Klikk i bildet for norsk versjon
Click in the graphic for Norwegian version

See also:

A large collection of links to websites that provide an excellent historical backdrop to the events described on this page and in my father's letters. Information on Nortraship, Merchant Marines, the Battle of the Atlantic, convoys, maritime museums (where pictures are often available for order), the invasion of North Africa, and articles on Vichy France and Morocco. I've also included links to websites with ships lists, Allied Merchant Marines, misc. navies of the world, and a variety of Maritime links.

Consisting of a Ship Forum, where you can ask questions about ships, and a Find Old Shipmates Forum, where you can leave the particulars of a seaman you're searching for. There's also a Maritime Books Market Place & Information Exchange Forum for selling and/or buying maritime books or post a query on same.

Odd's War

I have used the term "warsailors", a direct translation of the Norwegian expression, when referring to the Norwegian Merchant Mariners.

A sailor at War / Background History
Norway is attacked, Ringulv is interned in Morocco, Norwegian Merchant Marine contribution, the price & rewards (or lack thereof), Crew List and Shipmates I've found.

List of Odd's ships
The names of the ships my father served on during and after the war, and pictures of some of them. (My mother was also at sea [Radio Officer], but not during the war. Her ships are listed at Åse's ships).

Odd's letters
A total of 10 letters, the earliest one was written in 1941 while Ringulv was interned in Safi, Morocco, just a short while before the crew was sent to the first prison camp. My father's personality really stands out from the pages of these letters. Though the circumstances were tragic, he tells his stories in such a way, that it's hard to decide whether to laugh or cry. Very interesting and well worth reading, especially letter 1 through 4. (Letter 2 has now been published in a book entitled "World War II Letters", available from Amazon.com).

Norwegian ships interned in Africa.
A list of the 26 merchant ships interned in North and West Africa 1940-1942, and details on their fate.

List of prison camps with links to maps
Names of all the prison camps Ringulv's crew was sent to and information on each one.

Some of the Norwegian books have been translated into English, and I've included a list of online antiquarian bookstores where you might be able to find them. The excerpts below will tell my father's story from two more sides; that of the captain and that of the stoker.

    Excerpts from some of the books:

  • 1) - Evacuation of refugees from Le Havre
    From "Skip og Menn". Details on Ringulv's role in the dramatic evacuation of close to 1500 refugees in the summer of 1940.
  • 2) - Captain Messel's Diary
    Also from "Skip og Menn". About the mix up concerning the treatment of Ringulv's crew in Africa, and about the conditions in the camps. Written by Ringulv's captain.
  • 3) - Rudzin's Diary
    From "Tusen Norske Skip". Describes what Ringulv's crew went through when Le Havre was bombed, incl. details on the evacuation, as well as the time spent in the 9 labor camps, as seen through the eyes of John Rudolph Rudzin. He was a Latvian-American stoker on Ringulv, who later served in the U.S. Navy. His daugther, who lives here in the U.S. came across this page and contacted me!

Welcome Home Tribute to my father
From the local newspaper "Stjørdalens Blad", in the spring of 1946, when he was finally able to go home to Hegra, eight and a half years older than when he left.

Norwegian War Medals
A list of the 7 Norwegian War Medals, with pictures of them and detailed information on each one.

Pictures & War Documents,
or go to the section Odd Conrad Holm on the Picture Index page if you prefer to see each picture individually.

Also, be sure to visit my section on the Norwegian Merchant Fleet 1939-1945, an alphabetical list of Norwegian ships in service in the period 1939-1945 (including the Homefleet), with detailed information on war time incidents, lots of convoys etc. etc. and links to related websites.

A sailor at War
Background History

Move your mouse over the picture to see an older version of my father.

The following is written in order to provide some background information for my father's letters. It's in the letters themselves that the real story is told.

He was born in Hegra (Stjørdal) in N. Trøndelag Dec. 16, 1918. He had a twin, Anna and 7 other siblings, Brage, Jarl, Tora, Svanhild, Solveig, Kari and Jorunn. Around 1937 he joined the young crew on board the training ship Tordenskjold, and this was the beginning of a long life as a sailor.

