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M/T O. A. Knudsen
Manager: Knut Knutsen O.A.S., Haugesund
Delivered in Aug.-1938 from Deutsche Werft A/G, Hamburg (198) as O. A. Knudsen to Skibs-A/S Marie Bakke, Haugesund. At the time of delivery this was Norway's largest tanker. The building contract had been purchased from Unilever, Rotterdam.
Captain: Knut Olavsen Bringedal, who served on board since the ship was delivered (he had also served on the previous O. A. Knudsen, whic later became Eli Knudsen, starting as 1st mate when she was delivered, later becoming her captain). After the loss of O. A. Knudsen, he joined the Panamania Norvik on Apr. 20-1942, and was on board when she was sunk. He also served on Heranger (as mate), Marie Bakke, Vav, Kaptein Worsøe, and (after the war was over) Geisha and K. J. Knudsen, as well as Elin Knudsen. Captain Bringedahl died in 1968 (info received from Eric Wiberg - his source: National Archives of Norway). Knut Bringedal's nephew was 1st mate on Corona.
Related items on this website:
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.
As will be seen when going to Page 1, O. A. Knudsen was in Naples when war broke out in Norway on Apr. 9-1940. A French visitor to my website has told me that she was seized off Algeria by French patrol boats on Apr. 12 and ordered to Oran (according to the archive document, she had initially been bound for Texas). Released a few days later.
Later that year she's listed as bound for Clyde in station 33 of Convoy SLF 52, departing Freetown on Oct. 22. The Norwegian Høegh Scout is also listed. The following month we find her in Convoy OB 246, bound for Capetown in ballast. This convoy originated in Liverpool on Nov. 20 and was dispersed on the 24th, O. A. Knudsen arriving Capetown on Dec. 16, having started out from Clyde on Nov. 21 according to the archive document. Both these convoys are available via the external links provided within the Voyage Record. A. Hague has also included Triton in OB 246, while another section of the same site does not mention this ship. On the other hand, the Norwegian Bayard is included in that section - not mentioned in A. Hague's listing, instead he has the Britih Bayano. Checking with Bayard's record for this period, it looks like A. Hague is right, she was in another part of the world at this time. He also appears to be right with regard to Triton, here's her record for this period. (Dagfred, Rinda, Salamis and Solfonn are said to have been scheduled for OB 246 but did not sail).
She returned to the U.K. again in Convoy SL 66, departing Freetown on Febr. 18-1941. Hjalmar Wessel, Marita, Petter, Salamis and Ørnefjell are also named in this convoy. O. A. Knudsen arrived Greenock on March 13, and at the end of that month she appears, along with Astra, Brasil and Mathilda, in Convoy OB 304, which originated in Liverpool on March 30 and dispersed Apr. 4; again, see the external links provided in the table above. No destination is given for O. A. Knudsen, but from Page 1 we learn that she arrived New York on Apr. 14, having sailed from Milford Haven on March 29. She headed back to the U.K. on May 6 in Convoy HX 125A from Halifax, bound for Barry Roads with a cargo of diesel oil in station 83. Cruising order/Commodore's notes are also available for this convoy. Together with Belpareil, Bjerka, Bruse Jarl, Christian Krohg (sunk, follow link for details), Finnanger, Garonne, Sirehei (returned) and Veni, she subsequently joined Convoy OB 329, originating in Liverpool May 31, dispersed June 5, O. A. Knudsen arriving Aruba on June 18, having started out from Milford Haven May 30. From Aruba, she proceeded to Bermuda 3 days later, then joined the Bermuda portion of Convoy HX 136 on June 28, bound for Swansea with diesel oil. As will be seen when following the link, she received praise from the Commodore for her station keeping. According to Page 2, she arrived Swansea, via Belfast Lough, on July 20, and later joined the westbound North Atlantic Convoy ON 3, which originated in Liverpool on July 31 and dispersed Aug. 14, O. A. Knudsen arriving New York Aug. 17 .
With a cargo of petrol she headed back to the U.K. on Aug. 29 in Convoy HX 147 from Halifax (station 112), along with the Norwegian Bralanta (102), Nueva Granada (104), Bello (114), Solør (54), Sandanger (station 103, which means she was the 3rd ship in the 10th column, right behind Bralanta and in front of Nueva Granada), Slemmestad (95), Strinda (63) and G. C. Brøvig (44). Some of these ships, including O. A. Knudsen, subsequently returned to the U.S. with the westbound Convoy ON 20, which originated in Liverpool on Sept. 25. O. A. Knudsen had station 44 and arrived New York on Oct. 13, the convoy having been dispersed on the 9th (she had again started out from Milford Haven). On Oct. 22, we find her in Convoy HX 156 from Halifax to the U.K., for which Eglantine and Montbretia served as escorts for a while. O. A. Knudsen arrived Avonmouth (via Belfast Lough and Barry Roads) on Nov. 8, and with Atlantic, Fjordaas, Geisha, Hada County, Marit II, Sandanger, Skaraas, Stiklestad and Troubadour, she later joined the westbound Convoy ON 38*, which originated in Liverpool on Nov. 19 and dispersed on the 30th, O. A. Knudsen arriving Aruba on Dec. 11. The dawning of a new year was seen while in Convoy HX 167, leaving Halifax on Dec. 27-1941; she arrived Clyde on Jan. 10-1942.
