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M/S Balzac
Updated March 16-2011

To Balzac on the "Ships starting with B" page.

Survivors and Casualties

Source: Sverre Johansen's postcard collection. (Can anyone confirm this is the Balzac built in 1921?)

Manager: Fred. Olsen & Co., Oslo
963 gt, 498 net 1450 tdwt.
Signal Letters: LCED.

Built by Odense Staalskibsværft, Odense in 1921 for A/S Ganger Rolf (Fred. Olsen), Oslo. 65.53m x 0.54m x 3.88 m, single steel propeller powered by a 6 cyl. oil/diesel engine 4 SCSA, developing 225 hp. Aft machinery built by Burmeister & Wain, Copenhagen. One deck, a 42 m poop-deck and a 9.4 m forecastle.

Captain: Knut Johansen

Her voyages are listed on these original images from the Norwegian National Archives:
Page 1 | Page 2

Please compare the above voyages with Arnold Hague's Voyage Record below.

  Voyage Record
From Apr.-1940 to July-1940:  

(Received from Don Kindell - His source: The late Arnold Hague's database).

Follow the convoy links provided for more information on each (note that some listings are incomplete). Where the "Convoy" column is left blank, it means that convoy is not known.

Errors may exist, and some voyages may be missing.

Departure From To Arrival Convoy Remarks
1940 Apr. 17 Antwerp Clyde Apr. 24 Independent Compare w/Page 1
May 2 Southend Hull May 4 FN 160 Convoy available at FN convoys
(external link)
May 7 Hull Southend May 9 FS 165 Convoy available at FS convoys
(external link)
May 10 Southend OA 145G Detached May 12.
Convoy available at OA 145
(external link)
May 12 Detached from OA 145G Nantes May 13 Independent
May 19 Nantes Downs May 21 Independent
May 22 Southend Tyne May 24 FN 177 Convoy available at FN convoys
(external link)
June 9 Tyne Southend June 11 FS 191 (Again, see also Page 1).
Convoy available at FS convoys
(external link)
June 11 Southend Spithead June 12 OA 166G Convoy available at OA 166
(external link)
June 15 Spithead Downs June 16 Missing movements, Page 1
June 21 Sunderland Southend June 23 FS 201 Convoy available at FS convoys
(external link)
June 24 Southend Cowes June 25 OA 173G Convoy available at OA 173
(external link)
June 29 Cowes Downs June 30 A. Hague says:
Possibly an early CE convoy.
Available at CE convoys
(external link)
July 1 Downs Tyne July 2 FN 210 Convoy available at FN convoys
(external link)
July 3 Tyne Sunderland July 3
July 7 Sunderland Downs July 9 FS 216 (See also Page 1).
Convoy available at FS convoys
(external link)
July 10 Southend Cowes July 11 CW 3 Convoy available at CW convoys
(external link)
July 20 Cowes Downs July 21 CE 6 Convoy available at CE convoys
(external link)
July 21 Downs Sunderland July 23 FN 228 Convoy available at FN convoys
(external link)
See also Page 2
July 26 Sunderland Mined whilst at anchor in Roadstead.
See "Final Fate" below


A visitor to my website has told me that Balzac rescued the 4 survivors from a raft from the Swedish Flandria which had been torpedoed by U-9 on Jan. 18-1940. They had been on the raft for about 48 hours when they were picked up - the external website that I've linked to below has more on this attack. (He also says Balzac was 1 mile from Roker pier light, Sunderland when she was mined later that year, giving the date as July 26).

Balzac is said to have run aground in The Minches (as did a British vessel) when in Convoy NS 2 for Narvik on the night leading up to May 6-1940. Note however, that there seems to be some confusion as to the nationality of this ship - she's listed as the British Balzac of 5372 gt in Convoy NS 2 at the external website that I've linked to below. In fact, from Page 1 of the documents received from the National Archives of Norway, we learn that the Norwegian Balzac was in Hull from May 4 to May 7-1940. (Balzac, presumably the British ship, got herself free and was directed to Stornoway where her cargo of anti aircraft materials was transferred to a British vessel which subsequently proceeded to Narvik).

A few days later she (the Norwegian Balzac) shows up in Convoy OA 145, which left Southend on May 10-1940 (for info, this convoy joined up with Convoy OB 145 from Liverpool on May 12, the combined convoy forming the Gibraltar bound Convoy OG 29*, which arrived Gibraltar on May 18). No destination is given for Balzac on this occasion, but going back to Page 1, we learn that she arrived Nantes on May 13; according to A. Hague she had been detached from the OA convoy on May 12.

The following month we find her, together with Madrono and Tautra, in Convoy OA 166, which left Southend on June 11 and joined up with OB 166 on June 13, forming Convoy OG 33*, which arrived Gibraltar on the 19th, but she was not bound for Gibraltar on that occasion either; she later arrived The Downs on June 16. The archive document now gives her voyage information as "Cowes for Sunderland", arrival Sunderland June 19. She's also listed in Convoy OA 173 a few days later; departure Southend June 24, joined up with OB 173 on June 27, the combined convoy forming OG 35*, which arrived Gibraltar on July 1. Again, Balzac was not present when the OB convoy was met; she was on a voyage from Sunderland for Cowes, where she arrived on June 25, having left Sunderland on June 21/22 (Page 1). Direct links to all these OA convoys have been provided within A. Hague's Voyage Record above.

