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M/T John P. Pedersen
Owner: A/S Havtank.
Built by Swan, Hunter & Wigham Richardson Ltd, Wallsend, Sunderland in 1930.
Captain: Sverre Emil Johnsen until Aug.-1940, then Hans Adolf Nilsen (formerly the 1st mate - see also this external page).
Related items on this website:
In Admiralty service RFA 1940 (Royal Fleet Auxiliary). On charter to British Tankers?
Her voyages are listed on this original document received from the National Archives of Norway.
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.
Errors may exist.
John P. Pedersen was en route from Hampton Roads to Corpus Christi when war broke out in Norway on Apr. 9-1940, arriving her destination on Apr. 12 - see also the archive document. She loaded a cargo of oil for Naples, Italy, but had to stop by Kingston, Jamaica on the way, possibly to get all papers with regard to ownership, cargo, insurance etc. in order(?) - my page about Nortraship has further descriptions of events and problems in those early days of war in Norway. She remained in Kingston from Apr. 24 until Apr. 29, then proceeded to Gibraltar, where she arrived on May 16 and where new orders were received for Southampton instead of Naples (she had initially been scheduled for Convoy HG 30 from Gibraltar on May 15 with a note saying "to remain at Gibraltar"). By the time all formalities were in order and she was ready to leave on June 13, Italy had joined the war. She now joined the convoy in which M/S Tudor was sunk, namely Convoy HGF 34, together with Nina Borthen, Svein Jarl and Kollskegg. She arrived Southampton on June 28 (another source says June 23), but in the meantime, France had fallen and with the chaos that existed in British ports at the time, following the evacuations of Dunkirk etc., it took a long time to get her cargo unloaded.
Finally, on July 17, she could depart for Trinidad, joining Convoy OB 187, which originated in Liverpool on July 21 and dispersed on the 25th, John P. Pedersen arriving Trinidad on Aug. 7 (she had sailed from Milford Haven on July 20/21); see the external link provided in the table above for more convoy details, the Norwegian Caledonia, Carmelfjell, Heien, Ibis, Iris, Lyra, Para and Suderholm are also listed. In Trinidad, John P. Pedersen had gun platforms, degaussing cable and bridge protection installed in the course of the subsequent weeks. Captain Sverre Emil Johnson paid off while in Port of Spain, and 1st Mate Hans Adolf Nilsen replaced him on Aug. 30. According to A. Hague, she proceeded to Curacao on Sept. 19, where she arrived Sept. 22 (this voyage is not included on the archive document), and after having loaded a cargo there she went to Halifax to join a convoy for the U.K.; at the same time a gun was installed and two gunners were employed. She now joined Convoy HX 80, which left Halifax on Oct. 12 (she had been cancelled from Convoy HX 79 on Oct. 8). The cargo was taken to Clyde and Scapa Flow, before she headed to Oban to join a convoy. Together with Emma Bakke, A. Hague has included her in Convoy OB 243 (see Voyage Record above), which originated in Liverpool on Nov. 13 and dispered on the 18th, John P. Pedersen arriving Trinidad on Dec. 7. While there, she spent 10 days at a yard, then headed to Gibraltar with a cargo on Dec. 20.From Gibraltar, she sailed to Curacao on Jan. 7-1941, arriving Jan. 23, and having loaded another cargo, she left for the U.K. on Jan. 24, via Bermuda, where she arrived on Jan. 30 (alone), leaving again in the Bermuda portion of Convoy HX 107 on Febr. 1. She was bound for Greenock, a voyage taking 3 weeks. The archive document gives her arrival Greenock as Febr. 23 (according to Arnold Hague's "The Allied Convoy System", HX 107, which started out in Halifax on Febr. 3, arrived Liverpool on Febr. 28). 11 ships are said to have joined with the Bermuda portion (BHX 107), in which John P. Pedersen had station 81, taking station 32 when joining the main portion on Febr. 7, cargo of fuel oil. This is the convoy from which the Norwegian Benjamin Franklin and others were sunk - follow the links for more details. John P. Pedersen subsequently headed to New York, having joined Convoy OB 295, which originated in Liverpool on March 8 and dispersed on the 14th, John P. Pedersen arriving her destination on March 25. The Norwegian Norse King, Topdalsfjord and Tungsha are also listed in this convoy, while Novasli was scheduled, but did not join - ref. link in the table above. John P. Pedersen was now docked, before proceeding to Curacao on Apr. 20, with arrival Apr. 28, leaving again that same day with a cargo of 9100 tons of army fuel oil for Clyde via Halifax for convoy, arriving the latter port on May 7.
