907, 382 gt) was also sunk. When the aircraft returned to base 5 were damaged including 2 that had attacked Breda. Captain Skaug and another one of the casualties, 1st Engineer Harald Hoel had been friends and colleagues of Erling's grandfather's since before the war and they had sailed together on Breda since 1942. Erling points out that none of the officers were very young, and this was an intentional policy on Fred. Olsen's part since the ship had started sailing regularly to Sweden. Only those officers who had families were hired to these ships, as they were less likely to run away once in Sweden (families of escapees were often harassed and/or threatened by the Germans). It was not uncommon for the younger, single crew members to escape in a Swedish port, and this was quite a problem, with ships being short-handed as a result.
Captain Skaug had also sailed in WW I and had previously survived the sinking of D/S Bør on May 24-1942, whereas John Oskar Skjold had previously served on D/S Borgholm from the time she was new in 1922 until just a couple of days before the German invasion and witnessed the loss of D/S Biarritz on January 25-1940 (survivors were rescued by Borgholm). I've translated a heart wrenching letter written by him to his wife shortly after they had rescued survivors from Biarritz; it can be found on the English version of my "Warsailor Stories" page, as well as on my page about Borgholm. Before joining Breda he had also briefly been on Blenheim and survived the fire and explosion on April 22-1941. Oskar's detailed account of the events surrounding this fire and what followed later has been added to my Norwegian Warsailor Stories page (not translated to English yet).
Related external link:
Back to Breda on the "Homefleet Ships starting with B" page.
Later on, Fred. Olsen had another ship by this name, built Oslo 1957, sold in 1975 to France and renamed Cap Pineda. She later became Panamanian Claudia and was wrecked at the harbour in Piræus on Dec. 15-1983.