Site Map | Search |Merchant Fleet Main Page | Home 

(The ships are listed in chronological order, according to date captured)

On this page:

Some facts on Michel

Capture of M/S Kattegat w/link to crew list | Capture of M/T Aramis w/crew list

SOME FACTS ON MICHEL: M/S Michel (HSK IX SCHIFF 28) was being built at Danzig for the Gdynia America Line as the fruit carrier Bielsko but was seized by the Germans and launched as Bonn at the end of 1939 (Norddeutschen Lloyd). The intention was to refurbish her as a hospital ship, but instead she was converted to an armed merchant cruiser by F. Schichau in 1941 and renamed Michel, a name that caused quite a stir at first, it being a diminutive for Michael, Archangel St. Michael, protector of the Jewish nation, but her commander, kapitän zur See Helmuth von Ruckteschell (previously commanded Widder) got his way in the end. She left Kiel in early March-1942, but after having grounded off Ostende on the 13th she headed back to Flushing, having to fight her way through a skirmish with British forces. She then continued to St. Malo where ammunition was refurbished and finally departed on March 20.

She had a top speed of 16 knots, was 4740 gt, had a complement of 400, and sank many an allied ship before she met her final fate on October 17 -1943 at the hands of the American submarine Tarpon (SS-175), Commander T. L. Wogan, off Chichi Jima, Bonins, and sank within 13 minutes, 33 42N 140 08E. 15 officers and 248 crew died, 110 made it ashore. Captain Gunther Gumprich did nothing to save himself (he had taken over the command of Michel after von Ruckteschell had taken ill while she was in dock at Mitsubishi in the spring of 1943). 19 Norwegian seamen from the two previously captured Norwegian ships Høegh Silverdawn and Ferncastle drowned in their "cells" aboard the Michel at that time.

Six 5.9", one 4.1", two twin 37 mm, four 20 mm, two twin 21" torpedo tubes, two single submerged 21" tubes. Two Arado 196 aircraft.

Ships sunk by Michel:
(in chronological order)

1st Cruise, March 9-1942/March 1-1943:
Patella, Connecticut, Kattegat, George Clymer, Lylepark, Cloucester Castle, William F. Humphrey, Aramis, Arabistan, American Leader, Empire Dawn, Sawokla, Eugenie Livanos, Empire March.

2nd Cruise, May 1-1943/Oct. 17-1943:
Høegh Silverdawn, Ferncastle and India.

Related external links:
Michel - Ship 28 - Describes Michel's voyages and captures in detail ("Mac's Web Log").

Map showing Michels 1st cruise | 2nd cruise - (On the website Arsenal of Dictatorship, which also has a section about the German raiders).

Tarpon - A section of DANFS / submarines - The Dictionary of American Naval Fighting ships.

M/S Kattegat

Manager: Olaf Ditlev-Simonsen jr., Oslo
Tonnage: 4245 gt, 8370 tdwt.
Call Sign: LJFF.

Captain: Karl Gjurød

Cick on the link to Kattegat in the box above for details on some of her voyages prior to capture.

Complete Crew list can be found in the text under Kattegat on my POW's page.

 Excerpts from Captain Gjurød's Report & Diary: 
Translated from Norwegian).

Captain Gjurød lists Kattegat's various voyages and cargoes in a report (ref. link to Kattegat above), stating at the end:

"We came to Abadan at the end of Febr. (1942) and unloaded some of the cargo there (they had taken on board a full load of locomotives in Liverpool meant for Basrah in Iraq), while the rest was unloaded in Basrah. From there we had orders to go to Bombay for a cargo for Gt. Britain, but Bombay had no cargo for us, so we were ordered to Durban in ballast. However, at Durban, we were told to go to Cape Town where we arrived May 11, only to be told to continue to Montevideo to load a cargo for New York. We departed Cape Town on May 12, but already on the 20th at 18:45 hrs we were sunk by a German raider, position 28 11S 11 30W, about 400 n. miles north of Tristan da Cunha".

Through the kindness of Captain George Duffy, a visitor to my website I've obtained a copy of von Ruckteschell's "Kriegstagebuch" (signed by von Ruckteschell). He says Kattegat was sunk by artillery and explosives in position 28 07S 12 27W, and adds that her complement consisted of 27 Norwegians, 3 English and 2 Danish, all of whom were taken on board Michel. He states Kattegat was equipped with 1 gun. The KTB is dated South Atlantic, Jan. 13-1943.

Captain Gjurød says, "At the time we had a moderate southwesterly gale, heavy seas and it was pitch dark. When the firing started orders to stop the engines were given and the alarm sounded. It's impossible to say how long the firing lasted, and the 'fire works' were indescribable".

He then describes the scene while the shelling continued and some of the damages, and goes on to say:

"As long as the firing continued we had no chance of getting to the lifeboats, so we took cover as best we could. After what seems like an eternity, but was probably just a few minutes, Ordinary Seaman Olaf Ås managed to get through the rain of bullets (he was 18 years old) and up to the boat deck where he turned on the lights near the lifeboats. This was probably the reason why the shooting stopped, and as soon as it did, we ran to the boats. But the boat on the port side turned out to be useless, shot to pieces, so that the people who got into it were sitting up to their waists in water. In spite of the ordeal the men had been through, the launching of the boats took place in good order.

After the boats had gotten some distance away from Kattegat we spotted a ship coming straight towards us, while shining a dull light. At first we thought it was a Japanese warship, but it later turned out to be a German raider. We were lined up on her deck, and to everone's surprise, all 32 were accounted for and in good shape except for a few scratches. We were taken below decks for a bath and medical examinations. I was summoned to the bridge to answer some questions on cargo etc., whereupon attempts were made to sink Kattegat with a torpedo, but it went underneath the ship, and I was accused of having given the wrong depth. A second torpedo also missed, going in front of the ship. The Germans then lost their patience and sent me below decks. The distance to Kattegat was only about 600 meters, and she was completely still, so the Germans' ability to aim must not have been very good. She was finally sunk by explosives.

 Life on Michel (kapitän zur See Helmuth von Ruckteschell): 

What little we had in the way of clothes was taken from us to be disinfected, and we were only given some blue bathing trunks. During the first night we were all in a small cell, having been given a blanket and some sort of a mattress. The next day the officers were moved to the officers' cell at the front of the ship, 5 feet below the waterline. Above our heads we had 2 x 6 inch guns, so we were in 'pleasant' company.

We were never told the name of the raider. It had No. 28 and was an excellent ship with beautiful lines. We guessed it to be about 12 000 dwt. She had several decks and was divided into rooms of various sizes with waterproof bulkheads and doors. Every little space on board was utilized. Her complement consisted of 450 men. The prisoners were only allowed to be on deck for half an hour before noon, and for the same amount of time in the afternoon. We could see that the ship had a total of 6 x 6 inch guns, a motor torpedo boat, 2 aircraft, and 6 torpedo tubes. I can't really say how many 4 inch guns and anti aircraft guns there were. Everything on deck had the ability to be altered for disguise purposes.

