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D/S Norse King - Page 2
Collision with Dutch Ferdinand Bol & Ombilin - Convoy HS 35 July 29-1942
Summaries of misc. reports received from Tony Cooper, England.

To Norse King - page 1 (w/crew list).

Norse King collided with the Dutch freighter Ferdinand Bol (5704 gt, built 1919, owned by Gebroeders van Uden, Rotterdam) on July 29-1942, en route from Halifax to Sydney in Convoy HS 35. Ferdinand Bol was a replacement ship under Master W. Muller. She was built in 1919 as West Harshaw, became Empire Oryx in 1940, Empire Robin in 1941, then Dutch Ferdinand Bol 1942.

I've been told there are no known records of this convoy, and that the collision report is the only record of this convoy existing. Tony has had a look at the ships leaving Halifax on July 28-1942 and July 29 and has found there were 35 ships leaving that port, 32 of which were going to Sydney N. S.

Sailing on July 28:
Randa (Sydney - Montreal), Agios Spyridon, Osric, Spar, Trehata, Empire Antelope, Cape Race, Kelso, Illinoian, Boston City, Kaimoku, Hagood, Ferdinand Bol, Suecia, Norse King, (all Sydney-UK), Lake Traverse (Sydney-St. Johns N. F.), Ombilin and Perast (Sydney). Arrival Sydney July 30.

The following ships sailed from Halifax on July 29-1942 and arrived July 31 (see Convoy HS 36 - external link):
Borgholm (Nelson N. B.), Gezina (Pugwash), Kathariotisa (Sydney-Carlton), Llandaff, Bur, Oropos, Archangelos, Moscha D. Kydoniefs, Dinara, Odysseus (all for Sydney C. B.), Empire Moonbeam and Oregon (Sydney-UK), Bruse Jarl (Rimouski), Dimitrios Chandris, Empire Cormorant, Lisbeth and Loke (all Sydney-Montreal).

Note that several of the above ships subsequently joined Convoy SC 94 for the U.K., while others joined later SC convoys.

 Summary of a report re. this collision: 
Dated Febr. 1-1943. All times quoted are convoy time - 3 hours on GMT.

Norse King had 7400 tons of general cargo, and was in station 71 of Convoy HS 35. Ferdinand Bol, cargo of iron and general, was in station 61. She had originally been given station 62, but the ship meant for station 61 was absent, so she was moved to this station instead. Ombilin was in station 72.

It appears it was very difficult to establish exactly what happened in this case, the situation made further difficult by the fact that no records are available on Convoy HS 35. The report states that "the Board has been handicapped by a paucity of witnesses, and the evidence given by the Masters of No. 71 and 61, though excellent in each case, lacks the corroboration that is desirable from outside sources. This is due to the Commodore in No. 31 (this was Captain J. Lawrie D.S.O., D.S.C. in Trehata*) making no report on arrival Sydney N.B., before sailing for the U.K., and he was unfortunately lost with his ship en route. Also, this report states "further, the names of the ships in No.'s 41 and 51 positions are unknown, and all efforts to trace them have failed, while No. 72 (this was Ombilin) has recently been sunk and the Master and Chief Engineer were taken prisoner**. The remainder of her Officers were landed in Amerika and are unlikely to return to this country".

* Checking with Jürgen Rohwer's "Axis Submarine Successes of World War Two" I find that Trehata was sunk by U-176 on Aug. 8-1942 while in Convoy SC 94, which had departed Sydney on July 31-1942. 11 ships were sunk, namely Anneberg, Cape Race, Condylis, Empire Reindeer, Kaimoku, Kelso, Mount Kassion, Oregon, Radchurch, Spar, and Trehata - follow the link for more convoy details. As mentioned above, some of these ships may previously have arrived Sydney with Convoy HS 35. See also the external links below to's account on the loss of Trehata, as well as the battle for SC 94.

** Ombilin was sunk by the Italian submarine Tazzoli on Dec. 12-1942. Position given as 07 25N 39 19W.

Related external links:
The loss of Trehata - Details on the other ships sunk can be found through the Allied Ships hit by U-boats page.
The battle for Convoy SC 94

Italian submarine Tazzoli - As can be seen, this sub was responsible for the loss of several Norwegian ships (they are all listed on this website). Ombilin (Koninklijke Paketvaart Maatschappij) is mentioned under 1942, saying 79 were rescued, 2 taken prisoner.

