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In chronological order.

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Some Facts on Widder

Capture of M/T Krossfonn w/crew list | Capture of M/T Beaulieu w/crew list

SOME FACTS ON WIDDER: T/S Widder (HSK III SCHIFF 21) was formerly Hapag's Neumark, 7800 gt, built 1929, top speed 14.8 knots. Hellmuth Von Ruckteschell (who took command of Widder on Jan. 18-1940) was sentenced in Hamburg to 10 years imprisonment in May-1947 (reduced to 7) for his actions during the war, but died on June 24 at the Hamburg-Fuhlsbüttel prison (at that time he had just found out that he was to be released because of his heart problem). In the short time Widder had been out (180 days), she had sunk 9 allied ships and captured another, with a total tonnage of 58 464 gt. Returned to France, later became the British reparations prize Ulysses, then re-registered as German Fechenheim, Unterweser Reederei. Sailed until Oct.-1955 when she became a total loss.

Armament:
Six 5.9 inch, one 75 mm, one twin 37 mm, four 20 mm, two twin 21 inch torpedo tubes, two Heinkel 114 aircraft.

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

May 5-1940/Oct. 31-1940:
British Petrol, Krossfonn, Davisian*, King John, Beaulieu, Oostplein, Killoran, Anglo Saxon, Cymbeline, Antonios Chandris.

* Survivors from Davisian were rescued by the Norwegian M/S Leif.

Related external links:
Widder - Ship 21 - "Mac's Web Log" - a lot of information on the voyages of this raider.

Map showing Widder's cruise - (On the website Arsenal of Dictatorship, which also has a section about the German raiders).



M/T Krossfonn

Owner: Skibs-A/S Dalfonn.
Manager: Sigval Bergesen, Stavanger
Tonnage: 9323 gt, 5550 net 14 225 tdwt.
Call Sign: LIZL.

Click on Krossfonn above for more info on this ship and some of her previous voyages. See also this original image received from the National Archives of Norway.

Captain: Simon Svendsen. He later (1952) wrote a book, entitled "Femti år under Neptuns scepter" (Fifty years under Neptune's scepter). 20 pages from this book were kindly scanned and sent to me by Johnny Haugen, Norway, and some of the details in this narrative have been taken from this book. Other sources are named at the end of this page. When using so many different sources, it's inevitable that some contradicting information occurs - I've attempted to point this out in my text.

Krossfonn is said to have arrived Brest from Bermuda on June 12-1940 and departed for Casablanca the following day with arrival June 17 (note that the archive document states she arrived off Brest from Bermuda at 8 am on June 7, continuing to St. Nazaire that same day, departing on June 12 for Donges - arrival not given - then on to Casablanca, with arrival June 17 - see also my page about Krossfonn). She was subsequently ordered to Martinique for orders and departed Casablanca in ballast on June 19.

According to Captain Svendsen's book, mentiond above, they left Casablanca on June 17, following a route given by French authorities (the book was published in 1952, so it's quite possible he remembers the date wrong, or it could also be a simple misprint? On the other hand, it's also possible they left Casablanca "proper" on the date given by the captain, then anchored at Casablanca Roads on the 19th, as stated in the archive document, leaving Casablanca Roads that same day). After a few days they realized that there must be enemy ships around them because the radio operator picked up some telegrams to Milan via Cadiz. As Italy had entered the war by then, they thought they might be Italian ships. For a while, they considered altering their course, but as this would send them straight into "the lion's den", they gave up on that idea. Shortly after "dinner" on June 26-1940, a cargo ship of about 9000 tdwt came up on their starboard side, crossing their bows to port. The ship had the Swedish colours painted on her side and the Swedish flag in her mast. She continued over to port 2 n miles off, then suddenly turned around and fired towards them. Krossfonn was still proceeding at full speed. Another shot was fired, landing near their bow, and at the same time the ship signalled for them to not use their radio.

This was Widder, camouflaged as the Swedish Narvik for the occasion. It happened near West Indies - position given in a report presented at the subsequent hearings (written by the 1st mate) is 21 59N 44 45W. Krossfonn's engines were stopped and Widder approached at slow speed and stopped on her starboard side, removing the Swedish flag and hoisting the German flag. While this was going on, all Krossfonn's valuable papers, letters, sailing instructions, money etc. were placed in a leaded bag and dropped overboard, other papers were burnt. The raider now launched a motorboat with 10-12 men, carrying machine guns. Captain Svendsen states that the Germans believed it was Stiklestad they had captured, and acted almost offended when they came on board and found they were mistaken (Von Ruckteschell had been notified by the German authorities on June 25 that Stiklestad was near his position on her way from Casablanca to Fort de France. He proceeded to look for her, but fortunately for Stiklestad, Widder experienced engine trouble which took several hours to fix).

