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D/S Prominent
Updated Febr. 2-2009

To Prominent on the "Ships starting with P" page.

A picture is available on this external page (click in it to enlarge).

Manager: Jacob Odland S. S., Haugesund
2232 gt, 1376 net, 3030 tdwt.
Dimensions: 270.6' x 40.1' x 19.4'.
Machinery: Triple exp. (Hong Kong Wampoa Dock).
Call Sign: LCVN

Delivered in Febr.-1919 from Hong Kong Wampoa Dock Co. Ltd., Hong Kong as Prominent to D/S A/S Produce (H. M. Wrangell & Co. A/S), Haugesund. Ship and Company transferred to Jacob Odland in Jan.-1938.

Captain: Kristen Gjertsen.

Her voyages are listed on these original images from the Norwegian National Archives:
Page 1 | Page 2 | Page 3

 Misc. War Details & Final Fate: 

According to Page 1 of the archive documents, Prominent arrived Chinwangtao from Tientsin on Apr. 10-1940, the day after the German invasion of Norway. She continued to Shanghai the following day. Her 1941 voyages start on Page 2.

Only three days after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, the loss of the battle ships Prince of Wales and Repulse on Dec. 10-1941 had stunned the world. (The Norwegian ship Hai Lee transported 150 survivors from those ships from Singapore to Batavia). From Page 3, we learn that Prominent was in Bombay on that date. By the end of that month the Allies had suffered one military defeat after another, due to the rapidly advancing Japanese forces. As the new year of 1942 dawned, supplies and reinforcements had to be shipped to new theaters of operations. Singapore, the Dutch East Indies, the Pacific Islands and even Australia were threatened, and in the course of January, February and March 1942 a steady stream of important military convoys crossed The Indian Ocean to the war zone in the Far East, as well as from Australia and north to the vulnerable areas (the first convoy from Australia to Singapore, MS 1 left Melbourne on Jan. 10, reaching the Sunda Straits on the 28th, the Norwegian Pan Europe was initially in this convoy - follow the link for more info and an external link to details on MS 1 as well as links to information on the loss of Prince of Wales and Repulse).

One Norwegian ship after another found itself right in the middle of this new threat, Hindanger, Hellas, Herborg, Herstein, Eidsvoll, Erling Brøvig, Elsa, Seirstad, Tunni, Bordvik, Proteus - the list goes on and on - some survived, others were less fortunate. More details on all of them can be found with the help of the alphabet index at the end of this page.

Going back to Page 3, we see that Prominent had left Bombay again on Jan. 17-1942, arriving Colombo on the 21st. Convoy JS 1, which sailed from Colombo on Febr. 3 (external link) was organized in order to move the Australian division in Palestine to Singapore. Prominent was in this convoy, along with M/S Hermion (A. Hague has also included Hai Lee). It appears her crew consisted mostly of Chinese seamen(?), except for the officers who were Norwegian. The convoy arrived Colombo at the end of Jan.-1942 (this makes no sense, had it started out somewhere else?) and continued east on Febr. 3, but en route it became clear that Singapore would fall to the Japanese forces, thereby also posing a threat to Sumatra, so it was decided to move reinforcements there instead. Hermion and 4 of the convoy's ships were rerouted to Osthaven at the southern point of Sumatra, escorted by cruisers, while Prominent and the rest of Convoy JS 1 were sent to Batavia, arriving Febr. 14.

On Febr. 27 the head of the allied naval forces in Indonesia, Admiral Doorman, went down with his ship in the battle of the Java Sea, and the forces he had been commanding ceased to exist. After this defeat the allied retreat from Java's north side was initiated right away. *This resulted in Prominent being sent from Batavia to Tjilatjap on the east coast of Java (probably without even unloading her cargo of stores first, due to the allied retreat. On March 1 the Japanese landed on both sides of Java, and the allied defense completely collapsed. The ships were now trapped at Tjilatjap, though many left, with or without escort, to get away. Prominent and a number of other ships left that same day, unaware of the fact that Japanese Naval Forces under the command of Kondo and Nagumo on that very day had passed through the Sunda straits and were cruising the ocean south of Java.