We cruised north, south, west and east in the South Atlantic, probably between 12 and 30° S. All our watches had been taken from us, so it was difficult to determine the exact positions. During the day we had a speed of 10-17 knots, while we at night usually stayed still or moved at slow speed. The Germans trusted the excellent look-outs during the day, and their radio during the night, but they took no chances and the ships we sank were taken after dark. We knew what to expect whenever the officer in charge of the prisoners paid us a visit at night and turned the lights out. This was followed by the familiar sounds of preparation for attack, and we got ourselves ready by putting our lifevests on and our fingers in our ears, but when the 6 inch guns right above our heads boomed, we jumped high in the air. It was quite a nerve-racking experience".

 Life on M/S Speybank/Doggerbank: 

The captain now goes on to say that Michel was painted and spruced up between the dates of June 16 and 18, when they had a bout of good weather, and they heard rumours that 2 supply ships were expected, and that they were to be transferred to one of them in order to be sent to Bordeaux. Starting on June 19 they were no longer allowed on deck for their usual half hour "airing out", but were kept below deck day and night. Some Chinese prisoners who brought them their food kept them informed about what was going on "upstairs", and on the 20th they were told that the supply ships had arrived. In the morning of the 24th they were ordered to be ready for transfer, and when they all came up on deck at 14:00 hrs that day they encountered a lively scene, with the three ships loading or unloading, everything from bags of mail to food and torpedoes. An hour later they were on board M/S Speybank, a British ship which had been captured by Atlantis in Jan.-1941, and which had just come from Bordeaux where she had been converted to prisoner transport (renamed Doggerbank). Captain Gjurød says,

"the ship was hopeless, and the 55 days we spent in that heap of rust still appear as a nightmare to me".

Captain Duffy has told me (see text under Aramis below) the following:
"From Patella, the Michel received 60 prisoners and from the Connecticut, 19. These, less 4 Patella Chinese who were retained aboard to run the ship's laundry, were transferred to the Charlotte Schliemann on May 6, 1942 and to the Doggerbank on June 23. Going from the Michel to the Doggerbank on the same date were, from the Kattegat 32 and from the Lylepark 22. On or about June 10, the Stier put 68 prisoners from the Gemstone and the Stanvac Calcutta onto the Schliemann, less the Captain of the Gemstone and a crewman from the Stanvac Calcutta. With 195 prisoners the Doggerbank departed June 26 for Yokohama via Batavia."
Roger Mansell, who runs a website about Allied POW's Under The Japanese (external link), adds the following in an E-mail to me:
..."here is info on deceased men of the Gemstone at Fukuoka #3 Yawata POW Camp:
Phillips, Careb, Civ,28 May 1943, Chronic Bronchitis, SS Gemstone
Manning, Darnley, Civ, 22 Dec 1944, Angina Pectoris & Chronic Enteritis, SS Gemstone
Clements, James, Civ, 21 Feb 1943, Chronic Bronchitis, SS Gemstone".

Some of the captain's dates and prisoner numbers conflict with the above. He says the prisoners were placed on the shelterdeck in No. 1 hold, while the crew was placed on top of the ballast (sand) in the aft hold. On Saturday afternoon, June 24 they heard the engine start and their journey to Bordeax was about to begin. But they quickly discovered that the course did not fit with that destination. A "galley telegram" informed them they were going to Java, and their hearts sank; the prospects of years in a Japanese prison camp was not very encouraging. Also, they soon discovered that they were really prisoners in the true meaning of the word. The German complement on this ship consisted of 130, while there were 170 prisoners, so they were strictly guarded. After dark only one at a time was allowed on deck. They had to go up through an iron hatch, with an armed sailor on each side. The food was dreadful; 4 slices of bread per day, then a thin soup for dinner. The ship had been at sea for 8 months and had sailed a distance of 54 000 n. miles, so the food and water supplies were accordingly. He says the sanitary conditions were indescribable. As they continued south the weather worsened, and down in their "cell" they were extremely cold as they still had very little clothes. Most of the ships that the prisoners were from had been sunk in the tropics, and therefore, they only had a pair of shorts and a short sleeve shirt to their name. The captain says,

"the most wonderful item I've ever owned is my lifevest. At night I used it as a pillow, during the day I wore it on top of my blanket, or used it as a mattress when taking a nap". On July 3, his diary says they're probably "at 46° south, freezing cold and everything seems hopeless. Going up on deck is sheer torture in our summery clothes. The Germans understand that our situation is inhuman, and today they've collected some clothes for us, shirts, pants and coats, but the distribution wasn't altogether fair. The Americans grabbed most of the items".

They often had engine trouble, and usually just one engine was running. But the wind and sea were in their favour so the speed was quite good. On Aug. 1 at 7 in the morning they anchored up outside Batavia. Now it was the heat that bothered them. They expected to be taken ashore the next day, but after a couple of days they left Batavia, and before long they realized they were heading for Japan.

Related external links:
Article on Doggerbank (ex captured Speybank).
The Doggerbank Story - A section of Jan Visser's site.

 Arrival Japan: 

They arrived outside Yokohama at 3 in the afternoon on Aug. 19, but didn't go in until dark as German ships were forbidden to go in during the day. The captain says,

"a strange scene met us there. Ships of all nationalities were anchored up, several German vessels were loading and unloading, and we saw 2 Norwegian tankers which had also been captured by the Germans" (this must have been Herborg and Madrono which were in Yokohama at that time - ref. Norwegian Victims of T/S Thor). On the 21st crews from 6 different ships, and 9 different nationalities were lined up in order to be transferred to another ship. They were a sorry looking lot.

"Some hadn't shaved for a very long time, and because of a fungus in their beard had their whole face smeared with a white ointment. Some had only a handkerchief to cover themselves with. As each name was called, the crews marched together down to another end of the quay where a barge awaited. It was eerie, reminding me of a cattle transport".

 Better days on Nankin: 

The Norwegians were placed on board the Australian passenger ship Nankin for a few weeks (captured by Thor in The Indian Ocean on May 10-1942 on a voyage Freemantle-Bombay via Colombo with 162 passengers, including 38 women and children, crew of 180, later renamed Leuthen). The situation now improved as this ship had plenty of food, to which they generously helped themselves, feeling it was allied property anyway (the prisoners had been given the job of restowing the cargo down in the holds, so they had a few feasts down there). Clothing remained a problem, but after curtains and sheets had been made into new outfits with the help of a needle and some thread, that problem was solved too.

 Transfer to Rhakotis: 

A month later, on Sept. 21 the captain was summoned to the chief, who asked him if he would be interested in taking a chance on a trip to Europe. Upon replying they would take any chances, provided they would be sent to Norway on arrival, he was told to get ready for transfer to another ship, along with his 1st mate, 2nd mate and 7 crew. At 4 in the afternoon that same day they were placed on the Rhakotis, a combined passenger/cargo vessel, belonging to Hamburg-America Line. Captain Gjurød says they met other Norwegians from M/T Herborg and D/S Madrono, as well as the 3rd Engineer from D/S Aust (there must have been 2 others from Aust as well, 1 of whom was Swedish, the other Chief Engineer Tallak Solheim, but the captain only mentions the 3rd Engineer. [Jon R. Hegland says the 3rd engineer was Swedish]. All 3 ships had been captured by Thor). After taking on a cargo in Yokohama they departed on Sept. 26, stopping in Bangkok, Singapore, Balik Papan and Batavia for more cargo, which consisted of zinc ore, rubber, Chinese bark and tallow. According to the Germans this cargo had a value of about 8 million Marks.