As mentioned above, John P. Pedersen had arrived Halifax on May 7-1941 with a cargo of 9100 tons of army fuel oil for Clyde. She had initially been scheduled for Convoy HX 125 on May 6, but joined Convoy HX 126 on May 10. On May 20, she was torpedoed by U-94 (Kuppisch), 160 miles south of Greenland. Convoy HX 126 had been ordered by the Commodore to disperse that same day after several ships had been sunk. Please follow the link for a lot more details on this convoy - several reports are available, including the Commodore's narrative and this report.
The British gunner Stanley Chapman died (see this Guestbook message), the survivors took to the lifeboats. Shortly afterwards the U-boat came to the surface and sent off another 2 torpedoes, and the ship sank, 20 minutes after the first torpedo had struck.
16 men were picked up on May 23 from 3rd Mate Svend Carstensen's port lifeboat by the rescue ship Hontestroom (Dutch built and owned*), then transferred to a Dutch hospital ship and taken to Reykjavik (or were those 2 one and the same ship? I believe they were). 4 of the survivors joined the Norwegian navy there, while 8 continued to Gourock on board the Dutch ship, another 3 were sent to Preston, while 1 was briefly admitted to a hospital in Reykjavik.
The captain's lifeboat with 21 on board disappeared, making the total loss 22 - see also the note at X further down on this page. Their names can be found in the crew list below. This list, along with a copy of the maritime declaration was sent to me by the son of the Canadian Radio Operator George W. Byer, who survived the attack. The entry for Jan. 9-2002 in my Guestbook is from the radio operator's son (here is his message). His father died in 1995, but before he did he wrote down his memories of this incident and his son has also sent me a copy of this story, which mentions that the captain and chief engineer were brothers sailing together for the first time in 20 years, but according to this Guestbook message, that is incorrect (summary of the radio operator's story can be found towards the end of this text).
An account of the sinking and a summary of the maritime hearings held at the Norwegian General Consulate in Glasgow on June 18-1941 can be found in "19 Oslo-skips historie under verdenskrigen, fra April 1940 til krigens slutt i 1945" (The Story of 19 Oslo ships during the World War, from April 1940 until the End of the War in 1945), based on the diaries and logs of 19 ships. It states that John P. Pedersen was hit at 14:00 on May 20 (J. Rohwer lists her as a romper of the convoy, and gives German time as 18:17).
The first witness, 3rd Engineer Halfdan Nilsen said he was on duty in the engine room when the torpedo hit. He later heard it had struck behind the pump room. He felt a violent blow in the room and stopped the engine right away. On his way up a great deal of oil poured through the skylight while at the same time his passage was partly blocked by steam. At this time the weather was fair and the seas were calmed by the oil pouring out. He jumped into the starboard lifeboat, but can't rememeber who else or how many were in it, though he does remember that this boat picked up people from the water. The British gunner (Stanley Chapman) was already dead when he was picked up (possibly choked to death by oil he had swallowed). He also claims to have seen a U-boat marked Z 37 on the surface, and adds that they saw their ship sink about 20 minutes after they had entered the lifeboats, the ship having received another 2 torpedoes. He says the boats kept together until the afternoon of the following day when at about 16:00 the towline broke due to the increasing wind and sea. The 16 men in the lifeboat he was in were picked up by a British rescue vessel(?) where they stayed for 1/2 an hour before being transferred to the Dutch hospital ship (? he probably means Hontestroom) and taken to Reykjavik. This witness was among the 3 who were sent to Preston, then on to Glasgow. At the time of the inquiry Halfdan Nilsen had already joined another ship, M/T Ferncastle. It'll be noticed, when following the link, that she had arrived Clyde on June 12; see also her Voyage Record for this period. (He must have left Ferncastle before she was sunk by the German raider Michel on June 17-1943. He's not listed among the casualties, nor among the survivors).
Witness No. 2 was Boatswain Nils Walderhaug, who was in his cabin when the 1st torpedo hit. He ran up and got in the port lifeboat which capsized after the launch, with the 3 men in it ending up in the water but they were later picked up by the other boat. The boat was righted and bailed whereupon 8-9 went in it. He could not say how many were in each boat because people kept moving from one boat to the other. Around 17:00-18:00 on May 21 the captain gave the order to let go of the line that kept the boats together, due to the danger of keeping them so close together in the increasingly heavy weather. The other boat was never seen again (again, see the note at X below). Nils Walderhaug was 1 of the 8 who were sent from Reykjavik to Gourock on the Dutch ship.
