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Owner: Skibs-A/S Sjøstad
Built by Odense Staalskibsværft/A.P. Møller, Odense, Denmark in 1929.
Captain: Finn Tessem.
Related items on this website:
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.
Errors may exist and several voyages are missing.
As can be seen when going to Page 1 of the archive documents, Bonneville was on her way from Buenos Aires to Montevideo when war broke out in Norway on Apr. 9-1940. Her final destination is given as Liverpool, where she arrived May 31, having joined Convoy SL 31 from Freetown on May 9, cargo of cereals; see the link provided within the Voyage Record above, Bra-Kar is also listed. A few days later, Bonneville can be found among the ships in Convoy OB 162, departing Liverpool on June 5, dispersed on the 8th, Bonneville arriving Galveston on June 26. The rest of her 1940 voyages are shown on the archive document, which also has some of her 1941 voyages - it'll be noticed that she had quite a long stay in New York that summer, before proceeding to Halifax on July 11.
She was now scheduled for the Halifax-U.K. Convoy HX 139 on July 16-1941, but instead joined Convoy HX 140 on July 22, together with the Norwegian Boreas (station 16), Madrono (112), Skiensfjord (97), Velox (56), Velma (96), Alaska (106), Stiklestad (95), Vardefjell (84), Evita (114), Olaf Bergh (124), Thorshov (83), Thorshavet (43), Ferncastle (113), and Helgøy (77). Beth and Petter were also initially in this convoy but left due to engine problems. Bonneville had a general cargo for Liverpool, and arrived there on Aug. 6, remaining for about 3 weeks. She returned across the Atlantic later that month with Convoy ON 10, and arrived Halifax on Sept. 13, the convoy having been dispersed Sept. 11. According to Page 1, she was bound for New York, where she later arrived Sept. 19.
From New York, she proceeded to Halifax on Sept. 30 and was briefly in Convoy HX 153, which left Halifax for the U.K. on Oct. 5. However, she put back to Sydney, C.B. on Oct. 10 and according to Arnold Hague, she subsequently joined the slow Convoy SC 49* from there the next day, carrying 4 passengers and mail - her voyages in this period are shown on Page 2. A. Hague has also included the Norwegian Estrella, Hellen, Selbo and Siljestad in this convoy. The following month, we find her in station 32 of Convoy ON 37, departing Liverpool on Nov. 15. Bonneville arrived New York independently on Dec. 11, the convoy having been dispersed in a gale during the night of Nov. 23/24, according to the Commodore's notes; A. Hague gives dispersal date as Nov. 30. The Commodore's narrative is also available for this convoy. A. Hague now has her heading back to the U.K. on Dec. 27 with Convoy HX 167 from Halifax, which arrived Liverpool on Jan. 11-1942. Abraham Lincoln, Bralanta, Cetus, Herbrand, Meline, Noreg, O. A. Knudsen, Sandanger, Suderøy and Thorshavet are also named.
She's subsequently listed, along with Høyanger and Skiensfjord, in the westbound Convoy ON 61*, which departed Liverpool on Jan. 27-1942 and dispersed on Febr. 10, Bonneville arriving Cristobal on the 19th. Page 2 and A. Hague's Voyage Record above give her destination as Vancouver, but she did not arrive there until Apr. 4, having made several voyages in between. That summer we find her in the slow Sydney (C.B.)-U.K. Convoy SC 88 (departure June 19), which was escorted by Acanthus, Montbretia, Potentilla and Rose for a while (see SC convoy escorts). Bonneville later returned to the U.S. with Convoy ON 114*, which left Liverpool on July 19 and dispersed Aug. 4, Bonneville arriving New York the next day, having served as Commodore Vessel. She had again been in the company of several other Norwegian ships, namely Astrid, Berto, Ingertre, Marga, Marie Bakke, Norhauk, Titanian and Torfinn Jarl.
On her return voyage she served as the Vice Commodore's ship for the slow Halifax-U.K. Convoy SC 97, in which the Norwegian Bronxville was sunk (follow the link for details). This convoy departed Halifax on Aug. 22; Bonneville, sailing in station 101, had a general cargo for Avonmouth, where she arrived on Sept. 8 (Page 2). Later that month, she's listed in Convoy ON 134*, together with Askeladden (joined from Halifax), Glarona, Grado, Granfoss, Hallfried, Hjalmar Wessel, Loke, Mathilda (the latter 2 from Halifax), Maud, Sir James Clark Ross and Veni, as well as the Panamanian Nortun, which had Norwegian managers and is, therefore, listed under the N's on this website. ON 134 originated in Liverpool on Sept 26-1942 and arrived New York on Oct. 17. Bonneville had again served as Commodore vessel.