Guards with machine guns were placed "everywhere", and everyone was ordered amidships and told to stay there. An officer asked the captain where Stiklestad was, since the 2 ships had been together at Casablanca (again, see my page about Krossfonn). As the officer had called her "Sillestad" Captain Svendsen could tell him, without lying, that there had been no ship by that name with them at Casablanca. The officer left in a rage, only to come back a little later, demanding information about Stiklestad's sailing route, and was non too happy when the captain claimed he had no idea. He was subsequently ordered into the chartroom cabin, where the officer wanted maps and Krossfonn's sailing orders, and his mood was not at all improved when he found out they had all been thrown overboard. Next, the cabins were investigated. The steward had a belt on him containing a knife. When an officer spotted this his subordinate was severely reprimanded for not having found it earlier. The crew had to show the Germans all their money. Those who had pounds or dollars, were given francs instead. One of Widder's seamen kept saying over and over again that his mother was Norwegian; he attempted to be as pleasant as possible and whispered to the steward that he should hide all his spirits, if not, they would all go to the Germans. For this piece of information, the steward awarded him by serving him as much alcohol as he could, and when it came time to leave the ship, he was in such a state that he had to be let down into the motorboat with the help of a rope. Captain Svendsen also mentions a lieutenant Scharnberg, who "behaved somewhat reasonably". When the captain asked him if they could go in the lifeboats, as he assumed Krossfonn would be sunk, he was told she would be taken as prize to Europe and that her crew would come along.

After the ship had been thoroughly searched, the Germans taking a lot of time, Lieutenant Scharnberg finally announced that the raider's commander wanted to speak with the captain, but he assured him he would be allowed back on board again later on. The captain, not having much faith in these assurances, packed a few of his belongings in a suitcase, and when he heard that the chief engineer was also to be taken to Widder, he knew they were going to be prisoners. Before they left the ship, a German engineer came on board and started to question Krossfonn's chief engineer, asking him if the work that had been done to her engines in Galveston was satisfactory (she had been in drydock there before proceeding to France earlier that year - see my page about Krossfonn). The engineer was so well informed, that Captain Svendsen had no doubt that German agents in Galveston or Houston had passed on detailed information about them.

The captain and chief engineer now said goodbye to each member of the crew, before being taken to Widder in the German motor launch. The rest of the crew and 2 German officers, one of whom was Lieutenant Scharnberg, as well as 11 other Germans remained on Krossfonn. After having been questioned (the commander spoke Swedish very well, but he did not get the information he was after and the meeting was not at all friendly), the 2 Norwegians were escorted below deck to the so called "mine deck" where they were locked in a room with solid walls; the only ventilation was a small fan under the door. Guards were placed outside and they were left to pace back and forth, back and forth, puffing on the cigarettes they had with them. They spoke a little bit, but made sure they didn't mention Stiklestad or anything else that might be of interest to the Germans in their conversation. Towards evening, a British prisoner, a steward, brought them some food, but the guard gave them strict orders not to speak with each other. Most of that night, they kep pacing in their little "cage".

The 2 ships sailed together until the afternoon(?) of June 27, at which time they met up at the same place as before - the captain says they had both been searching for Stiklestad. Some stores were transferred from Krossfonn over to Widder and with a German prize crew of 13, commanded by Lieutenant Rünning she was sent to France with her entire complement on board except for the captain and chief engineer, who remained on the raider. The Germans had loaded Krossfonn with water so as to make her look like a fully laden tanker en route to Europe. Captain Svendsen expresses great sadness at seeing her go. He was now called up to the commander again (he says this took place at 9 in the morning, which does not match up with the statement above that the 2 ships sailed together until that afternoon). Von Ruckteschell had 4 other officers with him, and again it was Stiklestad's whereabouts they were after. The captain did have knowledge of her sailing instructions, but was not about to share that knowledge. The interrogation lasted for 2 1/2 hours, with the commander becoming increasingly threatening, before the prisoner was sent back to his cell, having been told he'd get a 2nd chance at 2 o'clock that afternoon, but he was not called back.

In the beginning, they were allowed an hour on deck before noon every day, and an hour every afternoon; 2 guards were always with them. The "cell" was very hot, and the raider's largest gun was placed right above their heads. During the first 2 weeks, the captain lost 8 kg, but has no complaints about the food. Their drinking water was full of rust, but improved later on. Also, the guard gave them ice water every now and again. After about a month on board they were allowed on deck more often, and they could go aft without guards. Talking to other prisoners or the crew was strictly prohibited. They were aware that other ships were captured, but they were always locked up in advance of these attacks. It was worrysome to them to be locked up so securely during an attack, and after having complained about it, the door was always left unlocked, at least for a while.