The voyage started on Nov 6, when they departed Batavia. To their horror, on Nov. 14 the very raider that had caused them so much fear and grief in May that year, came up alongside Rhakotis and stayed for 2 days. The captain says "each horrible act came so close to us again. We stood there speechless, remembering that pitch black night when she sent her shots into us without pity, as well as the time spent in the dark cell beneath the booming 6 inch guns". After having taken on some mail and some personnel going home for a break, Rhakotis continued south, heading for Cape of Good Hope. He says Rhakotis was a good ship, handling even the storms and heavy seas from the west. The days passed slowly, but this time it was a little easier than the last time they were in that area, on board Speybank. The head mate on the ship was a nice fellow who took their lacking attire into consideration. After a few weeks a northwesterly course was set and the weather improved.

Engine trouble plagued them, mostly due to broken stamps (or would those be called "pistons" on a ship?), which had to be replaced. The Germans had had several stamps made in Japan, but they turned out to be of bad quality. On Dec. 11 they estimated they ought to be about 500 n. miles southwest of St. Helena, and that day they again experienced engine trouble, but could continue at reduced speed. But the trouble worsened the following day, and when it got dark that night the engine was stopped. In that area the Germans took no chances in daylight, so they worked all through the night to fix the problem before day dawned, and at daybreak they could again proceed at full speed. But only a few minutes later the lookout announced he had seen a black object on the water, and course was altered. It turned out to be a lifeboat with 3 survivors from the British City of Cairo, which had been sunk by U-68 on Nov. 6. They had spent 36 days in the lifeboat, having started out with over 50 people (some names at link below), but only 3 were alive when the boat was found, and so exhausted they couldn't stand up. One of them was a female who died a week after she had been taken on board the Rhakotis.

I've been told by a visitor to my site that the lifeboat from City of Cairo had attempted to reach the island of St Helena. The 3 survivors were Angus MacDonald, Jack Edmead and Diana Jarman; the rest had died horrible deaths. Diana had a throat infection and the doctor on Rhakotis operated on her, but her heart failed. MacDonald and Edmead were devastated by her death as she had been very positive throughout their ordeal. After Rhakotis was sunk, Edmead was in one of the lifeboats that reached the Spanish Coast. Hugh MacLean, whose father was among the survivors of City of Cairo, and who runs the website that I've linked to below, has told me that Edmead survived the war and died on Oct. 4-1981 at age 76.

External link related to the above text:
S/S City of Cairo - Details on her loss, survivor's story and 5 pages containing the names of some of the people in the 8 lifeboats.

The journey continued north. A ship was spotted on Dec. 20 and the alarm was sounded. Suspecting it was an allied warship, the course was altered and after 15 minutes they no longer saw the ship. By Dec. 27 they estimated they were about 300 n. miles northwest of the Azores, when they noticed that a line full of blankets and old clothes was hung. The explanation for this strange signal came later that evening when the engines were stopped and a U-boat came alongside, in spite of the storm and heavy seas. It was so close that the Germans could wish each other a Merry Christmas. A few orders were received from the U-boat, whereupon Rhakotis continued at full speed. When the prisoners awoke the next morning they had an escort of 3 U-boats. On Dec. 28 the lookout spotted a convoy and course was altered again, directly south. After dark the original course was resumed, but at reduced speed.

 Rhakotis is sunk: 

The prisoners had been told that their destination was Bordeaux. At this time they were approaching the Bay of Biscay and the mood started to get a little tense, among the prisoners as well as among the Germans. On the afternoon of New Years Eve 2 aircraft were spotted, and though they soon disappeared, the Germans were concerned. The prisoners got special treatment for New Years Eve, but the atmosphere was not festive; they all feared being bombed during the night. Naturally, they wanted Rhakotis to be taken by the Allies but not through bombing, that would mean certain death to the prisoners locked up in their "cells". Before they went to bed that night they made as many preparations as they could under the circumstances, and at 3 in the morning the alarm sounded. The captain says in his diary,

"it was eerie being awakened by that constant ringing and to know we were down there in that room, everything was eerie around us. If only we could have run up on deck to see what was going on, but we had to stay where we were, guarded by two armed men. We heard the anti aircraft guns from the bridge, and through the air vent in the deck we could hear when the aircraft approached. Several bombs were dropped, but none hit".

They didn't have much appetite for the New Year meal the following day (Jan. 1-1943), though it was a good one. They were about 40 hours away from Bordeaux, and sometime that night they would be near the coast of Spain, in neutral waters. By then the Germans were more optimistic, and only waited for German aircraft or war ships to come and escort them. The alarm was sounded again that afternoon, but the captain says,

"it was so much easier that time, nothing at all in daylight compared to what it had been like at night. We got ourselves ready again, and put our lifevests on. The 2 Germans who guarded us had a head count, and we were all there, all 23 of us. Just as he had finished counting, someone called down from deck that an aircraft came over us, but we could relax because it was a German one. A few minutes passed. Then someone called down to us that a warship was approaching, but we could take it easy because that was German too. No sooner had the words been uttered, than the first round of shells started coming, and we realized it was an allied ship (this was HMS Scylla). One round after another followed, several hit. 2 loads of explosives in boxes had been situated in front of No. 3 hatch and we could now hear them being hung, one on each side of the ship.

The minutes dragged on, and we wondered if we were meant to go to the bottom. Finally orders came to head for the lifeboats and we bolted up the stairs. As I passed a door leading out to deck I saw the flashes and the smoke coming from the warship. Several boats had already been launched by the time we got on deck. Many of us jumped overboard and the Germans helped us into the lifeboats. Rhakotis was already on fire. The only people I could see still on board were the captain and the 1st mate, but they also jumped overboard and we fished them up into our boat. After the lifeboats had gotten away from Rhakotis the cruiser kept shooting something awful; not one shot missed. The whole ship was on fire, and bits of wood and iron were flying across the water. A torpedo also hit, and soon afterwards she took on a list and quickly sank. Right next to us was a 4 inch gun floating in the water, so it was just made of wood. All 4 lifeboats were on the water, and it was horrible being there. More and more people entered the boat, and it was all we could do to keep it afloat. All the time we expected the cruiser to come and pick us up, but no, we were thoroughly disappointed; it zig-zag'ed away into the dark".

 Picked up by a Spanish trawler and on to freedom: 

Among those in the lifeboat were Captain Gjurød, the radio operator and an able seaman. At 7 o'clock that evening several aircraft flew over them and dropped some red flashes. They signalled back to them but they disappeared in the dark. The next morning the weather improved and they set sail, heading towards the coast of Spain. On Jan. 3-1943 at 11 in the morning they saw land, and at 3 in the afternoon a Spanish trawler picked them up and landed them at Corona. They arrived at 10 in the evening and were met by many Germans who took very good care of them, seeing to it that they got a good meal and a bed to sleep in. 2 lifeboat crews came to Corona, Kattegat's 1st Mate, Rolf Christiansen landed in Spain in the 2nd boat the next day. On Jan. 4 the captain got a hold of the British consul who helped them in every way and sent them on to Madrid. From there they travelled to Gibraltar and on to Gt. Britain, arriving Glasgow on Febr. 1-1943, where they could finally spread the word on what had happened to the missing Norwegian ships. (Rolf Christiansen later died in another war related incident outside London).