Norway is attacked
On the day of the German attack on Norway, April 9, 1940 he was on his way to Bergen on board the D/S Ringulv carrying coal from Swansea, but about 4 hours from Norwegian waters they were met by air planes, U-boats and war ships, so the allied convoy of about 50 ships was ordered to return to England (this must have been Convoy ON 25). Via the radio they later heard what had happened to their country. They also found out that about half of the ships had continued to Norway. Ringulv was sent to a port in England (or possibly to Methil?), then to Newcastle where they waited for 3 weeks for further orders, together with 60 other ships, before being told to go to Le Havre with the coal. In Tyne they had degaussing installed to protect the ship from magnetic mines, and this took another week. They passed the south coast of England on the day that Holland was invaded, were bombed several times and saw many dramatic air battles. Two aircraft were shot down; the pilots were picked up by the escort. Ringulv stayed in Le Havre until June 10, enduring daily and nightly bombardments. After the coal had been unloaded she started taking on general cargo for New York, but instead ended up having to take part in the dramatic evacuation of close to 1500 refugees from Le Havre (Rudzin's Diary also has a detailed description of this, as well as of the bombings in Le Havre. See also letters No. 2 and No. 4 in Odd's Letters). After France had capitulated, the ships that were in French ports at the time were ordered to go to her colonies, which were now under the control of the Vichy Government. During the course of the year that followed most of them were requisitioned, renamed and put into French or German service.

Internment & Imprisonment
Ringulv was sent to Morocco, and was interned in the summer of 1940. When she was eventually requisitioned in the middle of June-1941 a terrible time followed for her crew members. According to my father's letters they were held in 9 different labor camps across a wide area of Morocco and Algeria in the course of the next 16 months. I have added the titles of some books (Norwegian) which recount the fate of Ringulv's crew in more detail, with links to excerpts from them (translated to English). My father was only 22 years old when he was sent to the first camp, but he was by far not the youngest. The Ringulv, meanwhile, was given the name Ste Marguerite (some say Ste Marthe, see the link to my page on Ringulv above) and sailed under the French flag until the end of November, 1942 when she was put into German service. She was torpedoed and sunk by an allied submarine in June of the following year, a fate shared by many of the Norwegian ships that had been requisitioned in North and West Africa. Out of a total of 26 ships taken, 16 were later lost while in French or German service. One of the interned ships, the M/S Lidvard, became well known when at the end of July, 1941 her crew and some men from other Norwegian ships managed to secretly take her out of Dakar, where she had been idle for a year, and safely reached the British city of Freetown further south. She was then free to continue on to the U.S.A. in allied service. The book, and later the movie "Flight from Dakar" are based on that incredible escape. The remaining 9 ships were also eventually able to join the allied fleet again. See details under Interned Ships.

Free at last!
After the allied forces landed in North Africa in Nov. 1942 (Operation Torch), my father and his shipmates were freed from the grip of the French Nazis and were able to leave the camp (see the section The Invasion of North Africa under Links related to my father's Story). They managed to get to Oran where they helped with the unloading of war materials from the allied ships. Later they were moved to Morocco where they helped load the American bombers at an airport near Port Lyautey (Letter No. 3 and 4). Early in 1943 the M/S Nyhorn, which had been sunk in the Lyautey river during the invasion of Morocco, to prevent the allied ships from getting through was raised and repaired by a chosen crew, and put into allied service again. My father served on her for about a year before attending the Norwegian Radio Officers' School in London in 1943/44. This school had been established at 55 Clarence Avenue, Chapham Park in the fall of 1941 in an old manor house (donated for the purpose by the female owner), where the students also lived, 6 to 8 men in each room. In his own words, London at that time "was not exactly a rest home for strained nerves" but he was "in the habit of surviving." In his description of the V1 bombs he says "the alarm was sounded in June, and this alarm never stopped, because these devices ran more frequently than the busses." Later came the V2 bombs, and he says "they were quite easy to deal with because they travelled faster than sound, and after you're dead the noise from them isn't too much of a nuisance" (more interesting details in Letter No. 4, including links to more details on the V1 and V2 bombs).

