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Merchant Marine Prisoners of War

Some Facts on Thor

Norwegian ships captured, in chronological order:

Kosmos | D/S Aust | Interview w/1st Mate | Life aboard Dresden | M/T Herborg | D/T Madrono

Norwegians on Captured Swedish Ships

SOME FACTS ON THOR: T/S Thor (HSK IV SCHIFF 10) was formerly the Santa Cruz, belonging to Oldenburg-Portugiesischen Dampfschiffs-Reederei. Built in 1938, 3862 gt, top speed 17 knots. Thor started her raids in June of 1940, at first captained by Otto Kähler, later by Günther Gumprich, who from 1943 also commanded the Michel, which was sunk by the American submarine Tarpon on Oct. 17-1943. Thor was destroyed in Yokohama on Nov. 30-1942. She had stopped at Yokohama on Oct. 10 to be refurbished for another cruise. By Nov. 30 most of the work was done and Thor was tied up alongside the supply ship Uckermark. Chinese coolies were cleaning Uckermark's tanks, and though the cause of the explosion was never explained the assumption was that the workers had perhaps been careless when chipping rust, or had maybe even been smoking nearby inadequately cleaned tanks. 13 of Thor's men were killed in the explosion which could be heard from miles away. 53 from Uckermark died as well as an unknown number of Chinese and Japanese. Also lost were the prize Nankin (renamed Leuthen by the Germans), the Japanese Unkai Maru 3* and some harbour boats. Gumprich himself had just left Thor in his launch to go over to the Nankin.

In Tusen norske skip, by Lise Lindbæk (1943), I found this little tidbit:
"The raider Thor was blown up in the harbour of Yokohama by Chinese saboteurs". Lindbæk adds that Altmark was also sunk in this incident. I've seen the name Altmark (of Jøssingfjord / Cossack fame) used in personal stories relating to this incident as well, and have since learnt that this was Uckermark's former name.

* This may be incorrect - see this thread on my Ship Forum.

Six 5.9 inch, one 60 mm, one twin 37 mm, four 20 mm, two twin 21 inch torpedo tubes. One Arado 196 aircraft.

Ships sunk or taken by Thor (in chronological order):

1st Cruise June 6-1940/Apr. 30-1941 (returned to Germany):
Kertosono, Delambre, Bruges, Gracefield, Wendover, Tela, Kosmos, Natia, Trolleholm, Britannia, HMS AMC Voltaire, Sir Ernest Cassel.

2nd Cruise Nov. 20-1941/Oct. 10-1942 (put into Yokohama):
Pagasitikos, Wellpark, Willesden, Aust, Kirkpool, Nankin, Olivia, Herborg, Madrono, Indus.

Related external links:
Mac's Web Log - Describes Thor's first and second cruise. This site states that Kähler "eventually headed up the Department for Merchant Shipping, and in February 1944 made Rear Admiral, then was appointed Naval Officer in Charge Brittany - however, after the Allied landings he was captured by Americans, and transported to the United States as a Prisoner of War".

Map showing Thor's 1st cruise | 2nd cruise - (On the website Arsenal of Dictatorship, which also has a section about the German raiders - includes a picture of Thor and Uckermark after the explosion in Yokohama).

Personal Story of Crew Member of Willesden - This, and many other interesting stories can be found on The Second WW Experience Center website.

Uckermark operational history

This site states that the crew members of Nankin are listed in Hodogaya, Yokohama, War Cemetery (the page is a section of Children of Far East Prisoners of War, and gives a list of ships involved in SE Asia, also lists Kirkpool and Aust among others).

Some names in the text on this page are written in pale green (as opposed to bold); this simply means they have been mentioned in the text before.


Whale factory.
Owner: Hvalfangerselskapet Kosmos A/S
Manager: Anders Jahre, Sandefjord
Tonnage: 17 801 gt, 24 120 tdwt.
Call Sign: LDKS.

Captain: Hans Andresen.

(Click on the link to Kosmos in the box above to go to that ship on the "Ships starting with K" page).

Source: Bjørn Milde's postcard collection.
See also the link to the crew picture below.

Thor (Kähler) had already captured 6 allied ships (Kertosono, Delambre, Bruges, Gracefield, Wendover, Tela), but after having been shelled and damaged in an encounter with the British Alcantara off Trinidade Island on July 28-1940, she headed south to repair, and was ready for battle again on Sept. 26.

In Aug.-1940 Kosmos was at Walvis Bay with over 17 000 tons whaleoil. Nortraship was worried about her safety in lieu of the German raider operating in the South Atlantic, but nevertheless she set off for Curaçao the following month (note that according to this original image from the National Archives of Norway, showing her 1940 voyages, she sailed from Walvis Bay on Sept. 12-1940, and had also made other voyages from the time she was there in Aug.-1940).

Thor was camouflaged as the Yugoslavian freighter Vir when Kosmos was captured at 10:00 in the morning of Sept. 26-1940. After the boarding crews had taken what they considered worth having, 79 (89?) of her men were placed on Thor, and in spite of her valuable cargo she was sunk that same evening (00 26S 32 01W), as it would have been impossible to camouflage her sufficiently for further transport, and besides, she was very slow at the time due to marine growth.

On Nov. 9 her crew was transferred to the German Belgrano (ex Rio Grande), which already had 368 allied prisoners on board, and sent to Bordeaux, arriving Dec. 13. On Jan. 10-1941 they were sent to the camp Drancy outside Paris where they stayed until Apr. 10, and after a further stay in a camp, this time Bremervörde between Bremen and Hamburg, they arrived Oslo with the German D/S Donau* on May 3-1941.

Kosmos was Thor's only Norwegian victim in 1940. ("Skip og menn" says she was on a voyage from Cape Town with a cargo of 17 662 tons whale oil, and as can be seen when going to the archive document that I've linked to above, she had left Table Bay for Walvis Bay on Sept. 8).

*Donau was used as troop transport, but is best known in Norway for transporting Jews and other "unwanted" persons from Norway to concentration camps in Germany (as did Gotenland and Monte Rosa).

Kosmos Crew List - No Casualties:

Repatriated to Norway in May-1941 on board the German D/S Donau.

From Clyde Nordan, Norfolk, Virginia I've received a picture, which he believes is of Kosmos' crew.
He also sent this one (taken out from the same picture); not sure who he is, possibly the captain?
Size and quality of both pictures have been reduced in order to save space.
See also this Guestbook message from the granddaughter of one of the crew members.

