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To Jamaica on the "Ships starting with J" page.
Owner: Skibs-A/S Rose
Built by Burmeister & Wain's Maskin & Skibsbyggeri A/S, Copenhagen in 1936. Previous name: Giuba until 1938.
Captain: Arnfinn Bergan.
Related items on this website:
Please compare the above voyages with Arnold Hague's Voyage Record below.
(Received from Don Kindell - His source: The late Arnold Hague's database).
Follow the convoy links provided for more information on each.
According to Page 1 of the archive documents, Jamaica was on her way from Victoria (Braz) to Gibraltar when war broke out in Norway on Apr. 9-1940. This voyage had started out in Rio de Janeiro on March 27 and she was bound for Port Sudan, where she later arrived (via Beirut, Port Said and Suez) on May 6.
Later that year, she's listed in Convoy SL 39F, departing Freetown on July 11. This convoy joined up with SL 39 on July 19. She arrived Liverpool on July 28 and the following month we find her in Convoy OB 197, which left Liverpool on Aug. 13 and dispersed Aug. 16, Jamaica arriving Pernambuco on Aug. 28. - ref. external links provided within the table above; Erica, Grey County, Inga I, Nova, Sandar and Varangberg are also listed in the OB convoy.
On Oct. 29-1940, she was damaged by a mine off Mackenzie Buoy, but managed to get to Avonmouth the next day (A. Hague says she arrived in tow). According to Page 1, she later headed to Newport, and it looks like repairs must have taken a long time: departure Newport is given as Nov. 22-1941, when she headed to New York.
She also spent a long time in Liverpool the following year. A. Hague says she had a fire on board after arrival there from New York on June 16-1942, but I have no further details on this. The archive document mentioned above gives departure Liverpool as March 4-1943, when she embarked on her last voyage.
As mentioned above, Jamaica left Liverpool on March 4-1943, bound for New York alone in ballast, but didn't make it to her destination. In the morning of March 7, she was torpedoed in the starboard side by U-221 (Trojer) and sunk in approx. 52N 27W* (see also Page 2). The torpedo was believed to have detonated in the refrigerated hold amidships, because an intense smell of ammonia was noted after the explosion. She broke in two and sank in 2 minutes. 4 lifeboats were launched, though 2 were damaged and could not be used. As the ship sank the motor lifeboat was sucked down and came up capsized, but was righted and bailed.
Able seaman Bjarne Larsen explained that he had been in the messroom aft when the torpedo hit and went straight to the boat deck where he and Mechanic Fosseli, Able Seaman Dale and Mechanic Strandskog launched the motorboat from the port side. Dale remained on the boat deck, while the others in the boat were sucked under when the ship sank. One of the British Radio Operators had also attempted to get in this boat, but did not succeed (1st Radio Operator Ewart Francis Wilkinson). Larsen says he had heard the 2 cooks crying for help in the galley, and since both doors were open, he assumed they had been injured and, therefore, unable to get themselves out. When Larsen came to the surface again he saw the capsized motorboat nearby, then swam towards it and was able to climb onto it.
Mechanic Hauge, who was in his aft cabin at the time of the explosion, entered the starboard lifeboat, but after the U-boat had "rammed it on purpose" (see *) he jumped overboard and swam towards the capsized motorboat. He states that the U-boat also attempted to ram this boat which had several people on it, but fortunately a large wave came just then and the motorboat was swung away at the last moment and was not hit by the U-boat.
2nd Engineer Karl Engebreth Møller says he was in his cabin amidships when the torpedo hit, but the explosion threw him up on deck. No alarm had been sounded beforehand, leading him to believe that those on duty on deck had not seen the U-boat before the torpedo struck. He went to the starboard lifeboat which was launched with the help of the other 4 men present, then rowed away from Jamaica to keep from being sucked under. He had noticed that most of the crew had gone to the port side of the ship and in his opinion this was to avoid the gas eminating from the refrigerated hold.
He says that after Jamaica had gone down, the U-boat came up and asked for the captain and chief engineer. After having been told that they had probably gone down with the ship, because they had not been seen, the U-boat ran straight into the side of the lifeboat, on purpose (*), and damaged it even further, so that it became useless, but they succeeded in rowing it over to "half a raft" and tied the boat to it. The gig came over towing the motorboat, which was put alongside the raft and bailed, whereupon all the supplies in the starboard boat were transferred to the motorboat. The gig then rowed over to the wreckage of the port lifeboat in which there were 2 men and a search was made for possible survivors in the water but none were to be seen.
All supplies from the port boat were transferred to the gig, which now had 4 people. 13 were in the motorboat. The 4 in the gig did not want to stay with the other boat, so proceeded in a southerly direction. In the gig at that time were Steward Jens A. Menzoni, Able Seaman Eilef Daniel Henriksen, Gunner Thorbjørn Olsen, and Olaf Eliassen. The others readied the motorboat, then sailed in the same direction as the gig, leaving the raft and starboard boat behind. (Due to it having been damaged it was impossible to use the motor, therefore, sail had to be used). There were 2 compasses in the boat and course was set for southeast, later east. The 2 fresh water tanks in the boat were leaking and the contents were mixed with seawater, but they used the water from 4 water kegs, presumably taken from the damaged boat.
