|Site Map | Search Warsailors.com |Merchant Fleet Main Page | Warsailors.com Home|
Owner: Hvalfangerselskapet Polaris A/S
Built by Barclay, Curle & Co. Ltd, Whiteinch, Glasgow in 1939.
Captain: Jacob Nilsen Backer. Also, I've been told that the captain of this ship from Oct.-1942 through Jan.-1943 was Leif Moen, who had previously survived the sinking of Kongsgaard. (He had also served on Garnes). After leaving Polarsol, he served as captain of General Ruge (Apr.-1943 to Oct.-1945).
400 000 tons of fuel was transported by Polarsol during the war, and she had sailed 275 000 miles.
Please compare the above voyages with Arnold Hague's Voyage Record below.
(Received from Don Kindell - His source: The late Arnold Hague's database).
Follow the convoy links provided for more information on each.
Errors may exist, and some voyages are missing.
In the book "Larviks Sjømannsforening 1849-1949" a several pages long report has been included, written by Chief Engineer Frode Bjerkholdt (the title translates to "Larvik's Seamen's Association 1849-1949" - it came out in 1948 and is listed in My sources / Books). The report is a summary of Polarsol's experiences during the war years, and gives an excellent glimpse into what life must have been like on a regular basis on these tankers. As mentioned on the "front" page of this website, my main purpose is to tell the story of the "soldiers of the sea", namely the seamen and not only cold facts about the ships, so I'm including a translated summary of this report here. In some cases it looks as though the chief engineer has gotten the sequence of events a little out of order, but this is fairly easily corrected by looking at the documents received from the National Archives of Norway and A. Hague's Voyage Record above.
As will be seen, I've supplemented the information with details on various convoys. Follow the links for further info; the Commodore's notes are also available for some of these and several Norwegian ships took part. More info on all the unlinked convoys in this narrative is available via the external links provided within the Voyage Record (based on Arnold Hague's database).
Frode Bjerkholdt starts off by saying that Polarsol went out on her maiden voyage on Dec. 19-1939, bound for Aruba to pick up a cargo of fuel. Note that she's listed as sailing in Convoy OB 56, which left Liverpool on that date and dispersed on the 21st, but her arrival Aruba is not known (except for a voyage to The Persian Gulf to pick up fuel for the U.K., she continued in this trade until Apr.-1941).
In Jan.-1940 she's listed as bound for Avonmouth in the Halifax-U.K. Convoy HXF 17. According to A. Hague, she arrived her destination on Febr. 2. She subsequently appears in Convoy OB 88, which originated in Liverpool on Febr. 9 and joined up with Convoy OA 88 on Febr. 11, the combined convoy forming the Gibraltar bound Convoy OG 18F*, which arrived Gibraltar on Febr. 17. Polarsol, however, was on a voyage in ballast from Avonmouth to The Persian Gulf. A. Hague says she stopped at Port Said on Febr. 23, continuing to Abadan 2 days later (she had left Avonmouth on Febr. 8, Milford Haven on the 10th). At the beginning of Apr.-1940 we find her, again with destination Avonmouth, in Convoy HGF 25, departing Gibraltar on Apr. 2. It'll be noticed, when following the link to my page about this convoy, that she's mentioned in the Vice Commodore's notes, who says she parted company on Apr. 9 in 57 31N 06 21W as ordered, and proceeded to Milford Haven. According to Page 1, she arrived Avonmouth on Apr. 12, proceeding to Swansea on the 14th. Together with Garonne she later joined Convoy OB 133, which originated in Liverpool on Apr. 20 and joined up with Convoy OA 133 on Apr. 22, forming the Gibraltar bound convoy OG 27F*, which arrived there on Apr. 28, but going back to the archive document, we learn that Polarsol arrived Trinidad on May 6, having started out from Milford Haven on Apr. 21 (A. Hague says she had detached from the convoy on Apr. 25). In addition to Garonne, John Knudsen and Leikanger are also listed in the OG convoy; they had come from OA 133.