Now back to Convoy HS 35. The report states that it departed Halifax for Sydney C.B. at 3:45 p.m on July 28-1942, and consisted of about 25 ships sailing in 7 columns in fine weather. At 7 o'clock p.m. on the 29th, Commodore Lawrie signalled by flags that course was to be altered from 050° to 010° at 10:40 p.m., and again from 010° to 313° at 00:40 a.m. on the 30th. The convoy's speed was 7 knots. Foggy weather was encountered at about 10 p.m., which worsened as the time to alter course approached, so that most of the ships switched on their navigation lights, with the leaders in each column sounding their pendants every 5-6 minutes. Ferdinand Bol could see No. 51's lights at 10:40 p.m., but not Norse King's. The Commodore now switched on 3 red lights, believing it best to cancel his alter course signal for 10:40 p.m. It looks like No. 41 (name unknown) may have misread this signal in the fog; this ship now showed a green and 2 red lights. It is not known for sure whether this ship altered to 010° at 10:40 p.m., but it appears she either did so, or sheered over to discover what the Commodore was doing, thereby passing under the stern of No. 51 (name unknown), which had by then altered to the new course at 10:40. Meanwhile, Ferdinand Bol had been standing by to alter course at 10:40, and when she heard 2 blasts blown by a ship on her port side, she came around gradually to 010°, after having sounded 2 blasts. 8 minutes later, at 10:46, she saw a black shape on her port beam, then went hard to starboard, and by doing so narrowly escaped a collision with this ship, No. 41. While close alongside, Ferdinand Bol asked why she had not altered to 010°, the reply being that this was because the Commodore had not altered. The stern lights of the ship in station 51 was visible on the port bow at this time.

Ferdinand Bol swung to about 100°(?) to starboard and ported her helm to straighten up again, but had only swung about half a point when Norse King came out of the thick fog on her starboard quarter, heading straight for her, striking her amidships between No. 3 hold and the stokehold. Not long afterwards, the fog cleared completely. Norse King had waited until she had heard at least 2 ships (No.'s 51 and Ferdinand Bol) sound 2 blasts, and had then gradually altered to 010°. When Ferdinand Bol suddenly appeared on the port bow at about 10:53 p.m., steering across her bows, she went full astern and hard to starboard, but the collision could not be avoided. The result was that Ferdinand Bol sank in 15-20 minutes, having been holed about the aft end of No. 3 hold, which immediately filled with water, as did the engine room. Her entire crew had abondoned the ship in 3 lifeboats and were picked up by the tug Ban Scot, which was also in the convoy. This tug attempted to tow the lifeboats to Sydney, but they were lost en route.

Norse King's troubles were not over. After she had backed clear of the Dutch ship, she collided with the Dutch Ombilin in station 72, which came up from behind her. However, damages were small, involving some damage to boats and davits only (this contradicts what Norse King's captain says).

It was later concluded that the collision was primarily due to an error of judgment by the Commodore in trying to cancel his pre-arranged alteration of course at 10:40 p.m., and of course the lack of visibility in the fog, which prevented the Commodore's light signal from being generally seen. The captains of Ferdinand Bol and Norse King were justified in altering course to 010°, and "generally handled their ships in a seamanlike manner". Therefore, no blame was attached to the captains of the colliding ships.

 Extract of Norse King's Log: 
Voyage Halifax to Sydney with Convoy HS 35.

Signed by Captain Sigurd Kaarby, 1st Mate K. Voess, 3rd Mate E. Dysvik and Able Seaman S. Rovik.

Norse King had a general cargo consisting of 3000 tons iron in the bottom, a lot of foodstuff like lard and cheese, as well as a lot of pulp, having been loaded in Norfolk, Virginia. She is said to have been managed by James German & Co. Ltd., Cardiff while under charter to the Ministry of War Transport. Her complement consisted of 1 Estonian, 1 Danish, 10 British, the rest Norwegian (total number not given)

The log repeats departure date and time given above, as well as the details on the Commodore's signals re. alterations of course. The fog that set in at 10 p.m. on July 29 had become so thick by 10:30 that they could hardly see the green side-light of Ferdinand Bol. Norse King at this time had her red side-light and her stern light on, and Captain Kaarby, 3rd Mate Dysvik and Able Seaman H. Hansen were on the bridge, with Able Seaman Rovik at the wheel and Junior Ordinary Seaman G. Oxley on lookout on the forecastle head. At 10:40 one of the leading ships on the port side gave 2 short blasts on the whistle, indicating that an alteration of course was being carried out. Another vessel, followed by Ferdinand Bol repeated the same signal, and immediately afterwards her stern light could be seen, so they understood she was now altering course. Norse King then gave 2 short blasts from her own whistle, whereupon she slowly swung to port until she was on course 010° true. The fog being very thick at this time, the stern light of Ferdinand Bol could no longer be seen, however, as the majority of the leading ships, including Norse King and Ferdinand Bol gave their column signals, they judged they were in the correct position. Various signals were now heard from the port side, such as 3 short, 2 short and 1 short blast, then suddenly the shadow of a ship's hull was spotted about 1 point on her port bow, and in an attempt to avoid a collision the wheel was given a hard starboard and the engine full astern, while 3 short blasts were given on her whistle. They anticipated that the vessel was stopped, but it appeared that it was making headway, shearing about 90° on their course. The collision could not be avoided, Ferdinand Bol striking Norse King's stem with her starboard midship - time given as approx. 10:55 p.m.