His first job as a Radio Officer was on the M/T Thorshov, and even though Norway was liberated in May of 1945, he was not able to go home and see his family until the following spring, eight and a half years after he left home (Welcome Home Tribute published in a local newspaper). I've often wondered what he was thinking as he stood by the window on the train from Trondheim to Hegra, an event for which he expresses a longing in a letter to his mother (No. 2).

Norwegian MM Contribution
Without the contribution of the Allied Merchant Marines, including the considerable input of the Norwegian Merchant Fleet (consisting of women as well as men); the frequent and dangerous ocean crossings transporting supplies essential to the allied cause, the war might very well have had a different outcome. Norway had the 4th largest merchant fleet in the world at the outbreak of WW II, with close to 1100 ships and over 30 000 seamen. Not bad for a tiny country with a population of just barely 3 million! The Norwegian tankers were particularly important to the British cause. Without oil the British Air Force and the British Fleet would have been unable to withstand the enemy, and until the U.S.A. entered the war Norway was responsible for almost half of the oil delivered to Britain. Many a nerve-racking convoy crossing was endured to get that oil to its destination. The British Admiral Charles Dickens stated through BBC in January of 1941, "were it not for the Norwegian Merchant Marine, we might as well have asked Hitler for his terms". A little over a year later Sir Philip Noel Baker said, "the Norwegian tankers are as important to the Battle of the Atlantic as the Spitfires were to the Battle of Britain." After the war was over he stated, "without the Norwegian Merchant Fleet, Britain and the Allies would have lost the war. The first great defeat for Hitler was the Battle of Britain. It was a turning point in history. If we had not had the Norwegian tankers on our side, we would not have had the aviation fuel to put our Spitfires and our Hurricanes into the air. The Germans could have invaded Britain, and there might have been no basis on which the Nazis could have been defeated. The Norwegian Merchant Navy rendered an eminent service to the world at that time". A British publication stated that the Norwegian Merchant Fleet was "worth as much to the allied cause as a million soldiers".

The Price
The cost was gigantic; about half of the fleet and almost 4000 lives (a ratio of 1 sailor out of 10 has been estimated) were lost, and those who survived still had a big battle ahead of them. The horrors experienced in the convoys are unimaginable, as the stories in my ship lists show. Many an old sailor is still living that nightmare; still hearing the boom of the depth charges, still waiting for that torpedo, and perhaps still sleeping with his door open so that he can run up on deck to get in the life boat more quickly. He might still be seeing and hearing the sailors from torpedoed ships fighting for their lives in the cold sea, arms reaching, eyes begging, and might still feel the helplessness, frustration and guilt at being unable to save them, because each ship had to keep up the convoy speed and had strict orders not to stop. Those who did, were an easy prey to the "wolfpacks"; the U-boats hiding somewhere in the deep. Still, hundreds of shipwrecked seamen from many nations, including Britain and U.S.A. were successfully picked up and saved by Norwegian vessels.

The Rewards
The heroic contribution of the Norwegian Merchant Mariners was rewarded once the war was over, right? Wrong!! In May of 1989 my father received Frihetsmedaljen (see my page on Norwegian War Medals) for his participation in WW II. Earlier he had been awarded the Krigsmedaljen and the Deltakermedaljen. I suspect he considered them all a big joke; much too little, much too late! And it's not difficult to understand why. When they were finally able to go home (many had not seen their families since the late 30's), their sacrifices and efforts were barely acknowledged at all. Most of them didn’t get home until late 1945; there was still a war on with Japan, so they had to keep sailing. Still others didn’t return till 1946, and by then the celebrations were long over, so there was no hero's welcome awaiting them; that was reserved for the soldiers who had come home in the spring of 1945. The fine words spoken by Admiral Dickens and others no longer seemed to have any value whatsoever, if remembered at all. For years, neither the general public nor the Norwegian authorities, and especially not Nortraship, showed them the respect and recognition they so richly deserved. They even had to fight for what was rightfully theirs (their money in Nortraship's socalled "secret fund", follow link to "Nortraship" for more details), at a time when they were already physically and mentally broken from the strain of having walked hand in hand with death for close to 6 years.