From Trinidad, Polarsol proceeded to Bermuda on May 13, joining the Bermuda portion of the eastbound North Atlantic Convoy HX 44 on May 19, cargo of benzine for Avonmouth, where she arrived on June 6. A little over a week later she's listed, along with Bjørkhaug, Garonne, Ruth I, South America and Vav, in Convoy OB 167, which originated in Liverpool on June 13 and dispersed on the 17th, Polarsol arriving Aruba on June 28, having started out from Milford Haven on the 14th. She proceeded to Bermuda already the following day and was scheduled for the Bermuda portion of Convoy HX 56 on July 6, but is crossed out on the original Advance Sailing Telegram with a note saying "to proceed to Halifax to await orders", and going back to Page 1, we see that she left Bermuda for Halifax on July 8. She does not show up again until Convoy HX 62 from Halifax at the end of that month; she arrived Avonmouth on Aug. 16, later continuing to Cardiff, with arrival Aug. 24. As can be seen from the archive document, she subsequently spent a long time there; departure is given as Oct. 1. With Balla and Solstad, she now joined Convoy OB 223, which started out from Liverpool on Oct. 3 and dispersed on the 8th. Her destination is given as Capetown/Abadan. Polarsol had sailed from Milford Haven on Oct. 2, arrived Table Bay (Capetown) on Oct. 31, Abadan on Nov. 23, returning to Table Bay a few days later, then on to Freetown.
With a cargo of benzine, she now went back to the U.K. again in Convoy SL 61, which left Freetown on Jan. 1-1941 and arrived Liverpool on the 24th; Polarsol arrived Milford Haven that day, subsequently proceeding to Avonmouth. The following month, she made another voyage to Aruba. For this voyage, A. Hague has included her (with Bollsta, Rolf Jarl and Spero) in Convoy OG 54* which originated in Liverpool on Febr. 25, but had she sailed in Convoy OB 290? Please see my note within the Voyage Record above (Commodore for this convoy was in Samuel Bakke - Borgland and Solferino were sunk. See also my own page for OB 290, reports only). Polarsol arrived Aruba on March 16, having sailed from Milford haven on Febr. 24. From Aruba, she proceeded to Halifax already that same day, joining Convoy HX 117 from there on March 27 - the original convoy document gives her destination as Manchester (see also Page 1).
After unloading in Liverpool orders came from the Admiralty that ships doing 12 knots or more were to proceed alone, and the chief engineer says "this was during the blackest days; many ships had been lost and England needed the supplies quickly". He says they left Liverpool on Apr. 22 with a course just south of Iceland, destination New York. Early in the morning of Apr. 26, when they were about 150 miles south of Iceland, they were suddenly attacked by a large 4 engined bomber that flew low over the ship and blasted her with its machine gun from fore to aft, before dropping its bombs when it reached the after part. "Nortraships flåte" also mentions this attack, but says that Polarsol was in a convoy at the time, giving the date as Apr. 25-1941, between Iceland and Scotland. "Skip og Menn" says she was on a voyage from New York to England, but this can't be correct since she had been in HX 117 which had arrived Liverpool on Apr. 15. (The French Celte was bombed in the same area a couple of days later, 14 of her crew were rescued by the Norwegian Nea, 10 by a British ship).
Frode Bjerkholdt gives a very detailed description of the damages and the havoc that ensued; it's heartwrenching reading; "the door to the engine room blew straight through the engineer's sitting room and out through the other side". They didn't have enough armament on board to effectively defend themselves, so had to take to the boats. The German aircraft came back 3 times, again peppering the decks with its machine guns and dropping 8 bombs before finally leaving the "scene of its heroic deeds, heading east, probably towards Norway". Cries for help were heard from the sea, 2 men were fished out but 1 was dead, floating on his lifebelt. Other cries were heard but they weren't able to get to them and the cries eventually stopped.
