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Updated March 5-2013
To Breñas on the "Ships starting with B" page.
Manager: Fred. Olsen & Co., Oslo
Built at A/S Akers mek. Verksted, Oslo in 1933.
Captain: Oscar Kløcker.
Her voyages, from Apr.-1940 to Aug.-1942, are listed on these original images from the Norwegian National Archives:
As will be seen when going to Page 1 above, Breñas was in Buenos Aires when war broke out in Norway on Apr. 9-1940. Her 1941 voyages start on Page 2 and continue on Page 3, which also has a few 1942 voyages (it'll be noticed that she spent quite a long time in New York early that year). The rest are shown on Page 4.
What follows is a translated summary of a report the captain sent to Fred. Olsen & Co. after the war. Sent to me for inclusion here by Karl Henrik Henriksen, grandson of M/S Vinni's captain, and an acquaintance of Captain Kløcker's son Christopher Kløcker, who is the foreman of Arendal's Seamen's Association. Karl H. Henriksen has also left a message in my Norwegian Guestbook with regard to this ship.
At the end of June-1942 M/S Breñas was at Bahia, Brasil loading cargo for the U.S., cocoa, piassava and misc. other general, with the intention of continuing up the coast as usual (note that Page 4 gives her arrival Bahia as July 2-1942). When they had gotten about 300 tons cargo on board the captain was asked by the agents to come to a secret conference at the American Consulate, where he was told to unload what they had already taken on board as soon as possible, then proceed to Recife to load supplies for the American troops at Ascension Island, because an American ship headed that way had been torpedoed, thereby leaving the troops in need of supplies. The captain had no objections to this, but as he knew they would be short of bunkers after such a trip, he agreed on condition that they would get diesel oil on their return to Bahia, and this was promised.
Once at Ascension Island (archive doc gives arrival there as July 16), their cargo was unloaded into large barges by the American soldiers. On their return voyage to Bahia, when they were in the socalled "Doldrums", in heavy rainshowers, the ship was spotted by an armed auxiliary cruiser, which fired at them and requested that they stop. Fortunately, it proved to be a British ship, which the captain says resembled one of the passenger vessels from the Union Castle Line. Various signals were exchanged, but wanting proof that they were who they claimed to be they were ordered to follow, then after about 2 and a half hours the cruiser signalled "proceed at utmost speed, and zig-zag for Bahia, several submarines in the vicinity". They arrived Bahia without further incidents (date given as July 21 on the archive document) and started to load a cargo again, but the bunkers that had been promised to them did not materialize, in spite of repeated requests, and they did not have enough to reach U.S. port. Cargo was loaded at Recife, Ceara, Tutoia and San Louis de Maranhao (again, see Page 4 for arrival dates), where the captain contacted the Routing Office at Belem, Para and asked for bunkers, but this was denied. They were now told that 16 knot convoys were to go from Port of Spain to the U.S. east coast.
On Sunday, Aug. 2-1942 at around 04:00 they had finished loading at Maranhao, about 3000 tons consisting of cocoa beans, castor seeds, babassu kernels, ticum kernels, piassava, balls of fiber, beryl ore in sacks, chrome ore in bulk and some plant oils in barrels, 131 of which were on deck (as per statement at maritime hearings). Before they left lifeboat maneuvers were held, at which time all the lifeboats were launched and all the equipment checked. They departed at 13:00 for New York via Port of Spain for bunkers and convoy. Breñas had a complement of 34. Their orders were to proceed north for about 24 hours then west through various points, all the while zig-zagging (the captain says: "Why?").
On the 3rd, 4th and 5th, they proceeded in good weather with no incidents, but at 08:45 on the 6th, a U-boat appeared on their starboard bow. The captain was resting on his sofa in the day room when he heard the lookout come down the ladder located near the skylight above his sofa and, realizing something was wrong, he ran out to the lower bridge. At that time the U-boat was only about 3 cable lengths off and it was too late to ram it. He then ran up to the bridge and managed to alter course so that the boat was right behind them, and gave orders to open fire with the aft gun (6 lbs), as well as with both machine guns located on the chart house roof. It was quite obvious that the U-boat was getting ready to attack with its 2 4" guns on deck and its 2 double 20 mm Brofors on the conning tower*. The boat achieved no hits but came ever closer and there was a lot of shrapnel on their fore and after decks. 35 shots were fired from Breñas, with the last 2 appearing to have hit the boat, which gave up the battle at 09:30, whereupon the voyage was continued at highest possible speed, zig-zagging as per orders from naval authorities.