Hans Andresen
1st Mate
Sigurd Brunn
2nd Mate
Asbjørn Floberg
3rd Mate
Alf Larsen
4th Mate
Arnt Eliassen
Radio Operator
Alf Wendt
Radio Operator
Johan Bjune
Johan Dolven
Hans Hansen
Able Seaman
Egil Jacobsen
Able Seaman
Karl Karlsen
Able Seaman
Hans Jørgensen
Able Seaman
Karl Johansen
Able Seaman
Alf Hansen
Able Seaman
Lorang Johansen
Able Seaman
Sigurd Ask
Able Seaman
Jens Kristensen
Able Seaman
Anskar Karlsen
Able Seaman
Kristen Rønning
Able Seaman
Lars Stensrud
Able Seaman
Helfred Jacobsen
Able Seaman
Arne Gade
Able Seaman
Aksel Johansen
Able Seaman
David Bergstrøm
Able Seaman
Hans Kalleberg
Able Seaman
Eivind Melsom
Able Seaman
Birger Eriksen
Able Seaman
Boye Solberg
Able Seaman
Olaf Bye Larsen
Able Seaman
Birger Bakken
Able Seaman
Nils Pettersen
Able Seaman
Bjarne Foyn
Able Seaman
Kristian Andersen
Able Seaman
Johnny Larsen
Able Seaman
Olaf Abrahamsen
Able Seaman
Nils Røttingen
Jr. Ordinary Seaman
Arne Skretteberg
Jr. Ordinary Seaman
Frank Ingebretsen
1st Engineer
Jacob Andersen
2nd Engineer
Carl J. Larsen
3rd Engineer
Arnt Nilsen
4th Engineer
Nils Holtan
Ludvik Larsen
Peder Nordrum
Alfred Andersen
Alfred Jensen
Henry Nilsen
Pump Man
Einar Abrahamsen
Harald Barth Karlsen
Ole Hoffstad
Johan Melson
Alliot Ingebretsen
Aslak Kaasa
Hans H. Hansen
Karl Jacobsen
Leif Larsen
Halvor Thon
Anders Gravdahl
Storm Nordby
Oddvar Laahne
Torger Andersen
Engine Boy
Knut Pettersen
Engine Boy
Richard Ingebretsen
Peder Horgen
Hans Hansen
Finn Aasoldsen
Steward's Assistant
Ludvik Gundersen
Galley Boy
Ivar Hagtvedt
Mess Boy
Hans Kristiansen
Mess Boy
Einar Melsom
Mess Boy
Rolf Strøm
Mess Boy
Anders Andresen
Mess Boy
Thorvald Rode
Mess Boy
Arnt Pedersen
Mess Boy
Arne Nilsen
Hans van Ahnen
K. Koldrup Sundt
Inspector's Assistant
Thorbjørn Thorsen
Roald Jahre

Related external link:
Picture of Kosmos - w/quite a bit of information and several pictures (Norwegian text).

Compiled with the help of information found in "Skip og menn", Birger Dannevig, "Nortraships flåte", Book 2, J. R. Hegland, "Handelsflåten i Krig" (The Merchant Fleet at War), Book 3, Guri Hjeltnes, "Tusen norske skip", Lise Lindbæk, "German Raiders of World War II", August Karl Muggenthaler, "Sjøforklaringer fra 2. verdenskrig", Norwegian Maritime Museum, Volume I (all listed in My sources).

Back to Kosmos on K-list


D/S Aust

Owner: D/S A/S Carolvore
Manager: Lundegaard & Sønner, Farsund
Tonnage: 5630 gt, 3460 net, 8475 tdwt.
Call Sign: LKEW.
Armament: 2 double Hotchkiss 0.303, 2 P.A.C. rockets, and a 3" gun.

Captain: Christoffer Andersen Tuften.

(Click on the link to Aust in the box above for some more info. including her previous voyages).

This page has a complete crew list.

Received from (and painted by) Jan Goedhart, Holland.

Aust departed Pier 26 in Brooklyn with war materials on March 5 for Bombay via St. Thomas for bunkers, arriving St. Thomas on March 13 where she took on 360 tons of coal. Due to lack of water there they were not able to take on board enough for their voyage to Cape Town which was their next designated stop. She departed St. Thomas on March 14, and en route they discovered that they didn't have enough coal either, so it was decided to stop at Pernambuco for more coal as well as water, arriving the latter on March 27 with departure for Cape Town the following day.

Captured by Thor (commanded by Gumprich by then) on April 3-1942 (this happened to be Good Friday, by the way). The entire crew was taken on board the raider and D/S Aust was sunk by explosives placed on board (21S 16W). The summary of an interview with the 1st mate a little further down on this page has more details of events that day. On May 4 a little over 160 prisoners from various captured ships, were transferred to the German supply ship Regensburg, and later, after the capture of Nankin, another 500 joined them on Regensburg, possibly on May 12. This ship arrived Yokohama via Batavia (Jakarta) on July 7-1942. According to "Nortaships flåte", Captain Tuften, 1st mate David Knutsen, and 2nd mate Otto Karlsen were then transferred to Ramses (once source also includes the Swedish 3rd engineer Erik Roos, while the offical report says all the prisoners were moved to Ramses in Yokohama on July 12-1942). This ship departed Yokohama on Nov. 23(?), but was intercepted on December 10 by the Australian light cruiser Adelaide and the the Dutch Jacob van Heemskerck. The Norwegian officers, who were picked up by the Australian ship were subsequently taken to Australia to continue in allied service, one year after Aust had been sunk. Some of the Norwegians were sent to Europe with Dresden, some with Regensburg, while others ended up on the Rhakotis which was also hit by an allied torpedo (link to more details of the sinking of Ramses and Rhakotis below).

There's some disagreement in my Norwegian sources with regard to which ships the prisoners were transferred to. "Nortraships flåte" states that 16 of the men from Aust were transferred to the blockade runner Tannenfels in August (1942), which reached Bordeaux safely on Nov. 2. It states further that it was later announced from Oslo radio that the Norwegians had arrived home. It COULD be that J. R. Hegland has gotten events somehow mixed up with Madrono, see additional details in Note at the end of my text to Madrono at the end of this page.

