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M/S Oregon Express
Another picture is available at Uboat.net - external link.
Owner: Skibs-A/S Ekspress
Built by Odense Staalskibsværft/A.P. Møller, Odense, Denmark in 1933. Fruit carrier, which operated for Skibs-A/S Fruit Express Line.
Captain: Ragnar M. Walsig
Related items on this website:
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 as can be seen, several voyages are missing from this record (including all 1940 and 1941 voyages).
As will be seen when going to Page 1 of the archive documents, Oregon Express arrived Los Angeles on Apr. 8-1940, the day before the German invasion of Norway. Departure is given as Apr. 30, when she proceeded to Balboa. Her 1941 voyages start on Page 2 and continue on Page 3, which also shows a few 1942 voyages.
That summer, she rescued 96 (97?) passengers and crew from 2 lifeboats from the British Waiwera, which had been torpedoed and sunk by U-754 on June 29-1942, and took them to New York - the external website that I've linked to below has more on the attack on this ship. According to Page 4 of the archive documents, Oregon Express had left Mersey on June 28 and arrived New York July 10 (heading back to Liverpool a week later).
She reported being chased by a U-boat in the afternoon of Sept. 30-1942, position 51 55N 39 02W, and again 3 hours later further west. Having posted a query on my Ship Forum, I've learned that the U-boat was U-582 (Schulte), which had sunk Vibran a week earlier - see this external page (F.d.U./B.d.U.'S War Log - U-boat Archive website) and scroll down to 30 September 1942, where it says 'U 582 chased "Oregon Express" in AJ 9983, course 2400, 15 knots. Forced to sheer off by 2 destroyers that met the steamer'. Going back to the archive document mentioned above, we learn that she was on another voyage to New York at the time, having left Mersey on Sept. 25; she arrived New York on Oct. 6. According to Uboat.net (also external link), this U-boat was sunk with all hands just a few days later by an American Catalina aircraft.
Related external link:
Arnold Hague has included her in Convoy HX 233, which originated in New York on Apr. 6-1943. As will be seen when following the link to my own page about this convoy, she's not mentioned there, but according to A. Hague she joined the convoy from Halifax, and this may be the reason for the omission (the page will be updated, in the meantime, see A. Hague's listing for HX 233) - from Page 5 we learn that she sailed from Halifax on Apr. 8 and arrived Liverpool on the 21st, proceeding from there to Manchester. The following month she's listed as bound for New York in the westbound North Atlantic Convoy ON 182*, which left Liverpool on May 6 and arrived New York on the 22nd and also included Dageid, Fernwood, Gallia, Germa, Hiram, Ivaran, Skiensfjord, Thorshov, Thorshøvdi and Villanger. Some of these ships, including Oregon Express, later joined Convoy HX 242, leaving New York on May 31. However, according to the Commodore's notes for this convoy, she returned to New York with engine defects at 10:00Z on June 1, 40 03N 69 52W, and subsequently joined the next convoy on June 7, HX 243. She had a general cargo and sailed in station 91; her destination is given as Manchester, where she arrived June 21. There's an Electrician Halfdan Stoltenberg commemorated at the memorial for seamen in Stavern, Norway (link at the end of this page); he's said to have died at sea on June 12-1943 following an illness, in other words, while she was on this voyage from New York to the U.K.
At the beginning of July we find her, together with Heranger, Kronprinsessen, Molda, Salamis, Spinanger and the Panamanian Norbris (Norwegian managers) in the westbound Convoy ON 191*, departing Liverpool on July 1, arriving New York on the 15th. She headed back to the U.K. again just 4 days later, arriving Liverpool on July 30, Manchester the next day, then appears, with destination Halifax, in the westbound Convoy ON 196*, which left Liverpool on Aug. 8 and arrived New York on the 21st; Oregon Express arrived her destination on Aug. 20. Athos, California Express, Fjordaas, Gefion, Hardanger, Montevideo (Commodore Vessel), Mosli, Roald Amundsen, Skotaas and Trondheim are also listed. At the end of that month, she joined Convoy HX 254 (Halifax section, departing Aug. 29), bound for Manchester with refrigerated and general cargo, station 74, arriving Manchester on Sept. 11 (Page 5).
Just a few days after arrival U.K. with Convoy HX 254, Oregon Express joined the westbound Convoy ON 202 in order to return to Halifax. This convoy, which left Liverpool on Sept. 15, and Convoy ONS 18, which had departed Liverpool on Sept. 12, were sailing close to each other on Sept. 20 when a battle started. Please go to ON 202 / ONS 18 for more detailed information. The Commodore's report is also available, as are several other reports on the passage (Oregon Express is mentioned on both pages), and here's an analysis from a visitor to my website. See also the external links at the end of this page.