Arnold Hague now has her returning to the U.K. with Convoy SC 108*, departing New York City on Nov. 1-1942, arriving Liverpool on the 19th. Bonneville had a general cargo and sailed in station 81 of the convoy, which also included the Norwegian Brand (returned), Granfoss, Snar, Torfinn Jarl and Vanja. Her last Trans-Atlantic voyage that year was made in station 41 of the westbound Convoy ON 152. She was bound for New York in ballast, where she arrived Jan. 1-1943, again having served as Commodore Vessel for the convoy, which departed Liverpool on Dec. 9. The Norwegian Grey County and Sommerstad also took part, as did Veni for a while, but she lost touch and returned to port. Arnold Hague has also included Santos and Spero. (Santos joined from Halifax, having lost touch with Convoy ON 153 - see Santos). Bonneville subsequently had a long stay in New York (Page 2), before embarking on her return voyage, which proved to be her last.
Bonneville was the Commodore Ship for the New York-Liverpool Convoy SC 121, which departed New York on Febr. 23-1943 and had several Norwegian ships. Commodore was Harry C. Birnie. Follow the link for more details, including info on other ships sunk, and an analysis of the attacks. Further info on the battle can be found via the external links provided below. 26 U-boats were involved.
Bonneville, in station 81, had a cargo of 7196 tons general and explosives as well as a deck cargo of landing craft, and was in position 58 48N 22 00W on March 9 when hit by a torpedo on the starboard side near No. 5 hatch. She was believed to have been sunk by U-405 (Hopman), however, Rainer Kolbicz (Uboat.net) has told me that new findings now indicate that U-229 (Schetelig) was responsible for this attack. For info, both U-boats were sunk with all hands later that year - ref. external links below.
According to "Nortraships flåte" the engine was stopped immediately and the port lifeboat with 4 men was launched, but 2 men were washed overboard by a wave. However, shortly afterwards 1 of them was washed back on the ship's deck by another large wave (this was Radio Operator Aksel Remøe, according to his own witness statement at the maritime hearings, included further down in this narrative). He jumped overboard again, and with his other shipmate he swam back to the lifeboat and was able to get back in. A 3rd wave knocked all 4 overboard again, but they were all able to crawl back on board and get the boat away from the side of the ship with the help of the oars, though it was now full of water, and with the constant heavy seas washing over it, bailing proved to be useless. They saw the lights from the lifevests of shipmates in the water but were unable to get to them. 3 hours later, 1 of the men in the lifeboat froze to death (2nd engineer), and shortly afterwards another 2 died (the 1st engineer and the carpenter, as per the radio operator's statement at the hearings). About 7 hours after the torpedo had hit the lone survivor from this boat, Aksel Remøe, was picked up by the rescue vessel. His report has been added below.
Another 8 men were in a boat full of water which later capsized. 5 were able to climb onto the overturned boat, but within an hour 1 of them gave up. The remaining 4 were later picked up by the rescue vessel. Others had jumped overboard in a desperate and, as it turned out, fruitless effort to swim over to the boats that had been launched, while Captain Tessem, Commodore Birnie and 4 men had remained on board Bonneville. 3 of them managed to throw out the raft near the foremast, jumped overboard and were able to hold on to it, while the captain, the Commodore and 1 of his British signalling staff eventually jumped overboard from the after end. Those who were on the raft could see them, but were unable to maneuver the raft. Bonneville then sank. At dawn, 1 of the men on the raft died (see also this Guestbook message), the remaining 2 were later picked up by an American ship.
Included among the casualties were the captain and Commodore Birnie and his staff of 7. Several froze to death on rafts or in lifeboats, only 7 survived, 4 of whom were rescued from the capsized lifeboat by the rescue ship Melrose Abbey, 1 was picked up from another boat by the same vessel - The 2 on the raft were saved by USCGC Bibb.
Due to bad visibility and terrible weather the U-boats eventually discontinued their attacks on March 11.
Related external links:
Received from Radio Operator Aksel Remøe. (Read about his family's war experiences on my page Warsailor Stories, written by his brother Fritjof Remøe. Aksel had previously escaped from Norway with the pilot vessel Rundø - see also this external page; Norwegian text). I've included Aksel's report in its entirety as follows:
"Year 1943, the 17th March, Maritime Inquiry was held at the Consulate at Glasgow, presided over by Consul L. Ofterdahl, without nautical assessors, in connection with the war loss of the M/S Bonneville on the 9th March, 1943. Nortraship's representative, Captain S. Salvesen, was present at the Maritime Inquiry.
