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Owner: Dampsk.-A/S Laly
Built in Gothenburg, Sweden in 1937.
Captain: Lars K. Holm Brynildsen
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As will be seen when going to Page 1 above, Leif was in New York when war broke out in Norway on Apr. 9-1940.
Later that year, she rescued 25 men from the British ship Davisian in the Caribbean (captured and sunk by the German raider Widder on July 10).
Leif (on charter to the Bull Line Steamship Co, NewYork) departed New York on Febr. 26-1942, assisted by a tug, bound for Ciudad Trujillo, Dominican Republic with 2300 tons general cargo, mostly cement ("Nortraships flåte" says she was en route to New York, but see also Page 6). After her compasses had been corrected she went back up the river and anchored at Gravesend Bay in order to take on board ammunition before continuing her voyage. However, she did not make it to her destination.
At 02:00 on Febr. 28, she was torpedoed by U-653 (Feiler), position 34 45N 69 20W, east of Cape Hatteras.
A survivors' report dated March 17 states that the explosion occurred between No. 1 and 2 holds, where the cement was kept. It caused the foremast to fall on the radio shack, so that no distress call could be sent. The officer on duty on the bridge was 3rd Mate Robert Karlsen who immediately sounded the alarm. On the bridge were also the Able Seamen Oscar Petterson and Trygve Torgersen, who after the explosion started to lower the starboard lifeboat without having been given the orders to do so (according to 2nd Mate Muller's statements at the subsequent hearings). When the 2nd mate came up on the boatdeck and saw this he stopped them, with the result that only 4 men were in this boat, and others who belonged to it had to go to the port boat, or jump overboard. 2 lifeboats were eventually launched, and those in the water, including the captain were picked up by these, until there were 6 men in the starboard boat and 18 in the port boat. The ship sank by the bow within 6-7 minutes.
As soon as the weather permitted in the morning the captain, 1st Engineer Ole B. Kristensen, Able Seaman Arvid Berg and Mechanic Olav Klaksjord Johansen moved over to the starboard boat. They had rain, hail showers and strong winds and at around 13:00, contact with the port boat was lost. The starboard boat used a sea anchor all that day and the following night, then as the weather improved they set sail and headed straight south all day March 1 and the following night. At 06:00 on March 2 the 10 men in the captain's boat were picked up by the Swedish Sveadrott about 185 miles west of Bermuda and landed at Key West on March 6, while the survivors in the other boat were never seen again.
The survivors left Key West by bus for Miami in the afternoon of March 7, continuing by train to New York that same evening, with arrival in the morning of March 9. Maritime hearings were held there on March 16-1942 with the captain, the 2nd mate, the 1st engineer and Able Seaman Vaagen appearing, all of whom had been off duty and in their beds when the explosion occurred. Some of the witnesses mention a survival suit, which each of Leif's crew members had, and speak very highly of it. This is probably the so called Vaco suit, distributed to all Norwegian seamen and credited for saving many lives.
(Roger W. Jordan's "The World's Merchant Fleets 1939" says 18 died).
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Back to Leif on the "Ships starting with L" page.
Norway had previously had a steamship named Leif, built Middlesbrough 1883, 1289 gt as Godiva for British owners. Became Norwegian Leif in 1898 for Brødrene Bjærtnes, Holmestrand. Damaged in ice on May 15-1902 and sank near Finland, cargo of coal.
The text on this page was compiled with the help of: "Nortraships flåte", J. R. Hegland, "Krigsseileren", Issue No. 2 for 1975, "Sjøforklaringer fra 2. verdenskrig", Norwegian Maritime Museum, Volume I, and misc. (ref. My sources).