George W. Byer even gives details on the radio equipment on board, saying it was German Telefunken with all dials and markings in German; the main transmitter, short wave transmitter, main receiver, direction finder and auto-alarm were all 1939 Telefunken issue, while 2nd receiver was American Hallicrafter. He had just recently joined the ship in New York when John P. Pedersen was berthed at the wharf in Brooklyn. He doesn't give the date for departure New York, but says the ship experienced engine trouble and had to return to New York harbour for repairs, heading for Curaçao 2 days later to load cargo. (Comparing this with the captain's various reports I find that he says she arrived New York on March 25-1941 for docking and repairs, having come from Greenock. She then departed for Curaçao on Apr. 20, arriving Apr. 28, departed that same day with a full load for Halifax, arriving May 7, to depart again in convoy on May 10 - again, see also the archive document). The radio operator says that on the first evening in the Caribbean the static started to build up and became so bad that it was impossible to hear any radio signals. The explanation was provided when he was called to the deck by the captain who pointed out the "St. Elmo's Fire", causing all the rigging, masts and even the lookout and the captain to glow. When the radio operator looked up he saw "a glowing ball of light slowly moving along the radio antenna, to the mast and down the rigging, to disappear over the side". George W. Byer says that on arrival Curaçao they tied up to a dock 100 ft offshore a few miles from Willemstad for over 30 hrs while loading cargo of bunker fuel oil. Later they went into the harbour of Willemstad, turned around and back out over the test course to check the degaussing equipment.
While en route to Halifax the captain ordered him to obtain the names, home addresses, and names and addresses of next of kin for the entire crew. On arrival Halifax they anchored in Bedford Basin to await convoy. New life jackets arrived and they were tested by the 1st mate who put a 50 lbs chunk of iron on one of them, attached it to a long rope and put it over the side into the water. It was still floating after 24 hrs so must have passed the test. He also says the ship was fitted with gear to enable them to refuel the escorts at sea. On departure Halifax the convoy consisted of 38 (? this number is incorrect) merchant ships and an escort of 1 armed merchant cruiser and a submarine (these were HMS Aurania and HMS Tribune - follow the link to HX 126 for names of escorts that joined later), which was "all the navy had available for protection of the convoy and was supposed to protect us from surface raiders which at that time seemed to be all that the enemy were using in the western part of the Atlantic". He adds that the convoy was about 8 columns wide with 4 or 5 ships in each column and the tankers in the middle where they would be safer from attack. On May 19, they sailed westwards towards Canada for about 12 hours before turning around to continue towards England. At midnight he was called on watch because a straggler had been attacked and was seen burning behind the convoy (note: Jürgen Rohwer reports no stragglers sunk on that date, but lists the British Norman Monarch as the first ship to be sunk at 04:58 GMT on May 20, by U-94 - this may have been the ship they saw). He says he returned to the bridge at 08:30 just in time to see a tanker go up in a sheet of flames in the next column and another ship being torpedoed (Rohwer lists M/S Darlington Court at 14:48 and M/T British Security 2 minutes later), whereupon the Commodore gave orders to disperse.
In the radio room the radio operator listened to ship after ship sending "SSS torpedoed" call signs, followed by another station repeating them along with the name of the ship and location, and then repeated again by Cape Race. Finally, his own turn came to send out this signal* and he waited to hear it repeated before heading for the boat deck to find everyone except the captain and 1st mate standing off from the ship in the lifeboats. The captain yelled for him to jump, and while in the water he heard 2 splashes and saw that the 2 officers followed him into the water. The British gunner, who had come on board in Halifax was found to be missing, then someone spotted him in the water hanging on to the boatfalls, apparently too frightened to let go. One of the lifeboats started to move over to assist him when another torpedo hit the ship and she settled down in the water and slowly sank. By the time the gunner's body was retrieved he was already dead.
