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Ocean type tanker, built by Blythswood Shipbuilding Co. Ltd., Glasgow. Launched on Sept. 11-1941, completed in Nov.-1941 as Empire Pict. 479.3 ft (oa), 463.2 ft x 61.2 ft. Engines: Oil.
This was one of 19 ships transferred to Nortraship in 1942. Empire Ships on my page "Ship Statistics & Misc." gives the names of the other 18. Norland was taken over at Greenock on May 6.
Captain: Eugen Christoffersen
Related items on this website:
As Empire Pict, she had arrived U.K. in Convoy HX 182 in Apr.-1942 and was taken over by Nortraship on May 6. She was en route from Glasgow to Corpus Christi in ballast on her first voyage as Norland when she was torpedoed on May 20-1942 by U-108 (Scholtz), soon after having left Convoy ON 93 as planned, position 31 22N 55 47W*. Convoy ON 93, which originated in Liverpool on May 8 and was dispersed in 38 55N 42 43W on the 17th, will be added to an individual page in my Convoys section; in the meantime, the ships sailing in it are named in the section listing ships in all ON convoys. The Norwegian Solfonn and South Africa also took part, both bound for Aruba. According to a document received from the National Archives of Norway, Norland had sailed from "Tail of Bank" on May 6 and anchored in River Clyde the next day, leaving again for Corpus Christi on May 9.
At the time of attack she was on course 236° true, sailing at a speed of 12 1/2 knots (not zig-zagging), in clear weather with moderate sea, wind southeast force 3, excellent visibility, no other ships in sight. There were 4 lookouts; the 2nd mate, Ordinary Seaman Danielsen (helmsman) and 1 more on the bridge and 1 on top of the wheel house, while the gun crew of 3 were aft.
The torpedo hit with tremendous force at No. 8 tank forward of the bridge on the starboard side, about 10' below the water line, ripping the side of the ship up in a length of 50-60'. When the captain, who had been in his cabin came to the bridge and saw that the lifeboats were about to be launched, he ordered this to be stopped. The engine had been stopped immediately after the torpedo had struck, but when it became apparent that the ship was not sinking it was started again and they proceeded at full speed, having swung the ship towards Bermuda.
About 10 minutes later a periscope was spotted approx. 6 miles off, but disappeared after the gunners had fired in its direction with the 4" gun. However, the U-boat resurfaced about half an hour later and proceeded to shell the ship, whereupon Norland's gunners replied with 15-20 shells, but they all fell short. As she could not achieve a great speed with the big hole in her side, and the U-boat's shells landed ever closer, the engine was ordered stopped again, an SOS was sent out detailing their situation, and the ship abandoned at 15:00. 3 lifeboats were launched, with 19 men including the 1st mate in one, 15 including the captain in another and 14 with the 2nd mate in the third. They remained nearby until Norland caught on fire amidships and aft, and was sinking deeper and deeper (they estimated the U-boat had fired about 150-200 shells at her), then all 3 boats set a course for Bermuda.
They stayed together for the first 3-4 days, but due to a heavy rain storm 2 of the boats lost sight of the captain's boat, one in the afternoon of May 23, the other in the afternoon of May 25. All 48 were later rescued; the 19 in the 1st mate's boat were picked up by the Dutch Melampus and landed in Halifax on May 31, while those in the captain's boat were picked up by coast guard cutter No. 453 off Cape Lockout at 15:55 on June 7 and landed at Morehead City, N.C. a couple of hours later (denoted * in the crew list further down on this page) - see also W. Cohen's account below.
The lifeboat with 14 men in it had more in store. The Dutch ship D/S Polyphemus picked them up near Bermuda on May 25, but the next day that ship was also torpedoed (by U-578 - Rehwinkel, which sank Berganger a few days later), and they found themselves in lifeboats again. The survivors in 3 of the boats from Polyphemus were picked up near Nantucket Island, and those in the other 2 by a Portugese ship after a week's sailing. All the survivors from Norland also survived this 2nd torpedo incident, but many others had died. A complete crew list for Polyphemus is available on request via the contact address at the bottom of this page.
