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Manager: Den Norske Amerikalinje A/S, Oslo
Launched on March 24-1930 by A/S Götaverken, Gothenburg (Yard No. 434) for NAL, delivered in May-1930.
Captain: Storm Jørgensen
As will be seen when going to Page 1 above, Tønsbergfjord arrived Madras on Apr. 10-1940, the day after the German invasion of Norway. She had sailed from Calcutta on Apr. 6 and her final destination was Marseilles, where she eventually arrived, via various other ports, on May 21.
The following month she's listed, together with Bosphorus, Fernhill and K. G. Meldahl, in Convoy 7 P (ref. external link below), which left Marseilles for Oran on June 19, but she parted company with the convoy and went to Gibraltar instead of Oran, thereby avoiding internment in North Africa - see my page about Bosphorus. Tønsbergfjord arrived Gibraltar June 23/24, leaving again for New York on June 26, with arrival July 10.
Related external link:
She was on a voyage from Bombay to New York with a cargo of tea and rubber (via Cape Town and Trinidad, having left Trinidad on March 1 - see Page 2), when she was torpedoed by the Italian submarine Enrico Tazzoli (Fecia di Cossato) on March 6-1942*, position 31 22N 68 05W, 200 miles west of Bermuda. The torpedo struck aft, causing her engines to stop immediately and all the lights went out. The cabins and corridors were filled with a blueish gas which made it very difficult to breathe. 32 out of her complement of 33 had gotten away in 2 lifeboats when the sub appeared and proceeded to shell the ship with about 10 rounds, until she was set on fire and sank an estimated 10 minutes after the torpedo had struck. 1 man was missing.
In order to get hold of some extra food and water, they waited until daylight at which time they spotted one of the rafts from which they transferred some provisions and water, before setting sail for Florida (southwest). In the morning of March 13th, the captain's boat with 18 on board was located by the Dutch Telamon (en route from New York to Curacao) and its occupants landed in Jeremie, Haiti on the 16th (the memorandum mentioned above adds that they were picked up in position 29 20N 70W). The day before they were rescued, this lifeboat had encountered a lifeboat with 31 survivors from the Uruguayan Montevideo (also sunk by Tazzoli) and they were also picked up by Telamon and landed in Jeremie. A sinking report for Montevideo states that her survivors remained there until March 19, while Tønsbergfjord's survivors continued with Telamon to Curacao. The other 14 from Tønsbergfjord were picked up by the Norwegian tanker Velma on the 18th, 60 miles out of Jacksonville, and landed in New Orleans on March 23.
The survivors assumed that Olav Hagen had been killed, but he had been knocked unconscious by the explosion, and when he came to and ran up on deck all the others had already left the ship, so he placed himself on a raft which floated clear before Tønsbergfjord sank. He was rescued by the Norwegian Arthur W. Sewall on March 12 (at 22:00Z in 31 29N 67 49W - as will be seen when following the link, this ship arrived Halifax on March 16). His story can be found in the Norwegian magazine "Krigsseileren", Issue No. 3 for 1976. He tells his story 35 years after the fact, but it still amazes me that he appears to think a German U-boat was to blame for the sinking of his ship (I'm not sure at what point it became known that Tønsbergfjord had been sunk by an Italian boat and not a German one, but I would assume this was known by 1976 even if no one was aware of that fact at the scene in 1942). Also, he gives the date as Febr. 1.
He says he was on duty in the engine room when the torpedo hit, causing all the lights to go out and the water to start rushing into the room. He swam around in the dark and by feeling his way around he was able to recognize certain items which helped him determine where he was so that he eventually found the ladder leading up to the boat deck. The ship was being shelled "by the Germans", but he managed to get to the top bridge where a small lifeboat was located. However, just as he was about to get into it the "Germans" fired again and destroyed the boat. He moved across to the other side of the deck for shelter but just then another torpedo hit, knocking him over and injuring his back. He tried to launch another lifeboat but it was crushed against the side of the ship, so he turned his attention to the rafts, but again "the Germans saw him" and started shooting, hitting one of the buoyance tanks underneath the raft. He launched it and lay completely still in it until morning, when he was somehow able to dress the wounds on his back and elsewhere on his body with the help of the first aid kit found on the raft.
Due to the gale force winds he had to tie himself to the damaged, lopsided raft to keep from ending up in the sea, until he on the 7th(?) day saw a tanker coming straight towards him. To his horror the tanker turned around and headed in the opposite direction, but thanks to Petter Skodje, who had spotted movement on the raft, Arthur W. Sewall came back and picked him up. He was taken to a hospital in Halifax and later settled there, as so many other Norwegian seamen did after the war. (He also served on Polaris very briefly before that ship was lost).
The maritime inquiry was held at Port-au-Prince, Haiti on March 20-1942 with the captain, the 2nd mate, the boatswain and Mechanic Stockvik attending (all of whom had been asleep in their cabins when the attack occurred).
This sub was also responsible for the loss of other Norwegian ships, namely Fernlane, Alfred Olsen and Sildra (Havsten, which had initially been torpedoed by U-160, was eventually sunk by Enrico Tazzoli; follow link for details).
Crew List - No casualties:
Back to Tønsbergfjord on the "Ships starting with T" page.
The text on this page was compiled with the help of: Norwegian America Line fleet list, "Nortraships flåte", J. R. Hegland, "Sjøforklaringer fra 2. verdenskrig", Volume II, Norwegian Maritime Museum, "Krigsseileren", Issue No. 3 for 1976, and misc. (ref. My sources). The Memorandum dated Apr. 13-1942, signed Ensign A. J. Powers, USNR was received from Eric Wiberg, as was the sinking report for Montevideo.