"Nortraships flåte" gives Gunner Arvid Fredriksen's point of view during that first attack. He heard 2 shots, then spotted a U-boat to port aft, judged by him to be about 2000 meters away. He says that since there was no time to wait for orders from the bridge he commenced firing, the first 2 shots going passed the boat, the next 2-3 about 40-50 from its starboard side. The shells from the U-boat fell an estimated 100 to 200 meters from the stern of the ship. He says he was later told that some shells had landed in front of the ship with some exploding between the masts, adding that he himself fired 32 shots, then observed a tall column of water above the U-boat, which disappeared shortly thereafter. Fredriksen then fired his last shot before being ordered from the bridge to stop firing. The gun crew also included the able seamen Harry Hansen and Ragnar Johansen.
At 19:45 on the same date, a torpedo hit them on the port side between No. 3 and 4 Hatch, resulting in a heavy list, the ship sinking in about 10 minutes. The survivors' report gives the position as 274° true 300 miles from Trinidad. At that time, Gunner Fredriksen had just arrived in the mess room, then immediately ran back to the gun deck, only to find that the gunner on duty was not there (he says they found him the next morning on a raft, so this must have been Able Seaman A. Riise, who was missing for a while - see statements from the maritime hearings further down on this page). The gun was at that time in such a shape that it could not be used, with the ammunition ripped out of its casing. The motorboat that he was assigned to had been torn loose, so they tried to launch the gig, which was on the starboard side, but when this failed he and several others ended up in the water. The port boat was successfully lowered, and most of the survivors assembled in it. The U-boat then came up asking for the captain, who at first refused to identify himself, but was eventually ordered aboard the U-boat, where he stayed for exactly 5 weeks. According to "Skip og menn", the U-boat commander offered food and cognac to the people in the lifeboat, but as they felt they would be fine with what they had, this was refused.
There seems to be some disagreement with regard to which U-boat sank Breñas. One of my Norwegian sources says the captain was prisoner on U-109, but on studying all the information available to me this appears to be incorrect. In hopes of clarifying this, I posted a query to the U-boat.net Forum and 2 of the responses in particular point towards U-108/Scholtz. One says that Scholtz (according to Rohwer) had, in fact, identified his victim as Breñas, and that U-108 arrived France on Sept. 10 (which was about 5 weeks after the sinking of Breñas). Another says, "it was U 108 which sank the ship. First seen at 2234h GST (GMT+2 hours) according to its KTB, a three torpedo spread was fired at 0133h/7th, scoring two hits, causing the ship to sink after 11 minutes. At 0215h the Master, Oskar Klöcker, was taken aboard from the rescue boat while sailing direction is given to the boat." Here's the thread in question on Uboat.net's Forum (external link - it has quite a few replies. Be aware that the link may change if/when the forum gets updated, in which case it should be possible to find it again by running a search with "Brenas" as keyword).
Captain Kløcker mentions that the commander of "U-109" had told him that Breñas was hit by 3 torpedoes.
Jürgen Rohwer says Breñas was torpedoed, shelled and sunk by U-108 in 10 20N 56 10W and gives the time as 01:33 on Aug. 7 (German time). This very same position is given in "Nortrahips flåte" for the first attack in the morning of Aug. 6. The latter source also says U-108/Scholtz sank Breñas, but later in the text refers to the commander as "Lassen" who, in fact, commanded U-160 at that time, so there's quite a variety (of errors) to choose from here (U-160 torpedoed Havsten on Aug. 3-1942). The Norwegian book "Skip og menn" states that the American Louisiana was sunk by U-109 while Captain Kløcker was prisoner on board, but this ship was sunk by U-108 on Aug. 17 - ref. external link at the end of this page. (In my Guestbook there's a message from someone who says that the Norwegian Tercero witnessed the attack on Louisiana).
According to "Skip og menn", the captain was well treated, though a bit confined in that he slept on a mat in the forward torpedo room. He ate his meals with the officers, everything being first class, though a lot of canned goods. He noticed that the Germans were very cautious about leaving traces behind, and all garbage like empty cans and bottles were carefully sunk. After successful attacks on ships, cognac was handed out in celebration, though not in excessive amounts. When depth charges were dropped, the nervousness and tension among the crew was very noticeable. The boat (referred to as U-109 all through the captain's report) cruised for a while off the coast of British Guiana and in the Caribbean, and while he was on board he can say with certainty that 7 ships were torpedoed*; he says this was easy to determine from the detonations when the boat was submerged. There were also attacks on convoys as they crossed the Atlantic, but it's impossible for him to say whether any ships were sunk there as they were continuously attacked by depth charges, making it difficult to judge whether the torpedoes had hit their targets. Also, they went down to 120 meters after each attack on a convoy and lay completely still.