The 1st witness, Aksel Remøy, 24 years of age, born and domiciled at Herøy, wireless operator on the Bonneville. The witness enjoined. He produced a report, prepared by him, about the war loss reading as follows:
Glasgow, the 16/3-43.
The crew consisted of 35 men and in addition the Commodore's party numbering in all 8 men. The crew of the M/S Bonneville should have been 38 men, but for various reasons 3 able seamen were left behind in New York. In all there were thus 43 men on board when we proceeded out from the harbour. The convoy with the M/S Bonneville as the leading vessel proceeded out from New York on the 23rd February and then started on the voyage to UK. The first week passed quietly with fine weather and steady speed without receiving any report about enemy craft. About a week after we left New York we encountered very bad north-westerly weather with rough sea, wind up to heavy gale and some snow. The chief officer told me a couple of days before we were torpedoed that the sea was 9 and had been like this for several days. On the day we were hit similar weather still prevailed. I believe the course was then very near to S.E. and we had wind and sea approximately in from astern.
It was during my watch that the S/S Melanta was struck by a torpedo on the 9th March at 21:25 o'clock Greenwich Mean Time (this is probably the American ship Malantic - again, see Convoy SC 121). She at once sent out distress signal. The Commodore on board our ship passed on the message to the escort and I gave a short acknowledgement to the S/S Melanta on 600 metres. 2nd Wireless Operator Lewis Bryn (this should be Bryn Lewis) relieved me at 22:00 o'clock and I went down into the saloon and was standing there talking to the chief officer and the steward when the torpedo struck our ship. It was then about 22:10 o'clock, ship's time. The U-boat attack had then lasted for about 6 consecutive nights and there was the same stormy weather from north-west with snow showers or sleet and high sea. The position may have been something like 58 degrees North and 22 degrees West with south-easterly course. I cannot remember exactly and as far as I know all the papers were lost.
I ran out on deck and from there to the bridge, it being so pitch dark that nothing could be seen. Having come to my cabin which was situated alongside the wireless room, I heard the Commodore's wireless operator give orders to Lewis to send out distress signals whilst I was endeavouring to put on my rubber suit. But he replied that the station was not functioning. Lewis then called out to me and asked if I could try, whereupon he went down from the bridge after having asked permission to go down and put on his rubber suit. The motor for the station was working and I pressed the key, but the station was not functioning. I was then alone on the bridge and therefore went down in order not to be too late for the boats which were presumably being lowered. Having come down on deck I saw that the port boat was level with the rail and therefore crawled into it. It was lowered right down into the sea and I thought I could see 3 men in it. We tried to unhook the tackles at a suitable opportunity, but a huge sea set the lifeboat on end and together with someone else I fell into the sea. I came to the surface again between the lifeboat and the ship's side and swam as hard as I could in order to come clear and avoid being crushed. However, another breaking sea came and after it had passed I found myself sitting on the deck of the M/S Bonneville.
The lifeboat was then loose, both forward and aft, and was drifting along the ship's side, full of water, the M/S Bonneville still having a good speed. The engine was stopped by motorman Harald Karlsen who was on watch when the torpedo struck. I jumped overboard again and swam to the lifeboat and managed to get into it. The boat was then nearly under the stern of the ship. A heavy breaking sea came and I heard the chief officer shouting a warning and then we all disappeared, 4 of us, into the sea again. The chief officer afterwards said that never before had he been so deep down. We got into the lifeboat again and drifted clear of the ship at the same time as we assisted with the oars. It appeared to me as if the M/S Bonneville then had the afterdeck in the water.
In the lifeboat were: Chief Officer Knut Knudsen, 2nd Engineer Alf Engelsen, Carpenter Paul Thommesen and myself. It was floating, full of water, with just over one plank free-board. We heard and saw some of the crew drifting in the sea and we tried to row over to them, but did not succeed in this. I seemed to hear the voice of the 2nd officer shouting some distance away from us. There was a bucket in the boat and we bailed for all we were worth, but the breaking seas kept filling it. After about 1-2 hours the lifeboat was lying with the gunwhale continuously under water, probably owing to the buoyance tanks having become leaky, and we therefore gave up bailing.
The 2nd engineer was the first to freeze to death after about three hours, he having the least clothes on. About an hour thereafter the chief officer and the carpenter also died. They had all tried in various ways to keep warm, but it was of no use. At about 05:00 o'clock, ship's time, the rescue vessel caught sight of the red light on my life vest and picked me up. The rubber suit was torn and full of water, but all the same it had kept me warm so that I did not freeze to death.
