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CONVOY HX 152 - Page 2
Received from Martin Cherrett (his source: Public Records Office, Kew).

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(*please note, this was a British ship at that time - details on her history are available at the external link provided at the end of this page).

The Norwegian S.S. Svend Foyn, 14,795 g.r.t., was bound from Halifax to the Mersey with a cargo of 20,000 tons of fuel oil, ten long-range bombers and two heavy tanks, and about 220 passengers. On the night of lst/2nd October, 1941, when in Convoy H.X. 152, she ran into rough weather. After rolling heavily and shipping a good deal of water, she lost two lifeboats, and two rafts, dislodged from their stowage, took charge on deck. The ten bombers were carried on deck and were in danger of being damaged by them, so Svend Foyn hove to for about two and a half hours. This made her late for the noon rendezvous and, being eighteen miles astern of the convoy, she proceeded to make for the rendezvous arranged for the following day. She did not, however, meet the convoy there as it had been re-routed.

Four days later, at 1430 on 7th October, just after the wheel had been put over to port for another leg of her zig-zag, she was struck by a torpedo on the starboard side, just abaft amidships in No. 8 tank. At the same time the Captain saw the track of a torpedo pass across the bows at such an angle as to make it likely that a salvo had been fired from a little abaft the beam; had not the ship been turning, the second torpedo would probably have also struck her. There was no flame or smoke but a column of water and oil was thrown as high as the mast. The explosion probably occurred inside the ship and four tanks and a coffer dam were wrecked, as well as the after pump room; a pipe line was broken and a number of tanks began to leak. With a hole in her starboard side seventy feet long and forty feet deep, and reaching from deck level to within eight feet of the keel, Svend Foyn suddenly went down by the stern, about six or eight feet. The telemotor steering gear being out of action, the ship continued to swing to port and had described a semi-circle before the emergency steering gear art could be connected and the ship brought under control. Fortunately the engines were unharmed.

About fifteen minutes later the Captain was informed that a suspicious vessel had been sighted in the mist astern. The Captain looked aft and, recognising the craft to be a large U-Boat, at once gave the order to open fire with the 4-in. gun, but the telephone was not very clear and the order was not at first understood; he therefore snatched a machine-gun and himself opened fire at the U-Boat at once, though it was well out of its range. The 4-in. gun's crew took the hint and opened fire. The U-Boat was lying about three-quarters of a mile away on the tanker's port quarter and was broadside on. The first shell from the tanker's gun fell short and the second is reported to have struck the base of the conning tower. There was a bright reddish flash and a huge cloud of black smoke; when this had cleared there was no sign of the U-Boat.

Svend Foyn then set course for Iceland. As the ship had a heavy list to starboard, it was necessary to compensate for this by pumping out the oil tanks which remained intact on that side. The pump room was flooded. The pump itself was under water, but with great difficulty the Chief Engineer managed successfully to connect a line with it. It was then necessary to free the valves of the oil tanks so that they could be pumped out. The tops of these tanks are normally at sea level, but the ship was so deep in the water that, on the starboard side, they were flooded to a depth of at least four feet, increasing to anything up to ten feet when the ship rolled and the sea rushed in. A good deal of oil was leaking from the tanks and mixed with the sea water. Four pump-men dived again and again into some ten feet of water and oil until they had freed the valves; after working night and day, the oil was pumped out and the ship was brought to an even keel.

In the evening of the day on which the ship was torpedoed, a gale from the south-west sprang up and blew for the next two days. Speed was at times reduced to 2 1/2 knots and the Captain could only just keep going head-on to the seas. So heavy were they that it was feared that the ship would break amidships. To make matters worse, several of the large boilers, which are used in connection with the preparation of whale oil, broke loose. Each of them weighed about sixty tons. They rolled about until, after considerably increasing the hole caused by the torpedo, they fell through it into the sea. The spirits of all on board were nevertheless maintained, thanks largely to the efforts of the Steward and his staff, who, working in a galley without oil or water, somehow managed to keep both passengers and crew supplied with hot food.

On 11th October, three days and sixteen hours from the time of being torpedoed, Svend Foyn arrived in Iceland. After discharging the oil - only 7,500 out of 20,000 tons had been lost - and tightening up loose plates round the hole in the starboard side, she left Iceland on the 7th December and, making a good passage, reached Liverpool six days later.

Related external link:
The attack on Svend Foyn - According to this, she reached Reykjavik in tow.

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