 Picked up by U-boat: 

The people in the other 2 lifeboats had been picked up by a German U-boat. Among them were 6 Norwegians who subsequently ended up in France, probably St. Nazaire, Kattegat's 2nd mate being 1 of them. Among the 6 was Ordinary Seaman Hans Gustav Espeland, who had escaped from Norway to Shetland, then on to Aberdeen with 16 other men on the fishing boat Fiks (SF 334 SU) on Oct. 11-1941, and later taken to London where he had joined Kattegat. After a few days in France the survivors from Kattegat's crew were sent to Marlag und Milag Nord, but by the spring/summer of 1943 they had been released and were back in Norway, having travelled by train via Hamburg to Århus, Denmark. For the last leg they got passage on the troop ship Monte Rosa, known for her transport of Norwegian prisoners from Norway to Denmark, en route to German concentrations camps. Hans Gustav Espeland would ordinarily have gotten into big trouble (probably shot) upon his return to Norway, because of his previous escape to England, but just as the policeman was on his way to the Gestapo headquarters with the report on him, 2 men belonging to the underground resistance movement intercepted and shot the policeman.

Captain Gjurød later wrote to Nortraship: "Permit me to mention Kattegat's 1st Mate Rolf Christiansen who proved himself a real sailor in time of danger. Likewise Ordinary Seaman Olaf Aas, who got through the rain of bullets and up on the boatdeck to turn on the lights to the lifeboats. As a result the shelling from the raider stopped".

With regard to the 1st mate, the author of the booklet that I've quoted from here, Harald Nicolaisen, says he spoke with him in London during the war. Christiansen told him that more than once they had planned a revolt while on Speybank en route from No. 28 (Michel) to Japan. The plan was to overrun the guard in such numbers that he wouldn't be able to shoot all of them down. What made them decide against this plan was the machine guns mounted on each side of the ship.

 Chief Engineer Jens Flørnes' Report / voyage with Ramses, dated Febr. 2-1943: 

A few others from Kattegat had been sent from Japan to Europe via Balik Papan and Batavia with Ramses on Nov. 23; among them were the Chief Engineeer Jens Flørnes, (the others are named in the text under Kattegat on my POW's page). This is an excerpt of a report from the chief engineer to Nortraship.

"On Oct. 1-1942, 10 of us were transferred to a German merchant vessel with orders to work there in the same way as the German sailors. We would be paid once we got to Europe. We were 3 engineers, 3 deck officers (Captain Tuften from Aust was on board, as were the 2 mates from that ship) and 4 deck personell. But we were still prisoners of war, and were distributed to do our duties according to the abilities we had. There were of course also German officers on our watch. Naturally, we weren't too interested in working.

After having taken on a cargo in Yokohama and Kobe - whaleoil and tea, and bunkered at Balik Papan and taken on a cargo of rubber in Batavia, we departed on Nov. 23, bound for Bordeaux, but we didn't get far. On Nov. 28 at 14:00 hrs we met a well escorted convoy, and the German ship turned around immediately in an effort to get away, but it wasn't long before two cruisers had caught up with us (they were the Australian HMAS Adelaide and the Dutch cruiser Jacob van Heemskerck). The Germans tried to bluff their way out by hoisting the Norwegian flag and signalling Tai Yang (this was one of Wilh. Wilhelmsen's ships), but to no avail. Our engines were then stopped, and orders given to sink the ship and head for the boats; 3 bombs were placed in the engine room. The weather was nice with a calm sea, so getting all 4 boats on the water was easy, and all 91 got off the ship. About 8 minutes after the first warning shot had been fired by the cruiser, the first explosion occurred. Afterwards the 4 inch gun landed very prettily on the water and stayed afloat there. It was only made of wood; apart from a couple of machine guns and some anti aircraft guns we didn't have much armament to speak of. Shortly after the 1st explosion the 2 cruisers opened fire, and the shots rained around the people in the lifeboats, some being so close that people were splattered with water. The shooting continued until the blockade runner disappeared in the deep, with a large Norwegian flag waving at the stern. We heard later that one of the cruisers had fired 80 shots and the other 69.

There we were in the middle of all that debris, and strangely no-one in the overcrowded lifeboats were injured. While one of the cruisers returned to the convoy, the other, which was Australian came over and took us on board. The blockade runner had 16 fully grown pigs on board from Java, and one of them swam alongside the cruiser and was also taken on board, in bad shape, covered in oil and very tired. Once on deck it was decorated with a ribbon on which it said "Prisoner No. 1". The wooden gun caused a lot of cheer, and was filmed by many.

So now the roles were swapped; the Germans became prisoners and we 10 Norwegians were free again. We were extremely well taken care of. Some of the officers gave us their cabins, and we were guests of honour in the officers' mess where we got all the best of what the ship could offer. After 4 days we were landed in Fremantle on Dec. 2-1942, and those 4 days, during which we fully got to see what it means to get your freedom back are among my happiest memories".

Related external link:
The sinking of Ramses as seen from the eyes of someone who served on Adelaide, Mackenzie J. Gregory, who, together with Terry Kearns runs the website Mac's Web Log.

It didn't take long after these men had been landed at Fremantle before Nortraship was notified of what had happened. After these failures the Germans stopped their efforts to run the blockade, and the remaining Norwegian men from the captured ships ended up in Japanese imprisonment for the rest of the war. They arrived Oslo with Bretagne on Oct. 29-1945.

In the book "Tusen norske skip" by Lise Lindbæk, there's a chapter on the capture of Aust and daily life on board Thor, as well as Regensburg and Ramses. I've inluded a summary of it on the page "Norwegian Victims of Thor". It's based on an interview with Aust's 1st Mate David Faye Knudsen.

The events surrounding the capture of Kattegat are basically the same in all my Norwegian sources, with only slight variations. The confusion sets in when trying to determine the fate of the various men on board, as they were later separated and scattered, some sent on one blockade runner, some on another, some to prison camps in Japan, some to Singapore. It's obvious that Guri Hjeltnes ("Handelsflåten i krig", book 4) has done a lot of research in this particular area, and has considerably more to offer than the other sources, but she often ends up contradicting her own self with regard to some of the information. Still, for the benefit of those who may have had relatives on board, and who are searching for answers as to what happened to them, I've tried to write up a summary here. In cases where a statement conflicts with a previous statement, I've pointed out that fact.