The motorboat on the starboard side had been smashed by a heavy sea a couple of days previously, but the remaining lifeboat was put into the water and 8 men got into it. Among them was Chief Engineer Gustav Grønkvist, who had one leg broken and he died after about 4 hours. Previous to that, three of the others also died from exposure. The 4 remaining were: 4th Engineer Alstrup Hansen, Able Seaman Gudmund Fale (should be Edmund Dahle), Able Seaman Arne Knudsen and Able Seaman Henry Johansen. They were picked up at 04:00 o'clock, ship's time, from the bottom of the upturned boat after having been riding on it for about 4 hours.
A large boat on the poop was said to have been lowered and put into the water in a floating condition, but I do not know whether anyone has been saved from same. There were 5 of us who were picked up alive and in fairly good condition by the rescue vessel. 2 more men are said to have been brought in to Liverpool by an escort vessel.
Signed Aksel Remøy, Wireless Operator (he spells his name Remøe today).
Witness referred to the report and added that on board the rescue vessel he heard that 2 of the crew, in addition to the 5 men who arrived at Glasgow, are said to have been saved, but up till now it has not been possible to find out who these 2 men are. Witness did not know what happened to the captain - he did not see him at all.
Read and approved, adding that the lifeboat, in which witness had been, was let go adrift by the rescue vessel.
The 2nd witness, Edmund Dahle, 23 years of age, born at Stavanger and domiciled at Sunde near Risør, able seaman on the Bonneville (there seems to be a mix up of names here; this is the same as Gudmund Fale listed above as one of the survivors from the capsized lifeboat). The witness was enjoined. Witness was acquainted with the wireless operator's report about which he had nothing to remark. He stated that he was on gunwatch amidships on the starboard side when the torpedoing occurred. He had then just taken over. He took part in the lowering of a lifeboat. Thereafter he jumped into the sea and swam to the lifeboat which had drifted towards aft. The lifeboat was full of water and 8 men got into it. Later, during the night, the boat capsized and witness and 4 other men managed to get up on the bottom of the upturned boat where they remained for about 4 hours. After about an hour the chief engineer disappeared and the 4 remaining men were then picked up by a rescue vessel. Just before witness jumped into the sea he saw the captain on the boat deck, but he did not know what happened to him afterwards. The rescue vessel let the lifeboat go adrift after they had been taken on board.
When the lifeboat capsized 3 men had already died, they were: 1 motorman, the messroom boy for the officers and an English naval signaller. He did not know their names.
The 3rd witness, Henry Birgvald Johansen, 23 years of age, born at Bergen, domiciled at Tønsberg, able seaman on Bonneville. The witness was enjoined. He was made acquainted with the wireless operator's report and had nothing to remark as regards same. Witness stated that he had just been relieved by the previous witness when the torpedoing occurred. He was then on his way down. Witness did not see the Captain but he heard him say to the Commodore that it would be best to take a chance on the raft on the foredeck. Witness otherwise made statement in conformity with the previous witness. The motorman, who died in the lifeboat was named Molvik and was from Slagen near Tønsberg.
The 4th witness, Arne Knudsen, 25 years of age, born at Nøtterøy and domiciled at Åsgårdstrand, able seaman on the Bonneville. Witness was enjoined. He had nothing to remark as regards the wireless operator's report, the contents of which he had been made acquainted with. Witness stated that he was at the wheel when the torpedo struck. He was flung over the compass and thereafter, together with the 2nd officer, he ran to the boat deck on the starboard side. He jumped down into a lifeboat into which 7 other men were subsequently taken. Otherwise, he made statement in accordance with the 2nd witness. Witness saw the captain on the bridge at 9:30 o'clock, but after that he had not seen any more of him. Probably he had been on the port side.
The witnesses, who had not heard the statements of the others were thereafter sworn.
The Maritime Inquiry terminated, signed L. Ofterdahl
Correct transcript certified - signed Thomassen, Consular Secretary
Stamp of the Royal Norwegian Consulate, Glasgow.
We hereby certify that the foregoing is a true translation of the signed and stamped copy of Maritime Declaration received by the Norwegian Shipping & Trade Mission from the Norwegian Consulate at Glasgow and handed to us for translation - O. Kverndal & Co."
Related external link:
Back to M/S Bonneville on the "Ships starting with B" page.
The text on this page was compiled with the help of: "Nortraships flåte", J. R. Hegland, Aksel Remøe's report presented at the maritime hearings, E-mails from visitors to my website, Arnold Hague's "The Allied Convoy System" and Arnold Hague's "Convoy Rescue Ships", "Sjøforklaringer fra 2. verdenskrig", Volume I (Norwegian Maritime Museum), E-mail from Billy McGee, England, E-mail from Tony Kinch, and misc.