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Owner: Rederi A/S Bjørkhaug
Built by Meyer & Co.'s Scheepsbouw Maatschappij NV, Zaltbommel, Netherlands in 1919. Previous name: Stad Zaandam until 1938.
Captain: Ole Sandvik
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 (some listings may be incomplete). Where the "Convoy" column is left blank, it means that convoy is not known.
Errors may exist, and some voyages are missing.
A. Hague has included Bjørkhaug in Convoy ON 15 from the U.K. to Norway in Febr.-1940. Towards the end of the following month, she's listed as bound for Rouen with a cargo of pulp in the original Advance Sailing Telegram for Convoy HN 21 from Norway. According to Page 1 of the archive documents, she had started out in Bergen on March 21 (Norway was invaded on Apr. 9) and arrival Rouen is given as Apr. 4. It'll also be noticed that she appears to have spent a long time at Tyne (or Shields) later on.
Together with Akershus, Inger Lise, Ruth I and Varangberg, she's named in A. Hague's listing for Convoy OA 156, which left Southend on May 27-1940 - ref. link provided within the Voyage Record above. As will be seen, when clicking on the second link (based on original documents), she's not mentioned there (nor is Ruth I), so I'm not sure whether she sailed in this convoy or not. Going back to Page 1, we see that she had left Shields on May 25 and arrived Brest May 29/30. In June she's listed as bound for Gaspe Bay in Convoy OB 167, which originated in Liverpool on June 13 and dispersed on the 17th, Bjørkhaug arriving Gaspe independently on July 2 (having sailed from Milford Haven June 14). Garonne, Polarsol, Ruth I, South America and Vav are also listed in this convoy (link in the table above). With a cargo of timber for Grimsby, Bjørkhaug returned to the U.K. later that month in the Halifax-U.K. Convoy HX 57. She arrived Greenock on July 25, having straggled from the convoy on July 13 (according to A. Hague), later arriving Grimsby on Aug. 14. The archive document subsequently shows a long stay in Hull.
We now find her, along with Star, Tordenskjold and Ørnefjell, in Convoy OA 220, which left Methil Sept. 26 and dispersed on the 28th, Bjørkhaug arriving Sydney, C.B. independently on Oct. 10, proceeding to Buctouche the next day, then returned to Sydney, C.B. in order to join the slow Convoy SC 9 from there on Oct. 24, cargo of pit props for Tyne. She arrived Greenock on Nov. 8, later arriving Tyne on the 17th - again, see Page 1.
The external website that I've linked to further down on this page has Bjørkhaug in Convoy OB 256, leaving Liverpool on Dec. 8-1940. No destination is given, but if she was in this convoy, she could not have gone far, because she's also listed (with Høyanger and Varangberg) in Convoy OB 260, originating in Liverpool on Dec. 16. However, she's said to have returned to port (Oban). Page 1 now shows a long stay at Penarth, before proceeding to Cardiff on Jan. 18-1941, then on to Clyde, and at the end of that month she's listed in Convoy OB 280, together with Kaia Knudsen, Ringhorn, Ringstad, Sandar and Vanja. Again, see the links provided within the Voyage Record. This convoy, which had originated in Liverpool on Jan 31 (Bjørkhaug sailed from Clyde that day) was dispersed on Febr. 3, Bjørkhaug arriving Sheet Harbour independently on Febr. 23. Her voyages in this period are shown on Page 2.
She headed back to the U.K. on March 10 with Convoy SC 25 from Halifax, cargo of paper and wet pulp, destination Ridham Dock. In the middle of the following month we find her, with Fernlane, Hjalmar Wessel, Ila, President de Vogue and Solsten, in the U.K.-Gibraltar Convoy OG 59 (originated in Liverpool Apr. 15, arrived Gibraltar Apr. 28 - see ships in all OG convoys). Bjørkhaug, however, was bound for Curacao and detached from the convoy on Apr. 26 in order to proceed to her destination, where she arrived independently on May 11, having started out from Clyde on Apr. 17. After a couple of weeks' stay in Curacao, she proceeded to Sydney, C.B. and on June 10 she's listed, with a cargo of phosphates for Leith, in Convoy SC 34 from there. She arrived Leith (via Loch Ewe) on June 30. In July, she joined Convoy OB 347 in order to head back to Sydney, C.B., with arrival Aug. 2 (convoy left Liverpool on July 16 and dispersed July 31; Bjørkhaug had sailed from Loch Ewe on July 18. Akabahra, Astra, Balduin, Fido, Gudrun, Hestmanden, Leka, Marga, Maridal, Orania, Siak, Spes and Sveve are also listed). Page 2 has her subsequent movements.