At this time several U-boats had been sent out from their base in France. The first Zaunkönig torpedo was put into action on Sept. 20, the British frigate Lagan its victim, then two American Liberty ships were hit by "ordinary" torpedoes. By then the two convoys were so close together that it was decided to merge them into one convoy. Also, a Canadian support group was ordered to come to their assistance. Two Zaunkönig torpedoes finished off the Canadian destroyer St. Croix and a third blew the British corvette Polyanthus to bits. Survivors were rescued by the British frigate Itchen (and Narcissus?) but Itchen was also hit by a Zaunkönig on the 23rd. Out of the crews of the three escorts only 3 were rescued (by the Polish Wisla).
Oregon Express had departed Manchester in ballast at 18:00 on Sept. 14 for Halifax and passed Rock Light, Liverpool at 12:20 on Sept. 15. The pilot disembarked at 14:45 near Bar Lightship and Oregon Express took position No. 84 in the middle of Convoy ON 202, but was moved after a few days to station 103, which was in the outermost column on the starboard side. She had a crew of 43 and 4 gunners. M/S Skjelbred had station No. 102, in other words, she was sailing right in front of Oregon Express. They joined up with Convoy ONS 18 in the afternoon of Sept. 20. At 22:15 on Sept. 22 a powerful explosion was heard on the port side and, as it looked as if a ship had been torpedoed the alarm was sounded, but after about half an hour everything was quiet again.
At 00:11 on Sept. 23 ship No. 102 was hit by a torpedo (Skjelbred) and at 00:13 No. 94 (Fort Jemseg) was struck - the position at this point is given as 53 40N 39 50W - then at 00:15 a torpedo from U-238 (Hepp) hit Oregon Express in the engine room, starboard side, exploding with tremendous force, and she listed heavily to port (Page 5 of the archive documents gives the time as 02:18; I'm not sure which time zone is used here). On the bridge were Captain Ragnar Walsig, 2nd Mate Birger Lunde (whose harrowing account of fight for survival in Febr.-1942 can be found on my page about D/S Blink), helmsman B. Rasmussen and the lookout H. Kalleberg. The latter was crushed between blocks of concrete and debris when the bridge area collapsed; the rest managed to dig themselves out and get down to the boatdeck. The helmsman had attempted to get Kalleberg free, but had to abandon his efforts and just leave him there. In the engine room were 3rd Engineer Jacob Sommerseth and Mechanic Hans Andersen, both killed in the explosion.
The explosion destroyed all the cabins amidships, as well as the rescue equipment on the boatdeck except for a raft which was situated on the deck above the mates' cabins, but both lifeboats on the poop deck were successfully launched, 1 became filled with water, the other had only a few men. The ship broke in 2 and sank in 3 minutes. Many people had been blown overboard by the explosion. The sea was full of oil and debris, but in the middle of it all those who had succeeded in getting into the 2 lifeboats fished others out of the water until 25 men were in the boats, while 11, including the injured captain, the cook, the steward, the helmsman and the 1st and 2nd mates managed to get themselves on the raft that had floated free. 6 injured men were later moved from the raft to one of the lifeboats.
At 00:45 D/S Kingman, captain Fredrik Matzen (Ex Danish Tutta, Panamanian flag?) and the Norwegian Romulus left their places in the convoy and started to pick up survivors, Kingman picking up 36 and Romulus 1 (Able Seaman Hallgeir Johansen) from Oregon Express, as well as 21 survivors from the torpedoed British Fort Jemseg. 8 were missing from Oregon Express. By 02:00 all the survivors from the raft and the 2 lifeboats were on board Kingman, all in very bad condition with varying degrees of injuries - an able seaman named Perrat on Kingman is mentioned in a report with gratitude for his "excellent medical care" during that first night and also later (due to the continuous U-boat attacks no doctor could be transferred to Kingman right away). The Danish Captain Matzen says in a report that Oregon Express' Captain Walsig was placed in his own cabin on Kingman, soaking wet and covered in oil. He had been struck across his hips by the concrete bridge protection as it collapsed and was in great pain. 11 others were also injured; ranging from a broken hip, a broken collar bone, broken ribs, a crushed knee and internal injuries, to a broken back. 1 had a dislocated shoulder, several had broken arms and swollen arms and legs. 2 rafts were constructed out of old hatches and placed on Hatch No. 4 with the intention of placing the most seriously injured men on them so that they would have a chance of survival in case Kingman should be torpedoed too. However, they suffered so badly while being transferred to these rafts that the idea was abandoned.