O. A. Knudsen now joined the westbound Convoy ON 59*, originating in Liverpool on Jan. 23-1942, dispersed Febr. 6. Braganza, Hardanger (returned), Herbrand, Hilda Knudsen, Kongsgaard, Norsktank (returned), Pan Aruba, Salamis, Sommerstad (returned), Svenør, Sydhav and Thorshavet are also listed. O. A. Knudsen's destination is given as Mobile, where she arrived on Febr. 17, having sailed from Clyde on Jan. 24 (according to Page 2). Her return voyage proved to be her last.
From Mobile, O. A. Knudsen (on charter to British Tankers, London since May-1940) had proceeded to Port Arthur, Texas on Febr. 24-1942 (Page 2). She departed Port Arthur again on March 1, bound for Liverpool via Halifax with a cargo of Pool engine spirit in No. 1 to 5 and Pool Vaporising Oil in No. 6 to 9 tanks, while No.'s 2 and 7 wingtanks were empty. At 08:25 on March 5, when about 85 miles from Hole in the Wall Light, Abaco Island (26 17N 75 50W) she was torpedoed by U-128 (Heyse). At the time she was on course 68° (67?) true from Hole in the Wall Light, completely blacked out, sailing at a speed of 11 (12?) knots and zig-zagging, in moderate seas with a southeast breeze, force 4, sea 3, visibility fair. The 3rd mate was on watch on the bridge, with Ordinary Seaman Risholm at the wheel, Ordinary Seaman Bentsen on lookout on the chart room roof and Gunner Mikkelsen by the gun on the stern, while the captain was in the chart room. According to a survivor's statement, she had a 4.7" Japanese breech-loading, high and low angle gun, 5 machine guns (2 Marlin, 2 Hotchkiss and 1 50-caliber Colt-Marlin) and 2 rifles, but none were fired.
The torpedo struck on the port side in the pump room and the No. 6 wingtank, approximately amidships, which contained kerosene, killing Deckboy George Smith, who had been working on hatch 6. Very little damage resulted, but she listed slightly to port. The engine was immediately stopped and boats launched. The port boat had been unhooked from the tackles in the explosion so when they tried to lower it, it ended up falling into the water, partly submerged, but the starboard boat and the motorboat (32 men) were succcessfully lowered (the memorandum mentioned above claims the ship was abandoned by 29 out of 40).
The captain, the 1st and 3rd mates, the 2nd engineer, the boatswain and Able Seamen Friestad, Mikkelsen and Johannesen (the latter had been injured in the explosion) stayed on board as the ship appeared to be doing well, and at 08:40 course was reversed and full ahead was ordered to the engine in an effort to reach land, heading for the Hole in the Wall Light at 9 knots. A new antenna had to be rigged up to send distress calls, but while this was taking place, at 09:30, a 2nd torpedo hit aft in the bunkers below No. 9 tank on the port side, blasting open most of the port side after deck, with cables and hatches heavily damaged, so the engine was stopped again and the ship abandoned in the port lifeboat amidships at 09:40 (the track of both torpedoes had been seen just before they hit). At 12:00 the 2nd mate was ordered to sail the starboard boat towards nearest land with the 24 men on board, while the motorboat and the port boat remained near the ship to see if she would sink. She had a list to port, but straightened up little by little until she was almost straight.
At 13:30 the captain, the radio operator, the 2nd engineer, Boatswain Lunde and Able Seaman Friestad went back on board to try to send SOS, but there was no connection, so they returned to the lifeboat at 14:00, though the 1st mate, the radio operator, Lunde and Friestad reboarded almost immediately. A new antenna was rigged up and "soon after 14:00 EWT", WAX (a civilian land station, Tropical Radio, Hileah, Florida) was contacted with the following message: SOS de LJYJ torpedoed position 26 17N 75 50W Please send escort - WAX acknowledged (Tropical Radio's log shows receipt of the SOS at 20:38 GCT or 16:38 EWT), but no help was ever received, a fact that was strongly criticized later. The 1st engineer expressed the opinion that the ship could have reached port under her own power, if aircraft or escort had been available to drive off the U-boat; instead the attacks were allowed to go on all day, without any assistance received. He said that each time the ship was reboarded, investigations substantiated his claim that the engines were usable, adding that at no time during the day was she in danger of sinking, and her engines would have been capable of carrying her in safety to nearly any port. He placed the blame for her loss upon naval authorities charged with safeguarding Caribbean shipping.