After having performed various manoeuvres to get clear of the the Dutch ship, the fog lifted slightly and another ship (Ombilin, station 72) was now seen bearing straight towards them from starboard. Helm was ordered hard starboard, engine full ahead to avoid another collision, while giving attention signals on the whistle, which was answered by 3 short blasts from Ombilin, but the speed of the latter was such that she struck Norske King's starboard lifeboat on the boat deck with her stem, pressing it inwards, breaking the fender boom and damaging the davits, but the hull appeared to be undamaged. As the fog lifted, the ship's bows were further examined and the stem found to be pressed inwards about 5 feet, the whole forepeak open to the sea. The degaussing coil was also torn in the peak. However, Norse King continued her voyage at reduced speed to avoid too much pressure on the collision bulkhead, and at about midnight Scatari Island Light was sighted, bearing 342°. At around 1 a.m., July 30 a corvette came alongside, enquiring about their situation, but they informed him they could proceed to Sydney at about 5-6 knots. At this time they were also told that Ferdinand Bol had sunk, but with no casualties.

Bilges and tanks were sounded during the night, but appeared to be empty. Norse King arrived Sydney and anchored up at 11:30 a.m., July 30.

Later, at the enquiry held on Sept. 30-1942, the captain of Norse King said the following about the Commodore: "I asked him when he altered course the other night when it should have been altered at 22:40 and he said he didn't alter course. I said, 'What! You didn't alter course when you gave us all the signals at 7 o'clock at night to alter course to 10 true at 22:40 and another to alter at 12:40 to 313 and you say that you didn't alter at all?' He said, 'No. I wanted to ascertain my accurate position before I led the convoy on a new course'. I said, 'Well. When you gave us the flag signals at 7 o'clock to alter course at 22:40, hadn't you then already ascertained where you would be at 22:40?'. He tried to get away, he didn't want to talk to me but I caught him up again and he said that he didn't alter course but he put up his signal lights to cancel the previous signals. I said I was very sorry but I couldn't see them in fog and I doubted if anyone else could."

Also, he stated that when he talked to Ferdinand Bol's captain later on in Sydney, the latter had told him that he had heard 2 blasts on his port side at 22:40, as well as 2 blasts from the ship next to him which was No. 51, altering course. Ferdinand Bol then followed, and also heard Norse King's 2 short blasts, signifying that she too had followed. After Ferdinand Bol had come up on her new course, a ship came up at an angle to her port side, believed to be the ship in station 41. She believed at that time that the ship in station 51 was ahead of the column, and to avoid a collision with No. 41 she had to go hard to starboard, but before she could straighten up again, Norse King loomed out of the fog on her starboard side.

 Extract of captain of Ferdinand Bol's statements at enquiry: 
Dated Aug. 3-1942.

Captain Wolter Muller.

"Blew the whistle several times, thereby indicating to be the leader of column 6, which was done by all column leaders, switched on the navigation lights and showed the stern light. At 10:40 the course was slowly changed as indicated (this is referring to the Commodore's previous orders for changes of course as mentioned in above reports), showing this by 2 short blasts on the steam whistle. The same manoeuvre was executed by the column leaders of columns 5 and 7 who also indicated this by 2 short blasts on the steam whistle. At 10:50 p.m. the ship was proceeding on the new course of 10°, there still being a thick fog. After having proceeded on this course for 10 minutes, a ship was suddenly sighted to port coming straight at us, showing a red-green-red combination of convoy lights as well as his green and red navigation lights; to prevent a collision gave one short blast on the steam whistle and put helm hard to starboard, following up with an attention signal, being a series of short blasts. The ship had meanwhile approached us so much that we could call to each other.

When I called that the course was 10°, he replied that this was known to him, but that the Commodore had not yet changed course. He thereupon changed course to port which example we followed indicating this by 2 short blasts on the steam whistle. During this manoeuvre a black shape emerged from the fog nearly abreast to starboard, whereupon shortly afterwards we sighted both navigation lights of a ship. Gave 2 short blasts on the steam whistle, helm hard to port and full speed ahead in order to prevent a collision. This however appeared to be inevitable, and the collision took place shortly afterwards. The ship was hit amidships in way of the deep tank and stokehold. On getting free, the motor lifeboat, the one most forward on starboard side was smashed. The engines were immediately stopped and the 4th Engineer C. Bimmel shut the watertight tunnel door in the top of the engine room. The water quickly entered the ship and the electric light was out at once. The emergency lighting was immediately switched on and the alarm signals put into operation.

3 lifeboats were lowered in the water, and the crew divided between these boats, which was done in an orderly manner. Before the boats left the ship, we made sure that nobody was left behind. Stayed in the proximity of the ship; the fog had meantime cleared. The tug Ban Scott who was also in the convoy, stood by. Shortly after we had left the ship, she disappeared under the surface. Were picked up by the tug, the 3 lifeboats were taken in tow and a course was set to Sydney N.S. proceeding at full speed. During this trip the lifeboats were lost. Arrived at Sydney N.S. on the 20th July at 7 a.m. where the crew was accommodated and later sent to Halifax N.S." (The date in this last sentence must be a misprint).

The captain adds that the collision must be attributed to the fog and the fact that the Commodore did not change course in time.

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