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D/S Granli Page 2
Loss of Empire Volunteer and Rescue of Survivors by Granli and Fido
Received, with thanks, from Roger Griffiths - His source: Public Records Office, Kew

To Granli - page 1 (w/crew list).

According to Jürgen Rohwer's "Axis Submarine Successes of World War Two", Empire Volunteer was sunk by U-48 (Bleichrodt) while in Convoy SC 3, position 56 43N 15 17W.

This report to the Secreatry of Admiralty, dated Oct. 1-1940, is written on John Cory & Sons stationary and states as follows:

Loss of the S.S. Empire Volunteer by Enemy Action, 15th September, 1940 (about 1.30 a.m.).
Estimated position 56 40N by 15W.

In the course of his report in connection with the loss of the S.S. Empire Volunteer, the Chief Officer says that, guided by a calcium light, he swam to a small raft, supporting the third Officer and two deck boys. The calcium light broke away, but an electric light remained attached to the raft, and with that, and the use of a mouth whistle, they succeeded in attracting the attention of a Norwegian steamer the Granli, after they had been in the water for abount an hour.

The report continues:

"The Master of this vessel showed great courage and ability in heaving his vessel to. A lifeboat was launched which was manned by the Chief Officer and three sailors, who picked up six (including our four), then one of the Empire Volunteer's lifeboats, with fourteen men in it, and later a Carley float with six more men. These last six men were too exhausted to make fast the line, whereupon the Chief Officer, Mr. Olav Benum, jumped overboard, swam to the float and attached a line which enabled the float to be drawn alongside, and the six men to be pulled aboard. This vessel thus saved 26 officers and men of the Empire Volunteer. We were landed at Greenock on Tuesday night about 10 p.m. September 17th, 1940 and cared for by the Sailor's Rest, No. 1 Dock Breast, Greenock."

The Master reports that with three others he was picked up from a raft by a boat from the Norwegian S.S. Fido, which had rescued three others from the Empire Volunteer's damaged starboard lifeboat in addition. The Fido also had on board 41 survivors from one of His Majesty's ships, which had been torpedoed a couple of hours earlier, while acting as escort for the convoy (this was the British HMS Dundee [L 84], which had also been sunk by U-48). The Fido also took on board the body of the 2nd Officer of the Empire Volunteer who had apparently supported himself on a plank for some time.

The Captain of the Empire Volunteer says he cannot speak too highly of the work of the Master, Chief Officer, and crew of the Fido, who placed all their resources at the disposal of the rescued men, and worked hard in an endeavour to resuscitate the 2nd mate. This party was brought into Belfast.

Both reports have been forwarded with a seperate letter to the Ministry of Shipping.

It seems to us that Mr. Olav Benum, Chief Officer of the S.S. Granli deserves to have special attention directed to his bravery, in swimming from his boat with a line to the six men on the float, and that the case should be brought to the notice of the Royal Humane Society, for suitable recognition at their hands.

We also venture to think that the services of the Masters, Officers, and crews of both the Fido and the Granli merit recognition, and as in one case men from one of His Majesty's ships were rescued, we shall be glad to know whether either or both cases will be dealt with by the Admiralty.

If any steps have to be taken by us in that direction, we shall esteem instructions at an early date, so that any award may follow the event as closely as possible.

(Signature illegible)

Olav Benum was recommended by the Ministry of Shipping for the award of the Silver Medal for Gallantry and Humanity in a document dated Nov. 18-1940 as follows:

On 15th September, 1940, the British S.S. Empire Volunteer was torpedoed by an enemy submarine and sank within 30 minutes, the crew taking to the boats and rafts. The Chief Engineer and three men on a raft succeeded in attracting the attention of the Norwegian S.S. Granli, from which a boat was launched in charge of the Chief Officer, Olav Benum. This rescued a number of men.

Some time after these men had been got on bord the Granli, while the sea was still rough, with a heavy swell and fresh wind, a Carley float, on which were six men, was sighted. The S.S. Granli approached the float and a line was thrown from the vessel, but the survivors were too exhausted to grasp it. Olav Benum thereupon took a line, jumped overboard, and swam to the float. The line was fixed to the float, which was then brought alongside the Granli and the men were hauled aboard by ropes.

Mr. Benum showed great courage in going overboard to rescue these men and by his action was successful in saving six lives.

(It appears the recommendation was approved - the document has the letters "appd" in the top right corner).

Olav Benum is not listed among the survivors of Granli, so he must have paid off by the time she was sunk in 1941.

There seems to be some confusion in my Norwegian sources with regard to this incident. For instance, "Nortraships flåte" states that another Norwegian ship in Convoy SC 3, Granfoss, rescued 20 men from the torpedoed HMS Dundee on Sept. 15-1940, and a little later she rescued 27 from Empire Volunteer, adding that another 6 men from Dundee were picked up by the Norwegian D/S Vigsnes. There's no mention of Fido in this source. Empire Volunteer had a total complement of 39, 6 of whom died, meaning the entire complement is accounted for when adding up the number of survivors given in the above report, so it looks like "Nortraships flåte" has named the wrong ship (Granfoss) as rescuer. I'm not sure how many crew members Dundee had in all.

Convoy SC 3 had departed Sydney, C. B. on Sept. 2-1940 - note that this convoy had a large number of Norwegian ships, one of them being Lotos, which was sunk. "Nortraships flåte" indicates that the Norwegian D/S Hird may also initially have been in this convoy, but had a small fire on board on Sept. 10 and fell out while repairing. However, Hird is, in fact, listed in Convoy HX 70.

Back to Granli - page 1 (w/crew list).


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