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M/T Norness
Panamanian Flag

To Norness on the "Ships starting with N" page.

(This external site has pictures of the ship).

Manager: Johan Rasmussen & Co., Sandefjord
9577 gt.

Built by Deutsche Werft, Hamburg in 1939.

Owned by Tanker Corp., Panama, a subsidiary of Viking Tanker Co. Ltd., London, associated with Johan Rasmussen & Co.

Roger W. Jordan says this was a German newbuilding sold to Norway in 1939 in part exchange for Vikingen (became German Wikinger, later Empire Venture post war), and renamed Norness. (Note that Norway had a ship named Nordnes).

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 Final Fate - 1942: 

According to Roger W. Jordan ("The World's Merchant Fleets") Norness was torpedoed on Jan. 14-1942 by U-123 (Hardegen) and sunk 40 28N 70 50W, 1 died, 40 survived (another source, Guri Hjeltnes mentioned below says "all 38 survived").

Robert J. Cressman (The Official Chronology of the U.S. Navy in WW II) says Norness was sunk in 40 26 30N 70 54 30W, adding that the destroyer Ellyson (DD-454) and Coast Guard cutter Argo (WPC 100) rescued 30 men, while 9 were picked up by the fishing boat Malvina and taken to Newport, Rhode Island.

Jan-Olof Hendig, Sweden has told me that according to Michael Gannon's book "Operation Drumbeat" the port of departure was New York and the destination was Halifax. The number of casualties are given as two men and a white-haired mongrel puppy named Pete! According to "Handelsflåten i krig" (the Merchant Fleet at War), Book 3 by Guri Hjeltnes, Norness was torpedoed on her way in to New York from Halifax, but as Jan-Olof points out, since she had a cargo of 12 222 tons of Admiralty fuel oil for Liverpool (Lloyd's War Losses, WW II), it's more likely she was on her way out. "Handelsflåten i krig" goes on to say that the incident resulted in big, front page headlines in New York Times the next day, then later all over the U.S. The proximity to land, only 60 n. miles off Montauk, Long Island left the American population in a state of shock. This was only the second ship to be torpedoed on the east coast, the first one was the British S/S Cyclops on Jan. 12-1942 (also sunk by Hardegen), which lost 94 passengers and crew. 87 men, women and children spent 20 cold and windy hours in lifeboats before they were found. This sinking happened further out, 300 n. miles off Cape Cod. The first Norwegian victim of the so-called Operation Drumbeat, D/S Frisco, was sunk in the early morning hours of Jan. 13. (Norwegian sources place this incident on Jan. 12).

In the book "Tilbakeblikk" (see My Sources page for info on this book), kindly sent to me by a "warsailor" in Norway who was himself a gunner on Norwegian ships during the war, I've found some details in an article written by Able Seaman Peder Andersen which help clear up the confusion.

He says he joined Nornes (spelling it with one s) in Newark, NJ on Jan. 3-1942 when she was in Robinson Drydock for the installation of a new gun. Ammunition for this gun was to be received at their next stop Halifax where they were to join a convoy for the U.K. After the gun had been installed they went to the Esso Refinery, Constable Hook, NJ to take on board crude oil for England, then departed for Halifax in the afternoon of Jan. 11. At around 2 in the morning of the sinking he was awakened by a powerful explosion, causing the ship to list heavily to port. He managed to get up on deck, practically naked, and was met by a "rain of black oil". He saw the port lifeboat hanging upside down which lead him to think that whoever had been in it had fallen into the water. He then ran over to the starboard side to help launch the boat there, but the heavy list made this extremely difficult. The 3rd mate had command of this boat, and when 20 men had gotten into it he called up to the remaining survivors on deck that the boat couldn't hold any more.

At this time they saw a black shadow gliding slowly very close to Norness, coming all the way up to her stern, "as if he knew we had no ammunition for the gun". At that moment a 2nd torpedo hit directly in the pumproom causing a giant "sea of flames". He tried to protect himself against the flying debris as best he could. Norness then righted herself somewhat, enabling the remaining men to launch another boat and they rowed away as fast as they could, before Norness was hit by a 3rd torpedo and sank. He states they were about 100 n. miles from Montauk Point, Long Island, a strong, northwesterly wind was blowing and it was freezing cold. He found a raincoat in the boat, as well as some sweaters which he used as pants, but claims it was the fact that he was covered in oil that kept him warm and probably saved his life. One of the survivors, an able seaman by the name of Sande had apparently been picked up from the water after having fallen out of the other lifeboat, and his clothes froze to his body, but fortunately there were more sweaters and raincoats in the boat so that he could change his clothes.

At around 2 in the afternoon an aircraft was spotted, but they were not seen. Shortly afterwards they were spotted by a blimp and a couple of hours later a destroyer picked them up and took them to Newport where they were admitted to the Navy hospital. They later found out that 2 men had been lost when the tackle broke while trying to launch the port lifeboat. Both were Norwegian.

Peder Andersen later trained to become a gunner at Lunenburg, Nova Scotia (Camp Norway), then joined D/S Torvanger (follow the link for more of his story).

For info, U-123 was also responsbile for the attacks on the Norwegian Vespasian and Pan Norway - follow the links for details.

Related external links:
Stavern Memorial commemorations - Oiler Karl Egil Bremseth and Stoker Kåre Johan Reinertsen are named. The 3rd person on the list, 4th Engineer Konrad Søgnen died in an accident on board on Sept. 16-1940. (The ship's name is spelt with just one s here and is said to be American).

Seeker - A website for divers, which used to have pictures of Bidevind, Norness and Varanger, and a "map" showing the location of the wrecks, but the site now seems to have changed, and I can no longer find these. The site also had a separate page about Norness; I'll leave this link for now in case the info can be found later.

Operations Information for U-123

U-123 | Reinhard Hardegen

Camp Norway - The History of Camp Norway, Lunenburg; includes names of Norwegians who are buried in Nova Scotia.

Other ships owned by Johan Rasmussen & Co. - Here is the main page.

Back to Norness on the "Ships starting with N" page.

The text on this page was compiled with the help of: The sources named in above text - ref. Sources/Books.


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