George Byer says that when a ship was spotted in the horizon several days later the bosun tied an oil soaked rag to a spar and lit it to give a smoke signal, which must have been seen by the lookout on the ship. He says this was a Royal Navy corvette, part of the ocean escort that was supposed to have escorted the convoy starting the day after the attack broke up. According to him they spent several hours on board before being transferred to the rescue ship, making it over 225** rescued seamen on board this vessel which was meant to accommodate 190 (he says there were 18 from his own ship). Due to shortage of fuel and food the rescue ship and escorts put into Reykjavik where several hours later the survivors were taken by army transport to a British Army transit camp on the outskirts of the city, except for the boatswain who was taken to the British service hospital due to pain in his swollen legs, but he soon rejoined them because the doctors had been called away on an emergency to treat the 3 survivors from HMS Hood which had been sunk by Bismark. A couple of days later they were all given a tot of rum in celebration of the sinking of Bismark.
The crews were later put back on the rescue ship for transport to the U.K., while he, the 2nd mate and 4th engineer (this should probably be 3rd engineer) were taken to an Isle of Man ferryboat which was in use as a troop transport, and sailed for the U.K., arriving Preston on June 4. They had no money so had to borrow from the purser of the ferryboat for their bus fare to Liverpool. Once there, the Norwegian shipping office sent them to a house for the night, most of which was spent in or near an air raid shelter. The next day they were put on a train for Glasgow, but the train spent several hours in a tunnel after the alert had sounded. When they finally reached Glasgow a Nortraship representative put them up at Beresford Hotel for 2 weeks.
Rounding off his story the radio operator says he was given the equivalent of 2 months' pay and some money for the loss of personal effects, as well as some ration coupons to buy new clothes. He spent his 22nd birthday alone among strangers when the other 2 left to find jobs; he couldn't find one, though he was eventually hired by the Marconi company.
On May 20-1941 Convoy HX126 was escorted only by Armed Merchant Cruiser HMS Aurania (F-28) which acted as convoy Commodore (he probably means Senior Officer of escort, Commodore's ship was Hindustan), when it sighted a submarine 09:37 bearing 080º. Immediately afterwards Darlington Court (station No. 41) and British Security were torpedoed at 09:38 and 09:39. At 09:50 the Aurania ordered the convoy to scatter. When the Commodore tried to round up the ships later, Ribera, Barnby, British Freedom, and Eemland could not be found. Three of them arrived safely in the UK, but Barnby was torpedoed and sunk on May 22. The survivovrs were adrift for 9 days before being rescued by a British cruiser, which was in company with another cruiser, seeking supply ships which had gone out in advance of the Bismarck to sustain its operations. After the Bismarck was sunk, the Navy went out looking for these vessels. The Barnby survivors were kept aboard the cruiser, which carried on with its task, and indeed found a German supply tanker which when sighted and surprised by the two cruisers was actually about to refuel U-93, which then hurriedly cast off and dived out of the way. The two cruisers sank the tanker, and then returned to Iceland where the Barnby survivors were landed after being on board for 9 days.
Again, see my page about Convoy HX 126 for more on the escorts and several reports.
Very kindly sent to me by the son of the Canadian radio operator on board.
The list has since been checked against what is found in "Sjøforklaringer fra 2. verdenskrig" (Maritime Declarations from WW II), Volume I.
A list of names can also be found in "19 Oslo-skips historie under verdenskrigen, fra April 1940 til krigens slutt i 1945". This list conflicts slightly with the above in that Thomas Griffo is Thomas Cuffe, Albert Pestemo is Albert Postema. Stanley Chapman can be found on this page on the Commonwealth War Graves Comm. website (external link). He's commemorated at Chatham Naval Memorial.
External links related to the text on this page:
Operations information for U-71 - This is the U-boat that encountered the lifeboat from John P. Pedersen on June 21.
Back to John P. Pedersen on the "Ships starting with J" page.
The text on this page was compiled with the help of: "Nortraships flåte", J. R. Hegland, "19 Oslo-skips historie under verdenskrigen, fra April 1940 til krigens slutt i 1945" (The Story of 19 Oslo ships during the World War, from April 1940 until the End of the War in 1945) which covers ships under Halfdan Ditlev-Simonsen & Co., O. Ditlev-Simonsen jr., Sverre Ditlev-Simonsen & Co., John P. Pedersen & Søn, Helmer Staubo & Co. and is based on the diaries and logs of 19 ships. Copy of the Maritime Hearings report and Canadian Radio Operator's report as well as crew list received from his son. Misc. others for cross checking info, incl. "Axis Submarine Successes of World War Two", Jürgen Rohwer, "The World's Merchant Fleets 1939", Roger W. Jordan, "Convoy Rescue Ships 1940-1945" and "The Allied Convoy System" by Arnold Hague, as well as E-mails from visitors to my site, as mentioned within above text.