* The OG convoys will be added to individual pages in my Convoys section in due course; in the meantime, the ships sailing in them (and escorts) are named on my page listing ships in all OG convoys. Note, however, that Balzac did not take part in any of them.

More information on the other Norwegian ships mentioned here can be found via the alphabet index at the end of this page, or go to the Master Ship Index.

Related external links:
The attack on Swedish Flandria

Convoy NS 2 - As can be seen, the British Balzac is listed in this convoy, not the Norwegian ship.

 Final Fate - 1940: 

According to Page 2 of the archive documents, Balzac had arrived Sunderland from The Downs on July 24-1940. She's said to have left Sunderland again on July 27 (but this should probably be July 26 - archive doc. gives sinking date as July 26) with 1350 tons of coal for Cowes, Isle of Wight, on her 3rd such voyage. While anchored about 2 1/2 n. miles off Sunderland pier and waiting for a convoy (north of Hendon Rock), an explosion occurred underneath her, a little aft of amidships towards the port side. The ship did have degaussing installed, but it was believed that the (German laid) mine had exploded just as her engine was stopped (this according to the boatswain's statement at the maritime hearings. He also said that he had heard the Norwegian Stalheim was lost in the same manner, by turning her engines off when on top of a mine. Stalheim did not have degaussing installed at the time, however).

Balzac broke in two and sank within minutes, bow first, while listing to port. The survivors, most of whom had jumped overboard, were rescued by a pilot vessel. 8 men, including the 2 British gunners had been on a raft, 3 were picked up from the water by the pilotboat. 1 man went under half way between the raft and the ship, while Ordinary Seaman Høe and the messboy were seen standing on board and were believed to have gone down with the ship. The captain and the British pilot had been in the saloon at the time of the explosion. The steward and Able Seaman Kristoffersen were taken to a hospital and were still there at the time of the hearings, which were held in London on Aug. 13-1940 with Boatswain Einar Johannesen, Deck Boy Thor Grini, and Able Seaman Hans Wold appearing.

Ron Young (see sources at the end of this page) says she lies at a depth of 16-17 m today, and gives the reference 54 54 521N 001 19 320W and 54 54 510N 001 19 621W, 1 mile southeast of Roker lighthouse. She was "discovered" in 1978 and at that time the upside down stern section of the hull stood some 8-9 m off the seabed, with just a short shaft protruding from the rear where the propeller had been (since then, however, the sea has taken its toll on the hull metal). The bronze propeller had been salvaged by two divers using explosives in the 1960's. There also used to be a row of 8 brass portholes, but most of them have also been removed by someone. The bow and middle part of the ship lie about 70 m to the northeast of the stern section.

Crew List:

Einar Johannesen
Able Seaman
Knut Kristoffersen
Able Seaman
Hans Wold
Deck Boy
Thor Grini
Leif Eriksen
Jakob Blickfeldt
Engine Boy
Arne Danielsen
Sigurd Juliussen
Gunnar Dahl Nielsen
A. Baxter
1st London Irish Rifles)
S. Carlisle
1st London Irish Rifles)

Knut Johansen

1st Mate
Leiv Sønderland*

2nd Mate
Sverre Gundersen

Able Seaman
Thor Høe

Able Seaman
Einar Kvalvik

1st Engineer
Kristian Hansen Grorud

2nd Engineer
Hans Ingvald Hansen

Mess Boy
Ove Breno Olsen

George Hall**

* According to this message in my Guestbook, Leiv Sønderland's brother Johan Filip Sønderland was the captain of Bajamar during the war. See also this message.

** This pilot was listed with the name Hall Sunderland. I suspected this was not a name at all, and that Sunderland in the name simply referred to him being a Sunderland pilot. Running a search using the last name Hall at The Commonwealth War Graves website, I learned from this page that his name was George Hall. He's commemorated at Tower Hill, Panel 122.

Related external link:
Stavern Memorial commemorations - There's a Mess Boy Ove Benno commemorated at this memorial in Stavern, as well as Mess Boy Ole Bredo Olsen. Their birthdays are very close together, and they're both from Nittedal, so I'm inclined to believe they are actually one and the same mess boy. The mess boy in my own list above is a combination of the 2 names at the Stavern Memorial. Besides, 8 of the casualties were Norwegian (not 9 as listed at the Stavern Memorial).

Back to Balzac on the "Ships starting with B" page.

Other ships by this name:
Fred. Olsen had previously had a steamship by this name, built 1913, 1720 gt - sunk northeast of Moray Firth by UC 55 on July 12-1917. The company also had a Balzac later on, built in Sweden 1955, sold to New Guinea Line in 1972.

There was also a British steamship by this name, sunk by the Auxiliary cruiser Atlantis on June 22-1941, about 400 miles east of Maceio, Brazil. Most of the crew were taken prisoners, 3 died. Additionally, Italy had a steamer by the name Balzac (the former British Tadorna), bombed and sunk by U.S. aircraft on March 7-1943, 20 miles north/northeast of Zembra Island.

The text on this page was compiled with the help of: "The Comprehensive Guide to Shipwrecks of the North East Coast", Vol. Two, Ron Young (who also gives the date as July 26), "Nortraships flåte", J. R. Hegland, "Sjøforklaringer fra 2. verdenskrig", Volume I (Norwegian Maritime Museum), and misc. others for cross checking info. - ref My sources.


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