One time he was up on deck, the captain saw smoke from a ship in the horizon, and the Germans promised that they would get new guests on board later that night. He felt terrible that he was not able to warn the ship of the danger ahead. As it turned out, it was a Norwegian ship, namely Beaulieu, discussed further down on this page. Captain Svendsen says that a 200 meter tall column of flames rose from her foredeck when she was shelled, and claims that Widder's 2nd engineer went on board to open the valves in order for her to sink, but as will be seen when reading my narrative for this ship, she was eventually sunk by explosives.

Because of the increasing number of prisoners, new installations in which to keep them had to be made. These were constructed with planks, and the captain says that when they passed them it was like passing a row of cages with people in them. Even Widder's steward was placed in one of them, but what he had done to deserve this he does not know.

One night another ship was sunk and new prisoners came on board, dripping with oil. During the attack they had jumped overboad, and when the bunkers tank had been hit by a shell, oil had run out, which they had then been swimming around in. Several survivors had been taken by sharks.

Most of the prisoners only had a pair of pants and a shirt. Since the captain had managed to pack quite a few of his clothes before leaving Krossfonn, he asked if he could share some of them with other prisoners. He was told that clothes would be distributed, and the next day 2 bags of clothing were emptied out on deck, but not much of it could be used by the prisoners.

When on deck, the British prisoners were kept on one side of the deck, while prisoners from neutral and occupied countries had to stay on the other side. It was impossible to achieve any contact with the British prisoners, beyond an occasional nod, and the Germans always posted guards with machine guns.

One night a lot of commotion occurred, with orders being shouted about lifevests etc., and the captain thought perhaps a British warship had been spotted and expected quite a battle, but nothing further happened, so he concluded the raider must have gotten away unnoticed in the dark.

Their cell had now become a bit crowded, because a Dutch and a Finnish captain were sharing the room with them (probably from Oostplein and Killoran). The Finnish captain told them he had had a terrible night when boarding the raider. He had been taken down into a dark room in the bottom of the ship, with chains all around and people moaning.

On one occasion they remained below deck for 3 days. A German tanker supplied the raider with bunkers (Rekum?), and when they later came back on deck the raider had been painted grey and equipped with the Spanish flag (Widder was disguised as the Spanish Neptuno at some point, but I'm not sure the captain's chronology is correct here - I believe Widder was supplied by Rekum much earlier). When they had been on board for 89 days, a German tanker again supplied the ship with bunkers. Captain Svendsen lists 13 ships as sunk during the time they had been on board (this number is incorrect); he gives dates but not their names, except the Dutch Oostplein.

It was now decided that the prisoners from occupied and neutral countries were to be transferred to the tanker and go to France (was this Eurofeld? Or Rekum?), whereupon 65 prisoners were moved. An Englishman and a Yugoslavian, who had his leg in a cast from having been hit by shrapnel during the attack on his ship also came with them, as did a 15 year old and a 16 year old British boy and Widder's steward. The next morning the captain was surprised to find that the tanker they were on was a ship they had been with at Teneriffe in Oct.-1939. On board was also Lieutenant Scharnberg, who did not have his uniform on. He was under arrest and was to be sent home to Germany, but they never found out what he had done. The Germans only told them that he had received a 3 year prison sentence and that it was the raider's commander who had decided this.

The captain says conditions were really bad on the tanker and describes the food as "pigs' food". They were strictly guarded; Captain Svendsen thinks the Germans were afraid they were planning a mutiny. On approaching the French coast, they were told to fend for themselves in case of an attack by British warships. The prisoners hoped this would happen so that they might have a chance of escape, but no warship was met, and late in October they arrived St. Nazaire (note that Widder also returned to France in Oct.-1940). With the help of some of the able seamen on board, the captain managed to establish contact with someone on shore so that he could get hold of some fruit and cigarettes, and these precious goods were divided between the 65 prisoners. After a couple of days the prisoners were taken to a camp outside of town, but Krossfonn's captain and chief engineer were kept on board for quite a while, until they too were sent for. Assuming they were going to a camp as well, they gathered up all their belongings, but instead, they were transported to Gestapo's headquarters, where they were met by the chief himself as well as the German "commander" in St. Nazaire. Though the atmosphere was very "friendly" at first, the tone soon changed, when the captain was presented with a caricature of Hitler that he had allegedly made, depicting him as a wild animal, with the captain's own handwriting saying he was a devil. This had been found in his cabin, along with a picture of himself and a card to the shipping agent - they were all very well made. The captain denied any knowledge of these items. They now asked for a sample of his handwriting, which was to be sent to Berlin for investigation. During the converstaion the chief of the Gestapo mentioned that he had commanded the ship that had captured the American City of Flint (in other words, Deutschland), an incident that had caused a lot of difficulties in Norway at the beginning of the war (see this Wikipedia article - external link).