Guri Hjeltnes adds that according to one of Aust's officers one of Wilhelmsen's former agents (I don't understand this, she was not a Wilhelmsen ship) had asked the Norwegians on Aust what they would prefer; Japanese imprisonment, or a trip on a blockade runner back to Europe, from where they could be sent home to Norway. Their chances of being able to rejoin allied service were greater in Europe than in their present location, so they chose the latter.

The following is Guri Hjeltnes' breakdown of how Aust's crew members were distributed - this agrees on the whole with the official report presented at the maritime hearings in Sydney on Jan. 5-1943 - see the link above to complete crew list:

    16 men embarked M/S Dresden in Yokohama on Aug. 15 bound for Bordeaux, and after a brief stay at a camp in Wilhelmshaven they arrived Oslo, Norway in Dec.-1942. (I've written up a summary of "Life on Dresden" at the end of the text for Aust, the names of those who came along from Aust can be found in the crew list).

    5 men went on board Regensburg on Sept. 5, but she was torpedoed by the American submarine Searaven (SS-196) in Sunda Strait on Oct. 11-1942, and the prisoners ended up in lifeboats. The Norwegians came to the island Krakatau, and from there they were transported to Singapore where they were in prison camps until 1945, first in Changi, later in Sime Road. Regensburg was repaired in Singapore, but eventually sunk by the Allies in March-1943.

    On Sept. 25, 3 of Aust's men were transferred to Rhakotis, which was sunk Jan. 1-1943 (HMS Scylla). Those 3 must have been among the Norwegians picked up by a German U-boat (U-410), as 2 of them ended up in France and via German camps they came to Norway in June-1943. The 3rd, who was Swedish came to a Spanish port. (This must have been 3rd Engineer Erik Roos, since he was the only Swede on board)

    The last 3 to leave Yokohama, the captain and 2 mates, went on board Ramses on Oct. 1, along with 7 Norwegian seamen from the previously captured Kattegat. Ramses took on board a valuable cargo of whaleoil, tea, and rubber (in Batavia?), but only 5 days into her voyage to Europe she was intercepted by HMAS Adelaide and the Dutch Jacob van Heemskerck . The Norwegians were landed in Fremantle on Dec. 2-1942, free to rejoin allied service. Out of the 40 men on Aust, 12 (13?) were British or American, most of whom ended up in a camp near Tokyo in Aug.-1942, as well as other camps.

Other pages on this website related to the above:
POW Camps - lists some of the Japanese camps in which Norwegians were held, including camps in Singapore.
Norwegian Victims of Atlantis - has newspaper articles on the sinking of Atlantis and Regensburg, go to the text under Silvaplana.
Life on Michel, Speybank and Rhakotis - Excerpt from Captain Gjurød's diary (Kattegat), which includes details on the sinking of Rhakotis.
The sinking of Ramses - A report from Jens Flørnes to Nortraship, chief engineer on Kattegat.
Merchant Marine Prisoners of War - Lists the Norwegians in Japanese imprisonment, with date of arrest and release, including Aust's crew.
Life in Imprisonment - Describes daily life at Changi, Ofuna, Omori and others.

When the Germans invaded Norway on Apr. 9-1940 Chief Engineer Tallak Solheim was serving on D/S Spica and was en route from Newcastle to Bergen. This ship eventually returned to England, and in 1941 Solheim joined D/S Roy, which was in service on the east coast of England and was sunk that same year by German motor torpedo boats. At the beginning of 1942 he joined Aust. As mentioned, he was among the 3 who were transferred to Rhakotis, and was rescued by U-410 after Rhakotis had been sunk on Jan. 1-1943, then taken to France, later to Marlag und Milag Nord until June 9-1943, before being sent home to Norway, arriving there 8 days later. Having a family to feed he had to return to sea, but this time he was forced into German sea service, namely on D/S Ursa, trading between Germany and Norway. The following year Ursa barely missed being sunk during an air attack on the convoy (D/S Lynx belonging to the same company sank in this attack). Solheim got through the rest of the war without any further incidents. ("Hjemmeflåten - Mellom venn og fiende", Lauritz Pettersen). All these vessels are included in my Ship Lists under their respective letters of the alphabet.

Guri Hjeltnes says that Aust's 1st Mate David Faye Knudsen, was at Tokyo POW Camp No. 2 in 1945, but as far as I can see this must be a case of mistaken identity. Knudsen was one of the 3 from Aust who ended up on board Ramses, and after they had been freed he joined the Norwegian tanker Britannia in order to go home. By Febr.-1943 he was reunited with his wife and brand new son in Connecticut. For the rest of the war he was employed at Nortaship's office in New York. David Knudsen died in Jan.-1983. Before joining Aust he had also sailed on M/S Helgøy and M/S Norbryn.

In the book "Tusen norske skip" by Lise Lindbæk, there's a chapter on the capture of Aust and daily life on board Thor, as well as Regensburg and Ramses, and I've included an excerpt from it here. It's based on her interview with David Faye Knudsen, who was married to an American lady and lived in Southport, Connecticut. Among other things he mentions that 2 of Regensburg's men had previously been on Blücher, which was sunk in Oslofjord during the invasion of Norway, and another had been on Altmark during the Jössingfjord incident. He adds that on arrival Freemantle after Ramses had been intercepted they were taken to Sydney on board the coastal passenger vessel Mauretania. (This book was translated to English under the title "Norway's New Saga of the Sea", and consists of diaries as well as Lise Lindbæk's interviews with seamen, first published in Norwegian in New York in Nov. 1943. My sources / Books has suggestions on where to find a copy. Any effort involved in trying to find it would be well worth it. As an example of what can be found in it see Rudzin's Diary).

 The capture of Aust, life on Thor and Regensburg: 
Summary of Lise lindbæk's Interview with Aust's 1st Mate, David Faye Knudsen

Note that most of the dates quoted from this interview do not match those I've previously recorded from other sources.

