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To Bjørnvik on the "Ships starting with B" page.
Signed Consul General G. Conradi (Norwegian Consulate General) - Recieved from Billy McGee, England (probably from Public Records Office, Kew).
Year 1942, the 9th February, statements were taken at the Consulate General in London from two of the crew of the S/S Bjørnvik of Oslo, which vessel sank in consequence of bombing attack on the 28th January 1942.
Appeared the 1st witness, Stephan Meyer, born the 29/1 1901 in Oslo, chief officer on the s/s Bjørnvik, 812 tons gross, 386 tons net. The witness was enjoined.
The witness produced a report, prepared by himself and R. Skauge, about the catastrophe. The report reads as follows:
On Tuesday the 26/1, at 11 o'clock, finished loading. Had taken on board 880 tons cargo, 100 tons bunkers and 40 tons water. In all 1020 tons. Left the briquette work's quay at 14.00 o'clock, at high water, with pilot on board. Passed over the range at Cardiff. The test was satisfactory. Continued to Barry Roads where we anchored for the night (see also Page 5).
On Wednesday the 27/1, at 8.30 o'clock, lifted anchor and joined convoy (she's listed in Convoy WP 103 - external link - incomplete listing). S.W. fresh breeze increasing to a gale during the day and veering to N.W. Gradually a fair amount of sea, shipping a good deal of water and violent rolling. As a result of insufficient steam the vessel could not keep her place in the convoy. At 19.00 o'clock, when the chief officer came off watch, the Bjørnvik was (illegible - sailing?) as the last ship in the convoy with the nearest vessel (it now looks like a sentence is missing at the bottom of this page of the report) about 1 nautical mile ahead. We had then passed Hartland Pt. The wind increased to fresh gale from N.W. with rough sea and shipping much water. When the chief officer came on watch again at 0.00 o'clock on the 28/1 (Thursday) the convoy could no longer be seen. We steered the convoy course and proceeded at full speed during the night.
In the morning, on Thursday the 28th, there was still nothing to be seen of the convoy. During the chief officer's watch from 8 till 12.30 we got bearings of land and at about noon we were abeam of Cape Cornwall. Two large aeroplanes flew over and the guns were manned. The aeroplanes were found to be English. The guns, which had been exposed to much sea-spray and rain during the night, were greased and overhauled. The wind had moderated and the vessel was making better speed. At 12.30 o'clock the chief officer was relieved and was subsequently not on watch any more. At about 15 o'clock we rounded Longships and with wind and sea on our quarter the vessel was making good speed. The convoy was not carrying baloons on this trip. With afterly wind we were not able to carry a kite either. At 18.00 o'clock passed Lizard at a distance of 5 nautical miles (according to estimate) and course was altered in towards Buoy P outside Falmouth. The weather was fine with light, hazy atmosphere, darkness was beginning to set in.
At 18.15 o'clock the chief officer went in for a meal and was on his way out on to the after deck, after having finished his meal, when machine gun shots were heard from the bridge. It was then 18.30 o'clock. The 2nd officer, helmsman, A.B. Seaman Stahl, and an A.A. gunner were on the bridge. The other A.B. Seaman on watch was forward in order to call the watch which had been off duty. At the same time as the cief officer reached the deck the bombs were falling in quick succession. The chief officer was thrown to the deck by the blast, but remained fully conscious and unharmed. 2 bombs struck the No. 2 hatch. All the hatches and the cross-web went up into the air together with a good deal of the cargo. The starboard side was set out and the forward part of the amidship bulkhead was set in. The No. 2 winch and the main mast went over board. The cargo in the hold was immediately set on fire. Forward were 2 A.B. Seamen and boatswain, also 2 firemen and donkeyman, all unharmed. Only fireman Skauge saved himself from there as he immediately jumped over board. At the same time 2 bombs struck amidships and penetrated into the inside of the ship. Violent explosions, steam, smoke and flames rose up from the boat deck. No one managed to save themelves from the engine room, boiler room and cabins.
Still another bomb detonated close by the ship's side on the starboard quarter and caused a violent explosion which forced in the ship's side and bottom. All the explosions occurred in succession within a period of a few seconds. Assistant Wiesniewsky and fireman Burdall were in the engine room and stokehold respectively. The vessel sank immediately, stern first, and had disappeared within 30-40 seconds.