Meanwhile, Polarsol was burning fiercly and they feared her ammunition would explode. After 6 hours in the lifeboat they went back on board, but stayed amidships as they could not get aft due to the fire. Later that evening a small convoy was spotted, the Dutch tug Zwarte Zee took her in tow, and 5 days later she arrived at a yard in Glasgow for repairs. The fire in the engine room and the after part of the ship had lasted for about 24 hours, but it took 3 days before they could get down to the engine room, which resembled a crater. When they did, they found the burnt upper body of the pumpman. He must have been killed during the explosion and his upper body had fallen into the "crater", the lower body was not found. The ship's cat was also found dead and charred down there. The remains of the pumpman were buried at Port Balantyne. 4 men had died, others were badly injured. The following are commemorated at the Stavern Memorial (link below): Able Seaman Jacob Sofus Birkedal Carlsen, Oiler Hans Kristian K. Lydhus, Pumpman Gunnar L. Halleraker, and 3rd Engineer Sigfrid Trulsen.
Related external link:
After repairs were completed at the end of August she resumed her service with aviation fuel between the U.S. and U.K., joining the westbound North Atlantic Convoy ON 11, bound for New York, station 73. She arrived New York on Sept. 16, having sailed from Clyde on Aug. 31 (the convoy had been dispersed on Sept. 11). She headed back to the U.K. again on Oct. 10 with Convoy HX 154 from Halifax, together with the Norwegian Hilda Knudsen, Kaia Knudsen, Ranja, Tai Shan, Samuel Bakke, Emma Bakke, Skiensfjord, N. T. Nielsen-Alonso, Toronto, Noreg and Svenør. Some of these ships, including Polarsol (destination Curacao), subsequently returned with Convoy ON 34, which originated in Liverpool on Nov. 7 and dispersed Nov. 21. Polarsol arrived Curacao on Nov. 24; according to A. Hague she had become a straggler from the convoy on Nov. 9 and this is confirmed by the Commodore's notes (follow the link to ON 34 - also, as will be seen, Acanthus is named among the escorts). Her last Trans-Atlantic voyage that year was made in Convoy HX 164 from Halifax, together with Gallia, Norsktank, Hilda Knudsen, Kaia Knudsen and Leiesten. It looks like Polarsol's destination was Avonmouth when she was in both HX convoys mentioned here - again, see Page 2.
In Jan.-1942 she's listed as bound for Galveston with Convoy ON 56* (originated in Liverpool Jan. 12, dispersed Jan. 16). Alaska, Andrea Brøvig, Leiesten, Pan Norway (both sunk - follow links for details), Ringstad, Solstad, Topdalsfjord and Vardefjell are also included. Polarsol arrived Galveston on Febr. 2, having started out from Greenock on Jan. 13. She can also be found among the ships leaving Halifax in Convoy HX 178 on March 3, as well as in the westbound convoy ON 81* at the end of that month (originated in Liverpool March 29); Solsten, Thorshov (Commodore Vessel) and Thorshøvdi are also listed. Polarsol's destination is given as Aruba, and she arrived there on Apr. 17, the convoy having been dispersed Apr. 9. She was then sent alone to Freetown (arrived May 9, she's said to have lost a crew member on this voyage, ref. link to the Stavern Memorial above), and from there in convoy to the U.K. According to the chief engineer, this voyage took 28 days in a slow convoy; she's listed as sailing in station 63 of Convoy SL 110, which left Freetown on May 13 and arrived Liverpool on June 4. Polarsol arrived Swansea, via Belfast Lough, on June 6 - see Page 3. Thorshøvdi and Velma are also named in this convoy.
The chief engineer's report states that she now headed back to The Persian Gulf, around South Africa, and the same way back - however, she's listed, with Marit II, Norsol, Sandanger, Skandinavia and Velma, in the westbound North Atlantic Convoy ON 105*, originating in Liverpool on June 19-1942; according to Page 3 above she arrived New York on July 3. She's later listed as bound for Aruba in the Key West to Trinidad Convoy WAT 9, departing Key West on July 25. Going back to the archive document, we learn that she arrived Aruba on Aug. 2, heading back to Key West on Aug. 5 in Convoy TAW 11A, with arrival Aug. 13. On Sept. 6 she can be found among the ships in Convoy HX 206 from Halifax, having been cancelled from the previous convoy, HX 205. She arrived Avonmouth on Sept. 20 and a few days later we find her, with destination New York, in the westbound Convoy ON 133*, which originated in Liverpool on Sept. 25 and arrived New York on Oct. 11. She had again been in the company of several other Norwegian ships, namely Anna Knudsen, Athos, Bello, Brimanger, Emma Bakke, Garonne, Grey County, Kosmos II, Minerva, Molda, Noreg, Nueva Granada, Petter II (returned), Polartank, Sandanger, Skandinavia, Thorshavet and Thorshov, as well as the Panamanian Norbris (Norwegian managers).
