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Owner: Skibs-A/S Pacific
Delivered in May-1923 from Nederlansche Scheepsbouw Mij., Amsterdam as Indra to Den norske Russlandslinje A/S Kristiania (Norwegian Russia Line). Tonnages as above, 375.8' x 51.4' x 30.7', 2x 6 cyl. 4 tev Werkspoor, 2300 bhp, 11 knots, 2 propellers. Purchased by Knut Knutsen in April-1929, along with M/S Geisha, Tosca and D/S Poljana (en bloc).
Captain: Thomas Nøkling
It appears Indra may have shot down an allied aircraft in June-1942. "Nortraships flåte" states that she in the morning of June 6 reported over her radio that she was being attacked by enemy aircraft, then a little later announced that the aircraft had been shot down. This took place northeast of Ceylon where a British Swordfish was patrolling that morning, but never returned to its base. On arrival Vizagapatam Indra's captain explained that the aircraft had been circling the ship, and as it looked like it was about to dive towards them Indra opened fire when the plane was within reach. It was seen to crash in the sea and sink. Indra searched for survivors, but none were found. When going to Page 3 of the archive documents, we find that Indra arrived Vizagapatam on June 9, having started out from Colombo on the 4th.
Indra departed Cape Town alone on Nov. 8-1942 bound for New York via Trinidad with a cargo of 2800 tons chrome ore. At about 14:55 ship's time on Nov. 26 when in position 02 10N 28 52W, the track of a torpedo was observed, before she was struck in the port bow, resulting in a large hole. The torpedo came from UD-3 (Rigele). At the time of attack Indra was on a course 310° true, sailing at a speed of 8 knots (not zig-zagging) in clear weather with good visibility (daylight) and moderate sea, wind southeast force 3-4; no other ships in sight (about 20 minutes before she was attacked, 2 masts and a funnel of an unknown vessel had been seen at an unknown distance off the starboard bow, appearing to be headed on a course 135° true). There were 4 lookouts; 1 in the crow's nest, the 2nd mate on the bridge and 2 gunners aft. The engines were immediately secured and she stopped moving, initially settling rapidly by the bow, but stopped settling after a while, with the propellers out of water.
The ship was abandoned by all except the radio operator who remained behind (on order of the captain) and sent distress signals continuously for about 8 minutes but no answer was received, so he too left the ship. Several men had been injured when the boats were launched, but not seriously; 2nd Mate G. Bjordal lost the tip of one of his fingers, the captain received some injuries to his hand and 4th Mate Mathiesen injured his leg, as did Able Seaman Danielsen, while Able Seaman Tobiassen injured his hand and a leg, 3rd Engineer Størksen sustained injuries to both hands, Electrician Johansen to his leg. Steward Henriksen, who was in the forward section of the ship when the explosion occurred temporarily lost his hearing and also injured his ankle.
All 39 were well away in 2 lifeboats when at 15:30 another torpedo was clearly seen on the starboard side, but this torpedo missed (believed to have passed under the ship). However, at about 16:10 she was struck again, this time amidships, port side, and she went down in less than half a minute.
After the ship had gone down, a large German and a smaller Italian* boat came to the surface; one to starboard, the other to port. The German boat came over to the captain's lifeboat and asked for the nationality etc. of his ship. The boat was described as very large, 1000-3000 tons (somewhat exagerated estimation - see external links below. Later described as about 250' long, 750 tons), light grey and brand new, with a 3" foreward gun, and an AA gun on the bridge, red and white target insignia (or a German cross) painted on the conning tower. It had a draft mark "8" at the water line, and had a German crew who spoke poor English. While questioning the captain, it was suggested to him that he should go back to Norway, which he said he was going to do. The port boat was described as medium size (about 150' long, 400 tons) with a wide flaring foredeck similar to a destroyer. It had a red spot on the conning tower, and had the same guns as described for the starboard boat. The crew members were identified from a distance as Italian. This sub sent up a flare of the distress type which omitted red, blue and white stars. The captain stated later that this flare would have been mistaken by him for a lifeboat in distress and that he would have gone to investigate. Both subs were last seen heading south, while signalling quite a bit.
The lifeboats subsequently set a course for the Brazilian coast, until Nov. 30 when they were picked up by the British M/S Eurybates; those in the captain's boat at 15:30 in position 00 34S 32 44W, those in the 1st mate's boat at 16:20 on the same day (the lifeboats were also picked up). They were landed in Port of Spain at 10:45 on Dec. 9.
Maritime hearings were held in New York on Dec. 30-1942 with the captain, the 2nd mate, the carpenter, and Able Seaman Auestad (lookout) appearing.
Back to Indra on the "Ships starting with I" page.
There was also a Panamanian ship by this name which, according to Rohwer, may have been sunk west of Gibraltar by U-83 on Oct. 17-1941. I've been told that this cannot be. Indra had sailed from Barry, South Wales on Oct. 16-1941 bound for Huelva (alone). She passed Barry Island on Oct. 17, then went missing. This ship was built in 1900, and it would have been impossible for such an old ship to reach the position suggested by Rohwer on the date given. A lifeboat marked Indra, Panama was washed ashore at Newgate, Pembrokeshire on Dec. 12. Joint Arbitration Committee believed she was lost between Oct. 17 and Oct. 20, considering her a 50% Marine Loss and 50% War Loss.
The text on this page was compiled with the help of: "Nortraships flåte", J. R. Hegland, "Våre motorskip", Leif M. Bjørkelund & E. H. Kongshavn, "Krigsseileren", Issue No. 2 for 1975, "Sjøforklaringer fra 2. verdenskrig", Norwegian Maritime Museum, Volume I, and misc., including a memorandum dated Jan. 12-1943, based on statements by survivors, signed Lieut. U.S.N.R. H. V. Stebbins, received from Tony Cooper, England (ref. My sources).