Before long, through sheer ignorance and the lack of general respect and understanding the term "warsailor" became synonymous, in the eye of the public, with a "no-good bum", as many a sailor in his disappointment and bitterness at this treatment succumbed to alcoholism and other social problems. This was often a result of depression and also delayed psychological reactions to the horrible war experiences, and perhaps in some cases a continuation of a habit begun in various bars during brief stops in ports on both sides of the ocean, to calm shattered nerves after a frightening crossing. The "warsailors" were black listed and barred from signing on other ships after the war, and so the vicious cycle had begun. Most people understood why former inmates of horrific concentration camps might have post war problems, but very few realized that the seamen might also have reason to develop the same symptoms because of their experiences. My father says in one of his letters (No. 4) "the war was not over in May of 1945 for us sailors". While others could joyfully start rebuilding their lives in a country finally at peace; a country which was able to rebuild largely due to the capital supplied by the very men it now shunned, the seamen entered into a new war, a degrading, hopeless battle which lasted for decades and which for many of them was as bad as, or even more difficult than the kind fought on a battle field. A few medals given out more than forty years after the war had ended could hardly repair the damage that had already been done.

My father sent his medals to my son, who proudly carries his name, Konrad. He wrote some poems in his early teens about the futility of war.

If anybody recognizes my father's story, or knows someone who spent time in the same camps, or on the same ships as him, please contact me. I would also be interested in hearing from anyone who lived in Ny Ålesund, Svalbard between 1947 and 1951. My father ran a radio station there around that time, and my mother and I were there with him. My mother, Åse Holm worked at the local post office in Ny Ålesund. Also, his sister, Tora Holm was there working as a nurse at the time. Just for fun I've included a picture of a little friend I had at Svalbard. Does anybody recognize Geir? (I have now been contacted by Geir's son!).
I can be reached via:

Partial Crew list - Ringulv:
* denotes those who were still in Africa at the time of the Allied invasion.
E = Known to have escaped (there may have been more than those noted)
H = Went home?
† = Died

Guri Hjeltnes (Sjømann - Lang vakt") says that Ringulv had a crew of 40, 30 Norwegian, 3 died, 7 escaped, 2 went home

Thorvald Messel E
1st Mate *
Luis Larsen Bakke
2nd Mate
Ingolf Valvatne E
3rd Mate *
Georg Kristiansen
Able Seaman
Endre (Erik?) Eriksen *
Able Seaman
Oskar Nilsen *
Able Seaman
Erling Bakkemyr *
Able Seaman
Odd Conrad Holm *
Hegra, Stjørdal
Able Seaman
Hans Mørk *
(joined Nyhorn w/my father.
Died in the fall of 2002)
Able Seaman
Jon Veiberg *
(now North Carolina)
Able Seaman
Olav Røssland E
(escaped from Settat)
Able Seaman
Tor Hjalmar Westerman
Ystad, Sweden
1st Engineer
Sverre Andersen *
2nd Engineer
Arne Andersen *
Trygve Stenhaug *
Herman Hermansen *
Elias Fivesdal *
Agnar Vik *
Ingvald Nielsen *

Frithjof Svensås*
August Lundblad
Malmö, Sweden
John Rudolf Rudzin *
(ca. 28)
Nils K. Larsen Lillås *
Trygve Olsen H?
Mess Boy
Arne Handeland *
Mess Boy
Einar Sørensen *
? Brandstrøm

Hans Larsen
(died in Sept. 1941)
Tormod Forsell
Trondheim E
Georg Hermansen? H?
see** below

1st Engineer Sverre Andersen later served on D/S Askeladden, until he drowned at Catania on Dec. 24-1943.

Able Seaman Olav Røssland joined Høegh Hood in Febr.-1942. In May-2006, the Norwegian newspaper Aftenposten had an article about his escape, with a picture of him.