They were subsequently taken back to the tanker, and long dreary days now followed. One day, the only officer left on board was the chief engineer of the ship. He invited the captain to his cabin for coffee, which was a rare commodity so he accepted. The old cook brought coffee as well as good bread, and cigars were handed out. It soon became clear that the engineer was anti-nazi. He had previously served as chief engineer on one of the large German passenger ships to New York. During the previous war he was in the U.S., and when that country entered the war he had been interned. He was very fond of the Americans.

One day, the tanker was ready to depart, and they were taken by truck to an unnamed prison camp which had several thousand prisoners. The conditions were quite bad, and they remained there for 2 weeks before being transported by bus to a camp further inland, near Montreuil-Bellay. Among the prisoners in this camp were 90 Spanish men, women and children who had escaped to France during the Spanish Civil War and who had eventually managed to find work there, but were arrested when the Germans invaded the country. The women were allowed to leave the camp in order to purchase milk and other supplies they needed, if they had money. Captain Svendsen gave 20 fr. to the husband of a woman who had just given birth to a little girl, and since the food was really bad, and the rations very small, he wrote a letter to Krossfonn's charterers in Paris (Pechelbronn) and asked if they could help him with money. The managing director, Jarnach, immediately left Paris by train to the nearest railway station, covering the last 30 km's to the camp by bicycle, and needless to say, the captain was very happy to see him (before this, the charterers had not known what had happened to Krossfonn's captain and chief engineer). When the guard wasn't looking, 1000 fr. changed hands. From Paris, another 2000 fr. was recived later on, and though the Germans kept most of it, while the captain and chief engineer were allowed to keep 200 each, this extra money helped them with the food situation and also benefited the other prisoners.

The days slowly went by - the sanitary conditions were also really bad, and lice and mice were a big problem, as was dysentery. Finally, on Dec. 18, Jarnach arrived to tell them they would be freed the following day. In his joy, the captain gave away all his French money, and also visited the Spanish family with the newborn little girl to give them some extra francs. The next day they were fetched by car and taken to Montreuil-Bellay, continuing to Paris the following day, remaining there until Febr. 7-1941, when they started on their voyage home to Norway, arriving about a week later. Captain Svendsen stayed in Norway for the rest of the war, running a little farm, but in Dec.-1945 he became captain of the tanker Storfonn, and on one of his voyages with this ship, he had opportunity to revisit the camp at Montreuil-Bellay. This time, it was inhabited by Germans and French collaborators. In Oct.-1947, he joined M/T Solfonn, then left the sea for good in the spring of 1949.

 Krossfonn, meanwhile... 

had arrived L'Orient on July 7. Several other captured ships were in port, among them 2 Danish and a Dutch vessel. Krossfonn's crew remained on board and endured powerful bombing attacks on the city. On July 11 they delivered 8 barrels of diesel oil to a tug, and on Aug. 30, 13 tons "boiler oil" were delivered to a barge. In the afternoon of Sept. 3 she departed for St. Nazaire (where she was later to be converted to supply ship for German U-boats), arriving the following day.

36 Norwegians started on their journey home to Norway by train on Sept. 8 (another source says the ship departed for St. Nazaire on Oct. 3 and crew sent home on Oct. 8), stopping in Hamburg on the 12th where they stayed until the 21st, being bombed day and night while there. The journey then continued to Sassnitz, from there by ferry to Trelleborg, then on to Gothenburg before continuing to Oslo. One of her crew members, Cook August Bergmark had not been allowed to leave with the others, having been arrested for 7 days. On Sept. 23 the other 36 were paid off in Stavanger. At that time the fate of the captain and chief engineer was unknown.

The hearings were held in Stavanger on Dec. 17-1940, with the 1st mate, the 2nd mate, the 3rd mate, the 2nd engineer, the 3rd engineer, the carpenter, Able Seaman Bjelland (helmsman at the time of capture), and Able Seaman Fredriksen being questioned.

Krossfonn had been put into service under the German flag with the name Spichern. According to "German Raiders of WW II" by August Karl Muggenthaler, the Norwegian whale catchers captured by the German raider Pinguin in Jan.-1941 were supplied from Spichern, which was then released to go along to France, arriving by March 20. See text under Ole Wegger on my page Norwegian Victims of Pinguin.

Picture of Krossfonn/Spichern - This was sent to me by a visitor to my website, who adds the following:
She was used by the German navy to supply the Bismarck and the Prinz Eugen on their ill fated mission; this picture shows the Prinz Eugen meeting the Spichern. A couple of hundred miles to the north the Bismarck was fighting for her life. However, according to a message in my Guestbook, the picture shows a steamship and not a tanker - can anyone identify this ship?

