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Barbara Mumford (who runs the Convoy ONS 154 website) has sent me some information from Mitchell & Sawyer's "Empire Ships" which says this ship was among the ships requisitioned by USSB and purchased from U.S.A. by the British Ministry of Shipping at the beginning of WW II. Built by Ames Shipbuilding & Drydock Co., Seattle, Wash. Ordered in WW I as War Hector for Shipping Controller, London. 5674 gt, 410 ft x 54 ft. Engines: T3cyl. Completed as Western Ally (USSB) in Jan.-1919. Named Forbes Hauptmann (McCormick SS Co. San Francisco) in 1929, then Empire Kittiwake (MoWT) in 1940.
This was one of 19 ships transferred to Nortraship in 1942 (my page "Ship Statistics & Misc." has the names of the other 18 under Empire Ships). As Empire Kittiwake she arrived the U.K. from Halifax with Convoy SC 80 early in May-1942 and was taken over in Mersey on May 15, renamed Norfalk. Most of the Empire-named ships that were transferred from the British to the Norwegian flag during the war years were given the prefix Nor, others were named for members of the (exiled) Norwegian Royal Family.
Captain: Einar Thoresen
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 (where the Convoy column is left blank, it means convoy is not known).
As mentioned further up on this page, Norfalk was taken over by Nortraship in Mersey on May 15-1942. As Empire Kittiwake, she had arrived the U.K. from Halifax with Convoy SC 80 earlier that month. Just a few days later, we find her, together with Berto, Bollsta, Carmelfjell, Fagersten, Granfoss, Ingerfem, Norelg and Rolf Jarl, in the westbound North Atlantic Convoy ON 96*, departing Liverpool on May 19, arriving Halifax June 7. Norfalk, however, was bound for Philadelphia, where she arrived, via New York, on June 9, returning to the U.K. a month later with the slow Sydney (C.B.)-U.K. Convoy SC 91, general cargo for Hull, with arrival there July 26 - see Page 1. With B. P. Newton, Carmelfjell, Gallia, Idefjord, Lista and Norfjell, she later joined the westbound Convoy ON 121*, departing Liverpool on Aug. 12, dispersed on the 27th, Norfalk arriving New York on Aug. 28, having sailed from Loch Ewe on the 12th.
From New York, she proceeded to Baltimore, spending a couple of weeks there before returning to New York, and according to Arnold Hague, she now headed back across the Atlantic in the slow Convoy SC 103*, departing New York on Sept. 26, arriving Liverpool Oct. 14 - Norfalk stopped at Oban that day. She had again been in the company of several other Norwegian ships, namely Ada, Boreas, Ingerfire, Rio Branco, Rolf Jarl, Solitaire, Carmelfjell, Jan, Pan Aruba, Solhavn, Solstad and Vinland. Her last Trans-Atlantic voyage that year was made in the westbound Convoy ON 147* (from Liverpool Nov. 17, to New York Dec. 4 - Norfalk joined from Loch Ewe and the archive document gives her arrival New York as Dec. 6). Abraham Lincoln (Commodore Vessel), Bralanta, Egda, Katy and Nortind are also listed.
In Jan.-1943 we find her in Convoy HX 223 from New York (see also Kollbjørg and Nortind) and in March she's listed, along with Ferncliff, Henrik Ibsen, Iron Baron, James Hawson and Maud, in the westbound Convoy ON 171*, which left Liverpool on March 4 and arrived Halifax on the 23rd. In May she's named among the ships in Convoy SC 129 from Halifax, in which Grado was sunk - follow the link for more details. Norfalk's voyages in this period are shown on Page 2.
That summer she was somewhat altered at King George Dock and fitted out for service in the Mediterranean. At that time she had 2 Norwegian and 5 British gunners on board, under the command of Juel Jahren. She left the dock on June 13 for Spurn Point to await a convoy, and witnessed an air attack on Grimsby early the next morning, before continuing to Oban. She's said to have departed on June 16 with Convoy OS 50/KMS 17 (the archive document gives her departure Oban as June 19, which is probably the correct date, because she had arrived there on the 18th), arriving Gibraltar on June 29, the convoy having split up on June 27. (Lysaker V was also in this convoy, but lagged behind and became a straggler. Other Norwegian ships in the Gibraltar portion, which is available in my own Convoys section at KMS 17, were Evviva, Kristianiafjord, Marga and Vigsnes. Names of ships in the combined convoy are available at the external link provided within the Voyage Record). Norfalk left Gibraltar for Bone the following day with arrival on July 4 and commenced unloading on July 12. On the 19th she departed for Philippeville, then went back to Gibraltar (listed in Convoy MKS 19Y - scroll down to the third table on that page) where 30 tons bombs were taken on board before she headed to Casablanca on Aug. 2. 4 days later she was back in Gibraltar, just 2 days after Thorshøvdi had been destroyed by limpet mines - follow the link for more info.