The chief eningeer mentions a voyage that took place in the fall of 1942 (no date is given) when she was in a convoy in the Caribbean, headed for Curacao. Due to attacks the convoy had to turn around, but they eventually reached their destination and cargo was loaded, only to get attacked again before they had even gotten properly out of the harbour. An American cruiser was torpedoed, with the attacks lasting all night. All the way to New York U-boats were around and depth charges were constantly dropped. In this time period, Polarsol is listed in Convoy NG 317 from New York to Guantanamo on Oct. 27-1942, arriving Guantanamo Nov. 3. She proceeded from Guantanamo that same day in Convoy GAT 19, and arrived Curacao on Nov. 7, subsequently starting her return voyage from Curacao on Nov. 12, joining Convoy TAG 20 to Guantanamo, continuing from there to New York on Nov. 16 with Convoy GN 20, arriving New York on Nov. 23. I'm not sure if any of these convoys were attacked, except for TAG 20, in which one of the escort vessels was damaged by U-163 on Nov. 12 (see USS Erie - external link), perhaps this is the voyage and "American cruiser" referred to by the chief engineer? (the only other voyage she had made to Curacao that fall was in Aug.-1942). Page 3 shows Polarsol's voyages in this period. A few days later (Nov. 27), she was scheduled for Convoy HX 217 from New York (cargo of gasoline, destination Belfast), but instead joined the next convoy on Dec. 5, HX 218. Her destination is now given as Swansea, where she arrived (via Belfast Lough) on Dec. 22.
She was scheduled to return to the U.S. with Convoy ON 157 on Dec. 27 (Commodore in Skiensfjord), but joined ON 159, which originated in Liverpool on Jan. 4-1943 and for which Laurits Swenson served as Commodore Vessel - the Commodore's narrative is also available and Polarsol is mentioned under Jan. 18, saying she was detached that day; she arrived Houston, via Key West, on Jan. 26, according to the archive document. While there, she took on board 14 000 tons of aviation fuel and 1400 tons bunkers, then proceeded through the Gulf of Mexico, Caribbean, around Cape Horn, eastward in the Antarctic, then north (this according to the chief engineer's narrative). She sailed alone, and had been instructed to report when certain locations were passed. After having reported her last position, they were told that U-boats had sunk 4 ships nearby during the night, and were directed to go to Durban (see also Page 3 and Page 4). The burning wreck of one of these ships was spotted soon afterwards, but Polarsol made it safely to Durban. From there 2 days in convoy to the south point of Madagaskar (she's listed in Convoy DN 27 in this time period), then northwards on her own until she had passed the east coast of Madagaskar, where a small troop convoy was spotted ahead of them. The escorting cruiser got suspicious and started firing, but upon being notified they were friend and not foe, they were allowed to join this convoy the rest of the way to Aden. She then proceeded alone through the Red Sea, Suez Canal into the Mediterranean and on to Alexandria where her cargo was unloaded. She had travelled 20 000 miles on this voyage. Through the rest of 1943 she continued voyaging the Mediterranean - Persian Gulf, interrupted by a couple of trips to India and one to South Africa. (Again, compare the chief engineer's details with the information found on Page 4 of the archive documents and the Voyage Record above).