From a visitor to my website, Jos Odijk, I've received some information that he found in "De Nederlandse blauwpijpers" by G.J. deBoer ISBN 90-6013-939-9 (The Dutch Blue Funnels.) - Historical overview of the shipping company "Nederlandse Stoonmvaart Maatschappij Oceaan" (1891-1978), and here's a summary:
M/S Polyphemus (Captain C. Koningstein) - cargo of 5000 tons wheat and 790 tons wool, left Sydney on Apr.-16-1942 for England, arriving Balboa on May 10, then stopped in Cristobal for bunkers the following evening. After having overhauled the engine she left for Halifax on the 16th, but returned that same day due to engine problems. After repairs she continued on May 19. On the 25th a lifeboat with 14 of Norland's crew members was spotted and its occupants rescued. At 18:18 on May 26, when about 350 miles north of Bermuda Polyphemus was hit by 2 torpedos on the starboard side, destroying her stern, and killing 15 Chinese crew who were in their quarters. Captain Koningstein ordered the lifeboats launched and after about 7 minutes the ship was abandoned. All survivors, including those who had been rescued from Norland's boat earlier, were distributed in 5 lifeboats (Rainer Kolbicz from Uboat.net has told me that 2 of Norland's survivors were in No. 1 boat, 2 in No. 2, 3 in No. 3, 4 in No. 4 and 3 in No. 5). These boats were commanded as follows:
As mentioned, the survivors in 3 of the lifeboats were picked up near Nantucket, while those in the other 2 boats were picked up by a Portugese ship within a week. One of the survivors, R.G. Locke in boat No. 4 kept a notebook. He says first officer H. Brandenburg, 2nd engineer G. Hoogeveen, 2 English apprentices, A. Simkin and W.H. Hoyle, passenger R.G. Locke, 2nd steward I. van der Velde, 4 Chinese and 4 survivors from Norland were in this boat (see picture below). Through the first night contact was kept with the other boats with the help of a signal lamp, and all 4 of them could still be seen the following morning, but by that evening only 1 boat could be seen and this too disappeared out of sight that night. Early in the morning of May 29 another U-boat came alongside, wanting to know the name of their ship, and where and when it had been sunk, wished them a good trip then took off again. That same day, shortly after noon, they spotted the Portugese D/S Maria Amelia (Societa de Commercio Industria e Transportes Ltda, Lisbon), Captain de Mirande, en route to New York, where the survivors were landed. They later got passage to the U.K.
The inquiry into Norland's sinking was held in New York on June 22-1942 with only the captain and the 2nd mate appearing.
* 3rd Engineer L. Andersen later lost his life when Nortun was sunk the following year.
One of James Glover's daughters adds in an E-mail to me:
In a later mail (Sept.-2008), she says: "Today my sisters and I met William Cohen who was a crew member of the Norland and without your website this would not have been possible. William was such a lovely man and he told us his part of the story regarding the Norland and the day it was torpedoed. William was separated from my Father's life boat and spent 18 days at sea before he was rescued and taken to New York".
Below is a picture from the reunion between William, Patricia and her sisters Jeanie and Catherine Ann.
She also sent me this picture of William and some friends taken in New York in 1942. He does not remember all their names, but says the fellow on the left in the back row was from Glasgow, next is Harry Garber and Ronnie (whom he mentions in the narrative that I've linked to further up on this page). In the front row is another lad from Glasgow, and next to him is Harry's wife, then William himself.
U-578 - The boat that sank Polyphemus
Back to Norland on the "Ships starting with N" page.
The text on this page was compiled with the help of: E-mail from Barbara Mumford (her source: "Empire Ships"), "Nortraships flåte", J. R. Hegland, "Sjøforklaringer fra 2. verdenskrig", Norwegian Maritime Museum, Volume II, summary of survivors' statements, received from Tony Cooper, England, and misc. (ref. My sources).