The men then picked up 45 gallons of petrol and left the ship, but stayed nearby until nightfall. At 19:30 the captain, the 1st engineer, the radio operator, the boatswain, Able Seamen Lund and Eide and Oiler Sirkel went back on board to see if anything could be done to save the ship. However, at 19:45 the U-boats (the captain claims there were at least 2) started shelling her*. The surviors' report states the U-boats were lying off about 2 cables, 1 forward and 1 astern, opening fire at the rate of about 1 shell every 30 seconds, firing approx. 40 rounds out of which 10-20 struck the ship. Before the motorboat could come back alongside a shell (believed to have been about the 3rd) struck the gun aft and it burst into splinters; the captain received shrapnel in his face, his side and his leg, the 1st engineer in both arms, the boatswain in his shoulder and arm, Able Seaman Lund in his eye, Able Seaman Eide in his head and oiler Sirkel in his nose. While they were being taken aboard the motorboat, the after deck started burning, and shortly after the boats had gotten away the gasoline in the forward tanks caught fire and in a very short time the entire ship was ablaze, burning all night, but was not seen to sink (11 1/2 hours had elapsed from the time the first torpedo struck until the ship was abandoned the last time).
At 19:55 course was set southwest for The Hole in the Wall Light**. The fire could be seen until 03:00 the following morning, but after a heavy rain shower at that time, they could no longer see it. At 17:30 on Friday the 6th the 2nd mate's lifeboat was spotted and at 18:00 they took it in tow, reaching land near the light at 23:30, but due to the heavy breakers encountered they gave up trying to find a suitable landing place. At 02:00 on March 7 a schooner was sighted, the captain of which offered to tow the boats to Cornwall, Abaco Island. By 03:30 they were under tow, arriving Cornwall at 07:20 that morning. The injured men were taken care of by a nurse while waiting for a doctor from Nassau, but by the time the doctor arrived, Able Seaman Olaus Johannesen was not doing well and had to be left behind in Cornwall while the others continued to Nassau on a yacht on the 8th (Content S?). He died on March 10. Because of the bad weather and lack of transportation he had to be buried on the spot - please read this interesting Guestbook message regarding this seaman, posted by Captain Eric T. Wiberg, who has extensively looked into this incident and attempted to find his final resting place (he also has this website - external link). On arrival Nassau, some of the injured men were taken to a hospital (The Bahamas General Hospital), while the others were temporarily housed at a hotel.
A document dated March 20-1942, a report made by Ensign W. G. Warnock, Jr. and Boatswain J. G. Fickling, USNR, based on interviews with O. A. Knudsen's captain, the 1st mate, the 2nd mate and the 1st engineer (received from E. Wiberg), states that 36 survivors were landed by Ena K in Miami, Florida on March 17-1942, where they were extensively questioned.
The 1st engineer stated that her eventual loss was due to fire, set by the shelling, and not to torpedoes, a statement which was also subsribed to by the 1st and 2nd mates. All 3 of them said that failure of any aid to arrive during the approximately 11 1/2 hour period during which they attempted to save the ship (from 08:25 to 20:00 EWT, March 5) was indicative of greater United Nations weakness in Western Hemisphere waters than they had ever encountered elsewhere in the world, including off the coast of Nazi-held Europe. According to the 1st mate, Axis submarines would not have the nerve to loaf around all day in order to sink a vessel in European waters, as they did in the sinking of O.A. Knudsen. The 1st engineer said it was a cat-and-mouse game as far as the U-boat was concerned, while the 2nd mate stated that if the attack had happened any place else someone would have at least sent an airplane or a patrol vessel, but not even a row boat was sent out.
All the officers were emphatic in their statements that there was nothing suspicious about the actions of any member of the crew prior to, or during, the attack, calling attention to the fact that all were with the ship when she was trapped at Naples, Italy, by the German invasion of Norway (again, see Page 1). It was further brought out by their testimony that after pumping sea water into the fuel tanks for ballast when they learned of the Norwegian invasion, the vessel escaped Naples and was almost in the Atlantic when intercepted by a French patrol boat and conducted to a French port where it remained for 30 days. Then the ship, with its entire crew, entered the English service under charter to British Tankers, and since has made 2 trips to Australia, 5 to the British West Indies, and was on her 2nd to England at the time of the U-boat attack.