The A.A. gunner on duty was saved on the buoy-raft by fireman Skauge who was the first to get hold of the raft. Somehwat later the chief officer was also taken up on to this raft. In spite of persistent shouting and searching we heard no sign of life from anyone, in consequence of which the others must be assumed to have gone down with the ship. After having drifted about for 17 hours we were picked up by the Dutch M/V Rika (Captain Sneting) and brought in to Falmouth. Statements were made to the local authorities.
Those who lost their lives (those who have not been mentioned before are in bold text - compare with the crew list on page 1):
Signed Stephan Meyer and R. Skauge
The witness referred to what had been entered in the report. In connection with this he stated that, as soon as the shock of the explosion was over, he got up and saw that the after part of the ship was going down quickly. He then threw himself over the rail and began to swim. He caught hold of a hatch. This, together with other wreckage, went into the vortex and he was drawn under for some seconds. But he came up again; he then saw the forecastle going down. The witness thinks that not more than about 30 seconds could have passed from the moment he jumped over board until the vessel disappeared.
When the witness came out on deck the aeroplanes were immediately over the ship, very low. He had not heard anything of the attacking aeroplanes before he came out on deck. Just before he came out they heard the shots from the machine guns on the bridge. He then appreciated that the vessel was being subjected to aeroplane attack and he ran out on the after deck in order to get to the machine gun aft. But before he got to it he was knocked to the deck by the blast. No one was on watch at that machine gun. It was arranged so that the two machine guns on the bridge had permanent watch so that they could at once be brought into action, whilst the machine gun aft and the 4th machine gun on top of the wheel-house did not have permanent watch. It was the steward who served the machine gun aft and in the ordinary way (meaning, under normal circumstances) he would have been able to get there in the course of about ten seconds in order to handle it. But on this occasion there was no time at all to do anything.
The witness further stated that the vessel had parachute rockets, which could be fired from the bridge, but this was not done. When he came out on deck the witness at once thought that this should have been done. The English gunner, who was one of the survivors, had told the witness that they commenced the machine gun firing a little late. The reason for this he gave as being that they were afraid that the aeroplanes were English, because they were quite close to an English base. The witness, personally, however, did not know about this because, as stated, he only came out on deck after the firing had commenced.
On the bridge were the 2nd officer, the surviving gunner and A.B. Seaman Stahl at the helm. Stahl lost his life. It was only the witness, fireman Skauge and the gunner mentioned, whose name the witness does not know, who were saved.
The vessel had an exceptionally good lifebuoy-raft. It was on to this that the witness got up. The two others, who were saved, were then already in the buoy. In addition to this buoy the vessel had a wooden raft which was in complete order. But this was presumably destroyed in consequence of the explosion. In adddition there were two lifeboats with complete equipment which were in good condition and had been tested some days previously. These lifeboats could accommodate the whole crew. There were also five lifebuoys with lights. The reason why no more were saved is, in the opinion of the witness, due to the others having been drawn down by the vortex. The witness added that there were lifesaving jackets with electric light for all the men.
Appeared the 2nd witness, Ragnar Skauge, born the 12/11 1914 at Hommelvik, who was fireman on the s/s Bjørnvik. The witness referred to the report of the 5th February 1942 signed by chief officer Meyer and himelf.
The witness was off duty when the aeroplane attack occurred and he was forward in is cabin. He did not know what was going on until the bombing started. The first thing he heard was a hissing sound in the air above the vessel. Immediately thereupon came the first explosion. The witness was knocked down in his cabin by the blast. He immediately got up and rushed out on deck. There he met a fireman (the witness does not know his name, but he was from Bergen), donkeyman Saarkoppel, two of the A.B. Seamen and the boatswain. The last mentioned asked the crew to assist in getting out the lifeboat-buoy which was lying at the No. 1 hatch on the port side. This, however, they could not manage owing to smoke and flames. The witness said to the others:- "Come on boys", and he himself jumped over board. The others, however, did not come and were undoubtedly sucked down by the vortex. The witness started to swim and after some minutes had passed he saw the lifeboat-buoy and got up into it. All the ship's lifesaving equipment was in good order.
Chief officer Meyer and the English gunner had also saved themselves by getting on to the lifeboat-buoy. They rowed towards land, but owing to current and wind they were not getting nearer land. After 17 hours of hardship a Dutch motor vessel arrived which saved them.
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