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Owner: A/S Besco.
Built by Kockums Mekaniska Verksteds A/B, Malmö, Sweden in 1936.
Captain: Leif Langefoss.
Please compare the above voyages with Arnold Hague's Voyage Record below.
(Received from Don Kindell - His source: The late Arnold Hague's database).
Follow the convoy links provided for more information on each (other Norwegian ships are also listed in them).
Errors may exist, and several voyages are missing.
According to Page 1 of the archive documents, Besholt was on her way from San Francisco to Manila when war broke out in Norway on Apr. 9-1940. Her 1941 voyages and a few 1942 voyages are shown on Page 2. It'll be noticed that she had a long stay in Manila and Batavia in the fall of 1941, with another long stay in Baltimore at the beginning of 1942 and again in New York City that spring as well as in Matadi later on that year. Page 3 shows another long stay in New York in the fall of 1942. Convoy information for a few of her voyages can be found in A. Hague's Voyage Record above.
It looks like she lost a crew member that year. Able Seamen Sigurd Ragnar Hansen is commemorated at the Memorial for Seamen in Stavern, Norway - ref. link at the end of this page. According to "Våre falne", a series of 4 books naming Norwegians who died during the war, he served on several Allied ships until he drowned at Matadi on Nov. 4-1942. Name of ship is not given, but this was likely Besholt - going back to Page 3, we see that she was indeed in Matadi on that date. She left Matadi again for Lobito on Nov. 16, and a few days later she embarked on what was to become her last voyage.
Besholt was torpedoed on December 2-1942 by U-174 (Thilo) while on a voyage alone from Lobito, Portugese West Africa to New York via Trinidad for convoy with a cargo of 8000 tons copper, tin and palmoil, having departed Lobito on Nov. 23 - again, see Page 3. She also had 32 bags of mail from Belgian Congo for New York. The torpedo hit in the engine room on the port side, she broke in 2 and sank very quickly in 03 20N 30 20W.
On board were 35 crew and 7 passengers. The lifeboats on the port side were destroyed; but both starboard boats (Boat No 1 and No. 3) and the aft, heavily damaged motorboat were launched. Gunner Peder Johan Johannessen and 5 others were in the latter, then picked up others from the water, who had jumped overboard from the after part of the ship.
2nd Mate Lars Storaas says he had been able to get to a raft on the foredeck. The captain had joined him but slid down the tilting deck, never to be seen again. Storaas and the raft were pulled under with the suction but he was able to hold on and came to the surface again. He was picked up about 20 minutes later by boat No. 3. According to an extract of a diary written in the lifeboat by the 2nd mate, they rowed around in the area until 23:00 at which time the U-boat came up to them (? Storaas says the ship had been torpedoed at 20:30, so this was 2 1/2 hours after the torpedo had struck and seems like an awfully long time. See * further down on this page), and with the captain gone Storaas, being the oldest surviving officer, was taken on board the boat for questioning - where is the captain, what route were you steering, what was your course, have any ships been encountered en route, were there any ships in the port of departure, were there any ships bound on approximately same route, what destination, what cargo etc. He was then told to quit working for the Americans and British and return to Norway (commander's attitude was agreeable and pleasant), before being allowed to go back to the lifeboat.
Seeing someone blinking with a flash light in the distance they headed in that direction to find the motorboat and 2 of the rafts. The 13 survivors had moved over to the rafts because the motorboat was full of water, so they all remained there overnight. They tried to contact the 3rd lifeboat with the help of flares and flash lights, but did not see it.
Early the following morning an attempt was made to repair and bail the motorboat, then they set sail on the latter as well as on boat No. 3, taking a raft in tow, but after a while they realized this wouldn't work because the motorboat was leaking too much, so the people in it transferred to the raft and let the boat go. Boat No. 3 now had 16 people, while 7 were on the raft. They started rationing, estimating that it might take them up to 40 days to reach land with the raft in tow. They kept towing until Dec. 6 when they decided to move all the people over to the lifeboat to see how it would hold up. They also took the bread and water from the raft. With the 23 in the boat it was a bit crowded, but it appeared to be holding up very well, so they let go of the raft.
The 20 crew and 3 Armed Guard passengers reached land on Dec. 14 after having sailed 800 naut. miles. They were taken aboard the Brazilian Butia, which had stranded at Canaris Bar, and were served coffee, biscuits and cigars, then a tug took them to Parnahiba, Brazil where the British consul assisted them in finding a place to stay, food and clothing. On Dec. 17 they were taken by tug to Tutoya in order to board the Norwegian M/S Estrella which took 22 of them to Para, with arrival in the evening of the 20th (Mechanic Krokåsvåg had remained behind at Parnahiba in a hospital).