Some of this information can be compared to what I've listed under Kattegat on my POW's page.
She says 2 from Kattegat were on board M/S Doggerbank (Speybank) when she was sunk by mistake by U-43 en route to Europe on March 3-1943, with the result that the Mechanic Christen Holst Bergskaug and oiler Johan Johansen ended up in an internment camp in Singapore. 2 British lads, an 18 and a19 year old spent the rest of the war in prison camps in Japan, as did the remaining Norwegians from Kattegat (except for the 10 who were sent to Europe on Rhakotis)

On the same page she places the steward Johan Johansen (referred to as "oiler" above, unless there were 2 by that name, which is not impossible, but I don't think so, in fact other sources do indicate he was indeed the steward) on Regensburg (compare to Doggerbank/Speybank above) when that ship was torpedoed by the American submarine Searaven (SS-196) in Sunda Strait while en route to Bordeaux on Oct. 11-1942. She goes on to say that he, and 19 other Norwegian sailors from Madrono, Aust and Kattegat were in a lifeboat which in the chaos was mistaken for a submarine and therefore shot at from Regensburg, which was still afloat about 6-800 meters away. The steward managed to take his singlet off and waved it around, whereupon the shooting stopped, and they were picked up by one of the lifeboats from Regensburg and landed at Krakatau, then taken by Japanese landing craft to Singapore and the prison at Changi (see "The Singapore Camps" on my POW Camsp page - link below). Regensburg was repaired in Singapore, but was eventaully sunk by the Allies in March 1943. There's another conflict here, in that the same steward is placed on Ramses by Kristian Ottosen in "Ingen nåde" (No Mercy).

Guri Hjeltnes adds in a different chapter that a total of 19 Norwegian sailors from Kattegat, D/T Madrono, M/T Herborg and M/T Alcides ended up at Omori, via several other camps. 3 survivors from Alcides, Captain Arne Karlsen, 2nd Mate Odvar L. Olsen and Radio Officer Johan Arthur Johansen were the last of the Norwegians to arrive Omori in Dec.-1943. They had previously been in the camp Ofuna. The year before, in Dec.-1942, 8 men from Kattegat had arrived Shinagawa (Wilfred Øiehaug being 1 of them). From what I can gather they were all transferred to Omori in July-1943. Captain Karlsen of Alcides was moved to Hitachi in the middle of May-1945. Most of this corresponds with the details found on my page "Life in Imprisonment".

Related items on this website:
POW Camps - Lists some of the camps in which Norwegians were held.
Life in Imprisonment - Describes daily life at Ofuna, Omori, Changi, Sime Road and others.
Merchant Marine Prisoners of War - Lists the Norwegians in Japanese imprisonment, with date of arrest and release.
Norwegian Victims of Atlantis - in the text under Silvaplana I've included newspaper articles on the sinking of Atlantis and Regensburg.

External links related to the text for Kattegat:
Omori Tokyo Base Camp No. 1 - Includes a roster where 9 Norwegian seamen are listed with their POW number (from Alcides, Madrono, Kattegat).
Royal Australian Navy - This website has the history of HMAS Adelaide (also has an account of the encouter with Ramses). See this page.

Manager: Bernhard Hansen & Co., Flekkefjord
Tonnage: 7984 gt, 4701 net, 12 415 tdwt.
Call Sign: LCXA.

Captain: Erling Nordkveld Christensen

Cick on the link to Aramis in the box above to go to that ship on the "Ships starting with A" page. Information on her previous war voyages can be found on a separate page about Aramis.

Source: Historical Department, MAN B&W Diesel, Copenhagen - (see their museum website, external link)

Here's my attempt at a summary of events, based on info found in various sources (listed at the end of this page):

Sunk (partly) on July 17 -1942 by Michel while on a voyage from Simonstown for Trinidad in ballast, having departed Simonstown in the late afternoon of July 7. Michel was flying a Swedish flag for this occasion. The captain, 9 Norwegians and 13 Chinese were taken on board the raider and later imprisoned in Japan ("Nortraships flåte", says 15 Chinese, Von Ruckteschell's KTB says 13), while the remaining 4 Norwegians, 3 British gunners and 11 Chinese managed to get away in a lifeboat and find their way to Forcados, West Africa where they arrived Aug. 3. (I've written up a summary of their 2 weeks in the lifeboat further down on this page).

Aramis had also been torpedoed by Michel's torpedo boat Esau (LS-4, von Schack) the previous day in position 05 15S 03 51W. "Nortraships flåte" states that an American radio station received a distress call from Aramis on July 16 saying she had been torpedoed by a U-boat in that position, other sources say she had made no attempt to let anyone know, because her radio equipment had been destroyed. Arendal's Seamen's Association's 150th Anniversary Book by Kristen Taraldsen states that this torpedo hit in tank No. 3 on the port side. She managed to get away at that time, proceeding in a zig-zag westerly course at 10 knots (in direction 270° according to "Skip og menn", Birger Dannevig). By dawn it seemed as if they had indeed gotten away, but in the horizon Michel kept the same course and speed as Aramis, ready for another attack as darkness fell.

Von Ruckteschell reports in his KTB (dated South Atlantic, Jan. 13-1943 and signed by him) that Aramis had been damaged on the night of July 16 by a torpedo from "LS-Boot", and adds that she on the night of July 17 was fired upon by artillery, then a large torpedo, but as she didn't sink she was eventually attempted sunk by explosives. The afterpart sank in 05 14S 03 04W, while the forepart stayed afloat after another torpedo went underneath her. He says Aramis had a 4 inch gun and 4 machine guns, and according to this report, she had a complement of 43; 10 Norwegians and 13 Chinese were taken on board Michel, the rest were missing. He thinks that survivors were probably picked up by an English steamer or unit. Michel was also able to get a hold of charts, codes and other secret materials from Aramis.

Judging from a story written by one of the survivors it appears Aramis had previously made some voyages with freshwater from Cape Town to some British troop transports at the naval base in Simonstown, and had departed Cape Town for Curaçao to load a cargo for New York (her voyages in this period are shown on this document received from the National Archives of Norway - again, information on her previous voyages can be found on my page about Aramis). The 4" gun had been installed in Cape Town, and they also had some Lewis machine guns. On the evening of July 16-1942, when the first torpedo from Esau hit about 20 meters in front of the poop, they were off Sierra Leone, and while they were manning and loading their own guns the torpedo boat circled them and shelled them (as remembered by a survivor), and by the time they were ready to return the fire, Esau had stopped firing and they couldn't see where it was in the dark and cloudy night so they missed. The torpedo had caused quite a bit of damage to the tanks, and the port side of the ship had a hole between amidships and the after deck about 37' long and 9' deep, but after trimming the vessel they continued on their way, though they slept on deck that night.

What we now know is that Michel herself, meanwhile, shelled, torpedoed and sank William F. Humphrey, sailing not far away with 64 men on board, 29 of whom were taken on board Michel, 11 were rescued almost 6 days later by the Norwegian Triton, while the rest were killed during the attack. Von Ruckteschell then went in search of Aramis which he knew to be damaged from the previous attack. As it was, those who were on board Aramis were not quite as surprised when the attack came on the 17th as they had been the day before. According to a survivor's story the 2nd attack came on the starboard side. A statement made in "Skip og Menn" that 2 were killed is not found elsewhere, and appears to be incorrect(?), though Billy McGee, England has told me that one of her Chinese crew members, Stoker Ah Kwang Foo, can be found here (external link) on the Commonwealth War Graves Commission website; date is given as July 16-1942. He's commmemorated at the Hong Kong War Memorial - see also this page in my Survivors & Fatalities section. Also, as can be seen from the breakdown of crew further down on this page, several Chinese crew members are listed as missing after the attack, but I believe they may have been among those who were taken prisoners.

