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M/S Harboe Jensen
Owner: Dampsk.-A/S Bananfart
Built in Gothenburg 1929.
Captain: Anton Tollefsen, later Sverre Aanonsen
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As will be seen when going to Page 1 above, Harboe Jensen was in Jacksonville when war broke out in Norway on Apr. 9-1940. Her 1941 voyages start on Page 2 and continue on Page 3.
She was a fruit carrier, used as a supply ship between Alexandria and the front in Libya from late 1941, departing New York on Oct. 14 via Port of Spain, Cape Town and Aden for the Middle East (it'll be noticed, that some of this does not quite match up with the details found on Page 3). In the early morning hours of Dec. 22, when passing Rosetta light east of Alexandria the ship was attacked by German aircraft, and one of the able seamen/gunners was injured from shrapnel in his back. Benghazi was retaken by the allies on Dec. 24-1941, but while Harboe Jensen was there unloading her cargo of ammunition and explosives from Alexandria in Jan.-1942 she was attacked several times by German aircraft, until Benghazi was again in German hands (end of that month or early Febr.?). Harboe Jensen and the other supply ships were ordered to depart on the 26th (? see next paragraph). She was attacked by 5 torpedo aircraft the next day, and again by 4 ME 109's the following day, but arrived Alexandria safely on Jan. 28, with 400 soldiers, 50 officers and 60 women and children on board. Other ships in Benghazi at the time were the British M/S Crista and D/S Mausang, which I believe were all in the same convoy to Alexandria.
Tobruk now became the destination for the desert convoys. Harboe Jensen arrived there in the morning of Febr. 27-1942 with a cargo of ammunition, and was bombed for several days in a row and damaged. Øivind Johnsen says 6 aircraft appeared that night, 3 of which broke out of the formation and dropped bombs that fell close to the ship's starboard side causing great havoc and chaos on board. The chartroom, wheelhouse roof and the radio station were damaged, the water gushed into the engine room through the destroyed valves, oil and water splurted in from all directions, the lights went out, and she was listing heavily to starboard. Fire extinguishers jumped out of their positions, the foam from them leaking out among the crew. The water in the engine room reached so high that it started to flow into the tunnel, and to keep the ship from tipping backwards they had to try to close the waterproof door, which they eventually managed to do, while the water kept rising. Some of the crew had been ordered to the lifeboats, but shortly afterwards tugs came to their assistance and towed them to shallow water on the south side of the harbour where divers from shore were eventually able to plug the valves, the engine room was "bailed" and soldiers helped unload the cargo holds - by that time the water in the engine room, mixed with lube oil and diesel oil, had leaked into the fore and aft holds until level with the sea outside, and by March 1 it had also risen 2' in the crew's cabins, so while the work to get her seaworthy was going on the crew had to move out. The midships lifeboats were damaged and leaking, the rafts were also damaged and all the equipment in the starboard boat was lost.
Harboe Jensen was eventually afloat on March 3 and the unloading of cargo continued. That same day she was placed alongside the capsized British passenger vessel Bankura and received even more damages on March 4 and 5 when the winds increased with heavy seas causing her to list to port and knock against the wreck. A tug mooring along her starboard side in order to provide steam for her pumps caused heavy damages there. Through it all the pumping, plugging of valves and the unloading of her cargo continued, and on March 6 she was declared seaworthy. The following morning the British tug Monance came alongside to pull her out of the harbour assisted by another 2 tugs, and escorted by 2 destroyers, a minesweeper and a small whale catcher she was towed out of Tobruk (agreeing with Page 3). However, on March 9, as they were passing the outer buoy off Alexandria, the towline broke as the tug was swinging around outside the breakwater. The tug Respond then came alongside and towing continued towards port where she moored alongside D/S Alisa (?). While this was taking place the tug rammed Harboe Jensen's stern end, resulting in considerable damages.
Maritime hearings were held in Alexandria on March 14-1942. At that time the captain was Anton Tollefsen, while Sverre Aanonsen was 1st mate (later became the captain). Øivind Johnsen's account says that they became victims of another aircraft attack at 2 in the morning on the day of departure Tobruk on March 7 (one account says 260 bombs were dropped before 8 that morning, several aircraft were shot down); this attack, or the other attacks while in Tobruk except for the one taking place on Febr. 27, are not mentioned at all in the captain's report presented at the maritime hearings.
As mentioned, on March 7-1942 Harboe Jensen was towed out of Tobruk and arrived Alexandria on the 9th, where she stayed for a long time waiting to be repaired (Page 3). In Dec.-1942 she again resumed her service to Benghazi (Page 4), which had been retaken by General Montgomery and the 8th army (along with Tobruk and Tripoli). Again she came under attack by aircraft on several voyages.
On Jan. 14-1943 she departed Benghazi for her 4th trip to Tobruk with a cargo of war materials, sailing with the Greek Annitsa, escorted by the armed trawler Southern Isles. At 11:40 the next morning, Jan. 15, when in position 33 04N 21 50E she was hit by a torpedo from U-617 (Brandi) in the foreward part of the after hold (port side) and started to sink right away, listing to port. Shortly afterwards another torpedo struck, causing a tremendous explosion in the engine room, and she broke in 2 and was gone in 15-20 seconds. On duty at the time were the 1st mate (on the bridge), Able Seaman Tandberg (at the wheel), the boatswain, and 2 British gunners. The latter 3 lost their lives, as did 14 others as well as Captain Aanonsen, who had been seen on the boatdeck just before the 2nd torpedo hit. Mechanic Zimmermann had been seen on the poop as had 4 of the engine crew, so several men did survive the first attack.
The 1st mate jumped overboard and went down with the suction. When he came to the surface he saw the steward and Able Seaman Tandberg and together they looked around for something to hold on to. After a while they spotted a capsized lifeboat which they were able to straighten up whereupon the 3 men as well as Able Seaman Nikolaisen and the British Gunner William McGill got into it and also picked up 2 Greek seamen from the torpedoed Annitsa. All 7 were subsequently picked up by the escorting trawler, as were another 33 men from Annitsa. Able Seaman/Gunner Falkensten, who had been eating dinner together with Gunner McGill when the first torpedo struck, had also jumped overboard and kept himself afloat on a plank until he was rescued by the escort about 45 minutes later. After a thorough, but fruitless search for possible survivors course was set for Tobruk, arriving Jan 16. All the survivors were taken care of by military authorities and sent by train or by car to Alexandria with arrival on Jan. 19-1943. The maritime hearings were held there on Febr. 5-1943 with all the Norwegian survivors appearing.
The above crew list is from "Sjøforklaringer fra 2. verdenskrig", Volume I. The original list appears to be a combination of those who were on board when she was attacked by aircraft and damaged in March-1942, and those who were still on board at the time of the torpedo attack in Jan.-1943. I've attempted to seperate them as best I can, and believe the above to be correct. As mentioned, Captain Aanonsen was the 1st mate in 1942, while the captain at that time was Anton Tollefsen. Others included in the original list who appear to have paid off before the torpedo attack occurred are Able Seaman Anton Jaastad, 2nd Engineer Øivind Johnsen (who is also mentioned in my text further up on this page) and Mechanic Egil Kaare Aamodt.
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Back to Harboe Jensen on the "Ships starting with H" page.
The text on this page was compiled with the help of: "Nortraships flåte", J. R. Hegland, "Krigsseileren", Issue No. 1 for 1982, "Skip og Menn", Birger Dannevig, "Sjøforklaringer fra 2. verdenskrig", Volume I (Norwegian Maritime Museum), and misc. (ref. My sources).