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M/S Prins Harald
Built by William Doxford & Sons Ltd., Pallion, Sunderland. Launched as Empire Field on Sept. 23-1941 (Ministry of War Transport, [Haldin & Phillips]), completed Jan.-1942 (she's listed as bound for New York in the westbound North Atlantic Convoy ON 65 the following month - see Ships in all ON convoys). One of 19 ships transferred to Nortraship in 1942. See my page "Ship Statistics & Misc." under Empire Ships for names of the other 18. Prins Harald was taken over at Cardiff on Oct. 15-1942. 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’ while others were named after members of the Norwegian Royal Family, as in the case of Prins Harald (who's our King today)
Captain: Westbye Foss-Sørensen
Her voyages are listed on this original document received from the Norwegian National Archives.
It looks like the above archive document shows some of her voyages when still named Empire Field - as mentioned, she was not taken over by Nortraship until Oct.-1942. Upon further examination, I find that she had previously arrived the U.K. from Freetown as Empire Field in Convoy SL 121 (external link), which had departed Freetown on Sept. 3-1942 and arrived Liverpool on the 21st - Empire Field stopped at Holyhead, according to the archive document.
Again, Prins Harald was taken over at Cardiff on Oct. 15-1942. She proceeded to Swansea 2 days later, departing Swansea again on Nov. 3 with war materials for North Africa (for Operation Torch - Athos has a list of Norwegian ships taking part in the Torch operations). She sailed to Clyde, leaving again on Nov. 8 (again, see the archive document), joining Convoy KMS 3, which consisted of 52 (56?) ships, escorted by a sloop and 9 corvettes, in addition to aircraft. KMS 3 will be added to an individual page in my Convoys section, but for now, the ships sailing in it are named on this page. Kong Sverre and Troubadour also took part.
On Nov. 20, the convoy was attacked by U-263 (Nölke), position 35 55N 10 14W (about 240 miles west of Gibraltar). 4 torpedoes were fired, which hit 2 ships, one being Prins Harald, the other the British Grangepark. The torpedo struck in the starboard side, forward of No. 4 hatch, and a fire started among the cargo, where some ammunition was also stored, so the crew launched 3 lifeboats and rowed away to a safe distance. After a while the motorboat was recalled by the captain who had remained on board together with 1st Mate Jaampa Krog. In fact, it was recalled 4 times, while the captain lowered various items into the boat (suitcase with the ship's papers, bundle of uniforms and several bags and suitcases). Those in the motorboat felt it was madness to remain on the ship and kept calling for the captain and 1st mate to come down, so that they could get away as quickly as possible. The latter instead requested a member of the deck crew and of the engine crew to come back on board to assist in getting the pumps started and get water on deck for extinguishing the fire, but no one was willing to do so. Several small explosions had been heard all along, believed to be coming from the tanks of the burning vehicles located on the aft deck, and they all knew the ship had ammunition in the cargo, so an explosion could occur at any time. However, 1st Engineer Jansen* asked for a ladder to be let down, but the mate suggested he board with the help of a line which was hanging down the side of the ship. He tried to do so, but half way up he was unable to get any further so asked the 1st mate to assist him, whereupon the latter attempted to pull him up, without success. The 1st engineer let himself down into the boat again, and just then, about half an hour after the torpedo had struck, the ship blew up in a tremendous explosion, and the 2 officers who had remained on board were killed.
Most of the occupants of the motorboat were thrown into the sea by the explosion; a British gunner was killed, while all the others had varying degrees of injuries. The gunner was later seen in the water, floating face down on his lifevest with part of his head blown away. While the flames were spreading across the water, 8 of them managed to climb onto a raft where they sat in water up to their waists, and 2 held on to some debris, until the 2nd mate, the steward and 2 others, who had been rescued by then, came over in a lifeboat to pick them up about 2 hours later.
The British cargo vessel that had been assigned as the convoy's rescue vessel landed the survivors in Gibraltar in the early morning hours of Nov. 22, where the wounded received medical care. The boatswain, Ordinary Seaman Fløisland and the galley boy were admitted to a hospital and were still there at the time of the maritime hearings in London on Dec. 7. The boatswain had remained in the motorboat which had caught fire after the explosion, and had managed to paddle it over to the others on the raft. The 1st and 3rd engineers and Cook Solvang had serious ear injuries because of the blast. 3 of the injured men had been treated on board a destroyer en route to Gibraltar.
As mentioned, an inquiry into the incident was held in London on Dec. 7-1942; the following appeared: The 2nd mate (in the chart room when the attack coccurred), the radio operator, Able Seamen Koppen and Marcelius, Cook Solvang, the steward, and the 1st, 2nd and 4th engineers. Much of the information in the paragraphs above was assembled from their various statements. The 2nd engineer had seen the torpedo from the deck and the 3rd mate had seen it from the bridge.
Related external links:
The Empire Ships - On the "Mariners" website.
Back to Prins Harald on the "Ships starting with P" page.
The text on this page was compiled with the help of: "Nortraships flåte", J. R. Hegland, "Sjøforklaringer fra 2. verdenskrig", Volume II (Norwegian Maritime Museum), "The Allied Convoy System", Arnold Hague, and misc. (ref. My sources).