Spichern/Krossfonn was bombed and badly damaged by allied aircraft at Brest on Aug. 9-1944 and was scuttled as blockship on Aug. 31.

 POST WAR: 

Raised in two parts in 1947, towed to Kieler Howaldtswerke A/G, Kiel and repaired. Entered service in May-1949 as Ringfjell for Ringdals Rederi A/S (Olav Ringdal), Oslo, 9640 gt. Converted to bulk carrier in Rouen in 1955, 9789 gt. Sold in 1961 to Sameiet Ringsaker (Elisabeth Bruun & Co.), Tønsberg, renamed Ringsaker. Sold to German breakers in Febr.-1964.


Crew List - No Casualties:

36 were repatriated to Norway.
P = Prisoner

Captain
Simon Svendsen
P
1st Mate
Henry Ramstad
2nd Mate
Fritz Karl Otto
3rd Mate
Hans Hetland
Radio Operator
Ole Hauge
Carpenter
Rangvald Sandvik
Boatswain
Eilif Vasabakk
Able Seaman
Alf Fredriksen
Able Seaman
Nils Bjelland
Able Seaman
Bjarne Naley
Able Seaman
Gustav Svendsen
Ordinary Seaman
Tore Viste
Ordinary Seaman
Georg Olsen
Ordinary Seaman
Nils Olsen
Ordinary Seaman
Lauritz Førland
Ordinary Seaman
Edvard Berge
Deck Boy
Arne Sørvik
Deck Boy
Luis Helberg
1st Engineer
Karl Tjensvold
P
2nd Engineer
Nils Husbø
3rd Engineer
Gerhard Gottschalksen
4th Engineer
Gustav Thomsen
Electrician
Arne Larsen
Donkeyman
Anton Andreassen
Mechanic
Jord Gundersen
Mechanic
Alf Edvardsen
Pump Man
Karl Olsen
Stoker
Eian Skjeveland
Stoker
Thorleif Husebø
Oiler
Ottar Brimsø
Engine Boy
Normann Pedersen
Engine Boy
Andreas Thuestad
Engine Boy
John Matre
Steward
Edvard Øverland
Cook
August Bergmark
Galley Boy
John Nilsen
Mess Boy
Sandar Amdal
Mess Boy
Roald Kverneland
Mess Boy
Magne Ødegaard

Back to M/T Krossfonn on K-list
Back to page about Krossfonn

M/T Beaulieu

Owner: Skibs A/S Beaulieu.
Manager: Biørn Biørnstad & Co., Oslo
Tonnage: 6114 gt, 9431 tdwt.
Call Sign: LDOQ

Captain: Olaf L. Øien.

This original document from the National Archives of Norway has information on some of her war voyages.

Beaulieu departed Ponta Delgada in ballast in the evening of July 30-1940 for Aruba, but on the night leading up to Aug. 4 a telegram was received from Standard Oil Co. (charterers?) instructing her to go to Caripito, Venezuela and load a cargo there for Aruba, instead of going directly to Aruba, so the following day course was altered accordingly.

In the evening of Aug. 4, in position 26 30N 48 00W, she was shelled without warning by Widder, which had shadowed her all day. The Norwegian ship had no armament at this time, she was due to get that on her next trip to the U.S.A. Ruckteschell stood up to his reputation in this attack, and continued shelling until Beaulieu was practically shot to pieces, and the captain, the 1st mate, the cook and a Swedish seaman were killed. The survivors in the 2 lifeboats later saw several lights moving around on their ship, and 2 hours later she blew up from explosives placed on board by the Germans.

 Summaries of Misc. Reports re. the Attack: 

In 1973 a book written by 3rd Mate Peder Kr. Nilsen (see Ravnefjell) was published, entitled "Ravnefjell". The first chapter is devoted to Beaulieu, and the next 2 paragraphs are a summary of what can be found in this book.

When Widder attacked, Nilsen was on duty on the bridge. The captain received 2 bullets in his chest, having descended on the port side from the bridge and had just reached the boatdeck. The lifeboat amidships was destroyed, the ladder going down from the boatdeck was shot to pieces. 1st Mate Harald Reiersen, 3rd Mate Nilsen and 3rd Engineer Ingvald Stamnes managed to get the captain to the passageway outside his own cabin with the intent of reaching the aft lifeboats, but he died before they could get there. Stamnes was able to continue aft while Reiersen ran to his cabin on the starboard side, never to be seen again. Nilsen himself crawled down the hallway on the port side where he found the 19 year old Swedish lookout A. Pettersen with both his legs gone (according to the Chief Engineer's & the 2nd Mate's Report the Swedish seaman, who had been on lookout duty on the forecastle head, was found amidships with a bullet in his chest and his left foot shot off at the ancle), though he was still alive and asking for water. All the water tanks were destroyed so Nilsen went to the steward's cabin to see if he could find some water for the injured Swede, but everything was shot to pieces there too. All the while the shells kept coming, sending metal and wood flying, and by that time the ship was burning fiercly. When Nilsen got back to where the Swede had been he couldn't find him among all the debris. When trying to escape the fire himself Nilsen fell through a large crack in the deck but managed to hold on to the edge and haul himself to safety, though his thigh had been ripped to the bone by a sharp edge of steel.

