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Brevene på norsk

(Bitter application for a war pension).

Translated by Siri Lawson.

The sequence of events in this letter does not quite match that of previous letters, but 40 years after the war it's understandable that he might not remember them correctly. Also, his thoughts seem to wander from one subject and back to another while writing, so it may seem somewhat unclear in places. This letter appears to contain exactly the same as letters no. 2 and 3, but there are quite a lot of additional details in this one. The green italic text in parenthesis indicates my own explanatory comments.

See also the List of Labor Camps plus the links to D/S Ringulv, Rudzin's diary etc. at the end of this page.


The following is a brief summary of some of my experiences, belonging under sections 3, 4, 5, and 6 in the application form:

I was on board S/S Ringulv, which was built in 1903. We went from New York in convoy (this was Convoi HX 20) with war materials to Le Havre. Naturally, we were constantly attacked during the crossing and bombed while unloading. We managed to get out and went to Swansea, where we loaded coal for Bergen. Before we rounded Scotland the S/S Navarra was torpedoed right in front of us (follow the link for more details on this), and part of the crew was lost. Across the North Sea we were in a convoy (this was Konvoi ON 25), escorted by the destroyer Cossack, best known for its lead role in the Altmark Incident in Jøssingfjord. Three hours before our arrival Bergen we were chased back by air planes, u-boats and war ships. We had to turn around and go back to Methil in Scotland. We later continued to Newcastle. While we were there several of us young lads went to the Norwegian Consulate and volunteered to fight in Norway. We were turned down because of the lack of means of transportation. In Newcastle we were also bombed day and night of course, until we continued south along the coast among debris from the German E-boat (torpedo boats) attacks on the ships in the area. We passed outside of Rotterdam on May 10 when the Germans lay this city in ruins with their bombs.

Note that in this time period Ringulv is listed in Convoy MT 61, leaving Methil on Apr. 29-1940, arriving Tyne same day, as well as in Convoy FS 166, which left Tyne on May 8-1940 and arrived Southend on the 10th, but Ringulv went to Le Havre (both are external links).

We managed to get to our destination, Le Havre. There we were bombed day and night for about a month until we left there as the last ship out with 1500 refugees on board. Our departure took place on June 10, and the Germans were free to conduct their business as they pleased as this was a whole week after the evacuation of Dunkerque. During the night we often stayed with the minister of the Norwegian Seamen's Church, which was later laid to waste. We helped the minister get across the Seine with his old bicycle, and he continued on his way south. There was no protection against the German air attacks, and after they had emptied their planes of bombs, they came in low and whipped the harbours with their machine guns. We were the last ship out of the harbour. Among other things we had gold to the value of 60 million (Norwegian Kroner) on board. We were supposed to put the refugees ashore in the city of Cherbourg, but by the time we got there the Germans were there already, so we had to continue on to Brest, where we got rid of the last inhabitants of Le Havre (Rudzin's diary has a very detailed account of this, as well as the bombing of Le Havre - see also my page about the evacuation). We continued on to Bordeaux and were looking forward to our arrival there, as we hadn't had much sleep over a long period of time. We were disappointed, because when we dropped anchor in the river the Germans came with their bombs and mines. Right next to us they finished off a large transporter, and most of the troops on board were killed. We managed to get out of Bordeaux unharmed.

In June of 1941 we were in Safi, Morocco. Following orders from the Germans the ship was taken by Vichy France (France was divided in two after the capitulation, with the southern part being ruled by a French Germany collaborating government with its seat in Vichy. Thus the Germans also gained control of the French colonies in North Africa, among others. My Merchant Marine Links page has links to more info on this). Later we were placed in 9 different prison camps, and were in captivity until we got through the American lines south of Oran in Algeria in November of 1942. We stayed in some warehouses on the wharfs in Oran where we took part in the unloading of war materials from the allied ships. In the beginning the Germans offered to pay us five thousand Norwegian Kroner if we would volunteer to go home (he is now back to talking about the year before the Allies invaded). The condition was probably that we would be put into German sea service, though this was not mentioned along with the offer. A few, whose health had been completely ruined in the prison camps accepted the offer and went home. The rest of us were stripped of our Norwegian Citizenship by the Quisling government and didn't really have much of a chance as far as surviving the methods of punishment which were initiated. The following is a brief account from some of the prison camps: (The excerpt from Messel's diary has more details, as does "Rudzin's diary").

