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Manager: Fred. Olsen & Co., Oslo
Built by Akers Mekaniske Verksted A/S, Oslo in 1936.
Captain: Nicolai Thorsen
As can be seen when going to Page 1 above, Baghdad was on her way from Bahia to New York when war broke out in Norway on Apr. 9-1940.
Baghdad departed New York on May 22-1942 for Pernambuco, Maceio and Bahia with 2581 tons general cargo and 316 bags of mail. In the evening of May 29, 3rd Mate N. Nilsen saw what he believed to be the wake of a torpedo in front of the bow, and they continued at full speed while zig-zag'ing. A few hours later, May 30 by then, she was torpedoed on the port side aft by U-155 (Piening) east of Martinique (Hocking says about 400 miles west of Barbados). The radio antenna was destroyed so they couldn't send out distress calls, the gun fell over, the aft lifeboat and raft as well as cabins were destroyed and 8 men were killed, several badly injured. The 2 remaining boats were launched, with 1st mate Martin Bråten in charge of the port motorboat, Captain Thorsen commanding the starboard boat.
While they were in the process of lowering the port boat, thinking there were no survivors left in the aft of the ship, they saw one of the gunners, Håkon Hansen, who had sustained injuries to his legs, come crawling towards them. Shortly afterwards the injured Able Seaman Hilmar Økland approached, and both were placed in the lifeboat which was then lowered by the 1st and the 3rd mates. 15 minutes had now passed since the torpedo had hit. Another able seaman, Hans Ludvigsen came running from the back of the ship announcing there was a man trapped in the messroom. The 1st mate managed to get him free (this was Able Seaman Martin Kulberg) and with the help of 3rd Mate Nilsen he was pulled over to the lifeboat. Later, boatswain Charles Lund was found unconscious in the messroom (or what was left of it) and both were lowered into the boat, whereupon the boats set off, one from each side, just before another torpedo hit amidships and the ship sank by the bow within minutes in 14 15N 54 30W.
In the 1st mate's boat Able Seaman Kulberg was found to have broken his leg above the knee, and also had injuries to his other leg. Boatswain Lund, whose injuries were severe died on May 31 without having regained consciousness and was lowered into the sea early that morning. Wanting to save on petrol, they rigged up a sail with the help of 2 oars, though occasionally used the motor in between sailing. In the morning of June 2 they saw a northbound aircraft but they were not seen. Late that afternoon, after having been in the boat for 88 1/2 hours, the 11 men in the motorboat landed on the island of Carriacou. They had met 2 small fishing vessels, and with one of the fishermen as guide they came to the town of Hillsbrough where the injured men were temporarily admitted to the local hospital, while the others were given rooms at a hotel. However, it was thought best that they continued to Grenada as soon as possible where the injured would receive better medical care, so the following day, June 3 they were given more petrol and water as well as a nurse, then continued to St. Georges, Grenada. A telegram had been sent to the governor, so that upon their arrival 5 hours later they were received by local authorities, a doctor and an ambulance. The injured were immediately taken to a hospital while the others were lodged at Hotel Halifax.
After Baghdad had sunk, the captain's boat with 10 men was approached by the U-boat, the usual questions about the ship and her cargo etc. were asked, and a bottle of rum and some bread were handed to them before the U-boat took off, having wished them a good journey. Shortly afterwards they spotted the midships raft nearby and took some supplies from it. They had lost sight of the other lifeboat just before the 2nd torpedo hit, and remained in the area all night in the hopes of seeing it and also in case there were more survivors around, but when nobody could be seen at dawn they set sail. On June 4 land was spotted, then the next day 2 men from a fishing vessel came over to help them row (they were all exhausted from the heat and low water rations by then), while the fishing vessel headed to shore to get help. With the help of these 2 men they were able to land at Grenada that afternoon, June 5, where the locals fed them fresh fruit and water. (According to the captain's report the motorboat, which had landed a couple of days earlier, arrived after a while and towed them to St. Georges). The captain was taken by car to the hospital suffering from exhaustion, while Mechanic Corneliussen was treated for injuries he had received in the explosion.
On June 20 they obtained passage to New Orleans with Robert E. Lee with arrival June 30. Gunner Håkon Hansen and Able Seaman Kulberg were still not well enough to travel, so they stayed behind in hospital.
The maritime hearings were held in New York on July 9-1942 with the captain (in his cabin when the torpedo struck), the 2nd mate (on the bridge), Able Seaman Fagerland (at the helm) and the 3rd engineer (on duty in the engine room) appearing.
Total loss of life, 9 - 21 survived.
* Denotes those who were in the 1st mate's lifeboat, the other survivors were in the captain's boat.
See also a posting to one of my forums re the Swedish Bertil Ahren.
Related external links:
Back to Baghdad on the "Ships starting with B" page.
Fred. Olsen later had another Baghdad, built Oslo 1956, sold in 1975 to Temaris Line, Bremen and renamed Telanca.
The text on this page was compiled with the help of: "Nortraships flåte", J. R. Hegland, "Sjøforklaringer fra 2. verdenskrig", Volume I (Norwegian Maritime Museum), and misc. others for cross checking info. - ref My sources.