Widder, which had gone around to the starboard side, continued firing. 2nd Mate Aabornes and an able seaman lowered a lifeboat full of people on the port side aft while the bullets were flying around them. The afterdeck was ablaze, the ship sinking more and more, but through all this Nilsen, with renewed hope at the sight of the lifeboat somehow managed to crawl along the edge of the afterdeck, which by that time was level with the water, and into the boat. Aabornes and the able seaman remained on board as the boat was pushed away. At that very moment the boat was bathed in light from the raider while the bullets kept flying around their ears, and most of them had to throw themselves overboard. As soon as the light was turned off they helped each other into the boat again, then rowed for life away from the ship. When they stopped for a brief rest they heard someone splashing in the water, then saw the steward swimming towards the boat and they pulled him on board. Later, they also encountered Aabornes and the able seaman who had been able to get the starboard boat on the water. Nilsen sent 2 men over to them to help them bail the boat and keep it straight. 28 had been saved, 4 were missing.

Survivors
2nd Mate
Harald Aabornes
3rd Mate
Peder Nilsen
Carpenter
Olaf Roerstad
Boatswain
Leif Johansen
Able Seaman
Edmund Thomassen
Able Seaman
Nils Knudsen
Able Seaman
Erik Thye
(Danish)
Ordinary Seaman
Roy Simensen
Ordinary Seaman
Johannes Fabricius
(Danish)
Ordinary Seaman
Werner Petersen
(Danish)
Ordinary Seaman
Helmer Spang
Ordinary Seaman
Luis Rolfsen
1st Engineer
Reidar Schrøen
2nd Engineer
Arne Olsen
3rd Engineer
Ingvald Stamnes
Assistant
Elmar Roots
(Estonian)
Electrician
Haakon Ulla
Donkeyman
Alf Roesand
Mechanic
Alfred Gjerstad
Mechanic
Oskar Peterson
(Swedish)
Pump Man
Karl Andresen
Oiler
Sverdrup Sandberg
Oiler
Antone Matilons
(Latvian)
Oiler
Teofile Jusups
(Latvian)
Oiler
Nasaendas MacDonald
(Canadian)
Steward
Lyder Oshaug
2nd Cook
Manuel de Costa
(U.S.A.)
Mess Boy
William James
(U.S.A.)
Ingvald Stamnes later joined Teneriffa
He died at the beginning of 2006
Casualties:

Captain
Olaf Ludwig Øien

1st Mate
Harald Reiersen

Ordinary Seaman
Aake Petterson
(Swedish)

Cook
Thoralf Jensen

3rd Mate P. Nilsen's Statements at the Maritime Hearings - Gibraltar Aug. 26-1940:
Some of the details in this report differ slightly from what can be found in his above mentioned book. When the blacked out vessel was seen on Beaulieu's port bow about 21:00 that evening, he lit her navigation lights thinking it was an ordinary merchant ship, and ordered "hard starboard" to the helmsman to avoid a collision, as her course was crossing theirs (he says she was about three points on their port bow and about 300 yards away). At that moment Widder put her lights on her and started firing with machine guns as well as heavier guns, immediately blasting the radio room to pieces with tracer bullets. After a few seconds the captain came on the bridge, then ordered the engines stopped, whereupon the captain went down again. The bullets were "falling like rain" so the 3rd mate and the helmsman went to the wheelhouse and laid down on the deck. They subsequently went to the chart room behind the wheelhouse, where they found the wireless destroyed by bullets. They remained there until there was a break in the firing, then went out on the bridge in order to go below. The 1st mate told them that the captain had been shot and was lying on the boatdeck, adding that the Swedish lookout had also been shot. 3rd Mate Nilsen followed the 1st mate to the boatdeck and found the captain with bullet wounds in his legs and body. He tried to help him to his feet, but he fell down again, and did not speak.