From Safi we were transported via Casablanca and Taza to Oujda which is not far from the Mediterranean. The plan was to force us to go from there via France and Germany. We were opposed to the transportation from Oujda and were packed into a railway carriage meant for 40 men or 8 horses. In this carriage we were transported via Oran to a place by the name of Berguent. This is south of Oran a ways into the Sahara. (I believe he's mistaken here; Berguent is in Morocco, and though it IS close to the Algerian border (south of Oujda) it would seem odd that they were sent there via Oran. I'm wondering if he has gotten this name mixed up with Sidi-Bel-Abbes, which is indeed located south of Oran in Algeria. Captain Messel mentions in his diary that about half of the crew was sent to work further inland, while the rest stayed in Berguent, so it's possible my father was one of those who was sent further inland - no name is mentioned for this place). We were supposed to go further south (Colomb Bechar?), and under commando we started to march at six in the morning to train for the trip, and continued in 50 degrees C. way into the day. But the transportation south was cancelled, and again we were sent to Morocco.

Algeria map | Morocco map (both are external links).

We headed in the direction of the Atlas Mountains and after a long march we were eventually placed in an uninhabited area outside the village Settat. We worked from 6 in the morning till 7 in the evening. We dug holes in the limestone mountain side. The holes were 80 x 80 x 80 cm. The order was to dig 5 of these holes each per day. We weren't able to do this, so of course we were declared saboteurs. We were given something that resembled food twice a day. We sat and ate in some dugouts, and right by our "dining table" there was a ditch which was used as a toilet. Bluebottle flies were swarming everywhere so it wasn't easy to keep from swallowing some of them. We were troubled by Typhus, Malaria and Dysentery. I myself came down with Diphtheria and because it's so contagious I was admitted to a hospital. A guy from Kristiansand, Hans Larsen, died next to me and was buried in his rags, without anyone being told about it.

Eventually we were moved to a camp closer to the Atlas Mountains. This place was called Qued Zem (They had first been in a regular internment camp on the coast called Sidi-El-Ayachi). From this camp three of us escaped (I think they escaped from Settat, not Qued Zem). Our intention was to get across to Gibraltar. After a month we were captured and placed in various jails. In the end we were placed in a Criminal Prison. In this rock cave there were 44 men and they came from 23 different nations. We had two bowls of soup a day, but two of us were extra lucky as the third came down with jaundice and a stomach ailment, so we would take care of his food ration. (The third guy survived too). From this dirt cave prisoners were taken out around midnight and beaten up. After interrogations and imprisonment there we were marched to the railway station, escorted by 15 armed gendarmes. They cleared a whole carriage of passengers and placed us three criminals in it. Then we were transported back to Qued Zem again, where the gendarmes handed us over to the commandant out in the woods.

From Qued Zem we were eventually transferred to a camp in Azemmour, in the south of Morocco. The camp was previously used by The Foreign Legion and was called Sidi-El-Ayachi (again, they were in this camp before Qued Zem). There we were under strict guard by Senegal negroes. In this camp 4 men died of Typhus. I too came down with Typhus and Malaria, but I was in the habit of surviving. In the last round we were transported through Morocco via Oran to a desert area in the Sahara called Mecheria. The plan was to send us to a desert area further south called Columb Bechar to work on the Trans Sahara Railroad which was being built, and the practice marches as usual took place from six in the morning in 50 degrees C heat (he has already mentioned all this above, it looks like he has gotten the places mixed up again).

In November of 1942 came the allied invasion (see The Invasion of North Africa on my M.M. links page), and as mentioned earlier we managed to get to Oran where we worked with the unloading of ammunition from the ships. After a while we were moved to Morocco again. We were placed close to a large airport near the city of Port Lyautey (now Kenitra? See also my note at the bottom of this page), where we worked on loading the American's bombers. During the allied invasion of Morocco the M/S Nyhorn of Haugesund had been sunk in the river below Port Lyautey (to block the mouth of the river in an effort to prevent the invading allies from entering). A full crew was picked out for this ship and I was one of them. The ship was raised and repaired by the crew so that we could go to Casablanca and load cargo for Newcastle in England. The Germans were very strong with their U-boats at that time so we had to go way south before we could continue in the convoy north to England. Naturally we were constantly attacked by the U-boats and quite a few of the 100 ships were lost. We eventually managed to get through the Pendtland Straits and on to Newcastle. I was on board the S/S Nyhorn for a year. She continued in convoy routes on the Atlantic and came through the war unharmed.

