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Launched on Dec. 29-1937 by Deutsche Schiff- und Maschinenbau A.G. Weser, Bremen (Yard No. 932) for NAL. Delivered in May-1938.
Captain: Ole Bornemann Bull.
Related item on this website:
This original document from the National Archives of Norway shows some of her voyages.
Oslofjord was laid up in New York at the beginning of 1940 (along with Bergensfjord). According to the archive document above, she had arrived New York on Jan. 2, later heading to Bayonne, NJ. In Oct.-1940 it was decided to put her into service as a troopship and she was sent to Halifax for armament, departing Bayonne, NJ on Oct. 26, arriving Halifax on the 28th. While there, she was fitted out with bridge protection and degaussing, as well as a 4" gun, a 12 lbs anti aircraft gun, 8 Colt Marlin machine guns and 4 Lewis guns. On Nov. 21 she left Halifax for the U.K., where she was to be further fitted out for troop transport, and sailed across alone. She had 3374 tons general cargo, 1775 diesel oil, 299 tons other oils, 13 734 bags of mail, 188 crew, 150 passengers (troops), 1350 tons drinking water and provisons for 350 people for 18 days. She arrived Gourock Bay on Nov. 28 where the troops disembarked. Everything was made ready for the mail and cargo to be discharged, but the next day she was ordered by the Admiralty to go to Newcastle-on-Tyne, escorted by the destroyer Vimy, and she departed that same afternoon (Nov. 29).
Oslofjord followed behind the destroyer, and was about 2 ship lengths behind it when at about 08:20 on Dec. 1 she struck a mine about 2 n. miles east/southeast of the entrance to the River Tyne, 220° 0.5 miles from T2 Buoy. On the bridge at the time were the captain, the chief mate, the 3rd mate, 4th Mate Roaldkvam and helmsman Yngvar Halvorsen, all of whom, except the chief mate were knocked down by the explosion. The latter ordered the engines stopped, then found the captain and the helmsman unconscious on the deck. The captain soon regained consciousness again, but was injured and bleeding. All the lifeboats were launched; the captain and the helmsman were assisted into one of them by some of the able seamen (helmsman Halvorsen died from his injuries on board a mine sweeper that morning).
When the chief mate after a while realized that Oslofjord was not in danger of sinking, though she was listing heavily to starboard, he went forward and called for assistance from nearby vessels through a megaphone, and at about 08:45 towing commenced. The captain also came back on board, though injured and still in shock. Several tugs came to, and some of her deck crew returned to help out, a pilot had also arrived (by the name of Duncan). However, after conferring with the Admiralty the pilot refused to tow her to port because she could block the inlet to the Tyne. The engine room was rapidly flooding, and after further examinations it was eventually agreed there was nothing else to do but follow orders and beach Oslofjord south of Tynemouth South Pier. Some of her crew had been taken ashore by the Cullercoast lifeboat Westmorland, others by the Tynemouth lifeboat John Pyemont. In the next few days about 9000 bags of mail were rescued by volunteers. The captain, meanwhile, had been admitted to a hospital with a crushed vertebrae in his back.
After she had been beached, she dug deeper and deeper into the sand. Some members of her crew remained on board until Dec. 8. at which time the situation was such that she had to be abandoned, she had already started to break at that time, and cabins and saloons were flooded, as were her holds. Those who were on board were taken ashore by John Pyemont, under extremely hazardous conditions and a strong gale. Oslofjord finally broke in two and capsized in bad weather on Jan. 21/22-1941, becoming a total loss. Had it been peace time she most probably could have been saved. A visitor to my website has told me that Peter Collings' "The Divers' Guide to the North-East Coast England 1986" says she lies at 55 00N 01 23W.
An inquiry was held in Newcastle on Dec. 18-1940 with the chief mate, the 1st and 3rd mates, 4th mate Roaldkvam, Able Seaman Antonsen (lookout), the 2nd engineer, 4th Engineer Aarseth and 4th Engineer Lerstad appearing. (The captain was still in hospital at that time).
