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Owner: Aktieselskapet Motorskib Hidlefjord
Built in Copenhagen in 1928.
Captain: Hans Gullestad
Related items on this website:
Her voyages are listed on this original document received from the National Archives of Norway.
As will be seen when going to the document above, Hidlefjord arrived Adelaide from Singapore on Apr. 8-1940, the day before the German invasion of Norway.
On Dec. 8-1940, she reported being fired upon by a mysterious vessel from a distance of 8 n. miles, giving the position 05 20N 12 33W. The vessel was headed in the opposite direction, and Hidlefjord's captain had observed 5 "splashes" in the water 2 n. miles away. Identity unknown. According to the document above, she was en route from Table Bay to Freetown on that date, and arrived Freetown on Dec. 10. She left again on Dec. 15, joining Convoy SL 59, and arrived Liverpool on Jan. 4-1941, according to the archive document. The Norwegian Para is also listed in this convoy; ref. external link provided below.
Later that month, she's listed in Convoy OB 275, which left Liverpool on Jan. 18; no destination is given, but as will be seen when going back to the archive document, she arrived Aruba on Febr. 10, the convoy having been dispersed on Jan. 23.
Related external link:
Hidlefjord left Aruba again on Febr. 12-1941 with a cargo of 10 604 tons of pool motor spirit for Barry Roads via Bermuda, where she arrived on Febr. 19 (again, see archive document). She was scheduled for the Bermuda portion of Convoy HX 111 on Febr. 21, but did not sail. She was also cancelled from BHX 112 (Beduin and Ferm were sunk - follow links for details) and BHX 113, but eventually got away in BHX 114, leaving Bermuda on March 9; her destination is given as Avonmouth. The Bermuda portion joined up with the main convoy from Halifax on March 14 (several Norwegian ships are named, as will be seen when following the link).
At about 09:30 on April 1 she was attacked and set on fire by aircraft (KG 27) off Milford Haven (about 10 miles off Smalls). The crew had been ordered below deck when the 3 German aircraft were seen approaching, flying very low. The first aircraft opened fire at the wheelhouse where the helmsman, Able Seaman Hushovd was mortally wounded. When passing the forward part of the wheelhouse the aircraft dropped 2 bombs which detonated in tank No. 2 on the port side, immediately setting the cargo on fire, with the flames spreading very quickly. The lifeboats amidships were lowered, but the port boat caught on fire before it reached the water, while the motorboat drifted into the flames with 1 man in it. Only the starboard gig was successfully launched with 2 men. Those who were still amidships jumped overboard and tried to swim towards it but only 2 reached it.
The 4 were picked up by the escorting(?) York City about half an hour later, as was the 2nd engineer who was floating on his lifevest, but no one else was found. (Note that York City is not mentioned among the escorts for this convoy).
The survivors were landed at Milford Haven and taken to Sailors Rest, before being sent to Cardiff on Apr. 2 where the maritime hearings were held at the Norwegian Consulate on Apr. 4 with all 5 survivors appearing.
The ship had been abandoned northwest of Smalls, presumed sunk on April 2 (170° 12 m from Tuskar Rock).
The captain had jumped overboard at the same time as the steward and the 2 were together in the water for a while. A visitor to my website (Kevin Peyton) has told me that Captain Gullestad is buried in a small cemetery in County Wexford, Ireland. He adds:
I have since received the following E-mail from Göran C-O Claesson:
Now I would like to tell you about the strange happenings after the disaster. My story adds to the information you have given in this paragraph:
Gullestad's body was found on the beach by Patric French, 12 years old, and a mate of his. Immediately responsible people inspected the body and found papers showing that the man was captain Hans Gullestad, MS Hidlefjord. They delivered the information on the find and the papers to the Red Cross. This information never reached Gullestad's widow. She died in 1950 without knowing that the body had been found and was burried at the local cemetary.
In 1959 Patric French wrote to the Mayor of Stavanger saying that Gullestad could not possibly be so alone that nobody would care about his grave. The Mayor turned to the owner of Hidlefjord, Kornelis Olsen, and he turned to Henning Gullestad, the son of Hans Gullestad and living i Stavanger. He in turn told the information to his sister Evelyn, my wife and living with me in Stockholm.
At the expense of Kornelis Olsen Henning Gullestad, his wife, Evelyn and I went to Cullenstown and were guided there by Patric French. At the cemetary we found that the grave was marked by a wooden cross and well looked after thanks to an old lady in the vicinity. We were very moved.
Having arrived home we turned to the Shipping Ministry of Oslo and told about the fact that Hans Gullestad was burried in Cullenstown. We were told that any Norwegian burried in a foreign land after having been drowned because of the war was entitled to a headstone. The authorities then put up such a headstone on the grave. It is the one shown on your picture.
How had it been possible that no information ever reached the widow? We managed to find out that. The Red Cross had sent the information and the papers found on Gullestad's body to the Norwegian exile government in London. There they stayed. In 1945, after the liberation of Norway, the exile government had brought everything to Oslo. You can imagine the mass of cases that had to be handled there.
One officer found the Gullestad papers and sent them to the widow but FORGOT to tell that they had been found on the body and that the body was burried in Cullenstown. The widow got many papers from different consulates and could not guess that these papers had more significance that the others. One effect of war is confusion!
The information on your website means more to my wife and all of us than I am able to express.
The British San Conrado is also listed as sunk in the attack on Apr. 1, no casualties - again, see my page about Convoy HX 114. 3 ships were damaged, the Norwegian Kaia Knudsen being one of them. "The World's Merchant Fleets 1939", Roger W. Jordan, says San Conrado was abandoned, taken in tow, then reboarded but bombed and abandoned again - still on fire the following day 170° 12 m from Tuskar Rock, eventually sank.
Related external link:
Back to Hidlefjord on the "Ships starting with H" 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), "The World's Merchant Fleets", Roger W. Jordan, and misc. (ref. My sources).