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Owner: A/S Dalfonn
Built by Götaverken A/B, Gothenburg in 1931.
Captain: Erling Ellingsen Vorberg
It'll be noticed, when going to Page 2 above, that Barfonn had a long stay in New York in the summer of 1941, and again in Boston that fall, before proceeding to Texas City on Sept. 6, arriving Sept. 15.
Barfonn had left Texas City again in the afternoon of Sept. 17-1941 with 13 454 tons gas oil for Clyde via Sydney, C. B., where she arrived Oct. 1 (Page 2). While there, a 3" gun was installed aft. She left Sydney, C.B. on Oct. 5, joining Convoy SC 48 (station 53) which was attacked from Oct. 15 and onwards. Please follow the link for more info - the Commodore's notes (and names of escorts) and these reports are also available. See also the various external links at the end of this page for more details on this battle.
SC 48 consisted of 52 ships of various allied and neutral nationalities, initially escorted by 4 Canadian corvettes and the Canadian destroyer Columbia, but the escort was later reinforced by the French corvette Mimosa, and by the 16th the group had been increased to 12 vessels, among them 4 American destroyers from Reykjavik. Also, 2 British destroyers were nearby, but were delayed by the bad weather. Captain Thebaud on USS Plunket took command of the escort group and stationed them around the convoy according to rules, that is, only 1000-1500 yards away from it. This short distance between convoy and escorts was an unfortunate arrangement which gave the U-boats great advantages, enabling them to approach their victims close enough to take accurate aim, with their torpedoes having a short distance to travel, while at the same time being able to stay outside the circle of escort vessels and their detection instruments.
Barfonn was hit in the engine room, starboard side, by a torpedo from U-432 (Schultze) on Oct. 17, position 57 00N 24 30W*, resulting in a tremendous explosion, causing her to start sinking by the stern, so 3 lifeboats were launched. The captain and 23 other survivors abandoned ship, but remained close by. 1st Mate Gustav Aagenes had helped some men into the amidships, starboard motorboat, but since only part of the ship was under water at that time it was decided that he and 5 others should remain on board for a while.
An hour later a second torpedo hit amidships, port side, and afterwards some of those who had been waiting there were not to be seen (Radio Operator Morris, Cook Martinsen, Able Seaman Berntsen and Able Seaman King). The 1st mate and 1st Engineer Arnt Foyn now managed to abandon ship with the raft, and were picked up by the Canadian corvette Baddeck K-147 (A. Easton) 2-3 hours later and taken to Reykjavik. The other 24 were rescued by the corvette Wetaskiwin K-175 (G. Windeyer RCNT) about half an hour after the 2nd torpedo had struck, and they were also taken to Reykjavik, with arrival Oct. 24. When the latter were picked up, only the forecastle remained above water.
On Oct. 18 the U-boats finally ended their attacks after having sunk 9 merchant ships and 2 escort vessels (HMS Broadwater and HMS Gladiolus) and damaged an American destroyer (USS Kearny), with no loss to themselves. Other merchant ships lost, in addition to the Norwegian D/S Erviken, D/S Ila and D/S Rym (follow the links for details) were the Panamanian Bold Venture, the Greek Evros, the British Empire Heron, Silvercedar and W. C. Teagle. Again, see Convoy SC 48 and the external links provided at the end of this page.
The maritime hearings were held in Reykjavik on Oct. 25-1941 with the captain (who had been on the bridge when the torpedo hit), the 1st mate (on the bridge, though not on duty), and the 3rd mate (also on the bridge) appearing.
While the survivors were on board Baddeck, great interest was shown in the survival suit worn by one of the rescued Norwegians. I believe Norway was the only nation to issue these suits to her seamen. It resembled rubber coveralls attached to a pair of rubber boots, with elastic around the neck and a yellow hood which left only the face showing. Worn with a lifevest this suit saved many a Norwegian seaman, as it kept them fairly warm and dry, as well as floating vertically in the water, due to the fact that the boots had lead in the bottom of them. It was, of course rather awkward to work in; the simple lifevest was preferred for that, but in the most dangerous areas the sailors would have the suit "standing" ready nearby, with the suit itself folded over the boots, so that they could quickly and easily step into them and pull the suit up and over their body. It was called the Vaco suit, and was designed by Carl Dybberg (1888-1957) from Bergen in 1939, inspired by the sinking of the Titanic in 1912. Most of the passengers had not drowned, but frozen to death, and Dybberg felt it ought to be possible to come up with a waterproof suit that would prevent such a fate. About 30 000 suits were eventually made and became obligatory equipment on all of Nortraship's ships. The last external website that I've linked to below has pictures of the suit.
Related external links:
HMS Broadwater - A thoroughly researched website about the history and fate of this ship, one of the escorts of the convoy. Unfortunately, the site can no longer be reached as linked, but I'm leaving it up for now, in case I can find it again because it had so much information. The link used to go directly to the first page of the section describing the battle of SC 48. The subsequent pages went on to list the ships lost, their destination and cargoes, as well as the names of all the escort vessels and the attacking U-boats. It also had a description of the events surrounding the loss of the ship (2 survivors from Erviken had been rescued by Broadwater and were lost when she was torpedoed, though the Norwegian ship was referred to as Ericson). The website included a report on the rescue of survivors, along with several other interesting reports, and a list of names of those who died.
U.S.S. Kearny - Interesting account of the attack on the Kearny, torpedoed by U-568 when on escort duties in Convoy SC 48, Oct. 17-1941.
Details on SC 48 and its escorts can also be found towards the end of
Back to Barfonn on the "Ships starting with B" page.
Sigvald Bergesen had previously had a ship named Barfond (spelt with a d) - see the history for D/S Bravo.
The text on this page was compiled with the help of: "Nortraships flåte", J. R. Hegland, "Sjøforklaringer fra 2. verdenskrig", Norwegian Maritime Museum, Volume I, and misc. others for cross checking info. Details on the Vaco suit are from "Handelsflåten i krig", book 3, "Sjømann - Lang vakt", Guri Hjeltnes - 1995 - ref My sources.