F. Bjerkholdt goes on to describe an air attack in Apr.-1944. He says they had loaded fuel in Abadan around Christmas time of 1943, and had unloaded at Algiers (Algiers is not mentioned for this period on Page 4) before heading to the U.S. for maintenance work and the addition of an extra deck for aircraft, as well as better armament - she's listed as bound from Bone to the U.S. in Convoy GUS 28 in Jan./Febr.-1944. According to Page 5, she had left Bone on Jan. 23 and arrived New York on Febr. 15, proceeding to Baltimore 2 days later. It's possible the new installations were added there, because she remained in Baltimore for quite a long time (though it'll be noticed, when going to the Voyage Record above, that A. Hague indicates she went to Baltimore to repair collision damage of Dec. 10-1943) - departure is given as March 29, when she left for Philadelphia then on to Hampton Roads. With 14 500 tons aviation fuel, as well as 80 trucks on the new deck, she joined a convoy consisting of about 100 ships, 90% American, for the Mediterranean. F. Bjerkholdt claims the attack took place in the evening of Apr. 4, not long after they had passed Algiers; an estimated 50 bombers were in the air above them, as well as torpedo aircraft. The latter came in very low, just 1 meter above the water, 1 coming directly for Polarsol, the other for the ship next to them, which was a Liberty Ship. Polarsol's new anti aircraft gun now came in useful, in that they were able to shoot the attacking aircraft to pieces, but the Liberty Ship took a direct hit straight into its cargo of ammunition, followed by a deafening explosion which caused the Norwegian ship to be thrown over to the side, with the helmsman covered in broken glass, bleeding heavily. Polarsol received many damages, as did the trucks on her deck. Nothing was to be seen of the Liberty Ship afterwards, and nothing was heard from the about 580 people on board. All the while the bombs kept coming, several exploding much too close to Polarsol for comfort. He thinks 7 ships and 3 destroyers were sunk, and that 3 Liberty Ships sprang a leak and had to be beached, while 4 German and 2 British aircraft were shot down.
In this time period, she's listed in Convoy UGS 38, her destination is given as Bizerta - this convoy left Hampton Roads on Apr. 3-1944 (and had Port Said as its final destination), but she could not have been off Algiers already the day after departure. However, a couple of other facts do fit with the chief engineer's description - the American Liberty Ship Paul Hamilton, carrying explosives and 500 troops was sunk in this convoy, and there were no survivors. The British Royal Star was also sunk, while the British Samite was damaged, as was the American Stephen F. Austin (also a Liberty Ship carrying troops). This convoy had many Liberty Ships carrying troops, but no more are listed as sunk. Polarsol was then ordered to Bizerta, arriving there the following afternoon to unload her aviation fuel and military vehicles. This little snippet of information would indicate that the above attack had taken place on Apr. 21, because according to Page 5, she arrived Bizerta on Apr. 22, however, according to my page about Viggo Hansteen it happened on Apr. 20.
Just before departure for the U.S. they were told to go to Algiers to take the fuel cargo from an American ship that was not allowed further into the Mediterranean, and then proceed with that cargo to Taranto, Italy. This time they went through the most dangerous stretch at another time of the day, plus the convoy was covered by a smoke screen, and they did not experience attacks. On passing the straits of Messina a U-boat was sunk by an aircraft and the survivors picked up by one of the escorts. These details agree with the Voyage Record; she's listed as bound from Bizerta to Algiers in Convoy GUS 39 in May. Going back to Page 5, we learn that she had left Bizerta on May 11 and arrived Algiers on the 13th, leaving again on May 17 for Augusta, where she arrived May 21. For this voyage she had sailed in Convoy KMS 50 - see my section listing ships in all KMS convoys. She departed Augusta again that same day for Taranto, with arrival May 22, heading back to Augusta from there on May 28, with arrival Augusta on May 30.
Polarsol's next voyage took her from Augusta on May 30 and back to New York (June 19 - Convoy GUS 41) where the damages from the aircraft attack were repaired. According to the chief engineer, she now returned to the Mediterranean with another cargo of aviation fuel, aircraft etc. He says her first destination was Marseilles, where the battles for the south of France were in full force, but based on the details found in her Voyage Record as well as on Page 5, these voyages took place much later. Polarsol is listed in Convoy HX 299 from New York to the U.K. on July 11-1944, for which Laurits Swenson again served as Commodore Vessel, while the Vice Commodore was in Høyanger. With Ferncourt, Idefjord, John Bakke, Norsktank and Solfonn, she later returned with Convoy ON 248(F)*, which originated in Liverpool Aug. 6 and arrived New York Aug. 20; Polarsol joined from Loch Ewe.