One of the able seamen, Einar Larsen, who had been at the helm when the torpedo hit had a badly injured thigh. He was covered up and taken care of as best they could. Before noon on the 9th they were spotted by a Flying Fortress aircraft, which circled around the boat a few times and threw down a box containing First Aid articles, as well as misc. other items that they were unable to pick up. After a while their feet swelled up in spite of massaging them and many were in a lot of pain.
At around 7:30 in the morning of the 18th, they were picked up by the corvette HMS Borage (K-120). There was no doctor on board, but they were treated by the ship's deacon and given the best of care. Borage then altered course to meet up with another corvette which had a doctor on board, and 3 of Jamaica's men whose injuries were the most severe were transferred there in order to be taken to Gibraltar as quickly as possible. Borage, meanwhile, met up with, and joined a convoy en route to the U.K., and the remaining survivors arrived Plymouth on March 26, then continued to London the next day.
A gunner also reported that the U-boat purposely rammed the lifeboat. He says that most of its occupants were able to cling to the resulting debris, but 3rd Engineer Odd A. Ernstsen had fallen overboard and was picked up by the U-boat, where his lifevest was "emptied" before he was "thrown back into the sea again"**. The gunner adds that the U-boat then ran around among the people swimming in the water, until it gradually grew quiet, and they were convinced that some of them had been killed. All the witnesses say they heard the cries and whistles from survivors swimming in the water nearby (they could not be seen, only heard, due to the tall seas), but after the U-boat had gone in that direction it all went quiet.
The gunner's report mentioned above further states that Gunner Thorbjørn O. Olsen, Gunner Larsen and Gunner Eliassen were in the aft messroom when the torpedo hit, while Gunner Gunnar Hellerud was on lookout duty on the bridge. Gunner Olaf Olsen was in bed (see also this guestbook message) and Gunner Anton Johansen was also in his cabin. Th. O. Olsen jumped into the sea and was able to get into a damaged lifeboat, while Larsen, O. Olsen and Eliassen launched the gig and managed to get into it.
At the time the other 13 survivors were landed in Plymouth, the 4 men who had left the scene of the sinking in Jamaica's gig were still missing, but on March 29 word came that they had reached Isle of Barra where they received medical treatment before being sent to London Apr. 6.
A total of 21 had died, including Captain Bergan. 1st Mate Samson Myrdal was believed to have been in the motorboat which initially went down with the suction when Jamaica sank, while 3rd Mate Charles Berg was on duty on the bridge when the torpedo hit. The latter had been seen floating in the water with half his face gone. Those who had been on duty in the engine room, namely 4th Engineer (assistant) Arne Nilsen, Mechanic Erik Gulbrandsen and Electrician Thorleif Sedolfsen were assumed killed instantly during the explosion. 1st Engineer Rolf Larsen had not been feeling well that morning and had probably gone to bed before the attack occurred. Gunner Thor Hauff Thorsen, who had been on gun duty, had placed himself on the raft on No. 3 hatch, but the raft got jammed under the beams and he died.
I've found some information in Issue No. 4 for 1982 of the Norwegian magazine "Krigsseileren" with regard to the 16 year old British Alan Ratcliff from Liverpool who survived the attack on Jamaica. He was among the 13 in the lifeboat, as was the 19 year old Mechanic Arne Fosseli. During a visit to Liverpool in 1977 Arne Fosseli came across some old newspapers containing Alan Ratcliff's story and through a subsequent notice in a Liverpool newspaper he was able to find him and the 2 were reunited in 1980. They were in the cabin of another English boy when the torpedo hit, causing the door to jam but they were able to get out through the porthole. Alan was in the lifeboat that was "rammed" by the U-boat and was caught on the boat for a while before being thrown off, and was subsequently picked up by a lifeboat, but his legs had been severely injured during the ordeal. In the course of the 11 days in the lifeboat his legs got progressively worse and gangrene set in. He was among the ones who were transferred from Borage to another corvette and taken to a military hospital in Gibraltar where his legs had to be amputated. He was later sent to England where he got artificial legs. There's a picture of him at the hospital, and another one of him and Arne Fosseli at their reunion. A. Fosseli died in 1996 - I've also received an E-mail from Alan Ratcliff's son telling me that he died in 1987 at the age of 61. He says that David Roberts was the other boy who got out with them; probably identical to the William D. Roberts in my crew list below.
Thorbjørn Olsen's other ships are listed on this external page. He also survived the attack on Spinanger.
Related external links:
Back to Jamaica on the "Ships starting with J" page.
Norway had also lost a ship by this name during WW I - built 1909 for Adolph Halvorsen, later managed by Westfal-Larsen, Bergen. Lost off Oporto on Jan. 1-1915, 15 died, 1 survived.
The text on this page was compiled with the help of: "Nortraships flåte", J. R. Hegland, "Sjøforklaringer fra 2. verdenskrig", Norwegian Maritime Museum, Volume I, "Krigsseileren" Issue No. 4 for 1982, and misc. others for cross checking info, incl. "Axis Submarine Successes of World War Two", Jürgen Rohwer and "The World's Merchant Fleets 1939", Roger W. Jordan.