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Manager: Wilh. Wilhelmsen, Tønsberg
Launched Nov. 29-1920 by Sir W. G. Armstrong, Whitworth & Co., Ltd., Newcastle (Yard No. 976), completed Jan. 31-1922.
Captain: Oddmund Berge, later Olav R. Reinertsen.
In Admiralty service (Royal Fleet Auxiliary) from 1940.
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, and several voyages are missing.
According to Page 1 of the archive documents, Mirlo was on her way from New York to Tampico when war broke out in Norway on Apr. 9-1940, arriving her destination on Apr. 13, having left New York on the 5th. Her 1941 voyages also start on this document and continue on Page 2. It'll be noticed that she spent quite a long time in New York, where she arrived from Aruba on May 17; departure is given as July 3, when she proceeded to Halifax in order to join Convoy HX 138 on July 11, bound for Clyde, where she arrived on July 27. She returned across the Atlantic with Convoy ON 5, originating in Liverpool on Aug. 6, dispersed on the 14th, Mirlo arriving New York on Aug. 22 (she had joined this convoy from Clyde). She subsequently headed back to the U.K. on Sept. 4 in Convoy HX 148 from Halifax, along with the Norwegian Ørnefjell, James Hawson, Grey County, Stigstad, Idefjord, Egda, Vivi, and Herbrand, as well as the Panamanian Norvinn (Norwegian managers and, therefore, listed on this website). A. Hague has also included Gefion in this convoy and adds that Mirlo became a straggler on Sept. 9 - she arrived Loch Ewe on the 16th.
A month later, we find her in station 83 of the westbound North Atlantic Convoy ON 26, which originated in Liverpool on Oct. 14; Mirlo started out from Loch Ewe on the 16th. According to the Commodore's notes, she lost touch with this convoy in fog on Oct. 24. He says: Mirlo, with a speed of 10 knots, had problems maintaining convoy speed and straggled continuously at night. On Oct. 24, when fog came on she was observed to be dropping astern and would not answer signals to close up. She eventually lost touch and was not seen again. In my opinion this was done deliberately probably from timidity. The master of Manchester Mercant informed me she did the same thing in the last convoy he was with her (this was probably Convoy HX 148, mentioned above; Manchester Merchant served as Commodore Vessel for both these convoys). The Commodore adds, I submit she is not fit to go in convoy until her master undertakes not to straggle and to keep a better look out for signals. She was a continual cause of anxiety to me. Going back to Page 2 of the archive documents, we see that she stopped at St. John's, N.F. on Oct. 28, proceeding to New York the next day, with arrival there on Nov. 3. On the 16th of that month she joined the slow Convoy SC 55 from Sydney, C.B., bound for Hvalfjord, Iceland; the archive document gives arrival Reykjavik on Nov. 30.
It appears she subsequently joined Convoy PQ 6 to Murmansk on Dec. 8, though British sources list the British El Mirlo in this convoy. However, as will be seen from this response to my query on the Ship Forum, the British ship was in another part of the world at that time. With regard to Mirlo, the posting states (compare with Page 2):
Together with Arthur W. Sewall, Bralanta, Cetus, Egda, G. C. Brøvig, Hardanger, Kaldfonn, Kollbjørg, N. T. Nielsen Alonso, Nueva Granada, Stiklestad, Tankexpress, Troubadour and Vav, Mirlo is listed in the westbound North Atlantic Convoy ON 65*, originating in Liverpool on Febr. 8-1942, dispersed Febr. 19. As already indicated, Mirlo started out from Iceland on Febr. 10, and arrived Bermuda on Febr. 27. A few days later, she continued to New York, arriving March 6, remaining there for quite a long time (Page 3). Departure is given as May 3 when she proceeded to Halifax in order to join the slow Convoy SC 83 on May 7. Acanthus, Eglantine, Potentilla and Rose are named among the escorts. Mirlo was bound for Sheerness, where she arrived, via Loch Ewe and Methil, on May 30, according to A. Hague. With Ferncourt, Frontenac, Garnes, Idefjord, Kaia Knudsen, Kong Haakon VII (Commodore Vessel), Lista, Maud, Noreg, Scebeli, Sommerstad, Thorshøvdi, Tijuca and Troubadour, as well as the Panamanian Norvinn, she later joined the westbound Convoy ON 103*, originating in Liverpool on June 12; Mirlo sailed from Loch Ewe that day and arrived New York on June 27, continuing to Curacao on the 29th, where she arrived on July 23 (via Hampton Roads and Key West - convoy details in Voyage Record above).