Aust had departed New York on March 5-1942, and stopped at St. Thomas in the Caribbean on March 15. She was an old, slow ship, and she had so many cars and army trucks they were "tightly packed" on her deck. She went by Pernambuco, and they all felt quite safe as the South Atlantic was not considered a danger zone. Knudsen was resting on his sofa when the attack took place that fateful Apr. 3. It was 1 o'clock and he wasn't due to go on duty until 4. All of a sudden there was a lot of noise, glass from his mirror flying everywhere, the blanket on his bed full of bullet holes (he normally took his naps in his bed, but on that particular day he had chosen the sofa). He stormed up on the bridge where the 2nd mate was on duty; the captain also came up just then. The attacking plane came from the direction of the sun and had its motor turned off, so nobody even noticed it that first time, but then it started its engines and the firing at the same time, hence the dreadful noise, and the next time it came back it dropped 2 bombs which both fell in the water, 1 of them near No. 1 hatch.

The weather was nice and clear, and they saw a ship about 8 miles off, around 30° to the starboard side. The radio operator was ordered to send out a distress call, but the antenna had been cut by the aircraft, which dove down to a few meters above deck and had some sort of a cutting mechanism on it, rendering the main antenna, the emergency antenna, as well as the string for the whistle between the bridge and the funnel useless. The raider opened fire, a couple of lifeboats were damaged, the shots from Aust fell short and were useless in her defense. The engine was stopped and the captain ordered all men in the lifeboats, one of which was shot to pieces and sank, but those who were in it were picked up by one of the others. They had thought they would be able to get away, but the raider had other plans, and before long they were all on board the German ship, while their lifeboats were sunk.

The crew consisted of about 350 men, dressed in khaki, navy blue hats and shorts. He says that in spite of it all they were relieved to see the German flag being raised, rather than a Japanese one. The Germans were quite astonished to see all 40 alive and accounted for. They each had to give their names etc., then they were ordered to undress, whereupon they had a "saltwater bath" on deck and medical examinations. When looking around they saw a couple of machine guns, but no other weapons, as they were covered by 2 large "cardboard boxes" the size of those that cars would be stored in. The guards had tommyguns. The Germans boarded Aust, placed a bomb on board and stayed nearby until she sank; this was about 6 in the afternoon.

Their new "cabin" was about 6 x 8 meters, no windows, but they did have some sort of ventilation. Each man was given a hammock, but there wasn't much room for them so they had to be taken down during the day. They also got a cup each, a tin bowl, knife, fork and spoon, a toothbrush and saltwater soap. Next door were prisoners from 2 English ships which had been captured 2 days before (probably Wellpark sunk March 28, and Willesden Apr. 1). Knudsen recognized some of them as having been on a ship which was at St. Thomas at the same time as Aust. On the aft deck there was a "toilet room" with a saltwater shower in the bathroom. Additionally, each man got a washbowl and 1 liter of water every day, which was meant for drinking water as well as for washing their clothes, though they didn't have many clothes to wash. Like Kattegat's Captain Gjurød describes in his diary (see link "Life on Michel" etc. above) the lack of clothes was a big problem. The meals were also very similar to those described by Kattegat's captain; dark bread with marmalade or artificial honey for breakfast, along with "Ersatzkaffe" ("replacement coffee", in other words artificial coffee, or coffee made out of something other than real coffee beans). Dinner consisted of soup with potatoes and peas or beans, occasionally a piece of meat. In the evenings they got bread and "Ersatz-te" and lard, sometimes a tin of sardines shared by 5-6 men.

After about a week they got company; another ship was captured (this must have been Kirkpool Apr. 10). Knudsen says it was a nasty affair, as the raider went very close and fired with its 6 inch guns, killing 17. Late one night the prisoners were transferred to Regensburg, with the help of rubber rafts, 30 men in each, towed by motorboats. This time the hammocks were placed in the hold, and these new living quarters were dirty and unpleasant, but at least on this ship they were allowed to be up on deck, so they got some daylight for a change. The raider took off, but returned after about a week with at least 400 more prisoners, including 27 women and children, English and Chinese, from an English passenger ship that had been captured (this was most probably the Australian passenger ship Nankin, captured by Thor in The Indian Ocean on May 10-1942 on a voyage Freemantle-Bombay via Colombo with 162 passengers, including, in fact, 38 women and children, crew of 180, later renamed Leuthen. One of the women had given birth on the raider the day after the capture, and everything apparently went well. (She was Chinese, and the baby boy was named Fritz, for the doctor who delivered him). This ship had plenty of food in her cargo, so the meals immediately improved. Among other items they saw butter again for the first time in a long time. The women and children were allowed to visit the men on deck for 2 hours a day, and everything possible was done to keep spirits high, for instance by making swings for the children, but after a few days the women, children and those who had been injured, as well as some British prisoners were transferred to yet another German ship (this took place on May 31, when 105 prisoners were moved to Dresden, which had left France on Apr, 16 for Japan).

Time was passed in various ways. Knudsen taught Norwegian; he had 2 students, an English major and a doctor who had escaped from Singapore. Toilet paper was used for writing paper. The lack of clothing was an increasing problem, so they tried their hands at tailoring, using flour sacks as material. The 2nd mate was particularly good at it, and when he was finished his garment had "Best Quality" written all over his behind. Another walked around in a new outfit advertising for "Shanghai Flour Mill".

On July 12 they arrived Yokohama, where the "coloured and the whites were seperated". Aust's prisoners were transferred to Ramses, where they lived in the hold. The food improved and they got plenty of water, but still no clothes. All the British were taken ashore and sent to Japanese prison camps after about a month. The Norwegians spent 4 months in Yokohama harbour, part of the time on board the captured passenger ship (Nankin - the official report presented at the maritime hearings states the Norwegians from Aust were transferred to this ship on Aug. 12-1942), where they did volunteer work, among other things "sorting food" and stealing whenever they could. Daily wages: 5 cigarettes in addition to the regular ration of 3. The lack of clothing continued to be a problem. They made wooden shoes with the help of a table knife, and kept them on their feet with canvas straps. A Latvian able seaman was greatly admired for his woodcarving skills; he also made an excellent chess set. Lise Lindbæk goes on to explain how they were all eventually scattered on various other ships, saying that on Aug. 20, 16 from Aust, as well as some crew from Kattegat, Madrono and Herborg were sent to Europe on Dresden. Some of the crew were later sent on the Regensburg, then the last 3 from Aust on Ramses on Oct. 10, along with several men from Kattegat.

