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To Hafthor on the "Ships starting with H" page.
Manager: Bruusgaard, Kiøsterud & Co., Drammen
Built in Shanghai in 1921.
Captain: Conrad Andersen.
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According to Page 1 above, Hafthor was in Hong Kong when war broke out in Norway on Apr. 9-1940. Her 1941 voyages start on Page 2.
Hafthor departed Singapore on Dec. 5-1941 for Bangkok with a small general cargo. Sailing instructions had been received from British Naval Control Office and the Norwegian Consul. She was unarmed. At 14:45 on Dec. 7, 1st Mate Ivar Røsholdt, who was on duty on the bridge spotted a fleet of ships of varying sizes heading in the opposite direction. Through his binoculars he saw that they were 4 large cargo vessels and 8-10 warships. At that time Hafthor was off Singora, Thailand, about 120 n. miles southwest of Pula Choy. He notified Captain Andersen who joined him on the bridge. Suddenly, the last warship, the Japanese destroyer Uranami, headed straight for them. It came alongside with all guns pointing at her and she was boarded by an officer and 7-8 men. Hafthor's Chinese crew members were ordered to the aft deck and the officers to the foredeck, all under armed guard, while the captain spoke with the Japanese officer on the bridge. The ship and cabins were thoroughly examined, rather brutally with the use of a hammer. The ship's journal, cargo manifest and all the ship's papers were taken, whereupon the Japanese disembarked, having ordered her crew to the lifeboats.
At about 16:00 Hafthor's crew rowed away from the ship in 3 boats, heading towards land in a southeasterly direction. For as long as they were able to see their ship the destroyer was alongside, then just before it turned dark they could see an aircraft coming from the west, flying right over the boats, and as it approached Hafthor it was fired upon by the destroyer, then disappeared in a southerly direction (this according to the 1st mate).
In boat No. 1 were Captain Andersen, 1st Engineer Birger Røstad and 23 Chinese, in No. 2 were 1st Mate Røsholdt, 2nd Engineer Bjarne Jansen and 11 Chinese, and in No. 3 were 2nd Mate Henry Fredheim, 3rd Engineer Haakon Log and 13 Chinese. It was a cloudy night with no moon, so towards nightfall the boats were separated, and the next morning the people in the 1st mate's boat could not see the others. Their intention was to try to get into Malaya, hoping to reach land in 3-4 days. They sailed most of the time, but had to use the oars every now and again due to lack of wind.
In the morning of Dec. 9 they saw land ahead and sailed in that direction, though later had to row most of that day because there was no wind. By nightfall they were close to shore, but it was too dark to try to find a landing place, and they could hear powerful breakers, so they cruised all night off the coast. The next morning they rowed towards some cabins they had seen near the beach, but after they had landed it turned out they were uninhabited. While 2 men were set to watch the boat, the rest of the Chinese were sent further inland to look for assistance. Meanwhile, Røsholdt and Jansen walked along the beach and came to a village where they met 2 Thai policemen who told them they were on Thai land. They were subsequently taken by canoe up a large river to the main police station where they were told that the village was Jamo, located 15 km south of Patani. They were very well treated, and while they were being fed, a group of people was sent out to look for the Chinese crew members and before long they were all reunited. At this time they were also informed that Japan had entered the war and that Thailand had been occupied by the Japanese, though there was no evidence of that yet where they were.
That night was spent on a large covered veranda at the post office, which had been closed down. The Chinese crew members were accommodated at the house of a countryman in the village. The rest of the country could only be reached by foot or bicycle, all connections having been interrupted. They had some money and were able to buy some food in the village, though there was a lack thereof, especially rice, which was rationed.
The day after their arrival about 100 Malayan men pulled their lifeboat across land and up the river near the village, where it was placed under the supervision of the village police. Through the police the shipwrecked men attempted to obtain permission from the governor in Patani to travel on to Bangkok, but this proved impossible due to the war. On the 13th the police requested them to continue to Bangnara, a town 85 km further south, and the following morning they started out on foot in that direction, walking for 4 days, spending the nights at various villages en route, then on the 5th day they got a lift with a bus. On arrival Bangnara the police sent them to Bangnara Rubber Estate where they were well taken care of by the manager, Mr. Gercke, whose ancestors were Danish.
On the 22nd they were taken by bus into Bangnara in order to be sent to Bangkok (except for 4 Chinese who remained in Bangnara to be sent to Bangkok at a later time), then continued by bus to Singora (the northernmost landing point of the invading Japanese fleet). By train they arrived Bangkok in the evening of the 25th. The 1st mate and the 2nd engineer appeared at maritime hearings there on Jan. 7-1942. 1st Mate Ivar Røsholdt died in May of 1942 as a result of illness caused by an insect bite.
Meanwhile, the other 2 boats had been spotted by Japanese war ships in the afternoon of Dec. 9. The captain was taken on board and extensively questioned, then after a while all the others were also ordered on board and their lifeboats taken in tow. At that time they were about 8-10 miles from land. That same evening the war ship anchored up at Singora, the prisoners remaining on board overnight. The following morning they were all told to get back in the lifeboats. After having been towed 10 miles out to sea, they were left with a warning to continue north, not south. Due to increasing winds and heavy rain they landed that same evening and were subsequently surrounded by Thai policemen who placed them under arrest. They were later taken to Singora prison, then to Alar Star, Taiping and later to a camp in Kuala Lumpur (where Hafthor's Chinese crew members were released in Aug.-1942 according to the captain's statements at the maritime hearings). After 20 months they ended up in Sime Road Camp where they stayed until they were freed in Sept.-1945.
Maritime hearings were held in Liverpool at an unknown date with Captain Andersen appearing. All the officers from No. 1 and No. 3 lifeboats had been repatriated to the U.K. by that time.
The wreck of Hafthor was found in 1945 in the harbour of Akyab and had to be condemned. (According to Charles Hocking Hafthor became the Niyo Maru and was sunk by British aircraft off Burma on Sept. 12-1942).
The Norwegian Hai Lee, Hai Ping, Hai Tung, Halldor, Haraldsvang, and Helios were also caught up in the Japanese operations in the Far East in Dec.-1941. More details on them can be found with the help of the alphabet index below.
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Back to Hafthor on the "Ships starting with H" page.
The text on this page was compiled with the help of: Misc. sources, incl. "Nortraships flåte", J. R. Hegland, "Krigsseiler, krig, hjemkomst, oppgjør", Guri Hjeltnes, "Sjøforklaringer fra 2. verdenskrig", Norwegian Maritime Museum, Volume I, and misc. for cross checking info - ref. My sources.