One day while in the Atlantic the U-boat was supplied by a "U-boat tanker", at which time Kløcker was ordered from the foreward torpedo room, where he was kept, to the commander's day room, where he learned that several U-boats were being supplied. The commander of one of the other U-boats had come on board to visit with "U-109's" commander. After having been introduced to him, Captain Kløcker was told he was commander of the U-boat Breñas had fought in the morning of Aug. 6. The commander added that 2 of their shots had been very close, then asked if they had been hit. He also said that he had Captain Christian Evensen of D/S Bill as prisoner on his own boat. If this is correct, it would mean that Breñas' attacker in the morning of Aug. 6 was, in fact, U-155 (Piening) which sank D/S Bill on July 29-1942, position 11 58N 55 02W. Since I've been unsure of Breñas' exact position when attacked 8 days later, I've been unable to compare and try to determine whether the culprit could indeed have been U-155 (this boat had sunk the Dutch Draco in the morning of Aug. 5, position 11 05N 53 30W). But through an exchange of E-mails with a visitor to my website (A. Mair), I've learned that page 134 of "The U-Boat War in the Caribbean" mentions that Piening in U-155 signalled on Aug. 7 that he had engaged in a gunfight with a freighter on its way to Trinidad but that the ship had escaped. This could very well have been Breñas.
Captain Kløcker adds that later on, while at Marlag & Milag Nord, he met a Captain Tate of a West Hartlepool ship who had also been prisoner on U-155 and who told him that Bill's captain had been very sick and later died at a hospital in France. Kløcker says that the temperature below deck on the U-boat was about 50°C while cruising off Guiana and in the Caribbean, so "it's no wonder Captain Evensen got so sick, he being an elderly man". A. Mair could also confirm for me that Captain Frederick Tate was indeed a prisoner on U-155 after the sinking of his ship Empire Arnold on Aug. 4 (his source: "British and Commonwealth Merchant Ship Losses" by Tennant - see also the external link at the end of this page and Dalvangen). However, he can't confirm the meeting of U-108 with a U-Tanker.
Continuing with Captain Kløcker's report, he goes on to say that "U-109" (U-108) arrived Lorient, France in the middle of September and shortly after arrival he was arrested (this agrees with the information for U-108; U-109 did not arrive until the following month, ref. external links at the end of this page). After 2 days, he was transported by train to Paris, then to Willemshaven by train and on foot (because the RAF had caused a lot of damages to the railway stations and equipment), arriving at the end of September. He was placed in a solitary cell for 3 weeks while being interrogated by Gestapo every day from 08:00 to 17:00. He was not badly treated; his biggest problem was the fact that there was very little food. In October, he was sent to Marlag & Milag Nord, and on the day he arrived he received the first Red Cross parcel. He says there were about 4000 in the camp, 3100 of whom were ratings and 900 officers. Many were Norwegian, among them prisoners from the Kvarstad ships. After 3 weeks there, he was sent to Willelmshaven again for another 2 weeks in a solitary cell and more interrogations, but this time he had more food, having brought with him some of the contents of the Red Cross parcels. In June the following year, he and some other Norwegians were transported to Stettin where they embarked Lappland, which he says was originally built for Leif Høegh in Oslo. The voyage to Oslo took 5 days because they didn't sail during the day for fear of RAF attacks. He arrived Oslo around June 23.
For info, U-108 had also been responsible for the attacks on Christian Krohg, Tolosa, Blink and Norland. Norwegian ships that had encounters with U-155, in addition to Bill and Siranger already mentioned (and possibly Breñas, as indicated), were Sama, Baghdad and Lysefjord - follow the links for details.
Since Captain Kløcker was still a prisoner at that time, he was not present at the hearings, but 1st Mate Olaf Johannessen, 3rd Mate Jacob Emil Tangeraas, Able Seaman Reidar Larsen (at the helm at the time of the morning attack, on lookout when the torpedo hit later that evening) and Able Seaman Harry Pettersen were there. The following are some extracts from the statements given:
The 1st mate handed in a report which states that 35 shots were fired from Breñas, with the last 2 appearing to have hit the U-boat as mentioned in Captain Kløcker's report. He confirms the time 08:45 on Aug. 6, and says they continued at 16 knots, zig-zagging until 19:35 that same evening when they were hit by a torpedo on the port side between Hatch No. 3 and 4, immediately listing to port and sinking in 8-10 minutes. Position is given as 300 n. miles, 274° true from Trinidad. The explosion destroyed the motor lifeboat on the poop as well as the starboard boat and the gig. Some of the crew went in the port boat and launched it successfully, others saved themselves on rafts, which had all floated free. Most of the crew had to jump overboard. He goes on to say that after Captain Kløcker had been taken prisoner they were allowed to search for and pick up those who were in the water. Everyone except Able Seaman A. Riise and the Brazilian Messboy José Souza Gomez were found. They agreed to wait for daylight, then search again.