*Jon Veiberg, who has written the book "Jon's Odyssey" says that Stoker Frithjof Svensås died in one of the camps, and that August Lundblad was the boatswain on board. Jon also mentions that Endre Eriksen accidentally caused a fire that burnt up about 40 000 trees (this was after the prisoners, including my father, had had the job of planting trees, as mentioned in one of his letters).

"Nordmenn i fangenskap" by Kristian Ottosen says that Frithjof Svensås died July 27-1942 and that Cook Trygve Olsen was released on June 8-1942, so he may have been one of the men who went home? I'll look up all the others as soon as I can.

In my Norwegian Guestbook there's a message from Steward Lillås' grandson. Here is a Guestbook message from the grandson of Herman Hermansen.

This list (incomplete) is compiled partly with the help of a crew list I received from the Maritime Museum in Oslo, and partly from information found in books and in my father's letters. ** In one of his letters (No. 2) he also mentions a Georg Hermansen from Trondheim, but I'm not sure whether he was part of the crew or just a friend from one of the camps. I thought perhaps he remembered the name wrong, and was talking about the stoker Herman Hermansen, but I did find a Trimmer named Georg Hermansen in "Nordmenn i fangenskap", listed as released on June 7-1942, so IF he was among Ringulv's crew, he may have been another one of the 2 who went home(?); this would fit in with my father's statement that his friend was very sick and went home in the summer of 1942. I'm also unsure whether Brandstrøm in the above table was part of the crew, he's another one mentioned in one of my father's letters (Letter 3). "Nordmenn i fangenskap" lists a Stoker Karl Brannstrøm whose details fit with the facts for Ringulv, released Nov. 16-1942.

In Febr.-1940 the Ringulv had left New York for France (in Convoy HX 20) with a crew consisting of 11 different nationalities, but I've been unable to establish whether that same crew was still on board at the time of internment in Morocco that summer. The reason for this mixed crew was that several Norwegians had left the ship in New York in protest when their demand for American salaries was rejected (American Merchant Mariners were paid a lot more than their Norwegian counterparts).

Here are some pictures of a couple of Ringulv's crew members, I've written names directly on them (from Jon Veiberg):
Picture 1 | Picture 2 (in Casablanca) | Picture 3 (in Casablanca) Picture 4 (in Le Havre). Odd's Album has another picture of some of the crew members.

Shipmates Found!
Early August-2000:
I have now found one of my father's shipmates from the Ringulv, Olav Røssland. He was one of the lucky ones who managed to escape from one of the camps (Settat).

Late August-2000: I have found a former classmate of my father's, Martin Sylta, from his stay in London while attending the Norwegian Radio School there in 1944. Both of these newly found old friends of my father's have sent me pictures, which I've added to Odd's Album.

Beginning of November 2000: The daughter of Ringulv's stoker, John Rudulf Rudzin, (see link to his diary under "Odd's War" above) has contacted me by e-mail. For lack of a better word I'll just call it incredible, though it's nowhere near descriptive enough! She's going to send me a newspaper clipping containing an interview her father did about his time in the camps in Africa. He died in Florida in 1990, at the age of 77. After he had managed to get out of Africa he joined the U.S. Navy, then served in the South Pacific and as a Naval Reserve in Korea. He had a twin brother who was also a sailor, but he didn't make it through the war. John Rudolf married another Latvian-American and had several children. His daughter is now looking for information on the relatives he left behind in Riga, Latvia, so if anyone can help, please contact me.

Aug. 9-2002: The daughter of Jon Veiberg contacted me through the Guestbook. Jon has written a book entitled "Jon's Odyssey", which can be purchased from Amazon.com among others. He and my father were cabin mates on Ringulv, and my father is mentioned several times in his book. Jon lived in North Carolina. I've received several pictures from the time in Africa, and this is the first time I've been able to see what my father looked like in those days. This is indeed a small world! Jon Veiberg passed away in Jan.-2007.

Back to top

Hits: since April 3 - 2001
Designed and maintained by Siri Lawson.
Last Updated: Sat, Jan 13, 2007.