About a month later, A. Hague has included her in the slow Convoy SC 43*, which left Sydney, C.B. on Sept. 5-1941 and also had Astrell, Atle Jarl, Bernhard, Bonde (returned), Erica, Fjord, Fjordheim, Galatea, Ingerfem, Solstad, Torfinn Jarl and Vigsnes in its ranks. Bjørkhaug had a cargo of timber, sailing in station 13 of the convoy and arrived Loch Ewe Sept. 20. As can be seen in the Voyage Record, A. Hague says she was involved in a collision on Sept. 27; I have no further details on this, but it'll be noticed that she spent over 2 weeks in Hull afterwards - perhaps some repairs had been necessary? With Akabahra (returned), Astra, Boreas, Marga, Spero (returned), Spica and Trondheim, she went back in the other direction again in the westbound North Atlantic Convoy ON 29*. Eglantine and Montbretia are named among the escorts for this convoy (see ON convoy escorts), which originated in Liverpool Oct. 22 and dispersed Nov. 5, Bjørkhaug arriving Sydney, C.B. on Nov. 7. Her last Trans-Atlantic voyage that year was made with Convoy SC 57 from Sydney, C.B. Her destination is given as Ridham Dock - again, see Page 2 for a listing of her voyages in this period.
Page 3 shows another long stay at Tyne at the beginning of 1942. She subsequently headed to Halifax with Convoy ON 66*, which originated in Liverpool on Febr. 13 and dispersed off Halifax on the 26th - Loke is also listed. According to the archive document, Bjørkhaug arrived Halifax on March 1, and later that month we find her, with a cargo of steel and pulp for Southampton, in Convoy SC 75. She arrived Southampton, via Belfast Lough and Milford Haven, on Apr. 7, returning to Halifax with Convoy ON 90* (convoy left Liverpool Apr. 28, arrived Halifax May 15 - note that the archive document gives her arrival as May 11 and she reamained there until June 2). Aun, Borgholm, Heimgar, Lido, Lisbeth (returned), Nea, Norjerv, Norvarg, Rio Verde, Selbo, Snar, Suderøy, Velox and Ørnefjell are also named in this convoy.
With a cargo of lumber for Southampton, she returned to the U.K. early in June in Convoy SC 86 from Sydney, C.B. (Ramø served as Vice Commodore Vessel), then in July she's listed in the westbound Convoy ON 112*, and arrived Halifax on July 28 (convoy originated in Liverpool July 13, Bjørkhaug had sailed from Milford Haven on the 12th). She had again been in the company of several other Norwgian ships, namely Albert L. Ellsworth, Borgholm, Bruse Jarl, Evviva, Facto, Fidelio, Gezina, Hjalmar Wessel, Ingerfem, Lisbeth, Loke, Norjerv, Ragnhild, Selvik and Titanian (returned). At the end of the following month she joined Convoy SC 98 from Halifax, cargo of lumber for Preston, where she arrived Sept. 13 (she had been cancelled from the previous convoy, SC 97, in which Bronxville was sunk - follow the link for details; Vice Commodore was in Bonneville). Bjørkhaug later spent over 3 weeks in Liverpool (Page 3).
In a posting to my Guestbook a visitor to my website has told me that Bjørkhaug was at Silloth (on the West coast of the U.K, in Cumbria) in October 1942 (this matches up with the info found on Page 3). He says she had arrived there from Devonport, the Naval base on England's south coast, on the 25th (Devonport not mentioned on the archive document) and loaded Government stores, probably for delivery to Devonport, prior to the North African campaign, and left again on October 29. Bjørkhaug was indeed used as ammunition and supply ship during the Torch operations, the allied invasion of North Africa, which commenced Nov. 8-1942 (several of the Norwegian ships that had been in Convoy SC 98 took part in these operations - see also Athos). With 1860 tons of stores, A. Hague has now included her, along with Akabahra, Berto, Evviva, Hildur I, Marga and Selbo, in Convoy KX 5 (external link), which left Clyde on Oct. 30 and arrived Gibraltar on Nov. 10, with Montbretia among the escorts.
