Site Map | Search |Merchant Fleet Main Page | Home 

M/S Besholt
Updated Jan. 21-2013

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

Survivors & Casualties List

Source: Sverre Johansen's postcard collection.

Owner: A/S Besco.
Manager: S. Holter-Sørensen, Oslo
4977 gt, 2959 net, 9000 tdwt.
Call Signs: BNTF / LJGL.

Built by Kockums Mekaniska Verksteds A/B, Malmö, Sweden in 1936.

Captain: Leif Langefoss.

Her voyages are listed on these original images from the Norwegian National Archives:
Page 1 | Page 2 | Page 3

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

Voyage Record
From Dec.-1941 to Dec.-1942:

(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.

Departure From To Arrival Convoy Remarks
1941 Dec. 15 Los Angeles Balboa Dec. 25 Independent A. Hague says:
Principally Pacific trade previously.
Earlier voyages:
Page 1 & Page 2
Dec. 26 Cristobal New York City Jan. 2-1942 Independent
1942 Jan. 9 New York City Philadelphia Jan. 10 Independent
Jan. 10 Philadelphia Baltimore Jan. 12 Independent
Febr. 14 Baltimore New York City Febr. 16 Independent
Febr. 26 New York City Matadi March 20 Independent
Apr. 6 Matadi Lobito Apr. 8 Independent
Apr. 10 Lobito New York City May 1 Independent
May 28 New York City Matadi June 20 Independent
July 10 Matadi Lobito July 12 Independent
July 17 Lobito Freetown July 24 Independent
Aug. 1 Freetown Trinidad Aug. 13 Independent
Aug. 16 Trinidad Key West Aug. 25 TAW 14 Convoy available at TAW 14
(external link)
Aug. 26 Key West New York City Aug. 31 KN 134 Convoy available at KN 134
(external link)
Sept. 24 New York City Gitmo Oct. 1 NG 308 For Trinidad.
Convoy available at NG 308
(external link)
Oct. 1 Gitmo Trinidad Oct. 7 GAT 10 Convoy available at GAT 10
(external link)
Oct. 10 Trinidad Freetown Oct. 22 Independent (See also TRIN 17
external link)
Oct. 22 Freetown ST 39 Detached Oct. 27.
Convoy available at ST 39
(external link)
Oct. 27 Detached from ST 39 Matadi Nov. 1 Independent
Nov. 16 Matadi Lobito Nov. 18 Independent
Nov. 23 Lobito Independent Sunk - See "Final Fate" below


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.

 Final Fate - 1942: 

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.

* Storaas' diary gives 20:30 (not sure which time zone he's using). I believe this might be a typo, perhaps it should be 22:30, which would make more sense in relation to the U-boat coming over at 23:00 as mentioned in paragraph 3, instead of 2 1/2 hours after the ship had been torpedoed. I say this, because Storaas' diary also says the sighting of the "Swiss" ship took place at 17:00, which agrees with the GMT time given in the official sinking report. (external link) says: At 23.17 hours on 2 Dec, 1942, the Besholt (Master Leif Langefoss) was hit on the port side underneath the funnel by one G7a torpedo from U-174, broke in two and sank within 4 minutes. The U-boat had fired one G7a and one G7e torpedo at 22.05 and 22.07 hours, but they were apparently duds. (Times here are probably German times - Page 3 gives the time as 20:32).

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.

Crew / Passenger List:
Birger Kaalstad had previously survived the attacks on Bra-Kar and South Africa - follow the links for details. His other ships are named on this external page.

2nd Mate
Lars Storaas
Arvid Yttervik
Johan Wilhelmsen
Able Seaman
Knut Knutsen
Able Seaman
Nils A. Finnborg
Able Seaman
Rolf Øhrling
Able Seaman
Oscar Lindkvist
Able Seaman
Finn Samuelsen
Able Seaman
Per Pedersen
Able Seaman
John B. Olsson
1st Engineer
Waldemar Schie
2nd Engineer
Otto H. Hansen
Ragnar Sahlen
Willy Johannessen
Birger Krokåsvåg
Arne Mortensen
Evert Brandin
Friedrich Reiknthal
Agust Blomquist
Galley Boy
Malfred Larsen
Saloon Boy
Reidar Kristiansen
Birger Kaalstad
Peder Johannesen
George McIntyre
Richard Burke
Lloyd J. Miller
Jerry Backer
Johnny Yocoum

Leif Langefoss

1st Mate
Rolf Landmark

3rd Mate
Christopher Hansen

Radio Operator
James R.D. Stone

Able Seaman
Edvard Kivi

Able Seaman
Birger Karlsen

3rd Engineer
Per Dalsøren

Sven Lehtonen

Nils Johansen

Harald Røed

Hilding Kjellberg

Henrik Disch

Ben Abeson

Marion Nelson

* The radio operator is commemorated on Panel 20 at the Halifax Memorial, see this external page. I also found him in the Canadian Merchant Marine War Dead Database. The Norwegians are commemorated at the Stavern Memorial for Seamen which I've linked to below.


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:
Stavern Memorial commemorations - The Stavern Memorial for Seamen lists 10 men (the Norwegian text says that 14 Norwegians plus the American female passenger died). In addition to the Norwegians in my own list above, there's also an Able Seamen Sigurd Ragnar Hansen commemorated. According to "Våre falne", a series of 4 books naming Norwegian WW II casualties, 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.


Operations information for U-174

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.


 Site Map | Search |Merchant Fleet Main Page | Home