When asked about the general mood of the Japanese, Knudsen says that when Ramses stopped in Kobe, they met an old stevedore foreman they knew, with the not-so-Japanese-sounding name Olav (he had a Norwegian godfather he said), who declared "Japan very tired damned war". Balikpapan (Borneo) was in terrible shape. From the ship they could see a refinery that had been destroyed, with the oiltanks broken and fallen over. The landscape had large areas of burnt trees. At Batavia they couldn't get into the harbour, as the Dutch had scuttled 4 large ships which obstructed the entrance, so the loading of cargo there had to be done with the help of barges, with the process taking 10-11 days as opposed to the usual 2-3. The workers in the harbour said "No beer, no cigarettes, no clothes, Nippon man take everything".

 Life on Dresden and the journey home: 

According to what is found in "Ingen nåde" (Kristian Ottosen) the prisoners on this ship were generally treated more like regular passengers than prisoners. For one thing they had their meals with the crew of the German ship. (I get the understanding that the Norwegians were the only prisoners on board). But when they arrived Saigon to take on a cargo of raw rubber they were locked in their cabins to prevent them from running away. In addition to the rubber they also took on board 4 black pigs which were placed in a bin on deck and on the whole it was Aust's men who had responsibility for their care. Course was set through The Indian Ocean towards Africa, around South Africa, then after they had passed the Equator the captain chose a westerly course, which resulted in them passing the Canary Islands on the west side, then Madeira on the east side, before heading straight for France. A few days before reaching Bordeaux the pigs had to give up their lives. There was a professional butcher on board, and with the help of Aust's cook Josef Langballe they now had a proper feast with pork chops for dinner.

The atmosphere on board was good, even though the Germans and Norwegians in reality were "enemies", and though they were kept on board under strict guard after arrival Bordeaux on Nov. 2-1942, they were treated well, and Dresden's captain even provided films and other things to help them pass the time while waiting for further orders. They were still wearing their homemade clothes, but one day a big truck appeared alongside the ship, and they were taken to a large warehouse established by the Kriegsmarine to aid in equipping shipwrecked sailors, and here they were given everything they needed in the way of clothing.

Finally they were informed that they were going back to Norway. After a couple of weeks in Bordeaux they were taken by train to Wilhelmshaven where they were placed in some sort of a hotel. Every night they had to run down to the basement due to British air attacks, but they spent the time there playing cards until the all clear signal was given. The journey continued, this time to Berlin and another hotel. That evening they were invited to the theater, and the next day on a sightseeing excursion, before being placed on yet another train the following day, this time to Hamburg, which was in terrible shape at that time, then on to Copenhagen, all the while under strict guard. On the ferry to Malmö a Wehrmacht officer took over the responsibility for their transport, and via Sweden they arrived Oslo late in the evening of Dec. 18-1942 and were given lodgings at a hotel near the railway station. The next morning travel passes and all necessary papers were issued and they were free to go home, after having said their goodbye's to the shipmates with whom they had shared so much.

Meanwhile, even before they had arrived Yokohama earlier that year, Josef Langballe's wife had been told her husband had died, and had tried to adjust her life accordingly. Borøya, where he was from had a radio station and on the evening of Dec. 14-1942 a telegram for Anny Langballe came in, saying her husband would depart Berlin Wednesday morning for Oslo. The lady on duty at the radio station didn't quite know what to do; she knew them both and was very much aware that Anny considered herself a widow. Not until the middle of the 1990's did their son find out how his mother was informed of his father's "return from the dead". The lady at the radio station had found out that Anny was at a lady's club meeting at a friend's home, along with several other friends and neighbours, so she stopped another friend who was on her way to this meeting and asked her to break the news as gently as she possibly could, and needless to say this resulted in a very memorable meeting at Borøya that evening. Josef himself had no idea until much later that his wife had been informed of his demise.

The text for Aust was compiled with the help of information found in "Skip og men", Birger Dannevig, "Nortraships flåte", Book 2, J. R. Hegland, "Handelsflåten i Krig" (The Merchant Fleet at War), Book 4, Guri Hjeltnes, "Tusen norske skip", Lise Lindbæk, "German Raiders of World War II", August Karl Muggenthaler, "Sjøforklaringer fra 2. verdenskrig" (Maritime Declarations from WW II), Volume I - Norwegian Maritime Museum, and "Ingen nåde", Kristian Ottosen. NOTE: In addition to her in depth research in Nortraship and other archives, Guri Hjeltnes also conducted extensive interviews with survivors of the war before writing her two books, which came out in 1995 and 1997.

Back to D/S Aust on A-list


M/T Herborg

Owner: Skibs-A/S Jølund
Manager: Sigurd Herlofsen & Co. A/S, Oslo
Tonnage: 7892 gt, 4694 net, 12 405 tdwt..
Call Sign: LCDS.

Captain: John Oluf Westad.

Follow this link to a complete crew list.
(Click on the link to Herborg in the box above for some info. on her previous voyages, as well as a picture).

Herborg was on a voyage from Abadan to Fremantle with 11 000 tons crude oil on June 19-1942 when she was captured in broad daylight by Thor (Günther Gumprich), position 26S 77E. A prize crew was placed on board Herborg under the command of Leutenant Rudolf Gerwin, and she was first taken to Batavia on June 29, then to Yokohama on July 22 ("German Raiders of WW II" gives the date July 7 for arrival Japan).

According to a statement by Ordinary Seaman Svenn Solberg at the maritime hearings (held in Gibraltar on Jan. 15-1943) the entire complement was initially taken on board the raider, but the chief engineer and 7 engine crew were later sent back to Herborg together with a German prize crew. After Thor had captured the Norwegian Madrono on July 4 Solberg and Ordinary Seaman Frank Folke Erikson were transferred to that ship, going with her to Batavia and Yokohama (ref. text for Madrono further down on this page). Herborg's captain, the 3 mates and the 3 engineers had remained on Thor. On Aug. 28 Solberg and Erikson were transferred to Rhakotis together with 7 others from Herborg as well as the 3rd engineer from Madrono.*. Herborg also went to Yokohama and was still there when Rhakotis departed at the end of Sept. After the sinking of Rhakotis (scroll down at this link for details on the sinking) 2 lifeboats landed at Coruna, where the Norwegians were taken care of by the British Vice Consul who sent them to Madrid where they met up with the Norwegian Minister Svenn Ebbell who helped them get to Gibraltar, with arrival on Jan. 10.

* Erikson's statement has it the other way around, saying they were transferred to Rhakotis with 7 others from Madrono and 1 from Herborg.