The captain later said that Oslofjord should not have been where she was (on the east coast); the condition of the requisitioning for use as troopship was that she would only go to the west coast ports. On this her last trip she was supposed to go to Glasgow only, but according to the captain he was more or less forced by the Royal Navy to take her around the east coast, though he had protested the orders several times. After the mine explosion he would have preferred to have taken her into port, but was denied access to the Tyne harbour by the commanding admiral of the fleet in the Tyne area, a decision he understood to be due to a fear of her sinking and blocking important British units in the harbour. A lot of rumours were going around with regard to the loss of Oslofjord, but although the captain readily agreed there were many occurrences that could and should have been avoided, he defends the British decisions and actions and is understanding of the difficult situation they were in at this stage of the war at sea. The Germans in Norway took full advantage of the situation in their radio propaganda broadcasts, by trying to convince Norwegian sailors that this just proved how silly and useless it was to sail for Gt. Britain.
I've also come across some Oslofjord related information in a war time diary for the northeast of England (external link), by Roy Ripley and Brian Pears. For Sunday, Dec. 1-1940 it says the following:
The shipping incident related above, was to be the indirect cause of the sinking of another ship, the 'SS Oslofjord', a Norwegian ship was involved in a collision in April 1940, off New York Harbour whilst carrying the Crown Prince and Princess of Norway (This was the pilot boat Sandy Hook, see "related external link" at the end of this page). She was laid up at the Bayonne Terminal. On Saturday, October 26th 1940, she was taken to Halifax, Nova Scotia to be fitted out as a transport ship, to be completed by November of that year. She then set sail for Newcastle via Liverpool to join the Ministry of Transport Fleet. On this fateful day she was to follow the 'British Officer' up the river Tyne when the 'British Officer' struck a mine... The 'Oslofjord' was then ordered to stand off by the Harbour Master, changing her course, she became the victim of another German mine. She sank S of South Shields pier at 55 00'10.8"N - 01 23'43.5"W on sand in 12 metres of water. All but one of her two hundred and four crew were saved. Little is left of her remains which is spread over a large area of the sea-bed. She was built in 1938.
Additionally, Ron Young says about the wreck in 2001 (see my sources at the end of this page):
(The Greek ship he's referring to here collided with the stern end of Oslofjord on March 15-1943, after having collided with the steamship Exmouth. This incident is also recorded in the diary mentioned above - external link - scroll down to March 15, where it says: SS Eugena Chandris' (5,300t) collided with the 'Exmouth' off South Shields at 55°01'08"N - 01°23'43.5"W, when she finally sank it was onto the remains of the 'SS Oslofjord'. Her manifest included 4874 drums of Trichlorethylene, 573 cases of ordinance, aluminium ingots and copper. She lies in 30' of water and underwater swimmers often swim from the 'Chandris' to the 'Oslofjord' without knowing it).
Continue to Oslofjord - Page 2
Related external links:
Sandy Hook - This page (a website for divers) briefly describes the collision mentioned in the narrative above, though it dates the incident to Apr. 27-1939, saying the Sandy Hook (361 tons) with 20 pilots and 6 crew on board was rammed aft of the port beam and sunk by Oslofjord in dense fog. There were no casualties. It adds that Crown Prince Olav and Princess Märtha of Norway were on their way to visit President Roosevelt.
Pictures of Oslofjord, Stavangerfjord, Bergensfjord and other NAL ships through the years. The main page is entitled Simplon Postcards and has postcard pictures of a heap of other companies around the world, mostly post war, but also some that go further back.
Back to Oslofjord on the "Ships starting with O" page.
Den norske Amerikalinje had 5 ships in all by this name through the years, this was the 2nd one.
The text on this page was compiled with the help of: "Nortraships flåte", J. R. Hegland, Norwegian America Line fleet list, "Sjøforklaringer fra 2. verdenskrig", Volume II (Norwegian Maritime Museum), "The Comprehensive Guide to Shipwrecks of the North East Coast" Vol II, Ron Young (w/permission from the author), and website mentioned in the above text.