He then proceeded to the port lifeboat aft, finding it ready to launch and most of the crew already on the boatdeck, so he went back amidships to ask the 1st mate if they should lower the boats or not, but was told to wait until they could get someone to help the 2 who had been shot. The ship was still moving at this time, though the engines had been stopped. With the help of the 3rd engineer the captain was carried to his cabin. (The Swedish seaman had been taken to the saloon at this time). Nilsen and the 1st mate examined the captain, his eyes cleared for a moment and he said one last word: "lifeboats", before losing consciousness. This was the last time he saw the captain and the 1st mate. He then went to the saloon where the Swedish seaman was in a very bad state and unconscious, with the steward and the cook next to him, the cook praying to God. When the raider started to fire again, Nilsen went to his own cabin close by. The firing got very heavy, the lights went out, midships was filled with the fumes of exploding shells. He stayed in his cabin until the firing stopped about 5 minutes later. The entire deck on the port side near the accommodations was opened up, the saloon and the pantry were the same way.

Hearing the port boat being launched he went aft and joined the others in the boat. The raider turned on its search lights and more bullets were heard. Some men came into the boat after it had been launched, and they also picked up the steward who was swimming around. They let go the tackle and started to row away, but seeing some men still on the ship, they stopped rowing and lay to about 100 yards from the ship, then saw the starboard boat fall into the water. As the crew was very anxious to get away, having seen what was thought to be bullets falling between the boat and the stern of the ship, they rowed around for about 5 minutes, then the 2nd mate and an able seaman came up in the starboard boat, and they sent some men over to help them bail it, then rowed away with 14 men in each boat. Having rowed about 1 1/2 miles they stopped rowing in order to try to decide what to do next, as they thought there were people still left on board, and were of the opinion that they should not go too far away, so that they could reboard at daylight to look for the missing men. However, after about 2 hours they saw a heavy explosion, followed by 2 smaller ones, and realized their ship was gone.

The 2nd Mate's Statements at the Maritime Hearings:
2nd Mate Aabornes, whose cabin was on the port side amidships was asleep in his cabin when the attack started. He was awakened by a bullet coming through the porthole, which was half open, smashing the glass. Then a shell came through the bulkhead a few inches above him, continuing through the opposite bulkhead into the saloon. As he got up he heard a cry, and when entering the alley he saw the Swedish ordinary seaman lying at the entrance, half in and half out, with his left foot torn off and a bullet through his left side in the region of his heart. He asked for water, and Aabornes pulled him into the alleyway, then later the steward and another survivor took him into the saloon and placed him on the floor. He was later told that he looked at them and died almost immediately.

The 1st mate asked him to find some medical supplies for those who had been injured, and also told him that the captain was killed outside his cabin door, and assisted by the 3rd engineer he had been placed in his cabin on the bridge deck. The 2nd mate then went to the after deck near the storm bridge on the port side and up to the boatdeck. The crew started to lower the starboard boat, but the 1st mate told them not to do so until further orders from him, so the starboard boat was hoisted again, while the firing continued (it appears the 2nd mate was the last person to speak to the 1st mate, on the starboard bridge deck when he had asked him to get the first aid articles). When the 2nd mate went to the starboard boat he saw the after tackle was shot away, so he ordered the port boat to be launched. Some got in before it was lowered, some went down a rope ladder, while others jumped overboard and swam to the boat, 26 in all were eventually in the boat.

At this time he noticed that another seaman had remained on board (Able Seaman Thye.?), and with his help the starboard boat was launched by the fore tackle only, hanging in a vertical position straight up and down, until they lowered the fore end down and the boat was in the water on an even keel but full of water. They both got into it with the helpf of the fore tackle, then cut it adrift and bailed it. This boat had a motor, the rudder had been lost but everything else seemed in order. They then rowed towards the other boat which was about half a mile away, and learnt that in addition to the captain and the Swedish lookout, the 1st mate and the cook were also missing, the latter having last been seen in the saloon by the steward and the 3rd mate. 12 men from that boat transferred to the motorboat, before both boats rowed away. After having rowed about a mile they stopped, having seen a light alongside their ship. Shortly afterwards they heard a heavy explosion, then 2 shells were fired from the raider, after which there were two smaller explosions, then a flame shot up and they observed their ship burning for a long time.

Chief Engineer Reidar Schrøen's Statements at the Maritime Hearings:
The chief engineer was in the provisions store when he heard machine gun fire (the cook and steward were also there at that time, taking stores out for the next day). He went on deck, starboard side and down to the engine room where the Estonian Assistant Elmar Roots and an oiler were on duty. Shortly afterwards he received the order from the bridge to stop the engines, then all 3 went up on deck. The chief engineer later went back to engine room and started the cooling water for cylinders and pistons, before going to his cabin to pick up some items, having stopped by the saloon and the captain's cabin where he saw the injured men. He proceeded to the port side and up to the boatdeck where he found the port boat already on the water, while the starboard boat, where he belonged, was still on the boatdeck. Upon being told by the 2nd mate that the tackle was shot away he lowered himself into the other boat with the help of the rope ladder. According to this report, as they were about 20 yards astern of Beaulieu something passed between the lifeboat and the stern of the ship which might have been a torpedo. It seemed to go past the ship, then turned around twice, but never hit the ship. The chief engineer later transferred to the starboard boat. The rest of his statements correspond on the whole to those of the others, as do the stewards statements. The latter says that he was asked by the 2nd mate to look after the injured Swedish seaman. A sailor helped him carry him to the saloon, before the steward fetched some water to clean him, as well as a bottle of wine from which he gave him a drink. The cook also came to the saloon, and they both prayed for him, but when a big explosion occurred, apparently in the 1st mate's adjoining cabin, the steward went out on deck. He never saw the cook after that. He noticed that the port boat was in the process of being launched, but thinking he wouldn't have time to get into it he jumped overboard. As mentioned, he was later picked up by the boat.