It appears the above 2 men were not the only ones transferred to Madrono. I've come across a story told by Petty Officer Leif Seiffert (M/T Herborg) who says he and his shipmates were prisoners on Thor for 2 weeks, until M/T Madrono was captured, at which time they were transferred to that ship, while the officers remained on Thor, as mentioned. Once in Yokohama they were distributed on 3 ships to be taken to Europe. Some were sent on Dresden and later came home to Norway (see "Life on Dresden and the journey home" above), another group went with the blockade runner Rhakotis which also had prisoners from several other Norwegian ships on board when she was intercepted and sunk by the British cruiser Scylla in the Bay of Biscay on Jan. 1-1943 (again, refer to links under Aust above). German U-boats picked up the German crew of 75 and the majority of the prisoners, and most of the Norwegians among them were taken to France, then to camps in Germany before being sent home. But some of them, among them the ordinary seamen Frantz Folke Eriksen, Svenn Solberg and Henry Svinø were rescued by Spanish trawlers and taken to La Coruna, and were thereby free to reenter allied service in Gt. Britain in Febr.-1943.

A 3rd group, among them Leif Seiffert, ended up on their own ship, which by then had been renamed Hohenfriedburg, and left Yokohama under the command of Capitän Heidberg on Nov. 11 in an effort to run the blockade and reach France, but was intercepted west of Spain by the British cruiser HMS Sussex and sunk on Febr. 26-1943, position 41 48N 20 50W (she had been located on Febr. 20 by USAAF B-24, 500 n. miles southwest of Cape Finisterre). The crew was rescued by U-264, which had unsuccessfully attacked the cruiser, and taken to St. Nazaire, France. Leif Seiffert was sent to a "military jail" in Wilhelmshaven in Germany, which 2 weeks later was bombed by allied aircraft. He was then placed in the camp Marlag und Milag Nord, near Tarmstedt, 3 Norwegian miles from Bremen, until he at the end of Nov.-1943 was sent home to Norway, arriving Oslo at the beginning of Dec. He says "we", but who the others were is not clear. Some of the men from Herborg had arrived Norway as early as before Christmas-1942, some in Febr.-1943, others in March, another group in June until the last of them came home in Dec.-1943.

2 of the Norwegians from Herborg, Mechanic Gudmund Helge Nilsen and Able Seaman Jon Gunnar Jacobsen were kept as prisoners in Tokyo until they were freed by the Americans on Sept. 15-1945. See the crew list on my page Merchant Marine Prisoners of War.

"German Raiders of WW II" mentions the 24 years old 3rd Mate Haagen Poppe, saying he had managed to escape from Norway and had previously experienced the sinking of Thermopylæ. I checked the crew list for Thermopylæ and he is indeed listed among the surviving crew - he was a gunner at that time. Other parts of the text in "German Raiders of WW II" doesn't make sense because after a description of the attack by Thor's plane it says "we abandoned with our crew of 38 Chinese"; there were not that many Chinese crew on board - ref. the crew list.

Compiled with the help of information found in "Skip og men", Birger Dannevig, "Nortraships flåte", Book 2, J. R. Hegland, "Handelsflåten i Krig" (The Merchant Fleet at War), Book 4, Guri Hjeltnes, "German Raiders of World War II", August Karl Muggenthaler, "Sjøforklaringer fra 2. verdenskrig", Norwegian Maritime Museum, Volume I.

Back to M/T Herborg on H-list


Click on the link to Madrono in the box above for more information on this ship (pre war history, some war voyages etc.).

Owner: A/S Norsk Rutefart
Manager: A. I. Langfeldt & Co., Kristiansand
Tonnage: 5894 gt, 3697 net, 8600 tdwt.
Call Sign: LDGF.

Captain: Sigvard Andersen (previous captain had been Anthonius Stave)

Follow this link for complete crew list.
Post war interview with Bedrich Scharf - one of the crew members, and a Guestbook message from his son.
A Guestbook message from the grandson of another crew member.

 Misc. available information: 
Please note that what follows is not so much an account of what really happened, but a collection of bits and pieces of information I've found in various sources, added for the sole purpose of aiding someone who had a relative on board and needs a starting point for research.

Captured on July 4-1942 on a voyage from Melbourne to Abadan in ballast 29 50S 70 00E. 3 men were injured by shrapnel. A prize crew was placed on board, and via Batavia on July 20, where the injured boatswain was taken ashore for medical treatment, Madrono arrived Yokohama on Aug. 5. Some of her men (6 according to Guri Hjeltnes) had been transferred to Thor, while others stayed on Madrono which was renamed Rossbach; her crew staying on board as prisoners for 3 weeks; though 2 were placed in the prison camp Ofuna, about an hour by train from Yokohama. The first one to be imprisoned was the 3rd Mate Toralf Madsen, then 2 days later the carpenter Johan Sunde was sent off, after the Germans had found out through interrogation that he had been a volunteer soldier on the Finnish side in the "Winter War" 1939-1940. He was later placed at Shinagawa, Tokyo in Aug.-1942, and died there in March-1944 (another source says he died at Omori before Dec.-1943).

One of my Norwegian sources says some of the men from Madrono were imprisoned at Ofuna from Oct. 1943, where also the captured officers from M/T Alcides and a few of the survivors from M/T Teddy were kept. In Dec. they were transferred to the camp Omori in Tokyo, to be freed by the Americans on Aug. 29-1945.

An article in the Norwegian magazine "Krigsseileren" No. 4 for 1996, based on interviews with survivors Steward Olav Johnsen, 2nd Mate Ragnar Jonassen, and Pumpman Tønnes Kviljo Tønnessen, as well as company archives, written by Jan. G. Langfeldt, states that at the time of capture Madrono had a crew of 33. All the British crew members were transferred to Thor as well as the following 6 Norwegians: Captain Sigvard Andersen, 1st Mate Arnold Arntzen, 2nd Mate Ragnar Jonassen (Guri Hjeltnes says 2nd mate was Toralf Madsen), Radio Operator Toralf J. Gundersen, Cook O. Horgen and Oiler Einar Johansen who was very ill. Radio Operator Gundersen is also mentioned in another article ("Krigsseileren" No. 1/1992) as being present aboard the German supply ship Tannenfels and witnessed the battle between the Liberty ship Stephen Hopkins and the German raider Stier on Sept. 27-1942 (both ships sank). This article indicates there were another 4 Norwegians on Tannenfels at the time, who later came to Bordeaux with that ship. They were in a German prison camp for a year (probably Marlag und Milag Nord?) before being sent home in Dec.-1943. Under Madrono on my page "Merchant Marine Prisoners of war" 5 are listed as arriving Oslo on Dec. 12-1943, while the date for O. Horgen is given as Nov. 24-1943; I'm not sure whether this means he was separated from the other 5 and perhaps sent on another ship.