*I have to mention here that there's some confusion in my sources again. An excerpt from Captain Gjertsen's report dated Batavia Apr. 7-1942 states that they arrived Batavia in the morning of Febr. 15, and after having taken on board some coal, water and provisions they were ordered to Tjilatlap to unload their cargo, with arrival there on Febr. 24 - note that she's listed in Convoy SM 3, which left Batavia on Febr. 20 (external link). It appears they could not get their cargo unloaded, then in the evening of Febr. 27 they were suddenly ordered to leave immediately. The captain adds that while at Tjilatlap a Dutch vessel had been tied up next to them, and just as they departed 9 Australian refugees jumped on board, and due to the chaotic situation they could not get them off, so they came along when they left.

The day after departure Prominent was shelled and sunk by a Japanese war ship. 2? Norwegian and 7 Chinese seamen were killed, and possibly also some of the Australians. A visitor to my website (who has access to British primary records) has told me that 5 survivors were taken aboard the lifeboats of the Dutch freighter Tomohon, which was sunk by the destroyers Arashi and Nowaki the same day. The men aboard these lifeboats were picked up on March 2 by the Dutch Zaandam which in turn delivered her passengers (about 950 people!) in Fremantle 4 days later. This partly fits in with Captain Gjertsen's report, which says they later heard that the injured 2nd Mate Aksel Evensen had been picked up by a Dutch lifeboat after having been in the water for 12 hours, and was later admitted to a hospital in Poevokerto. He also states that 1st Mate Otto Ottesen and 2nd Engineer Johan Stavenes as well as 8 Chinese and 5 Australians were missing.

A message in my guestbook states:
"....In this regard, I find in the deck log of USS LARK (AM 21), an 850-ton minesweeper that had moved from the Philippines to Java in December 1941 and was working with the Dutch Navy there, sailed from Tjilatjap 1 March for Australia. The following day, 2 March, her logbook notes that they sighted a lifeboat and hove to for inspection, noted the ship's name as 'Prominent - Haugesund', and that the boat showed damage from gunfire or shelling, but no sign of life or any indication as to what might have happened to the occupants."

"Dictionary of Disasters at Sea during the Age of Steam" by Charles Hocking gives the location for Prominent's sinking as 230 miles south of Tjilatjap, and says that 9 crew and 5 passengers were killed.

 A Personal Account: 

I've come across an article in Issue No. 4 for 1998 of the Norwegian magazine "Krigsseileren" which provides a new twist to the above. It's based on an interview with Harald Marø. The ship's name is given as Providence of Haugesund but, suspecting an error I went to my Merchant Marine Prisoners of War page where Harald Marø is indeed listed under Prominent (source used for that list is "Ingen nåde" by Kristian Ottosen). This article says that Marø had previously been on board M/S Eidsvold which, according to my info for that ship was torpedoed on January 20-1942 by the Japanese I-159 (Yoshimatsu), and he's included in the crew list for that ship. My text under M/S Eidsvoll states that the entire crew was placed on board the Australian passenger vessel Marella at Batavia after having been transported there from Christmas Island by the British cruiser Durban. Marella arrived Sydney on March. 21 (follow the link to Eidsvoll for more details on this).

However, this article says that Marø, who was a mate, joined Prominent (not Marella) and was on the bridge when the attack started, and that everyone on board, about 50 all total (including the Australians) were on deck. He describes the bloodbath when the war ships (though he says U-boat) started firing right into the group of people, immediately killing 13 and severely injuring several others. He says the survivors crowded into two lifeboats and headed for Java, arriving there "more dead than alive" 5 days later and were assisted by the natives (he does not mention anything about being picked up by other ships, it's possible the boats got separated?).