Meanwhile, the other lifeboat with 5 people, namely the chief engineer, the 2nd engineer, the carpenter and 2 American passengers had also landed. A report signed by the 3 Norwegians says that they had seen 3 U-boats(?) signalling to each other after they had gotten in the lifeboat (my guess is they had seen the flash lights from the lifeboats). They had also seen the sails of the other 2 lifeboats the morning after the sinking, but then lost sight of them. On Dec. 9 they had seen an aircraft, but were not spotted. The following day an aircraft came very close and signalled to them that they were 15 miles from nearest land, and the next day, on Dec. 11, they landed about 10 miles from Camosim on the coast of Brazil. The 2 passengers were taken care of by American authorities, while the Norwegians left Camosim for Fortaleza on Dec. 15, arriving the same evening, then continued by Army Transport aircraft to Miami with arrival Dec. 18, left again the next evening and arrived New York on Dec. 21.
14 had died including an American female passenger (missionary), the Canadian Radio Operator and all the engine room crew on watch, 28 survived (see crew list below).
"Nortraships flåte", J. R. Hegland mentions the possibility that Besholt may have encountered the blockade runner Rhakotis earlier that day. The gunner, P. J. Johannessen says a large cargo ship with the neutral "Switzerland" painted on her side passed them, and at the same time another vessel was also observed on the horizon, but soon disappeared from view. The official report on the sinking of Besholt also mentions this, saying this mystery vessel had been seen about 5 1/2 hours before Besholt was sunk. The ship had 2 Swiss flags painted on her side, was about 5-7000 tons with one stack, half loaded, painted black and white, derricks up - ordinary general appearance. The report suggests that this may have been the Greek steamer Calanda (Galanda? Hard to decipher) which was under Swiss charter at the time and had left Lisbon on Dec. 21-1942 bound for Lourenco Marques, due to arrive Jan. 22-1943, but at the time this report was written (Jan. 25-1943) she had not yet arrived. The report indicates this ship may have blown off course, and could very well have been the vessel seen by Besholt on Dec. 2, though it also puts forth the possibility that it could have been a raider or a blockade runner disguised as a Swiss ship. (This seems odd, if the Swiss ship had left port on Dec. 21 - dates seem off).
Gunner Johannessen's report also states that an hour before they were torpedoed he heard a strange sound coming from the port side, sounding to him like a submarine submerging. He reported this, and had the phone in his hand when he saw a torpedo coming, but it passed behind them at a 5 meters' distance. Shortly afterwards he saw another torpedo heading their way which also missed the stern, and again he reported the incident but no action was taken. About 10 minutes later the lookout came to the gunner and asked him if he too had seen a black object (which he believed to be a U-boat) going past them; he had reported this to the 1st mate, but was not believed. The gunner asked him to report to the 1st mate again and tell him what he himself had seen and heard, but still the alarm was not sounded until 18:40*, when the torpedo hit. This incident is also mentioned in the official report which operates with GMT and gives the time of the first sighting as 5 in the afternoon, and the time of sinking as 22:32 GMT. The report, which says Besholt was on charter to Barber Line Inc., New York at the time of loss, also has a very interesting, detailed description of the U-boat and of the commander.
The maritime hearings were held in New York on Jan 18-1943 with the 2nd mate, the carpenter, Mechanic Sahlen, and Gunner Johannessen appearing.
2nd mate Storaas had also been on board D/S Torny when she was torpedoed in the Gulf of Mexico in May of that same year. He later joined General Fleischer and is still "going strong" (2002). A book about his experiences under the title "På vakt" came out in 1994 (written by Sjur Tjelmeland). Mechanic Sahlen later lived in Sweden, Mechanic Johannesen and Able Seaman Pedersen later lived in England.
For info, U-174 was sunk with all hands in the spring of 1943 - see the external link at the end of this page for more details.
In March-1997 Besholt was found by the British company Blue Water Recoveries at a depth of 3400 meters. Attempts were made to salvage her cargo but this was later given up.
Related external links:
Back to Besholt on the "Ships starting with B" page.
The text on this page was compiled with the help of: "Nortraships flåte", J. R. Hegland, official sinking report from British archives (received from a website visitor), "Sjøforklaringer fra 2. verdenskrig", Volume I (Norwegian Maritime Museum), various issues of the magazine "Krigsseileren", and misc. others for cross checking info., named within the text above - ref My sources.