According to A. Hague, she made a voyage from Algiers to Bone with Convoy KMS 7* in Jan.-1943. At the beginning of the following month, she made a voyage from Bone to Oran with Convoy MKS 7, and later that month she's said to have made a voyage from Oran to Algiers in Convoy KMS 9*. She's also mentioned in connection with Convoy KMS 10, which had left Clyde for Gibraltar and North Africa on Febr. 26-1943. Note, however, that she was not present from the U.K., but is said to have joined on March 11, together with Star; see the narrative for that date on my page about KMS 10 as well as Page 4, which says she arrived Bone that same day. The document also shows a long stay in Algiers that spring.
Again, please go back to the Voyage Record for information on some of her other 1943 voyages.
In July-1943 we find Bjørkhaug in Convoy KMS 17 - scroll down to the second table on that page. She joined the convoy from Oran, and was bound for Bougie, where she arrived July 3, leaving again for Algiers on July 8, with arrival July 9, according to Page 4.
She was still in Algiers on July 16, loading, among other things, scrap iron and Italian landmines. Concerned about this cargo, the 1st mate had asked the army officer who was overseeing the operation on the quay whether there was any danger of the mines exploding, but was told they were completely harmless. However, while most of the crew were on their coffee break that afternoon a huge explosion occurred which blew away the whole front part of the ship, killing everyone who was there at the time. The forward section of the midships building and the bridge were forced towards the aft of the ship. The boatswain said in his statement at the subsequent hearings that her port side was alongside the quay while the loading of cargo was taking place, but the explosion had thrown her 45 degrees out from the quay so that her stern part was closest to the quay.
The walls and ceiling of the mess room collapsed and thick smoke came in. The 1st mate managed to find his way out, and saw that the motorboat on the poop was on fire, and all other lifeboats were destroyed. While helping one of the survivors look for a lifebelt (he couldn't swim), they came to the captain's cabin and found it completely collapsed and under water, the captain's arm visible above water in between the debris. The 1st mate tried to free him, but he was lifeless. There had also been 2 British Naval Officers in the captain's cabin at the time of the explosion.
Some of the survivors were able to get off the ship by themselves, while others were assisted by a motorboat. 7 had been injured and were taken to a hospital, while the remaining 14 were taken care of by the Norwegian Consulate. 4 Norwegians, 1 Danish, 3 British and 1 Russian were killed. There were also some local labourers as well as some British soldiers on board, the latter overseeing the operations, all assumed killed. Several explosions and fires occurred in the harbour area, where an estimated 1000 people were killed, mostly Arabic dock labourers.
The maritime hearings were held in Algiers on July 19-1943 with the 1st mate, the 2nd mate, the boatswain and Stoker Einar Pettersen appearing.
It was the general belief that the loading procedures left a lot to be desired, and that some of the mines might have gotten caught in the net that was used as this was being pulled up again, and might then have fallen into the hold from a great height. Also, some of the equipment was in bad shape. It had been impossible to get this renewed, in spite of several requests.
George Monk has told me that Captain Sandvik later received an ungazetted award (commendation) - his source: Seedies List of awards to the British Merchant Navy which includes awards to Allied merchant seamen.
This message in my Guestbook says that Fort Confidence, cargo of oil, caught fire after the explosion on Bjørkhaug and had to be towed out of the harbour. This was done, with great bravery, by the Dutch tug Hudson. Willem Pop, who sent me the above picture, and who has written a book about Hudson's captain (entitled "Kapitein B. C. Weltevreden" and available through the Internet), has told me that Hudson also towed away the troopship P 24 and the hospitalship Lady Nelson. Willem adds: "There is one member of the crew of the tug, A. van Katwijk, who is still alive and is living here in Maassluis in the Netherlands. B. C. Weltevreden was the captain of the tug Hudson and he got Lloyds Silver Medal for Meritious Services and he was mentioned a Honorary Member of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (5-4-1944). The tug Hudson is now a museumship." (Ref. link at the end of this page).
I've also seen a book about Hudson, in Dutch and entitled simply "Hudson".
Related external links:
Back to Bjørkhaug on the "Ships starting with B" page.