Kingman caught up with the convoy in the morning of Sept. 23. On Sept. 26 at 12:00 the destroyer escort HMCS Richmond (G 88) came alongside and placed a doctor and an assistant on board Kingman to further treat the wounded, before leaving again on Sept. 27 at 13:15. Kingman arrived Halifax on Sept. 29 at 15:00, and the injured were taken to Camp Hill Hospital in ambulances.
An inquiry was held in Halifax on Oct 1-1943 with the captain, the 1st, 2nd and 3rd mates, and Able Seaman Rasmussen (helmsman) appearing. The 1st mate said he had seen the saloon girl come out on the boatdeck just as the explosion occurred, but he did not see her afterwards.
1 survivor from Oregon Express is said to have been landed in New York on Oct. 2 - this may have been Able Seaman Hallgeir Johansen, picked up by Romulus? The captain is said to have arrived New York on Oct. 5.
The escorting HMCS St Croix was sunk by U-305 (Bahr), damaged earlier by the same U-boat. According to Charles Hocking (see My Sources) this destroyer was the former USS McCook which had been transferred to Canada under the Lend-Lease agreement, built 1919, 1190 gt. St. Croix (Lt. Commander A. H. Dobson) was hit by a torpedo during the 3rd assault on Sept. 20, sank from another hit later in the night. 5 officers and 75 ratings picked up by HMS Itchen. (He says all but 1 was lost when Itchen sank, yet under Itchen he says they were all lost). Casualty list available via the external link at the end of this page.
Frederick Douglass was sunk by U-645 (Ferro), damaged earlier by U-238 (Hepp) - No casualties, survivors picked up by Rescue Vessel Rathlin.
Theodore Dwight Weld sunk by U-238, some survivors picked up by Rathlin.
HMS Polyanthus (built 1940, 925 tons) sunk by U-952 (Hocking says 84 were lost, incl. Lt. J. G. Aitken [picked up by Itchen, died when this ship was sunk], 6 other officers and 77 ratings).
Oregon Express was sunk by U-238 (Hepp), position 53 40N 39 50W.
M/S Skjelbred was also sunk by U-238.
Fort Jemseg, also sunk by U-238 - survivors picked up by Northern Foam and Norwegian Romulus.
Itchen was sunk by U-666 (Engel). According to Charles Hocking 14 officers were lost, including Commander C. E. Bridgman. 134 ratings died, as did 5 officers and 75 ratings rescued from St. Croix. (3 survivors picked up by Polish Wisla, 1 of whom was from St. Croix).
Steel Voyager (Convoy ONS 18) sunk by U-952 (Curio). Survivors picked up by Renoncule and Morden.
HMS Lagan, built 1942, 1370 tons, damaged Sept. 20 by U-270 (Otto), taken in tow by tug Destiny (see this report) - total loss.
The American James Gordon Bennett was damaged by U-952, Sept. 23.
3 U-boats had been sunk and 3 damaged. Later developments in the north Atlantic showed that the Zaunkönig torpedoes were unsuccessful, and subsequent convoys crossed unharmed.
The Norwegian Elisabeth Bakke also witnessed this battle. Morgenen was also in ON 202, as were Samuel Bakke, Thorhild, Norsol, and Gylfe. In addition to Romulus, Ruth I and Stirlingville were in Convoy ONS 18. Again, see ON 202 / ONS 18.
Related external links:
Convoys ONS-18/ON-202 - article.
Ships hit from Convoy ON 202 (and ONS 18).
Back to Oregon Express on the "Ships starting with O" page.
This company later had another Oregon Express, built in 1945 at Öresundsvarvet A/B, Landskrona for Skibs-A/S Santa Martha (Sigurd Herlofsen & Co. A/S), Oslo.
The text on this page was compiled with the help of:
Articles found in Issues No. 2 and No. 4 for 1974 of the magazine "Krigsseileren" (The War Sailor) and information found in a book called "Tilbakeblikk", published by "Sjøforsvarets Skytteravdelig for Handelsflåtens Veteranforening" in 1995, a veterans association for Norwegian gunners. This book was kindly sent to me by a former gunner, Gunnar Bakke, Norway. Also, "Sjøforklaringer fra 2. verdenskrig", Norwegian Maritime Museum, Volume II, and misc. - (see My sources)