Captain Olav Reinertsen. As mentioned, Mirlo had arrived Curacao on July 23-1942. She left again on July 26 (listed in Convoy WAT 7, together with Frontenac and Kaia Knudsen, external link), arriving Trinidad for routing instructions on the 29th, departing for Freetown on Aug. 1, but did not make it to her destination. On Aug. 11, she was torpedoed in the starboard side foreship and sunk by U-130 (Kals), 870 miles west-southwest of Freetown, position 06 04N 25 53W. She had a cargo of 10 300 tons fuel oil and diesel. All 37 survived. This took place just two days after Malmanger had been torpedoed by the same U-boat.
(J. Rowher gives the position 06 04N 26 50W).
In the Norwegian magazine "Krigsseileren", Issue No. 1 for 1995 and in Issue No. 1 for 1971 I've found articles describing the events surrounding the loss of Mirlo. As is common when 2 different people tell a story, some of the details are slightly different, so I've summarized one of the articles, then where the information differs from the first article I've added the details of the other in a separate paragraph. The information in the second article appears to be identical to that found in a report presented at the subsequent inquiry, held in London on Sept. 17-1942.
Olaf Johan Oen says Mirlo departed Port of Spain in convoy* on Aug. 1-1942 with 12(?) other ships. After having travelled 300 n. miles the escort left them and each ship continued according to individual instructions. On Aug. 3 at 14:45 the 2nd mate sighted a surfaced U-boat** on the port side. The alarm was sounded and he saw a torpedo approach but it passed in front of her bow, the ship having quickly turned to starboard. The gun crew fired a shot at the boat which immediately submerged. The captain now decided to not follow the original course but proceed more southerly while at the same time zig-zag'ing, altering course every 6 to 9 minutes, thereby being on the right course twice an hour. During the afternoon the radio operator reported several ships in the convoy having been torpedoed.
On Aug. 11, when Oen came on 04:00 o'clock lookout duty he noticed a strong smell of oil and gas, and when daylight came they could see oil all over the ocean around them. They later found out this came from the torpedoed Malmanger. A few hours later, at 10:45 the officer on watch saw 2 torpedoes coming towards Mirlo, 1 of which missed due to evading maneuvers of the ship, the other hit in the foredeck followed by a horrendous explosion, tearing up the deck and flinging oil all over the ship. The donkeyman stopped the engine, and Oen, who was in bed at the time ran up on the boatdeck and helped launch the lifeboats. They succeeded in lowering 3 of them, but had problems with the 4th. The U-boat came alongside the boats, and when it was discovered that a man was missing, Kals gave captain Reinertsen permission to row back to the ship to look for him. While the other lifeboats were waiting for the captain's boat to return some of the U-boat crew came up on deck. 1 of them spoke good Norwegian so the ensuing conversation was easy to follow.
The captain returned with the badly injured man and was then taken aboard the U-boat where he was very politely treated. Kals apologized for having to sink Mirlo, saw to it that he had the bandages and everything else he needed to treat the injured man, told them to convey his apologies to Malmanger's mate for having forgotten to give him the map he had promised him, and said he would send a telegram to the Admiralty with their position so that they could be rescued. (Kals already had two prisoners from Malmanger on the boat at that time - follow the link above for more info). Another torpedo was sent into Mirlo and she disappeared in seconds in a huge explosion of oil and flames, which for a while threatened the people in one of the boats. Oen praises the U-boat commander for his honourable behaviour towards them.