I found this picture of the airfield at Port Lyautey with the Sebou river around it (this is linked to the website US Army Campaigns of WW II). I think this must have been where my father worked for a while. Nyhorn had probably been sunk (scuttled) in Sebou River during the allied invasion.

I left the Nyhorn after having been requested to apply to the Radio Officer's School, as there was a great shortage of radio officers in the Merchant Fleet. I then had a stay in London that I will never forget. This was not exactly a rest home for strained nerves. We were bombed twice a day. 100 planes took part in each attack which lasted up to two hours. The attacks usually started at 2100 hrs. and lasted till 2300 hrs. Then we had some peace while it was burning everywhere, until the attacks started again about 0400 hrs. and lasted till 0600 hrs. This was the normal routine until the V 1 missiles were put into use in June. These were un-piloted planes with an explosive charge of 1000 kg. It was, as you know the fuel supply which determined when the plane would fall. So, the air raid warning started in the month of June and this alarm never stopped, as these devices ran more often than the busses. At the Radio Officer's School the classes were taught in a basement, and I remember the teacher often having to hold the blackboard still while writing on it. We spent the nights in a bomb proof shelter for three months. Still, I got a fragment in one of my thighs, but it was removed by a female first aid nurse. During my time in London I survived about 500 air raids, and each raid lasted about two hours. This was in addition to what we had to endure when the V 1 bombs were put into use. And later came the V 2 bombs, weighing 15000 kg. They were quite easy to deal with because they travelled faster than sound, and after you're dead the noise from them isn't too much of a nuisance. In the area were we lived 80% of the houses were completely destroyed, and it wasn't rare for us to be out during the nights to help carry survivors and the dead.

After I had finished school I signed on the M/T Thorshov of Sandefjord. She was equipped with what is called "flight decks" so that we could carry 10 fully mounted air planes on each side of the ship. In the middle we had about 100 depth charges, and on starboard an extra hurricane bridge where we had an oil hose. All this has to do with the fact that we replenished the escort vessels in the convoys, and supplied them with mines, so that we could keep up the normal convoy speed at all times. This took place in the Atlantic, and later in the Mediterranean after the invasion of Italy.

There were two Norwegian and one English radio officer on board this vessel. On the night leading up to the 8th of May, 1945 we were on our way to America after having unloaded petrol in Liverpool (this must have been when they were in Convoy ON 301, which left Southend on May 6-1945 and arrived New York the 22nd. This convoy will be added to an individual page on this website; in the meantime, the ships sailing in it are named in the section listing ships in all ON convoys - as will be seen in that section, she also sailed in several other ON convoys). We were in about the same position as the passenger ship Athenia had been when she was sunk by a German U-boat on the 3rd of September, 1939. At that time I was on board the S/S Nidarland, and we went to assist her. Anyway, 6 years later I happened to be in just about the same position, and in the course of those 6 years I had taken note of a few disturbances, which I have now briefly told you about.

Well, we arrived back in England again, and I tried to arrange for someone to replace me. The other Norwegian radio operator was on sick leave. The Englishman was of no use because of the secretarial work required. I was the head officer, we were still required to do national service, and the ships that were still afloat were of great importance, so I had to stay on board. We eventually went to the Antarctic Ocean with oil to the whale oil factories, and returned with much needed oil from them. I paid off the M/T Thorshov in Rotterdam on May 13, 1946 after 19 months on board (see Welcome Home Tribute).

With regard to my health condition, I have mentioned that I suffered from Typhus, Malaria, Dysentery and Diphtheria. Ever since I had this Diphtheria I have been bothered with asthma. The Malaria attacks have also troubled me now and again, but the worst thing by far has been the Polyneurotitis, with constant cramps in my thighs and legs. After I came home in May of 1946 I was admitted to Levanger Hospital. Dr. Kilnes at that hospital wanted to start treating me for these cramps but for financial reasons I had to get back to work, which I also did.