"The World's Merchant Fleets" by Roger W. Jordan gives the position 19S 06W and says 19 died, 6 were taken prisoners, 18 survived (this corresponds with what is found in "Lloyd's War Losses, Vol I, British, Allied and Neutral Merchant Vessels Sunk or Destroyed by War Causes", 1989 reprint, which also says Aramis had a crew of 40 + 3 gunners).

When attempting to launch the port boat in the ensuing chaos, the boat ended up hanging upside-down, before falling into the sea where it capsized. Able Seaman Bent Thorsen, the youngest crew member at 21, jumped overboard and swam towards the cries he heard, then found the capsized boat with Radio Operator Anders Falleide, 4th Engineer Arnt Olsen, Electrician Jens Kjøstvedt and 3 Chinese crew sitting on it. They managed to right the boat, and stayed there until Michel came alongside and picked them up. Captain Erling Christensen, Steward Nils Jensen, 1st Mate Hjalmar Hansen, 2nd Mate Leif Reistad and 3rd Mate Willy Berg, who had just recently joined Aramis in Cape Town in June (replacing 3rd Mate Leonardsen who had signed off in Durban), later joined them in the small cabin they had been taken to in the aft of the raider. The latter group of men had attempted to launch the starboard gig, but it was shot to pieces, and they had managed to get away on a raft. The following day they joined the other prisoners forward of the ship, on the lowest deck. Reistad had received a shrapnel in his stomach and was later operated.

They later found out that Aramis had stayed afloat (which agrees with the KTB), and that the Germans boarded her the day after the attack; perhaps this was to place explosives on board since she didn't sink in the attack? This may also have been the time they gathered up some of the secret codes and other papers. One survivor's story claims that the injured Able Seaman Einar Ulgren was found at this time and was taken on board the raider where his leg was amputated.

The steward from Aramis, Nils Jensen had a brief conversation with von Ruckteschell after a few days on the raider. Von Ruckteschell asked for his nationality, and when Jensen replied "Norwegian from Flekkefjord", the German answered him in Norwegian "I'm familiar with the south of Norway". The steward, who did not know at the time that some of his shipmates had actually gotten away during the attack, but thought they had been killed said he felt it had been unnecessary to utilize the machine guns, because that was only for killing, whereupon the captain replied "we did shoot to kill". (Jensen says 20 [not 18] of them were missing, 23 were on board Michel).

Here is a breakdown of crew (Norwegian, unless otherwise noted):

Taken prisoners (those who have been mentioned previously are in pale green text, others in bold):
Captain Erling Christensen, 1st Mate Hjalmar Leon Hansen, 2nd Mate Leif Reistad, 3rd Mate Willy Petter Berg, Radio Operator Anders Faleide*, Carpenter Einar O. N. Ulgren (died in Japan), Able Seaman Nils Bent Thorsen, Assistant Arnt Olsen, (previously served on Sophocles and Basilea, according to this external page), Electrician Jens Thoralv Kjøstvedt, Steward Nils Jensen. (See also Merchant Marine POWs).

*The Norwegian Dagfred had a radio operator by this name when she was sunk earlier that year - they might be one and the same man(?)

The following are listed as missing
(all Chinese - It's difficult to know what really happened, because my sources give such conflicting info. As mentioned in the first paragraph for Aramis above, several sources, including Von Ruckteschell's KTB, indicate that many of the Chinese were taken prisoners along with the Norwegians):

Able Seaman Lum Too Tai, Able Seaman Ah Tee, Able Seaman You Ah Pow, Able Seaman Lew Ah Cack, Stoker Liam Kiat Heng, Stoker Foo A Twang (this must be the stoker listed as Ah Kwang Foo at the Commonwealth War Graves Comm. website, mentioned above. I have not checked the site to see if all the others are also included there), Stoker Lee Ah Tai, Cook / Mess Boy Boh Thye Doon, Able Seaman / Cook Lee Ah Moy, Repairman Lee Ah Moh, 1st Cook Chew Tieng Moy, 2nd Cook Wing Twee Feng, Mess Boy Yeo Wee Swang, Mess Boy Yang Ah Fook, Messboy Lee Ah Kong.

These were saved:
Boatswain Chan Tan, Donkeyman Lim Kai Loo, Pump Man, Le Lim, Stoker Ah Sai Sai, Stoker Poo Tee Sang, Stoker Soh Ah Toon, Stoker Tan Tai Dek, Saloon Boy Lee Ah Kim, Able Seaman Ah Ming, Able Seaman Wing Ah Ping, all Chinese - 1st Engineer Harald G. Andersen, 2nd Engineer Gerhard A. Knudsen, 3rd Engineer Torkild Torkildsen, Able Seaman Ole Hartvig Olsen, British Gunners James Sarjant, Fredrick Green and Joseph Moads. Please refer to the text under "Those who got away in a lifeboat" further down on this page for information on what later happened to them.

According to a statement given at the maritime hearings in Nov.-1942 Aramis had a total complement of 43, of whom 26 were Chinese, so the above list appears to be missing 1 name.

 Transfer to Charlotte Schliemann: 

After about 3 weeks on Michel they met up with Charlotte Schliemann, which, after having refuellled the raider took the prisoners on board. Ironically, this was the former Norwegian Sir Karl Knudsen, sold to Germany in 1939 and renamed Charlotte Schliemann. In fact, the old Norwegian name could still be seen inscribed in places. There seems to be some confusion as to how many prisoners from various vessels this ship had on board, one source says 177, one of Aramis' survivors says about 300. I've also been unable to determine the exact date of this particular rendevouz with Charlotte Schliemann. It may have taken place just before the sinking of the British Arabistan, Aug. 11, or sometime between that date, and the sinking of American Leader on Sept. 10 (this ship, by the way, had a Norwegian captain, Haakon A. Pedersen). In fact, judging from what Captain Duffy has come up with (below), it took place on Aug. 26.

External webpage related to the above text:
The Dreadful Saga of the MV American Leader and her Crew - This is the story of Captain George Duffy, who sent me the copy of von Ruckteschell's "Kriegstagebuch". He has also sent me the following breakdown of transfers (estimated numbers):

"From Patella, the Michel received 60 prisoners and from the Connecticut, 19. These, less 4 Patella Chinese who were retained aboard to run the ship's laundry, were transferred to the Charlotte Schliemann on May 6, 1942 and to the Doggerbank on June 23. Going from the Michel to the Doggerbank on the same date were, from the Kattegat 32 and from the Lylepark 22. On or about June 10, the Stier put 68 prisoners from the Gemstone and the Stanvac Calcutta onto the Schliemann, less the Captain of the Gemstone and a crewman from the Stanvac Calcutta. With 195 prisoners the Doggerbank departed June 26 for Yokohama via Batavia.
(Roger Mansell, who runs a website about Allied POW's Under The Japanese [external link], adds the following in an E-mail to me:
..."here is info on deceased men of the Gemstone at Fukuoka #3 Yawata POW Camp:
Phillips, Careb, Civ,28 May 1943, Chronic Bronchitis, SS Gemstone
Manning, Darnley, Civ, 22 Dec 1944, Angina Pectoris & Chronic Enteritis, SS Gemstone
Clements, James, Civ, 21 Feb 1943, Chronic Bronchitis, SS Gemstone").