He says the nearest coast was 780(?) n. miles away and the 3 boats headed for land. Bad weather caused them to lose contact with each other on the 3rd day. On the 8th day Oen's boat (with 11 on board) saw land and at the same time a convoy appeared along the coast and they were picked up by a corvette. Oen says they stayed in Freetown for 10-12 days before being taken to the U.K. on a British troop transport, and most of the crew subsequently joined other ships.
Some additional details from a report on the sinking:
3 days later (Aug. 6 at 15:40) a U-boat was again spotted aft of the port quarters, about 5-6 miles off and course immedately altered 90° to starboard, and again they escaped, until Aug. 11 when, as described above, the 2 torpedoes were seen coming towards them from the starboard quarters, 1 of which was heading for the engine room, the other for the foreship - no boat or periscope was seen on this occasion. Quick evasive maneuvers to port avoided the former torpedo, while the other exploded with terrific force near side tank No. 8, starboard side.
The rest of the report more or less corresponds to details in the above article, adding that the complete destruction of the radio room had rendered SOS impossible; that room had also been filled with crude oil in the explosion. Mirlo was quickly sinking by the bow, so orders to abandon ship were given, but while the port amidships boat was being launched a big wave came over it, filling it with crude oil, so only the 3 boats could be used. This report states that the last torpedo hit Mirlo when the captain's motor boat was half way between the ship and the U-boat after having fetched the injured ordinary seaman, hitting on the starboard side, a little forward of the after mast where the tank contained diesel oil, sending flames 200-300 meters in the air before the ship sank within seconds. Time is given as ca. 11:00, and position 06 04N 25 53W, distance from Freetown about 870 miles.
With the help of the first aid items that Kals had given them the men in the captain's boat tried their best to take care of the seriously injured Ordinary Seaman Sverre Gustavsen, who had been on lookout duty on the chart house roof when the explosion occurred, but for the first 3 days he was in very bad shape, continuously throwing up blood, and they did not expect him to survive, but to everyone's surprise and relief he gradually improved. After 9 days, when they were about 108 n. miles southwest of Freetown, having sailed about 762 n. miles, the 10 men in the captain's boat were picked up by HMS Canna on Aug. 20 and landed in Freetown on the 22nd. The injured man was taken to a hospital where he was found to have a very severe skull fracture in addition to other injuries. The 11 men in the 1st mate's boat had been picked up by HMS Banff (Y 43) on Aug. 18 and landed in Freetown the next day. HMS Boreas had picked up the 15 in the 2nd mate's boat on the 18th, landed in Freetown on the 23rd.
As mentioned, the inquiry was held in London on Sept. 17-1942, with the captain, the 2nd and 3rd mates and the radio operator appearing. They had arrived London the day before.
Crew List - No casualties:
Back to Mirlo on the "Ships starting with M" page.
This was the second tanker Wilh. Wilhelmsen owned by the name Mirlo. The first one was also torpedoed by a German U-boat, (U-117) but in the 1st World War; Aug. 16-1918, on a voyage New Orleans-London with gasoline and refined oil, half a mile south by east of Wimble Shoal Buoy, Cape Hatteras (9 died, the captain was among survivors). This ship had been completed in Aug.-1917, 6978 gt, and was placed under the management of H. E. Moss & Co., Liverpool (war requisition) with registered owner W. M. Cohan.
The text on this page was compiled with the help of: Wilh. Wilhelmsen fleet list, Articles in "Krigsseileren", Issue No. 1 for 1995 and in Issue No. 1 for 1971, "Nortraships flåte", J. R. Hegland, "Sjøforklaringer fra 2. verdenskrig", Norwegian Maritime Museum, Volume II, and misc. - (ref. My sources).