For the seamen the war was not over on the 8th of May, 1945. On the M/S Titanian, which I signed on in the fall of 1946 I got proof of just that. We went straight into a magnetic mine field. The ship broke almost in two, but after 3 days we managed to get ashore, after having been picked up by a Dutch trawler. This happened on Palm Sunday, 1947 (follow the link to my page about Titanian for more details on this).

The above mentioned Polyneurotitis has bothered me the whole time, and in numerous harbours I have consulted doctors to get tablets to ease the ailment. Only once have I been on sick leave. That was in August of 1957. At that time I was admitted to the hospital in Sarpsborg and had to have a small operation. Dr. Holst, who treated me also wanted to take a closer look at these leg cramps, but I was unable to stay for financial reasons. In September of 1972 I was again admitted to Sarpsborg Hospital, and at that time large doses of Vitamin B were recommended. I improved somewhat, but was again admitted in January of 1974. At that time I was given 35 large injections of Vitamin B, and after my release I was encouraged to take large doses of B tablets daily. Without this treatment and these daily tablets I wouldn't have been able to keep myself upright. Still, every night I have attacks of cramps, but by jumping out of bed and standing up I'm able to prevent a serious attack. You live and learn. I'll probably never get rid of these problems which started in the prison camps of North Africa.

When I applied for a Seamen's Pension in 1978 I thought it was the same as War Pension. In my application I mentioned this Polyneurotitis. I had been abroad for 13 years, from 1963 to 1976, and had no idea that I was supposed to use special forms to apply for a War Pension. I've become aware of that only recently.

Permit me to remind you that the survivors from Alexander Kielland (an oil rig which exploded and sank in The North Sea around this time) who experienced one bang, are almost considered to be nervous wrecks. What about me then, who have experienced close to a thousand bangs? As you know the Germa Lionel was kept in Libya for about a month. I was in captivity for 16 months. The crew of Germa Lionel is, as far as I understand entitled to share millions as compensation. For my 16 months in the prison camps I was paid, through the Norwegian State, by the German friendly regime in France, a compensation of I-say-and-write onekroneandfortysevenøre (N. Kr. 1.47) per day. Therefore, I take the liberty of applying for a War Pension, 40 years after the liberation.


I have received the following E-mail from the son of an American soldier named Melvin Berkman (Air Force - see also this message in my Guestbook):
On November 8, 1942 he and his shipmates landed at Port Lyautey. On Wednesday, November 25,1942 he writes to his diary...
"Supplement to Wednesday
I must tell you about the 75 Norwegians that came in here last night. They had been kept in a concentration camp by the Vichy French for 15 months. Most of them were seamen ranging from 19 to 60 years in age. They were working for a Norwegian steamship company with offices in Port Lyautey and carried supplies back and forth between here and Norway. Boats and personnel were siezed by the French and Germans and they were thrown into camps. They claim that 4 Americans who were employed as seamen were shot instead of being taken prisoners or released. The Norwegian government supposedly made a deal where part of their money was to go to their families and the rest given them by the French, but only 50% of what they were to get did they ever receive and this had to be automatically expended for provisions and maintenance which were scant. They could get no medical attention and all were treated very badly. They are now guests of our Navy which is feeding and housing them and they are again to ply their ships along the routes of supply. They hate the French as intensely as they hate the Hun and consider us as their friends and liberators. Several of them speak good English and have spent some time in our country."

List of Odd's letters

For background history, go to
Odd Conrad Holm and the group of links at the end of this page.

Shipmates I have found

External links related to the text in this letter:
HMS Cossack
The Sinking of SS Athenia

For your information, the Australian War Memorial has several photos of V 1 and V 2 bombs - they can can be found through the collections search page of the site, using the appropriate keywords. One picture has the caption: A sectional drawing of a German V-1 Flying bomb, another has the caption: A sectionalised drawing showing the component parts of a German V-2 rocket (also designated A-4), and a third has the caption: Belgium. 1944-12. The first picture of the German V2 Flying Bomb which fell in Belgium.

This one describes the V-1 extensively, and has lots of pictures:
Fi-103/V-1 "Buzz Bomb"

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