Electrician L. Nicolaisen had been injured (left side of his body and in the crotch) when some planks had landed on him, Able Seaman O. Grønn had some cuts on his left leg; both were given first aid in the lifeboat. At dawn on Aug. 7, they found Able Seaman A. Riise on the poop raft, but in spite of searching for an hour and a half, the Brazilian messboy was nowhere to be found. Therefore, course was set for British Guiana, with 22 men in the port lifeboat and 10 on 2 rafts, an equal number on each. On Aug. 8, one of the rafts was let go, and with 25 in the lifeboat and 7 on the remaining raft they continued towards land. He says they had enough water and food, and had good weather except on Aug. 10 when they had strong winds, rain and high seas. At 15:30 on Tuesday Aug. 11, they were picked up by the American Coast Guard cutter Jackson (it appears they had been spotted by aircraft) and landed the following day at 19:40 at the American base in Clarence Bay, Trinidad. That same day, they were all placed at "British and Allied Merchant Club" in Trinidad.
The 1st mate adds that he was on duty on the bridge during both encounters, and feels that there is every reason to believe that the first attacker was sunk or at least damaged since it gave up the fight and disappeared while still about 5000 meters away. From Breñas, they clearly saw that their own shells landed very close to the boat. He says that a radio message was sent at the time, and was picked up in Georgetown. The ships' secret papers, which were in leather bags with iron rods in them were thrown overboard by him.
The 3rd mate was also on the bridge when the first attack took place, and he too felt that the attacker must have been damaged or sunk. In addition to his duties as 3rd mate, he was also the radio operator who had sent the radio message during this attack. He was in the radio room when the 2nd attack took place later that day. It seems that nobody had seen the Brazilian messboy after the explosion, but it's assumed that he was in the messroom, in which case it's possible he was killed immediately. None of the witnesses had seen anything unusual before the torpedo hit.
There's an interesting detail in connection with the above documents, saying that Captain Kløcker's family in Norway was, in fact, informed of Breñas sinking soon after it had happened, because one of his sisters was married to a German and living in Germany. Their son, Raimund Tiesler was commander of U-976 at the time and had picked up a signal from U-109(?) that Breñas had been sunk, and subsequently informed the family of that fact. It further states that Raimund Tiesler had been a deckboy on Breñas in the middle of the 1930's and, therefore, knew Captain Kløcker, who was also on board at that time.
I've received further information about Raimund Tiesler from A. Mair, his sources:
Note also that my Guestbook has a message from one of Raimund Tiesler's sons.
Raimund Tiesler was born on 7 March 1919 at Rastenburg, East Prussia. Graduate of Naval Class of 1937. Watch Officer on destroyer Z 7 Hermann Schoemann from December 1939 to October 1940. U-Boat training from October 1940 to June 1941. Was 1st Watch Officer on the U-578 from July 1941 to March 1942 for three war patrols serving in Arctic and Canadian waters. Hospitalised with a pelvic fracture from 28 March until 30 August 1942. U-Boat commander's course and Baubelehrung from September until November 1942. Commander of the U-649 from 19 November 1942 until 24 February 1943. While on tactical exercise in the Bay of Danzig the U-649 collided with the U-232 and sank with the loss of 35 men. Tiesler and ten other crewmen survived this sinking. Tiesler went on to commission the U-976 from 5 May 1943 until she was sunk on 25 March 1944. U-976's first war patrol was from 25 November 1943 until 29 January 1944 in the North Atlantic where she sank no ships. Left St Nazaire for second war patrol on 20 March 1944 but was recalled to base when she was attacked by Mosquitos of 618 Squadron on 25th March. The attack commenced 0917 and the U-976 was hit approximately ten times on the conning tower and forward deck before going down by the stern at 0940. The destroyer escort picked up Oblt Tiesler and the surviving members of the crew. Tiesler went on to command the Type XX1 U-2503 from August to October/November 1944 until he relinquished his command due to a leg injury. Tiesler was promoted to Kplt on 1 January 1945 and at war's end was serving on U-Boat Personnel Office.
Related external link:
Operations information for U-108 - This website now appears to have been taken down. Will leave the link up for now, in case an archive will be available later (see this page). It confirmed that U-108 arrived France on Sept. 10-1942, agreeing with Captain Kløcker's report. See also this external page.
Back to Breñas on the "Ships starting with B" page.
The text on this page was compiled with the help of: "Nortraships flåte", J. R. Hegland, "Sjøforklaringer fra 2. verdenskrig", Volume I (Norwegian Maritime Museum), and misc. others for cross checking info. as named within above text - ref My sources.