In addition to the captain, the 1st and 2nd mates and the 1st Engineer, the following were also interviewed in Miami:
The survivors left Miami again for New York late that same evening (March 17) and an inquiry was also held there on March 24-1942 with the captain and the 3rd mate, as well as Ordinary Seamen Risholm and Bentsen appearing. It looks like 2 crew members had been left behind in a hospital in Miami, because only 34 are said to have arrived New York on March 19 - see also the note further down on this page, right above the crew list.
Some of the crew members received British awards for their actions. George Monk, England has sent me the following (his source: Seedies List of awards to the British Merchant Navy which includes awards to Allied merchant seamen):
Captain Knut Bringedal - Commendation
The above is confirmed by a congratulatory letter from Nortraship, dated Dec. 4-1942 (received from Eric Wiberg).
In the book "Tusen norske skip" by Lise Lindbæk (1943) there's a transcript of an Apr.-1942 radio interview with Able Seaman/Gunner Waldemar Lund who says he had escaped from the south of Norway in a small boat the previous September and was subsequently trained to be a gunner in Canada. He confirms that he received shrapnel in his eye during the shelling from the U-boat and this blinded him. He says they were travelling alone at the time, and adds that George Smidt (spelt differently from my report above) was French, and that the seaman who died later on (Olaus Johannesen) had previously been a miner at Svalbard and had left for England after the raid there (fall of 1941 - joined O. A. Knudsen in Glasgow Jan. 12-1942). Lund's story otherwise agrees with the captain's report. Lund adds that after having received medical treatment at Abaco, a hospital ship from Nassau came to pick them up, and on arrival Nassau the Duke of Windsor was there to welcome them (I've also seen this mentioned in other sources; this was, of course, the former British king who abdicated in order to marry Wallis Simpson). The Duke was the Governor of Bahamas and personally provided them all with new clothes. Lund remained in a hospital for 2 weeks and had his eye removed. A footnote to this story says that there was an effort to take him out of service after this, but he vigorously opposed this suggestion, saying that one eye was quite adequate for looking down a barrel and taking aim, and he later sailed for many years as a gunner. (For info, this book is available in English under the title "Norway's New Saga of the Sea", translated from Lise Lindbæk's book by Nora O. Solum, and the transcript of Waldemar Lund's radio address in Apr.-1942 is included; he calls himself "Henrik" - see my Books page for ideas on how to find a copy).
Curious about this young man, I checked the book "Englandsfarten" which lists the small boats that escaped from Norway to the U.K. during the war, and found him as the 25 year old skipper of the 22 ft open vessel M/B Fri which departed Søgne on Sept. 26-1941 with 5 people on board and arrived Sunderland on Oct. 6 (follow the link for details). The book has a detailed description of this harrowing journey. Others who came along were: Einar Kristiansen, David Skråvik, Håkon Stenmo and Frank Åvik, all from Søgne and all born in 1916. W. Lund later came to Lunenburg where he trained to be a gunner, then joined O. A. Knudsen on Dec. 24-1941, together with Ole Severin Mikkelsen; this must have been the very same Ole Mikkelsen who had escaped from Oran in a lifeboat the year before, see M/T John Knudsen
Related external links:
Report on the interrogation of survivors from U-128 - Scroll down to Chapter V - Second Patrol where O. A. Knudsen is mentioned.
Knutsen OAS Shipping today - with a brief history of the company.
Back to O. A. Knudsen on the "Ships starting with O" page.
Other ships by this name: Eli Knudsen previously had the name O. A. Knudsen. Also, this company had previously had a steamship named O. A. Knudsen, delivered in Jan.-1907, 3531 gt. Torpedoed by UB 39 off Beachey Head on March 22-1917 on a voyage London-Cardiff, but managed to get to Southampton, repaired and re-entered service. Ran aground near Cape Pine, New Foundland on June 24-1923 on a voyage Sydney C. B.-Wabana in heavy fog. Total loss. Charles Hocking dates the latter incident June 30-1923, at Gull Island, St. Mary's Bay. Additionally, a tanker by this name was delivered in March-1951, 11 079 gt. Sold in Oct.-1960 to Mariehamn and renamed Ragny. Lost in Dec.-1970 east of Cape May, on a voyage Freeport-Trondheim.
The text on this page was compiled with the help of: "Våre motorskip", Leif M. Bjørkelund & E. H. Kongshavn, article found in Issue No. 2 for 1975 of the magazine "Krigsseileren" (The War Sailor), "Tusen norske skip", Lise Lindbæk, "The World's Merchant Fleets", Roger W. Jordan, Axis Submarine Success of World War Two", Jürgen Rohwer, "Englandsfarten", Ragnar Ulstein, "Sjøforklaringer fra 2. verdenskrig", Norwegian Maritime Museum, Volume II, (ref. My sources). Some details were found in a summary of statements by survivors, in a memorandum dated Apr. 14-1942 and signed USNR Ensign A. J. Powers, received from Tony Cooper, England.