The survivors distributed themselves in the 2 boats, with 14 in each, the the 2nd mate in charge of the starboard boat, the 3rd mate of the other, then rowed all night in a west/southwesterly course, setting sail the following day. They were 1300 n. miles from Barbados and had about 100 liters of water, which amounted to 2 mouthfulls each per day, as they estimated it would take them 12-15 days to reach land, if they were lucky. The motor in the starboard boat was giving them trouble, because the gasoline had been stored for a long time in a galvanized iron drum, so it was used only occasionally until it stopped working altogether on Aug. 8, at which time the chief engineer and 3rd engineer removed the propeller and tailshaft, which made it sail faster. During the night they were tied together, but sailed independently during the day, the port boat proceeding at a faster pace than the motorboat. Flashes were sent up now and again, in case there should be a ship nearby.

A young American messboy eventually had to be tied down in the boat after having stepped into the water twice, he only wanted to "cross the street for some beer". This is a phenomenon I've seen described again and again in my readings about survivors in lifeboats; someone steps overboard to run to a hotel he sees just up the street, another wants to go hail a taxi etc.

According to a note from 3rd Mate Nilsen to Nortraship, someone had grabbed the ship's dog as they went in the lifeboats. After a few days of sharing the water rations with this beloved pet, Nilsen suggested they kill him to save on water, and all of them agreed that this would probably be the sensible thing to do. But when the time came for the handing out of the next water ration, each and every one put a few drops out of his precious share of the water on the edge of the boat so that the dog could lick it up. Nilsen says "to be honest, I was quite ashamed of myself".

The 3rd mate says they kept a log the oldfashioned way by throwing a sliver of wood in the water and taking note of the time it took it to drift past the boat. After 5 days and approx. 300 n. miles according to their primitive log, they (and the dog) were rescued in the morning of Aug. 9 by the British tanker Cymbeline, and landed at Gibraltar on Aug. 22, after having been well taken care of by the British. The Norwegian Consulate placed them all at the Seamen's Home there that night, but the officers were moved to a hotel the next day. Having lost all their belongings they were also fitted out with new clothes.

The maritime hearings were held in Gibraltar on Aug. 26-1940 with 2nd Mate Aaborness, 3r Mate Nilsen, Chief Engineer Schrøen and Steward Oshaug appearing. On Aug. 31 the American mess boy was admitted to a hospital, his mental state was not good. He remained there until Sept. 4, at which time they all got passage to Glasgow on the Royal Scotsman. En route the American mess boy got worse and had to be watched continuously, he was examined several times by the ship's doctor. On arrival Glasgow on Sept. 18 he was admitted to a hospital again.

Cymbeline, built 1927, 6317 gt was herself sunk by Widder when on a voyage from Gibraltar to Curaçao on Sept. 2 that year, position 28N 35W. 7 men died, 26 became prisoners and 3, Captain J. A. Chadwick, his 1st mate and 3rd engineer, were picked up 14 days later by the tanker Yolanda and taken to Venezuela.

NOTE: According to an article in the Norwegian magazine "Krigsseileren", Issue No. 4 for 1984, 3rd Engineer I. Stamnes later joined Teneriffa, and was on board when that ship was bombed and sunk on Febr. 26-1941. He spent 2 1/2 hours in the water before he was picked up by a British coastal vessel and taken to Cardiff.

Related external link:
The Norwegian casualties/Beaulieu - The 3 Norwegians are commemorated at this memorial for seamen in Stavern, Norway.

Back to M/T Beaulieu on B-list

The text on this page was compiled with the help of information found in "Skip og men", Birger Dannevig, "Nortraships flåte", J. R. Hegland, "Sjøfolk i krig", Leif M. Bjørkelund, "Handelsflåten i Krig" (The Merchant Fleet at War), Book 4, Guri Hjeltnes, "German Raiders of World War II", August Karl Muggenthaler, and "Sjøforklaringer fra 2. verdenskrig", Norwegian Maritime Museum, Volume I & II, (all listed in My sources).


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