Among the men remaining on Madrono with a prize crew of 14 were the 2 Swedes Karl Bivall and Erik W. Lundqvist and the Czechoslovakian Bedrich Scharf. Additionally 20 from India who had been on the previously captured Nankin and 16 from Herborg were placed on Madrono. The article in No. 4/1996 says that after the "sabotage attempt" (see below) their food, which up until then had been good, was now reduced to leftovers and dry pieces of bread. The ship went to Batavia for 8 days, then Caviti on the Philippines for about 3 months. Caviti was a naval base a few hours by car from Manila. Steward Olav Johnsen says some of them lived in villas which had previously been living quarters for American officers before the Japanese came. He states they departed Manila on Aug. 14-1943 and arrived Kobe a week later, but there's no details on how they got there. From Kobe they were sent to Camp Ofuna. Olav Johnsen indicates they were treated fairly well, compared to what the American pilots had to endure in the way of torture under interrogation (he describes this in detail, but I do not want to include it here; the Internet has plenty such stories). He also mentions the 1st Engineer Anton Minsaas who died on Oct. 18-1943, 10 days before his 60th birthday. My page Life in Imprisonment has more details of their stay at Ofuna and Omori.

Another source says that a few of Madrono's men arrived Europe with Dresden, while 6 were placed on Regensburg for Europe. After that ship had been torpedoed by the American submarine (ref. text under Aust above), the Norwegians were picked up by a Japanese landing craft and taken to Singapore where they were imprisoned for the rest of the war.

1 lone seaman, 3rd Engineer Edvard Edvardsen was placed on the Rhakotis, and was among the ones who were rescued by the Spanish trawler after Rhakotis had been sunk on Jan. 1. He was later questioned about the capture of Madrono in Gibraltar on Jan. 15-1943, having arrived there on Jan. 10 from Madrid, together with 7 other Norwegians and 1 Swedish seaman (this must have been Ordinary Seaman Frank Folke Erikson and some others from Herborg) with the assistance of the Norwegian Minister Svenn Ebell in Madrid. Edvardsen states that 6 of the crew members who had remained on Madrono for 3 weeks, including the Czechoslovakian Bedrich Scharf and 1 Swede were placed on Regensburg in Yokohama, while Edvardsen himself was placed on Rhakotis on Aug.(?) 26 along with 9 from Herborg. He adds that Rhakotis left Yokohama for Batavia on Sept. 27, then departed Batavia fror Europe on Nov. 5.

Visje, a visitor to my website has told me that some sources mention that Madrono was captured by Thor due to a "leak" from the Dutch tanker Olivia, and apparently enough was said for the Germans to intercept this tanker. Madrono was enroute TO Abadan, while Olivia came FROM Abadan. He finds it unlikely that he could have known a tanker was supposed to arrive on that date, and feels it's more probable that Herborg was captured due to leaking information, but not Madrono.

An attempt was made to send Madrono to Europe, but the idea was abandoned as follows:

 A "sabotage attempt": 
(Handelsflåten i krig", Book , Guri Hjeltnes)

Some of the crew was imprisoned in Japanese camps late in the summer and early fall of 1942, before they were taken on board Madrono again. Others, among them Ordinary Seaman Magnus Heggø* was on board the whole time. Madrono, or Rossbach by then eventually headed for France, but the voyage was rather drawn out. First she went to Dairen for a cargo of soy oil, but when she couldn't get a full load she returned to Kobe to supplement the load at the end of Nov.-1942, where another 20 from Madrono's original crew were picked up; 9 Indians and 11 Norwegians. They had been forced to work in Japanese camps, unloading and loading ships and railroad cars, as well as other work in quarries and woods.

* Magnus Heggø had previously served on Kongsgaard when this ship was torpedoed in Febr.-1942.

En route to Bordeaux Rossbach stopped in Singapore and Batavia before proceeding around Africa, going almost down to the ice before heading west, then north. She was in a convoy with several other German ships, sailing at a great distance from eachother. Magnus Heggø says they were the last ship in the column, and eventually all the ships in front had been intercepted and captured. Therefore, she was ordered to go back to Japan around Africa on March 1-1943 (another source says Febr. 28), a great disappointment to the Germans as well as to the Norwegian prisoners who had been looking foreward to reaching European waters.

3 of the Norwegians, Able Seaman/Gunner Trygve Berge, Ordinary Seaman Magnus Heggø and Pumpman Tønnes K. Tønnesen had for a long time, since the summer of 1942, talked about the possibility of retaking their ship, but the plan was initially abandoned due to the risks. But now that they were on their way back to Japan the plan again started to take shape; they had seen with their own eyes the methods of torture the Japanese made use of at the time. They decided the best thing to do would be to escape in a lifeboat, and started to smuggle some food, water and other things they thought they might need into one of the lifeboats. A large Norwegian flag was also put aside for future use, with the idea that it might come in handy in case they encountered allied ships on their journey. The other Norwegians were told about the plans, but were not overly enthusiastic at the thought.

On the evening of March 26 they were ready to get going. Part of the plan was to throw some grenades through the skylight down to the engine room, (thereby disabling the ship and preventing her from searching for them) while at the same time lowering the lifeboat, and while 1 took care of that job, the other 2 had their knives ready to free the boat. Unfortunately the boat ended up on the water without anybody in it, so they had to jump overboard, but quickly found the lifeboat and were also able to find the 3rd man and get him on board. But the grenades did not explode, so the engine was still unharmed. The strain of this failure and the fear while waiting to be found and picked up by the other 2 in the boat proved too much for the 3rd young man, and he started singing the Norwegian national anthem there in the boat, while the other 2 frantically tried to keep him quiet.