The next batch of prisoners came from these victims: Gloucester Castle (sunk the day before the Aramis), 61; the William F. Humphrey, 29 (less 3 who remained in the Michel); the Aramis, 23; the Arabistan, 1. They were transferred to the Schliemann on August 26. At some point, 37 prisoners from the Dalhousie sunk by the Stier on August 9 were also put aboard the Schliemann, less the Captain of the Dalhousie and his steward who were kept in the Stier. The total prisoners aboard when the Schliemann was dismissed on her way to Yokohama via Batavia and Singapore was 146.

From the American Leader, 47; the Empire Dawn, 22; the Humphrey, 3; a total of 72 prisoners were transferred to the Uckermark on October 7 and put ashore at Batavia on November 4."

The external website Mac's Web Log says that there were a total of 300 prisoners "confined in the hold forward of the oil tanks", and that one survivor wrote 'The hold was rat infested, no sanitary arrangements were provided, the food was mostly unfit to eat'". This echoes Captain Christensen's description of the ship (Charlotte Schliemann) in an interview with Lise Lindbæk (found in "Tusen norske skip"), and also corresponds to what Bent Thorsen says about this vessel "the food was dreadful; some sort of a sauce which tasted awful and some crackers that were so full of creatures, that the crackers themselves were about to walk out of the tin". Thorsen adds that they supplied a couple of U-boats on their way south, then Michel was refurbished at around 45°. He says they must have proceeded as far south as 54° and were terribly cold, most of them having nothing but summer clothes. Due to condensation all their belongings became wet. Even their captors appeared to take pity on them and started to serve a shot of rum every night, before they began to head north again.

From 2 of the youngest guards the prisoners found out they were going to Singapore, and these 2 seemed to take great pleasure in telling them they would be handed over to the Japanese and probably shot. Apart from those 2, the other guards treated them well, and seemed to be as sick of the whole situation as the rest of them were. Once they had gotten so far north that they could go up on deck and dry their damp clothes and blankets their mood got a bit better. Also, able Seaman Bent Thorsen mentions an Irish cook and a waiter from Cloucester Castle who cheered everybody up with their singing, getting all the others to join in. Even the Germans came down to listen. Incidentally, among the survivors from that ship were 2 women and 2 children.

 Prisoners of the Japanese: 

At the beginning of September they arrived Singapore and tied up near Pulo Sambo south of the city. About half of the prisoners were taken ashore, almost all of them English. The 2 women and children from Cloucester Castle and the Norwegians remained on Charlotte Schliemann which then continued to Yokohama, and early in October the remaining prisoners were transferred to another German ship. By this time, Einar Ulgren, whose leg had been ampuated, had developed an infection in what was left of it. After about 2 weeks they were taken ashore and transported by train to Osaka. Captain Christensen (in the interview with Lise Lindbæk) places this in Nov.-1942, and says prisoners (including children) from Cloucester Castle were with them. The transport took place at night, all the blinds were pulled down and nobody was allowed to look out. The name of the camp they were taken to is not mentioned in this interview, but from other sources I get the understanding it must have been Civilian Camp Osaka POW Camp No. 1. (The 2 women and children from Cloucester Castle were placed in a different camp [Kobe] on arrival Osaka). In addition to the British prisoners, who were in majority, there was also a crew from an American tanker there, and American soldiers who had been captured on the Philippines, as well as Chinese and Indians, about 2000 all total according to Bent Thorsen. The Norwegians were placed in a barracks that held 250 prisoners, mostly US Marines. They slept on "shelves" on 3 levels placed lenghtwise on each side with a passageway of about 2 meters wide. A small courtyard divided the camp in two, with the British living in a wooden, 2 story building on one side, the Americans on the other. The new prisoners were placed in the American "section" due to shortage of space.

Each morning they were divided into groups, some worked at shipyards, some at steel works, others unloaded ships in the harbour which was about 150 m away, while others again unloaded railroad carts or worked at lumber yards. Captain Christensen became the foreman for a group of 127 men who worked at a shipyard from 8 in the morning till 5 in the afternoon. He lost 28 kilos in a little over 6 months, and as in all camps diseases were rampant, food scarce, lice plentiful, and the hygiene and sanitary conditions left a lot to be desired. During the winter the barracks were freezing cold with the wind blowing straight through the cracks in the walls, so they slept with all their clothes on; the same clothes they went to work in. The summers were unbearaby hot, though it was easier to keep themselves cleaned up when it was not so cold outside. The camp had a "warehouse" full of Red Cross parcels, but as was the case in other camps, the prisoners didn't see much of those.

They stayed in this camp for about 3 years. Einar Ulgren died here in Jan.-1945, having developed pneumonia in addition to the infection in his leg (he's referred to as Nic. Ulgren by many of them, not sure if that's a nickname or whether Einar is incorrect). By and by other Norwegians arrived, among them 3rd Mate Arvid Chr. Hellesen from Kattegat.

External page related to the above:
Stavern Memorial commemoration - Einar Ulgren is listed as having died on Jan. 28-1945.

At one point, around Aug.-1943 the officers from the British, American and Norwegian ships demanded to be excempt from work, like the military officers in the camp, and to everyone's surprise this was granted. On Aug. 31 they were moved to Wakayama (across from the other camp) where British officers were kept, and where they got their own rooms (see also my page Merchant Marine Prisoners of War). Steward Nils Jensen was among those who moved, as was Captain Christensen and 3 other officers, but I understand this privilege did not include the 3rd mates and 3 engineers. The steward kept a diary whenever he could get a hold of some paper, and when he felt it was fairly safe to do so. The hunger is mentioned a lot, and there's quite a bit of fantasizing about food, Norwegian food. The joy of finally receiving a letter from home at the beginning of Dec.-1943 is very evident, at least they now knew that family in Norway knew they were alive. But an entry for Christmas Eve-1943 says that the diary has to rest for a while due to sharpened control, then there's nothing until Dec. 7 the following year when he mentions a big earthquake ripping large cracks in the streets. That same year a delegation of military and civilian officers went to the camp's commandant and demanded that the camp be marked and lit at night, in accordance with the Genfer convention, so that it could be seen by aircraft. Perhaps they had experienced some bombing raids by then.

In the spring of 1945 (March 13?), 9 prisoners, Jens Kjøstvedt and Bent Thorsen from Aramis, 2 Englishmen and 5 US marines were at work at Osaka Ko's warehouses (located just 50 meters from the camp) when a wave of B-29's came in dropping their bombs. They ran to a shelter down by the water and stayed there until there was a break in the attacks, at which point the guards who were with them wanted them to return to the camp. They had barely reached their barracks when the next wave came in, and this time the camp got 2 direct hits, setting it on fire in a very short time. They had nothing with which to extinguish the fire, so they were sent running to Sumitomo Ko, near Osaka Ko, where they were assembled on a large open area between the burning warehouses, together with a group of petrified women and children, while the bombing continued. After a while some of them were set to carry sacks of rice from a burning warehouse until the roof started to fall in. Afterwards they were sent to an English camp about 300 meters from the one they'd been in before, a 2 story wooden building. Nobody had been killed, but several had received some minor burns, among them Aramis' 3rd Mate, Willy Berg according to Bent Thorsen.