She subsequently shows up, with destination Augusta, in Convoy UGS 53 from Hampton Roads on Sept. 2. Her arrival Augusta is given as Sept. 24, and she left again for Brindisi that same day, with arrival Sept. 26, having sailed in Convoy AH 69, together with Havprins, Kong Sverre, Norelg and Star. "Nortraships flåte" states that Polarsol arrived Bari from the U.S. on Sept. 28-1944 and continued to Ancona the next day, where she arrived on Sept. 30. She experienced two air raids, one in the evening of Sept. 30 while anchored 1.5 n. miles from town, the other in the evening of Oct. 2, after she had gone into Ancona, but no damage was done. The chief engineer says her cargo of fuel was unloaded there, and adds that the breakwater near Polarsol was hit by a torpedo from a motor torpedo boat while she was there. According to the archive document mentioned above she departed Ancona again for Brindisi on Oct. 8; her arrival Brindisi is not given, but she left again for Augusta on Oct. 11, arriving Augusta on the 13th, having made this voyage in Convoy HA 72 (according to A. Hague). From Augusta, she subsequently headed back to the U.S. on Oct. 16.
By this time the Allied forces had regained the French Mediterranean coast. The Germans evacuated Crete (the last German troops left Athens on Oct. 12), but they were still holding Italy, and at the end of that year they continued to hold the northern Adriatic sea and part of the Italian east coast, from where the German Air Force could still cause problems for the otherwise peaceful passage in the Mediterranean.
From then on Polarsol continued the U.S.-Med. voyages, with a voyage U.S.-U.K. and back in between. As mentioned above, she headed to the U.S. from Augusta on Oct. 16, having joined Convoy GUS 55, and arrived New York Nov. 6, remaining there for over a month. She departed New York again on Dec. 10 and arrived Casablanca Dec. 26, having sailed in Convoy UGS 63. From there, she headed to Algiers, Marseilles, Port de Bouc, back to Marseilles and Algiers then on to Oran (Page 5), and on Jan. 22-1945 we find her in Convoy GUS 67 from Oran to the U.S. She arrived New York on Febr. 11 and now made a voyage to the U.K.; she's listed as bound for Avonmouth with Convoy HX 339 from New York on Febr. 18, arriving Avonmouth on March 4, returning the following month with Convoy ON 289*, which left Southend on March 7 and arrived New York on the 25th. Brasil, Dalfonn, Havprins, Høyanger, John Bakke and Molda, as well as the Panamanian Norlys and Norvinn (Norwegian managers) are also included. No destination is given for Polarsol on this occasion, but according to Page 6, she arrived Baltimore on March 27, having left Avonmouth on the 7th.
She now made another voyage to Augusta, having sailed in Convoy UGS 83, which left Hampton Roads on March 29, Polarsol arriving Augusta on Apr. 18, proceeding to Bari the next day. From there, she joined Convoy AH 32, leaving Bari on Apr. 24, arriving Ancona Apr. 25 - Bestik and Måkefjell are also listed. A. Hague has also included her in Convoy HA 33, which left Ancona on Apr. 28 and arrived Bari the following day, but Polarsol arrived Oran on May 3, having been detached from the convoy. On May 7, she's listed in the Oran-Hampton Roads Convoy GUS 88. Again, no destination is given for Polarsol but according to the archive document already mentioned, she arrived New York on May 23. This does not quite fit with the chief engineer's account, which says that when the war ended (presumably meaning the war in Europe) she was on her way to the U.S. from England.
According to this external page, she was owned from 1959 by A/S Dale Fabrikker (H. Kuhnle), Bergen, renamed Dale. Sold in 1961 to Yugoslavia for breaking up.
Back to Polarsol on the "Ships starting with P" page.
Melsom & Melsom, Larvik later had another Polarsol, delivered in Nov.-1960, 21 592 gt. Renamed Sunny Lady for Olaf Pedersens Rederi A/S, Oslo in 1972. Sold to Greece in 1977 and renamed Nostos. Broken up in 1984.
The text on this page was compiled with the help of: "Nortraships flåte", J. R. Hegland, "Larviks Sjømannsforening 1849-1949", a report written by Chief Engineer Frode Bjerkholdt, and misc.