They were able to set sail and get away, but after a few hours they noticed a shadow on the horizon and realized their escape attempt would not succeed, and not long thereafter they were again on Madrono/Rossbach and subjected to heavy interrogation, under threat of being shot if they didn't reveal who had helped them and who had dropped the grenades, which had been discovered soon after their departure from the ship. Heggø says "I was sure that was the end of us". Behind them they could hear the click of the machine guns, "I can't understand why they didn't shoot us". All 3 were locked up in separate "summer tanks", which is a tank inside the larger tank, about 12 meters by 3 meters by 2-3 meters tall. Another 8 Norwegians were locked up in another tank. The tanks that Berge and Tønnesen were in were dry, but the one Heggø was in had soy oil in the bottom, but he found himself a dry corner to sit in. The heat was indescribable. Twice a day food and water were sent down, but never enough to fill them up or quench their thirst. After a few days they were alllowed half an hour by the openings, but on the 3rd day Berge was not there, he had hung himself by his belt (Apr. 3-1943?). He was not yet 23 years old. He was buried when Rossbach stopped in Batavia, probably on Apr. 10, but his shipmates were not allowed to be present (another account says he was "buried" in the sea).

The ship continued to Singapore after a few days, where the 1st Engineer Anton Minsaas was admitted to a hospital, but was soon discharged and put back on the ship. She arrived Manila, with the men still locked up in the tanks, 32 days altogether. The 2 who had tried to escape were after a while placed in the same tank as the other 8 Norwegians, where understandably they also had to endure the hatred of their shipmates for causing their horrible predicament. Heggø says the weeks in the tanks were ten times worse than anything he had to endure during the subsequent 2 years in camps in Japan. "We got 1 liter of water a day, not nearly enough to quench our thirst in that heat. One time we got macaroni with bacon pieces in it. That must have been done on purpose. We ate it of course 'cause we were so hungry, but it resulted in a dreadful thirst".

In Manila the prisoners were handed over to the Japanese. Tønnesen and Heggø were chained together with handcuffs and had to sleep and eat like that for a couple of days. Later they were at a military camp for Japanese soldiers on Cavita for 3 months, but when the Japanese announced they were going to shoot them the Germans took them back on Rossbach on her return from another voyage. Back in a tank they went and course was set for Japan. In Kobe they were separated; the 8 ended up in a camp near Yokohama, while Tønnesen and Heggø were sent far up north to Aomori (Honshu, Japan), and a criminal jail with only criminals for their cell mates. They arrived there in Aug./Sept.-1943 and suffered terribly, not only from the bad conditions, but also from the bad treatment they received. After having spent 2 winters there, they were sent south, first to a camp in Yokohama where all the prisoners were American pilots whose aircraft had been shut down. 2-3 months later they were moved to Ofuna, along with British and American prisoners, as well as some other Norwegians. By then Tønnesen weighed 43 kg. 2 months before the war was over Tønnesen and Heggø both contracted beri-beri, but along with other Norwegian prisoners they were again moved to another camp, Hitachi, where vitamin pills were smuggled in and where there was a little more food and vegetables for the prisoner.

3 of the other sailors from Madrono never came home; 1st Engineer Anton Minsaas died of beri-beri and anemia at Ofuna (another source says Omori) in Oct.-1943. The Radio Officer from M/T Alcides was ordered to bury his urn there - this is described on my page Life in Imprisonment). As mentioned, Carpenter Johan Sunde died in the camp Shinagawa, Tokyo in March 1944 (also of beri-beri). The Swedish Able Seaman Karl G. Bivall was freed in Jan.-1944, but his ordeal proved too much and he committed suicide in Aug. that same year in Japan.

 Madrono's final fate: 

According to Wilh. Wilhelmsen's fleet list Madrono/Rossbach was torpedoed and sunk in the Kii Channel, Japan by the American submarine USS Burrfish on May 7-1944, position 33 14N 134 40E. She had previously belonged to this company until sold in 1929. The fleet list also adds that Rossbach was allocated to Waried Tankschiff Rhederei G.m.b.H. I checked on the book "U.S. Submarine Attacks during World War II" by John D. Alden, which gives the same date for this sinking by Burrfish, but in position 33 13N 134 14E, S Murotosaki, claiming she was hit by 3 torpedoes.

External link related to the above text:
3 who died - The Norwegian text here says:
Madrono, under the name Rossback headed for Europe and tried to run the blockade, but had to turn around quite a ways into the Atlantic. Several Norwegian prisoners were on board on this trip, and some of them tried to escape from the ship by lowering a lifeboat during the passsage. But they were caught and as punishment they were placed on top of the "summer tank" under horrendous conditions in the extreme heat, thereby being placed under torture, resulting in the death of a Norwegian gunner in Apr.-1943 (Trygve Berge). The rest were sent back to Japan and placed in imprisonment there, where some later died. Anton Julius Minsaas and Johan Sunde are also commemorated.

Compiled with the help of information found in "Skip og men", Birger Dannevig, "Nortraships flåte", Book 2, J. R. Hegland, "Handelsflåten i Krig" (The Merchant Fleet at War), Book 4, Guri Hjeltnes, "Krigsseileren" No. 4, 1996 and No. 1, 1992, "Sjøforklaringer fra 2. verdenskrig", Norwegian Maritime Museum, Volume II.

Back to my page about D/T Madrono

 Norwegians on Captured Swedish Ships: 

I've come across a reference to some Norwegians who were on board the Swedish ships Trolleholm (captured March 25-1941) and Sir Ernst Cassel when they were captured and sunk by Thor. The crews spent some time on the raider, and were later sent to the German camp Stalag XB. The Swedes were sent home after 3 months, but the following Norwegians stayed: 2nd Mate H. Hansen, Larvik -3rd Mate A. Andreassen, Fredrikstad - Stoker O. Amundsen, Bergen - Ordinary Seaman K. Olsen, Tønsberg -Stoker A. Kleivek, Kirkenes, - Stoker H. Karlsen, Jeløy and Oiler H. Paulsen, West Finnmark. Norwegian men on Trolleholm: Henry Mørch-Jacobsen, Kristiansand, Johan Ystebø, Lindås - Knut Winter Dahl, Horten and Rudolf Jørgensen Glad, Arendal (previously of Nueva Andalucia). Taken on board Thor, later transferred to a tanker and taken to La Pallice, France, then to a place outside Bordeaux, before being moved to a camp near Bremen, possibly the same as above? All the Norwegians were sent home later on a German troop transport, via Sweden.

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