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Owner: Arendal Agdesidens Rederi A/S
Built by Deutsche Werke, AG, Kiel in 1931.
Captain: Hans Rustad
In Admiralty service from 1940 (Royal Fleet Auxiliary).
Judging from Page 1 above, Vardaas was at Balik Papan when war broke out in Norway on Apr. 9-1940 - she left for Geraldton on Apr. 10.
It looks like she spent quite a long time in Sydney later that year. From Page 1, we learn that she had arrived there from Balik Papan on Oct. 30-1940; departure date is given as Dec. 8, when she returned to Balik Papan. She also had a long stay in Sydney the following year, from having arrived there from Cape Moreton on Dec. 5-1941, to leaving again for Fremantle on Febr. 27-1942 - her voyages in this period are shown on Page 2.
I've come across an article written by one of the crew members on Vardaas. He says that the ship was engaged in transporting oil from the British naval base at Trincomalee (east coast of Ceylon) to Colombo from the late winter(?)/early spring of 1942, always sailing without escort. At around 07:50 on Easter morning, just as they had started on the approach to Colombo, they were suddenly attacked by Japanese aircraft coming over them in wave after wave while firing. Fortunately, no one was seriously hurt, and no bombs were dropped (apparently, they had all been spent on the harbour), but the ship was damaged and she was delayed while repairing (again, see Page 2).
In June that same year, she's listed in Convoy C 18, which departed Colombo on June 16 and dispersed on the 19th - see link below. She had detached from the convoy on June 17, and according to Page 3, she arrived Abadan on June 27, proceeding to Cape Town a few days later, with arrival July 27.
Related external link:
She departed Cape Town again in ballast for Trinidad on Aug. 7-1942, but was torpedoed on Aug. 30-1942 by U-564 (Suhren). The torpedo hit in the starboard quarter, exploding in wingtank No. 1, flooding the tank and causing a heavy list to starboard, making it difficult to launch the port lifeboat; the starboard boat was destroyed in the explosion. The fuel in the fuel tank was set on fire and oil leaked into the engine room. The engines were secured within a minute or so after the helm had been put to port, bringing the stern around to the approximate direction from which the torpedo had been fired.
According to the captain's report the torpedo had struck at 00:12, and an hour earlier they had been an estimated 12-14 miles off Tobago. 2 lifeboats were clear of the ship by 00:25 at which time the motorboat took the port lifeboat in tow with a course for Tobago. At 00:45 they could see she was being shelled by 2(*) U-boats, 1 on each side, continuing at intervals until 03:00, and subsequently heard 4 explosions, 3 aft and 1 forward. At dawn, around 05:30 all they could see was a mass of smoke. "Nortraships flåte" says the ship stayed afloat until Aug. 31 when she was sunk so as not to endanger other ships, no further details on how she was sunk.
A report based on the survivors' statements (dated Sept. 24-1942 - see sources at the end of this page) says Vardaas was on charter to Shell Oil Co. at the time. It gives the time of initial attack as 04:12 GCT and also says that 2 U-boats* took part in the shelling of Vardaas, adding that the U-boats stayed on the surface for almost 2 hours, from about 04:45 GCT until about 06:30 GCT, firing about 50 rounds on the ship which started to burn after the first few rounds, watched at a distance by the crew in the lifeboats, who were about 2 miles away when the firing started and about 8 miles off when it ceased. Several tracer shells were observed. The U-boat to port sent up about 10 flares in various directions (looking for the boats?), and the one to starboard sent up about 10 flares in the direction of the ship. The position given in this report is 11 30N 60 50W (northeast of Tobago), which matches the info found in "Nortraships flåte". It says further that the ship was reported by a U. S. Army Patrol Bomber to be in a sinking condition at 10:30 that morning of Aug. 30 in position 11 25N 60 55W, so it may well be that she didn't sink after the shelling, but had to be sunk later. It appears that the captain was criticized for not allowing the radio operator (also 1st mate) to send a distress signal before abandoning ship with the rest of the men, including all the gunners. The report indicates that had such a signal been sent it's possible the U-boats wouldn't have spent so much time shelling the ship (the captain states in his own report that he felt it was important for the 1st mate to help launch the port lifeboat). It also suggests that the gunners should have been left on board longer, as there was no immediate danger of the ship sinking after the torpedo attack (all men were off the ship within 10 minutes). According to this report the 4" gun aft was not manned. The captain's report states that it was difficult to handle the guns due to the heavy list, and the gunners were ordered to abandon ship because no target on which to fire was seen.
My Guestbook has a message from someone offering more information, but I never heard from him again.
All 41 had survived and landed in the 2 lifeboats at Plymouth Bay, Tobago Island at 07:00 (the survivor report says 11 GCT), where 1st Engineer Aase and Cook Olsen were given medical treatment, having received minor injuries. They were all taken to Trinidad on Sept. 6.
The maritime inquiry was held in New York on Oct. 13-1942 with the captain, the 1st and 3rd mates and the 3rd engineer attending.
U-564 was also responsible for the attack on Kongsgaard the year before.
Crew List - No casualties:
Back to Vardaas on the "Ships starting with V" page.
The text on this page was compiled with the help of: "Nortraships flåte", J. R. Hegland, "Krigsseileren", No. 3 for 1993 (article about aircraft attack), a memorandum to the Navy Department, Office of the Chief of Naval Operations dated Sept. 24-1942 (summary of statements by survivors) received from Tony Cooper, England, "Sjøforklaringer fra 2. verdenskrig", Volume II, Norwegian Maritime Museum, and misc. (ref. My sources).