Related external link:
B-29 major missions over Japan - with dates and names of targets.

The following morning they were marched through the ruins to another camp, located near some steel works, shipyards and a cement factory; about an hour's march away. It appears that all merchant marine officers were later sent to a camp for officers only (Oigama? Ohama?). The only Norwegians remaining were Bent Thorsen, Willy Berg, Jens Kjøstvedt and Arnt Olsen. For a while they worked at the cement factory, and also took part in clearing out the ruins, but eventually the bombings of the remaining factory got so bad that they were evacuated to a concrete warehouse close to the shipyard at Osaka, where they had worked in the beginning. They were placed on the top floor, about 15 meters from the ground, and from the small windows they had a good view over the city, most of which had been levelled by the attacks.

 Finally free! 

On the day the Emperor gave his speech over the radio to the Japanese people some of the Norwegians were working at the railway station. After the speech was over they were told to stop working, the war was over. On their return to the camp the American officers took the command. P. O. W. was painted in large letters on the roof, and soon the bombers came in again, this time with a mission of a different nature; to drop food to the starving, exhausted men, as well as clothes. The same events took place where the officers were staying; for Sept. 2 Nils Jensen wrote in his diary that most of the night was spent making flags, using the fabric from the parachutes that the food etc. had been dropped in, and razor blades to cut it with. That afternoon the flags were hoisted, American, English, Dutch and Norwegian - "what a day! Oh, how proud we are!" They had not yet been in contact with the allies, but they had taken control of the camp.

Related external link:
Emperor Hirohito's Broadcast to the Japanese People on Surrender

Then finally, one day the Americans arrived with trucks and ambulances. The prisoners were taken to Yokohama where they were thoroughly cleaned up by Red Cross nurses, whereupon those who needed medical treatment were placed on a hospital ship, ironically anchored in the same harbour as Charlotte Schliemann had been when they arrived that fateful October day in 1942. After about a week or so some of them were flown to Okinawa where they were placed in tents (field hospital) for a couple of weeks before being flown to a military field hospital outside Manila. That flight could easily have been their last, as a horrendous thunder storm prevented them from landing. The plane had come in too low and was in contact with something, then turned around and flew north to Luzon, where the airstrip was only partly repaired after the bombings. It was quite a dramatic landing with the damaged underpart of the plane barely holding, and Bent Thorsen says "us 20 nervous wrecks spent the night in a tent there, and were then flown to Manila on another plane". Before long they were transported to San Francisco on board General Brewster, and later continued to New York by train. From there they were finally able to go home on Stavangerfjord in December. (Stavangerfjord is often referred to as the "Christmas boat" in this context as many former prisoners came home at that time - see also my page Life in Imprisonment).

 Those who got away in the lifeboat: 

18 (17?) men got away in the damaged starboard lifeboat, they were 1st Engineer H. Andersen, 2nd engineer Gerhard Knudsen, 3rd Engineer Torkel Torkildsen, Able Seaman Ole Hartvig Olsen, 11 (10?) Chinese crew and 3 English gunners - they are all named in the breakdown of crew further up on this page. When they discovered that all the food in the boat had been ruined by salt water, except for some cans of condensed milk, and all the water tanks were full of bullet holes and empty, they in fact tried to attract the raider's attention, realizing they couldn't get far in that situation, but they were not seen. So the next morning they tried their best to plug up the holes in the boat, then attempted to get back to the area where they believed Aramis to have been, in hopes of rejoining their shipmates, or even to possibly find a raft. After having sailed for about an hour they found their ship, though at first they thought it was a surfaced submarine. (This then, corresponds with what von Ruckteschell says in his report that Aramis didn't immeditaley sink, though it looks like these men had a close call, if other reports that the Germans went back on board the next day are correct. The survivors must have arrived the scene later. In fact, in Able Seaman Ole Olsen's statement at the maritime hearings he says that he, the 2nd engineer and a couple of Chinese crew reboarded on the 18th, to find all the secret code books, papers and maps missing). As they approached they saw that she had broken off between No. 3 and No. 4 tank, with the afterpart gone. Her bows were high up in the air, but due to their desperate need for water they took a chance on boarding her, though needless to say they did not linger. Fortunately, they found some water and food in a lifeboat, and also found some blankets, before leaving again as quickly as they could, heading towards the coast of Africa (Freetown).

They had a compass in the boat, but no navigators. After about a week they heard the sound of an aircraft, but to their despair it was so cloudy that day they weren't seen. They had no idea where they were at this time, and their water was running low. After 13 days they suddenly realized that the water beneath the boat was freshwater. The next morning they were met by canoes and taken to a village. The following day Gerhard Knudsen and 1 of the gunners were taken by one of the natives in a canoe to Forcados (I understand this was about 25-30 hours away from where they had initially landed) where there was a Biritish Naval post, and later a motorboat was sent to pick up the rest of the people from Aramis. Torkildsen, Andersen and Olsen were then sent to Worry and were admitted to a hospital, while the others went on to Lagos. They all met up there later (Andersen may have stayed at Worry longer), whereupon Knudsen, Olsen and Torkildsen were given passage on the Blue Funnel Line ship Stentor for the U.K. (I'm not sure what happened to the gunners or the Chinese), but again they ended up in the water when Stentor was torpedoed and sunk off Madeira (this ship was sunk on Oct. 27-1942 by U-509, when serving as Vice Commodore Ship for Convoy SL 125. The Norwegian Alaska was also torpedoed in this convoy, follow the link for details. Several ships were sunk, ref. links at the end of this page). About 200 people were rescued, among them the shipwrecked men from Aramis. They were on board a corvette for 4 days (probably HMS Woodruff), but to ease the crowded situation, about 100 of the survivors were transferrred to the destroyer Ramsey and taken to Liverpool. (A couple of weeks later Gerhard Knudsen signed on M/T Petter where he served until the fall of 1945.

The maritime hearings were held in London on Nov. 12-1942, with the 2nd engineer, 3rd engineer and able seaman appearing.

Related external links:
The attack on Stentor - The site also has information on other ships sunk in this convoy.
Convoy SL 125

The text on this page has been compiled with the help of information found in "19 Oslo-skips historie under verdenskrigen, fra April 1940 til krigens slutt i 1945" (the story of 19 Oslo Ships during WW II), Covers ships under Halfdan Ditlev-Simonsen & Co., O. Ditlev-Simonsen jr., Sverre Ditlev-Simonsen & Co., John P. Pedersen & Søn, Helmer Staubo & Co. This is a booklet based on the diaries and logs of 19 ships. (Harald Nicolaisen - 1945), "Skip og men", Birger Dannevig, "Nortraships flåte", J. R. Hegland, "Handelsflåten i Krig" (The Merchant Fleet at War), Book 4, Guri Hjeltnes, "Krigsseileren, Issue 4/1987 (personal memoirs, Steward Nils Jensen's diary, survivor stories), "Tusen norske skip", Lise Lindbæk (interview with Captain Christensen), "German Raiders of World War II", August Karl Muggenthaler, "Sjøforklaringer fra 2. verdenskrig", Norwegian Maritime Museum, Volume I (all listed in My sources).

 Site Map | Search |Merchant Fleet Main Page | Home