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Owner: A/R Seljan
Built by F. Schichau GmbH, Elbing, Danzig, Germany in 1927.
Captain: Thomas Johan Rasmussen Bjerknes.
In Admiralty service from 1940 (Royal Fleet Auxiliary).
Related item 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 from Page 1 of the archive documents, Sildra left Casablanca on Apr. 9-1940, the day war broke out in Norway. She arrived Trinidad on Apr. 22, later proceeding to Aruba, then on to Bermuda in order to join the Bermuda portion of Convoy HX 43 on May 15. She was bound for Swansea, where she arrived on May 31, cargo of diesel oil, station 35. The Norwegian Laurits Swenson, Vivi and Ida Bakke also sailed in this convoy, while Senta, Litiopa and Britannia were scheduled, but did not sail. About a week later, Sildra is listed in Convoy OB 163, which originated in Liverpool on June 8 and joined up with Convoy OA 163 on June 9, the combined convoy forming the Gibraltar bound Convoy OG 33F, which arrived there June 14. Sildra's destination is not given, but from the archive document, we learn that she arrived Curacao on June 29, having started out from Milford Haven on the 8th. According to A. Hague, she had been detached from the OG convoy on June 13 (see this page listing ships in all OG convoys; will later be added to its own individual page). The Norwegian Olaf Fostenes and Tana are also listed in the OB convoy - ref. external link provided within the Voyage Record. From Curacao, Sildra headed to Bermuda again already on June 30, joining the Bermuda portion of Convoy HX 57 on July 10 (having been cancelled from the previous convoy on July 6, HX 56), Admiralty fuel for Portsmouth, station 56 - arrival there is not given on the archive document, which says she arrived Greenock on July 25.
There's now a long gap in her record; it looks like she remained in Scotland for the rest of that year, reason unknown.
Arnold Hague has included her, together with Borgholm and Dagrun, in Convoy OB 284, originating in Liverpool on Febr. 9-1941, dispersed on the 14th. Again, see the external link in the table above. Another section of the same website has also listed Acasta in this convoy. Sildra joined from Clyde and was bound for Trinidad, where she arrived on March 7 (Page 1). A few days later, she headed to Halifax, and was scheduled to return to the U.K. with the slow Convoy SC 27 at the end of March (the Norwegian Favorit was sunk, follow the link for details), but instead joined the next convoy, SC 28, on Apr. 9 - escort's report is also available for this convoy. She arrived Bowling, via Clyde, on Apr. 30. The following month she's listed, along with Hallfried, Karlander (sunk - follow link for more info) and Ledaal, in Convoy OB 321, which left Liverpool on May 11 and dispersed on the 17th. Sildra was again bound for Curacao, where she arrived June 2, having sailed from Clyde on May 12. She subsequently headed to Gibraltar and from there to Trinidad, then on to Freetown, with arrival Aug. 9. her voyages in this period are shown on Page 2.
More information on all the other Norwegian ships mentioned here can be found via the alphabet index at the end of this page, or go to the Master Ship Index.
Sildra departed Freetown again alone in ballast on Aug. 18-1941 in order to return to Curacao. She had a crew of 36 and 2 gunners, as well as 2 passengers, whom the Admiralty had asked the captain to take with him (see this Guestbook message from the son of these passengers). In the evening of Aug. 19 Sildra was hit by 4 torpedoes from the Italian submarine Enrico Tazzoli (Fecia di Cossato), then shelled and sunk 05 30N 12 50W ("Nortraships flåte" gives the postion as 05 00N 12 10W).
The captain and the lookout man, Able Seaman Våland had seen the wake of 4 torpedoes from the bridge, all 4 coming in from a direction athwart on starboard, according to the captain's report. The helm was immediately put hard to port, while signal to go to the lifeboats was given, just as the ship was struck by 2 torpedoes in the forward part of the ship, probably between main tanks No. 3 and 6, and she heeled over to starboard. The other 2 torpedoes passed in front of the bow. They tried to send an SOS - 3rd Mate/Radio Operator Mjøs was on watch in the radio station - but the violent shaking caused by the torpedoes damaged the radio station so that no message could be sent out. About 3 minutes after the first 2 had struck, she was hit by a 3rd torpedo in way of the after deck on the starboard side. Fearing another torpedo in the engine room, orders were given to put the boats on the water and to abandon ship (the engine had been stopped by the 1st engineer soon after the first explosion).
