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D/S Wilford
Updated Dec. 28-2011

To Wilford on the "Ships starting with W" page.

Partial Crew List

Picture of this ship when named Nauru Chief.
Source: Bjørn Pedersen's collection.

Owner: Borges Rederi A/S
Manager: Hans Borge, Tønsberg
2158 gt, 1277 net, 3891 tdwt
Signal Letters: LJGO

Built by Nylands mek. Verksted, Oslo in 1921. Previous names: Nyland 1921, Nauru Chief until 1936, Rio Rimac until 1936.
According to this external page, she was delivered in June-1921 as Nauru Chief (259) to A. R. Dickinson (A. H. Gaze), London (Nyland is not mentioned). From 1930, owned by C. McPehrson, C.B.E. & others (A. H. Gaze), London, same name. From 1931, British Phosphate Commissions (A. H. Gaze), London, no name change. From 1934, British Phosphate Commissions (A. H. Gaze, C.B.E), London. From 1935, sailed as Rio Rimac for William Crosby & Co. Pty. Ltd., London. Sold in 1936 to Borges Rederi A/S (Hans Borge), Tønsberg and renamed Wilford. (See also this external page).

Captain: Bjarne Ludvig Thorsen

Her voyages are listed on these original images from the Norwegian National Archives:
Page 1 | Page 2

Please compare the above voyages with Arnold Hague's Voyage Record below.

  Partial Voyage Record
From Febr.-1941 to Apr.-1941:  

(Received from Don Kindell - His source: The late Arnold Hague's database).

Follow the convoy links provided for more information on each.

Departure From To Arrival Convoy Remarks
1941 Febr. 24 Aden BN 17 Earlier voyages:
Page 1
Dispersed Febr. 27
(Page 2 gives arrival Suez, March 2/3).
Convoy available at BN 17
(external link)
March 24 Suez BS 21 Dispersed Apr. 1
(Page 2 gives arrival Aden same day).
Convoy available at BS 21
(external link)
Subequent voyages:
Page 2


As can be seen when going to Page 1 of the archive documents, Wilford arrived Shanghai from Hong Kong on Apr. 8-1940, the day before the German invasion of Norway. Her 1941 voyages also start on this document.

A. Hague has included her, together with the Norwegian Corona, Lyder Sagen, Talabot and Tonjer, in Convoy BN 17, which left Aden on Febr. 24-1941 and dispersed on the 27th, Wilford arriving Suez on March 2/3, remaining there for 3 weeks. We now find her in Convoy BS 21, departing Suez on March 24, dispersed Apr. 1; Wilford arrived Aden that same day. Corona was again in company, as was Woolgar. Both these convoys are available via the external links provided in the table above. Wilford's voyages in this period are shown on Page 2 of the archive documents. It looks like she later spent quite a long time in Port Elizabeth, where she had arrived from Durban on Apr. 22. Departure is given as May 22, when she returned to Durban. She also had a long stay in Durban later on. She had arrived there from Zanzibar on Dec. 18-1941 and did not leave until Apr. 1-1942, when she proceeded to Mombasa, arriving Apr. 10, continuing to Aden that same day. From there, she made a voyage to Lourenco Marques, where she stayed for 2 weeks, before returning to Mombasa, with arrival May 27.

More information on the other Norwegian ships mentioned here is available via the alphabet index at the end of this page, or go to the Master Ship Index.

 Final Fate - 1942: 

Wilford had departed Mombasa again on June 2-1942 in ballast for Lourenco Marques. At 00:55 on June 7, ship's time, a dull, rolling thump was heard by the 1st mate and 3rd mate, who were both in bed at the time, but when they came out on deck everything appeared normal, so they went back to bed. Around 02:00 that same morning, both mates were called out by the officer on watch (2nd mate), so they donned their lifevests and headed up on the bridge, where they were met by the captain and 2nd mate who informed them that they had heard something that sounded like an explosion not far away, explaining the thump they had heard earlier. Course had been set straight west in order to get away and closer to land, and all lanterns had been turned off. The 1st mate, who was also the radio operator on board, was asked to send a message over the radio about what had been heard, while all men were called out and ordered to be ready in case of attack.

At 02:30, Wilford suddenly became the victim of intense gun fire. This came from the Japanese submarine I-18 (Otani), 20 27S 36 37E*. The captain immediately ordered the radio operator to send an SOS to all stations and as the attacking vessel appeared to be very close, and Wilford had no armament with which to defend herself, the engines were ordered stopped and lifeboats launched.