Norfalk remained in Gibraltar awaiting a convoy until Aug. 15. That same morning a southbound convoy in which Tigre, Facto and Selvik took part had been attacked by aircraft west of Cape St. Vincent (this was Convoy OS 53/KMS 23 - the British Warfield was sunk in this attack - Norjerv is also listed; ref. links at the end of this page), so an anti aircraft cruiser and 2 Liberator aircraft were added to the escort for the northbound convoy. In the afternoon of Aug. 17 a German FW Kurier came towards it but was shot down by the Liberators, and the convoy arrived Loch Ewe on Aug. 26. This must have been Convoy MKS 21, in which Norfalk is listed with a cargo of phosphates for Hull, together with the Norwegian Sneland I. Norfalk subsequently went to a yard in the Humber, where she stayed for several months (Page 2).
According to A. Hague, she later joined Convoy OS 60/KMS 34*, which left Liverpool on Nov. 25 and split up on Dec. 7. This matches up with the details found on Page 2 above, which shows that Norfalk left Loch Ewe on Nov. 25 and arrived Bizerta Dec. 13. Gabon, Hardanger, Kaldfonn and Norefjord are also named in this convoy.
Norfalk is also listed in Convoy SL 146/MKS 37 in Jan.-1944, together with the Norwegian Boreas, Troubadour and Tiradentes. The SL convoy had started out from Freetown on Jan. 12 and joined up with the MKS convoy from Gibraltar on the 23rd, the combined convoy arriving Liverpool on Febr. 2 - Norfalk, cargo of lemons, arrived Glasgow on Febr. 3*. The Gibraltar portion is available in my Convoys section at Convoy MKS 37 - note that she had previously arrived Gibraltar from Augusta; again, see also Page 2.
We now find her in the westbound North Atlantic Convoy ONS 29*, which left Liverpool on Febr. 12-1944 and arrived Halifax on the 29th. Norfalk joined from Clyde and was bound for New York, arriving there on March 3, according to A. Hague, who has also included Atlantic, Geisha (Commodore Vessel), Heimgar, Iron Baron, Nordanger, Ruth I, Suderøy, Tercero and Vav in this convoy. Acanthus, Eglantine and Rose are named among the escorts (see ONS convoy escorts). With a cargo of sugar for London, Norfalk was scheduled to go back to the U.K. in Convoy HX 291 from New York on May 10 (Vice Commodore in Høyanger), but instead joined the next convoy on May 19, HX 292. Her destination is now given as Greenock - see also Page 3.
On July 20-1944, while in a convoy 7 n. miles south of Barfleur Norfalk struck a mine and sank when en route to Normandy to be used as blockship during Operation Overlord - See also Page 3. Arnold Hague has included her, along with Fridtjof Nansen, Gaston Micard, Skum and Torfinn Jarl, in Convoy EBC 45 - external link. According to an excerpt from the ship's journal, she had started her voyage in Glasgow and was headed for St. Laurent, sailing as "No. 4 in the starboard column". When the explosion occurred she was about 1.5 miles east of "Buoy No. L 3". On the bridge at the time were Captain Thoresen, the 3rd mate and the helmsman, Able Seaman Husevåg, while Able Seaman Holm was on lookout duty. Engine Room Assistant Eliassen and Stoker Olsen were in the engine room.
She developed a leak in No. 5 hold, all electric lights stopped functioning and due to broken steam pipes it was impossible to get to the engine room. The main engine was stopped from the boat deck. The British trawler HMS Steepholm (T 356) and the American salvage vessel Diver arrived, whereupon attemps were made to tow her the rest of the way to Normandy, but in spite of continuous pumping the water kept rising in her holds, so her crew was ordered to Diver while crew from the salvage vessel took over. Several more attempts at towing were made but eventually given up late that afternoon and she was abondoned in a sinking condition (she sank 2 n. miles from her destination).
The 1st engineer, the donkeyman and the carpenter, who had been on the after deck when the explosion occurred were injured. The former 2 were picked up by an American MTB and subsequently transferred to a hospital ship, while the carpenter was treated on arrival port. All 3 were later left under medical care on the French coast.
Back to Norfalk on the "Ships starting with N" page.
The text on this page was compiled with the help of: "Nortraships flåte", J. R. Hegland, "Sjøforklaringer fra 2. verdenskrig", Norwegian Maritime Museum, Volume II, and misc. (ref. My sources).