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D/S Prins Olav
Source: Bjørn Milde's postcard collection.
Manager: Det Nordenfjeldske Dampskibsselskab, Trondheim
Launched May 30-1907, delivered in May-1908 from A. & J. Inglis, Glasgow as Royal Yacht Alexandra to H.M. King Edward VII of England, 2113 gt., 1135 net. Displ. 2050; 293.4' x 40', draft 13'; turbines, two screws, 18.9 knots. (Nordenfjeldske D/S fleet list gives dimensions as 328' x 40' x 15' 4"/23' 7" (d/d1) - 3 Parsons turbines totalling 4035 ihp, 17 knots). Little used after WW I, she paid off in June 1922.
Sold to Nordenfjeldske in May-1925 and renamed Prins Olav. (For info, Queen Alexandra was the Norwegian Queen Maud's mother, in other words, King Olav's grandmother). On July 5-1925 Prins Olav went on her first cruise from Bergen to North Cape, making 2 such trips that season. In Dec.-1925 she went to Fredrikstad Mekaniske Verksted in order to be rebuilt, accommodations for 100 passengers added and other changes made to accommodate the passengers. In 1926-1930 she also cruised on the coast of Norway in the summer time (starting June 16-1926), with extended cruises to the Mediterranean in the winter/spring season of 1928 (just that one season), otherwise laid up during the winter. June/Aug.-1930 saw her cruising to North Cape, with the voyages originating in Edinburgh, advertised in conjuction with Bergenske Dampskibsselskab's Stella Polaris, continuing these every season in the period 1931-1935. In 1935 she was chartered for a trip to the Mediterranean, then the following year she went to Nordre Verft and Trondhjems mek Verksted, Trondheim in order to be rebuilt for Hurtigruten service. When she was completed on May 27-1937 she was 2147 gt, 1135 net, 650 tdwt, certified for 450 passengers, with 95 cabins in 1st Class and 145 in 3rd Class. A 4 cyl. compound steam engine of 3500 ihp gave her a speed of about 17 knots. She had a little mishap when she touched the ground near Brønnøysund, between Åboskjær and Odinskjær during bad weather on Sept. 25-1937, but was refloated by the salvage vessel Traust.
Requisitioned by the Norwegian authorities at Harstad on Apr. 9-1940, and used a few days later (Apr. 13) for the mobilization of Norwegian troops from Lofoten to Sør-Reisa and from Kirkenes to Gratangen, then painted grey, camouflaged, and hidden in a fjord.
On June 7 that same year she took on board bunkers and provisions at Hammerfest and was to head to Jøkelfjord in order to go to the Faroe Islands with D/S Finmarken (follow link for background history and more details). Departed that afternoon, but en route to Jøkelfjord she received orders from a Norwegian aircraft to go to Kågsund where she arrived at 02:00, June 8. G. Hovdenak (again, see text for Finmarken) came on board with maps and routing instructions (the convoy had already left). After having passed Fugløy that day, Finmarken adopted a more westerly course and disappeared out of sight. In the course of June 9 Prins Olav caught up with Ariadne and the 2 ships sailed together as Ariadne had the same orders.
At about 22:30 that evening, both ships were attacked by German aircraft. Captain Reidar Mauseth maneuvered her at maximum speed, while zig-zagging, avoiding being hit for over an hour, but experienced technical problems which rendered her engine inoperable after a bomb had detonated very close by, shaking her violently. Attempts to restart it failed, and the order to abandon ship was given. Though the crew had to take cover from the gunfire every time an aircraft passed over they were finally able to get into 3 lifeboats, shortly before 2 bombs hit amidships, causing a powerful explosion and setting her on fire. A 19 year old deck boy was killed, 2 were badly injured and 2 had less serious injuries. One of the injured men, Able Seaman Pettersen was seen waving for help from the stern of the ship, so one of the boats had to row back for him. The last lifeboat left around midnight and later joined the lifeboats from Ariadne.
A distress call had been sent out, but the antenna had been shot down at the same moment so that the ship's position had not been included in the signal. However, the destroyer Arrow was able to find the lifeboats after a couple of hours in spite of the lacking information. The survivors were landed at Scapa Flow in the morning of June 14, where the injured able seaman as well as Trimmer Sundøy were admitted to a hospital.
An inquiry was held in Newcastle-on-Tyne on June 24-1940 with the captain, the 1st engineer, the 2nd mate (officer on watch) and Ordinary Seaman Kaspersen appearing. The latter had been at the helm. The captain stated at the hearings that he was willing to swear under oath that the aircraft had aimed at the people in the lifeboats.
Charles Hocking gives the position for Prins Olav's demise as 70-80 miles east of Røst Island, North Norway. He also says she was built in 1907. "Nortraships flåte" gives the position as 67 07N 01 00E.
Related external link:
Back to Prins Olav on the "Ships starting with P" page.
The text on this page was compiled with the help of: Pre war history from E-mail from a visitor to my site who collects stamps with ship images, and from "Nordenfjeldske - 1857-1985" by Finn R. Hansen. Other sources used: "Nortraships flåte", J. R. Hegland, "Sjøforklaringer fra 2. verdenskrig", Volume II (Norwegian Maritime Museum), and misc. (ref. My sources).