For 2 days they dragged themselves through the jungle and on March 7 they reached a place that had a hospital. They were later interrogated by the Japanese but were allowed to go free until "the Japanese declared war on Norway in 1943" at which time they were sent to a camp where they endured horrendous conditions. He syas that one of them (name given as Harpestad), who had been severely injured by shrapnel during the attack on Prominent died there (but it looks like he survived the war). Marø does not mention the name of the camp, but indicates he was transferred, together with 1100 other prisoners, in a small ship on a journey taking 3 days, to a place they called "Devil Island" and a camp built for 800 but housing 12 000; they were set to build a drydock for the Japanese there. After the war he settled in Halifax and was later skipper of the Canadian Theron for 27 years (this vessel was well known for Edmund Hillary's expedition to the South Pole in 1958).

Again, some of the facts in Marø's story fits in with the captain's report, which was presented at the maritime hearings in Haugesund after the war, May 22-1946. He says they landed on south Java on March 5, where they were eventually assisted by some locals who helped them carry 5 men on stretchers made out of the lifeboat sails, and after having walked for 2 days they arrived at a place called Garut where the injured men were admitted to a hospital. After 2 weeks the captain and the chief engineer as well as the Chinese crew members travelled to Batavia. The captain adds: "What we later experienced is another chapter".

Note that Prominent's Captain K. Gjertsen, 1st Mate Finn Gleditsch, Chief Engineer Nils Gjertin Nilsen and 3rd Mate Harald Marø are included among those listed as prisoners of the Japanese on my POWs page. However, another source, "Sjøforklaringer fra 2. verdenskrig", Norwegian Maritime Museum, Volume I, which is based on information found in the Norwegian National Archives, lists the 1st mate as Otto Ottesen and does not mention Finn Gleditsch at all. To sum it up, these are the crew members listed in this book: Captain K. Gjertsen, 1st Mate Otto Ottesen (died), 2nd Mate Aksel Evensen, 3rd Mate Harald Marø, 1st Engineer Nils G. Nilsen, 2nd Engineer Johan Stavenes and 3rd Engineer Petter Harpestad (said to have died). According to the maritime hearings the 1st engineer died while a prisoner in Java. He's listed on my POW's page as having died in Japanese imprisonment on Febr. 8-1945. In the book "Nordmenn i fangenskap" (Norwegians in imprisonment) by Kristian Ottosen, he's listed as being arrested on Dec. 20-1943 and transferred to Omori, Japan that same day. 3rd Engineer Harpestad mentioned above is not included in "Ingen Nåde", which I've used as source for my POWs pages, nor can I find him in "Nordmenn i fangenskap" by the same author. However, this external page says that he was taken prisoner on Java, freed Oct. 16-1945 and admitted to a hospital in Batavia. Later arrived Sydney by plane on Dec. 6 that same year. He had joined Prominent on Febr. 19-1942, following the sinking of Eidsvold, having also served on Østhav and Skagerak.

External links related to the text on this page:
Stavern Memorial commemorations - The Norwegian text for this ship says that 3 Norwegians died in the attack on March 2-1942. Chief Engineer Nils Gjertin Nilsen, 1st Mate/Radio Operator Otto P. Ottesen and Engineer Johan Stavenes are commemorated at this memorial for seamen in Stavern, Norway.

The conquest of Java Island - A section of The Netherlands East-Indies 1941-1942, which includes articles on The Japanese Invasion of Lesser Sunda Islands, Sumatra Campaign, Battle for Palembang, Riouw Archipelago, the invasion of British North Borneo and much more.

Battles in the Java Sea - Ships involved in this battle.

Back to Prominent on the "Ships starting with P" page.

The text on this page was compiled with the help of: "Nortraships flåte", J. R. Hegland, "Våre gamle skip", Leif M. Bjørkelund & E. H. Kongshavn, article in Issue No. 4 for 1998 in the Norwegian magazine "Krigsseileren", "Sjøforklaringer fra 2. verdenskrig", Norwegian Maritime Museum, Volume I and misc. others for cross checking details as named within the text above. ref. My Sources


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