* J. Rohwer places this incident on June 8, in position 20 20S 36 47E - (20S 37E reported by I-18). Rohwer also lists an attack on the British King Lud that day (torpedoed by I-10) in 20 00S 40 00E - could this have been the explosion heard?

Meanwhile, the 1st mate remained in the radio station until the message had been sent out 4 times, then all confidential documents were thrown overboard in a weighted box. As he came out on deck to take command of his designated lifeboat it had already been launched, though had not left the side of the ship. When attempting to lower himself down, the current kept the boat away from the ship, so he tried to swim across to it, but this proved impossible. He eventually managed to grab hold of the log line, and at the same time he saw 4-5 of the Chinese crew floating past, all wearing lifevests, but they could not swim. After a while the port lifeboat came by and picked him up. He tried to get the Chinese crew in this boat to row in the direction he had seen the other Chinese crew members, but they appeared very shaken, and shortly afterwards the contours of the sub became visible about 100 meters from the boat. By the time it had disappeared, looking for the Chinese crew members in the dark was hopeless.

In this boat (port lifeboat) there were 14 Chinese crew in addition to the 1st mate and the 2nd engineer. The latter had checked all the cabins before he abandoned ship by jumping overboard. In the morning of June 8, they were picked up by a British tanker and landed in Lourenco Marques on the 11th.

In the starboard boat were the 1st and 3rd engineers as well as the 3rd mate and 16 Chinese crew. 2 men in this boat had received minor injuries. The officers had not seen the captain and the 2nd mate, and they were assumed killed by the intense gun fire, 1 of the Chinese men claiming to have seen them bleeding on the boat deck. Because of the shelling, the boat had to get away (the ship had also caught fire). Wilford sank at 04:00, whereupon course was set straight west in order to reach land. At daylight, a leg and half a shoe, recognized as the captain's were found in the lifeboat. They landed near Chingune on June 8, an island located about 80 miles south of Beira, where they were well received and the injured treated by a doctor. A motorboat was sent out to look for the 3rd boat but without results. The survivors from the starboard boat were later sent to Beira on June 10 where they were met by the harbour master and the Norwegian Consul.

On June 15, a Portugese gunboat arrived Lourenco Marques with 2 of Wilford's Chinese crew members who had been found drifting in one of her dinghies. They stated that they had been near the starboard lifeboat when a grenade had killed several men on the boat deck, and the captain had been hit right next to one of them. When the ship caught on fire, they had managed to get aft where they had launched the dinghy. On the way aft they had passed a man on deck whose head had been severed from his body (believed to have been the 2nd mate, if this statement is based on fact).

The captain, the 2nd mate and 7 Chinese crew died in this attack, 37 survived, though many were severely wounded.

The maritime inquiry was held in Durban on July 28-1942 with all the Norwegian survivors except the 2nd engineer appearing. Much of the info in the above narrative is from the 1st mate's report which was presented at the hearings.

On July 6, Otani on I-18 sank the British S/S Mundra. One of the survivors was the Norwegian Captain Georg Heldal of Goviken, who survived 3 torpedo incidents that week. See my account at D/S Goviken.

Partial Crew List:
The 3rd mate also survived the sinking of Vardaas - follow the link for details.

1st Mate/Radio Operator
Harald Trygve Hansen
3rd Mate
Kristian Kristiansen
1st Engineer
Hartvig Andersen
2nd Engineer
Gustav Berggren
3rd Engineer
Kåre Pettersen
+ 32 Chinese Crew

Bjarne Ludvig Thorsen

2nd Mate
Jan Strømsholm

Lam Tai Hong

Able Seaman
Leo Sh Nin

Ng Sh Fai

Ng Ha Lond

Lam Check Tong

Tang Wee Low

Mess Boy
Dow Chuck Cheu

Related external link:
Stavern Memorial commemorations - 2nd Mate Jan Strømsholm and Captain Thorsen are commemorated at this memorial for Norwegian Seamen in Stavern, Norway.

Back to Wilford on the "Ships starting with W" page.

This company had another ship by the name Wilford after the war, ex Liberty Ship George Whitefield, built 1943, 7176 gt - became Norwegian Wilford in July-1947, then Italian Orata in 1957, Russian Daryal in 1963. Deleted from register in 1972, presumed scrapped.

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), and misc. for cross checking facts - (ref. My sources).


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