The entire complement and the 2 passengers had gotten safely in 3 lifeboats and had just gotten clear of the ship when a 4th torpedo struck forward of the engine room, also on the starboard side. The 3 boats met up astern of the ship and watched as she heeled heavily to starboard and was very low in the water forward. The conning tower of the sub now became visible on the starboard quarter, then 2 shots were fired. The last shell was believed to have hit the boiler room, as a huge column of sparks and flames rose into the air, and Sildra quickly settled down in the water aft. The funnel could no longer be seen, so it was believed to have fallen down. A heavy rushing sound was heard as their ship went down.
The boats were ordered to stay together and remain on the scene until daylight. The starboard boat, manned by the 1st mate and 15 crew, and the captain's motor boat with the 3rd mate and 4 crew as well as the 2 passengers kept together through the night, but they had lost contact with the 2nd mate's port boat with 15 of the crew after an hour. At daylight the 2 boats set sail for land, reaching Manna Point, Sierra Leone on Aug. 21 where they were taken care of by the locals. Partly by boat and partly on foot they were taken to Bothne where they arrived that same evening and reported to the District Commissioner. A telegram about the loss of the ship and the missing lifeboat was sent to Freetown. They left Bothne in the evening of the 22nd and arrived Freetown by train the following evening.
An aircraft had been sent out to search for the other lifeboat, which was sighted close to shore off Cape St. Ann on the 22nd, but a patrol vessel that was searching for it could not find it. However, the port lifeboat landed safely south of Cape St. Ann in the afternoon of Aug. 22, where they got in touch with the Coast Guard. They spent the night in a hut, and the next day they were taken by boat to Bothne, and later to Freetown with arrival the latter on Aug. 26.
In Issue No. 2 for 1996 of "Krigsseileren" Boatswain Olaf Finvik's account of this incident has been included. According to him the passengers were a French/Canadian couple, both doctors, who had been to Africa to study tropical deseases and medicine*. Finvik and Able Seaman Førde had been left on board the ship when the port boat set off, so the 2 had to jump overboard, but managed to swim over to the boat as it had not gotten far away. The cook was also in this boat, and the boatswain adds that the 2nd mate had also jumped overboard from amidships and swam over to the boat. They landed on an island where they were met by a group of natives who gave them a "royal" reception. They were helped to the colony which consisted of straw and clay huts. The locals moved out of the largest of these to provide the shipwrecked men with a place to sleep. The next day Finvik, who had injured his hand when trying to fire off a rocket from the lifeboat was admitted to a small, 4 bed hospital belonging to an English missionary station on the mainland, while the rest were sent to Freetown. The following day Finvik was also placed on a train for Freetown (he calls it "large boxes with wheels on them"), where they were given lodgings at a grammar school, together with a Greek crew, before being sent to Scotland on the Polish Sobiesky (in use as allied troopship from Sept.-1939). This ship was very crowded, and when they were assigned hammocks to sleep in Finvik and his friend (Førde) preferred the "comfort" of the hatch, not realizing until they landed at Gourock that they had, in fact, been sleeping on top of the cargo of ammunition. The other passengers on board were mostly military personnel going home on leave, to be replaced by fresh troops.
Another issue of this magazine (No. 3-1996) has an article written by Able Seaman Baste Matre, who had joined Sildra in Glasgow on Apr. 30-1941. From there they had continued to Curacao where they took on board a cargo for Gibraltar, then to Trinidad where a cargo was loaded for Freetown (again, see Page 2 of the archive documents). After they had been torpedoed on this return voyage to Curacao he was in the lifeboat that had the passengers on board. He says the port boat went off in the dark while the motorboat and the starboard boat stayed together, until the next morning when the people in the motorboat were moved over to the starboard boat. They saw land on the 2nd day and were met by a "beach guard" carrying a huge spear. He took them to a village where the chief himself welcomed them. Canoes transported them up-river to a station that had an English manager, who put natives to work sewing clothes for them, before they were transported further up the river to a railway station. The next day they arrived Freetown by train, and 2 days later the people from the port boat also arrived so they were all together at the school, along with about 100 other torpedoed seamen. After 3 weeks they embarked the Polish ship, which arrived Glasgow on Oct. 4. The maritime inquiry was held there on Oct. 30-1941 with the captain, the 1st mate, the 1st engineer and Able Seaman Våland appearing. Judging from the 1st mate's statements it looks like his lifeboat had gotten away before the 3rd torpedo struck the ship.
Crew List - No casualties:
Back to M/T Sildra on the "Ships starting with S" page.
The text on this page was compiled with the help of: "Nortraships flåte", J. R. Hegland, "Krigsseileren" Issue No. 2 and No. 3 for 1996, No. 2 for 1982, "The Allied Convoy System", Arnold, Hague, "Sjøforklaringer fra 2. verdenskrig", Volume II (Norwegian Maritime Museum), and misc. other - (ref. My sources).