Site Map | Search |Merchant Fleet Main Page | Home 

M/S Vinni's capture / Crew list / Picture | Time spent on Komet | Stranded on Emirau | Picture Links

See also
Enemy attack on shipping at Nauru

MORE FACTS ON KOMET: HSK VII SCHIFF 45 was formerly the Ems of Norddeutschen Lloyd, built in Bremen in 1937, 3287 gt., the smallest of the auxiliary cruisers. She had a top speed of 14.5 knots and went out in July-1940 under the command of Robert Eyssen. In order to reach the Pacific she proceeded through the northeast passage, with the help of Russian ice pilots and icebreakers. She returned to Germany at the end of Nov. 1941 and departed for a second cruise on Oct. 6-1942 but was sunk with all hands (351) on the 14th by British naval forces (H.M.S. MTB 236) in the English Channel. Vinni was the only Norwegian ship captured by Komet.

Six 5.9 inch, one 60 mm, one twin 37 mm, four 20 mm, four twin torpedo tubes (above water), two single torpedo tubes (submerged), 30 mines, one motor mine-laying launch. One Arado 196 aircraft.

Ships sunk or taken by Komet (in chronological order):

July 3-1940/Nov. 30-1941:
Holmwood, Vinni, Komata, Australind, Kota Nopan, Devon.

Together with Orion:
Triona and Rangitane.

Related external links:
Komet - Ship 45 - "Mac's Web Log" website, with a lot of information on the travels of this ship (and all the other German raiders as well).

Map showing Komet's cruise - (On the website Arsenal of Dictatorship, which also has a section about the German raiders).

The "Komet" Raider - Quite a bit of info, Vinni is also mentioned here. (The main page has links to many interesting stories).

Komet HSK 7 - From the website Schiffsregister der Kriegsmarine.

German Raiders in the Pacific - Includes many pictures (keep clicking on "next section" at the bottom of the page). From New Zealand Electronic Text Centre. Here's a table of contents.

A sailor from Australind - The story of a prisoner on Komet.

RMS Rangitane - A website about the sinking of this ship. Includes a crew and passenger list.

Picture of Rangitane - This can be found on The New Zealand Ship & Marine Society Inc. website, on the page that lists the New Zealand Shipping Co.'s vessels.

M/S Vinni

Owner: A/S Eidsiva & Skibs-A/S Nordheim
Manager: Sverre Ditlev-Simonsen & Co., Oslo
Tonnage: 5181 gt, 9140 tdwt, 13.5 knots
Call Sign: LJMB

Captain: Helmer Henriksen.

On charter to British Phosphate Commissioners.

Cick on the link to Vinni in the box above to go to that ship on the Ships starting with V page. Her voyages prior to capture are listed on this original document received from the National Archives of Norway.

Pictures received from Karl H. Henriksen, the grandson of Captain Henriksen.

Vinni had departed Dunedin, New Zealand in ballast on Nov. 21-1940, arriving Nauru on Saturday the 30th, but it was too late in the day to start taking on board phosphate cargo, and due to strong winds the next day she was ordered to head out again (apparently, there was no harbour at Nauru). She went back to the signal station on the island every morning and evening to see if there were any further orders, but the weather continued to be unfavourable for loading. By the afternoon of Saturday Dec. 7 she had drifted about 15 n. miles away from the island, and had started to head back when the people on board noticed a cargo ship with the Japanese flag on the side approaching from the west side of Nauru. Vinni was at that time about 3 miles northeast of the island and had stopped her engines again, preparing to stay there through the night. When it became clear that the ship with the Japanese neutrality markings was not on a friendly errand, Vinni attempted to get away at full speed, but to no avail, the "Japanese" vessel eventually caught up with them. A prize crew was placed on board (at about 19:15) and Vinni's men were ordered to gather up their belongings as quickly as possible, abandon ship and row towards Komet which for the occasion carried the name Manyo Maru, where they were locked up and placed under guard. Vinni was sunk by explosives at 10 o'clock that evening, about 6 n. miles northeast (northwest?) of Nauru (another source, "The World's Merchant Fleets", Roger W. Jordan says 5 miles south of Nauru, while "Nortaships flåte" gives the position as 00 41S 16 55E).

No shots had been fired, so all 32 had survived and were prisoners on board Komet for 2 weeks, until they were left on Emirau Island on Dec. 21, along with almost 500* other prisoners from 6 ships, women and children included. The other ships were the British Rangitane (sunk by Komet and Orion Nov. 27, the largest ship to be sunk by a German raider), Komata (by Komet, Dec. 7), Triaster (Orion, Dec. 8), Triadic (Orion, Dec. 8), Triona (by Komet and Orion Dec. 8?), and Holmwood (Komet, Nov. 25). When the mainland was made aware of the incident it quickly became widespread news. Mr. Fraser, New Zealand's Prime Minister at the time reported it himself as early as Jan. 1-1941, soon after Vinni's 1st Mate A. Jensen, and some officers from the other ships had managed to get in touch with the mainland (more on this further down on this page). Even Oslo newspapers carried the news on Jan. 2. The Australian Naval authorities sent the passenger ship S/S Nellore to their rescue. They arrived in Townsville on Jan. 1-1941.

*According to August Karl Muggenthaler's "German Raiders of WW II" 675 prisoners were to be landed; 153 from Komet, 265 from Orion and 257 from Kulmerland. Another statement says 343 Europeans and 171 natives were in fact landed, 150 being retained on Orion by Weyher "for security reasons" (numbers don't add up).

I have a book containing a copy of the Oslo newspaper Aftenposten, dated Thursday, Jan. 2-1941, which says:
500 Sailors from sunken ships put ashore on island.
London Jan. 1 - According to Reuter's, New Zealand's Prime Minister Fraser has announced that an enemy raider has landed the passengers and crew of 7 ships on the island Emirau in the Bismarck Archipelago. From what we have been told they are from the following ships: Rangitane of 16,712 gt, Holmwood, Triona, Vinni, Triadic of 6032 gt, Komata of 3800 gt and the Merchant ship Triaster. It is believed that the survivors from another 3 ships, Turakina, Notou and Ringwood are still on board the raider. Out of these 10 ships 7 were British, 1 French and 2 Norwegian. This announcement was today confirmed by official British sources at Shanghai. The number of people landed on Emirau amounts to 500. The Norwegian ships are Ringwood and Komata
(NOTE: this info is incorrect, Komata was British, 3900 gt., sunk on the same date as Vinni).

Ringwood's crew was indeed still on the Orion at the time (follow link for a list of Ringwood's crew). Unlike his colleague on the Komet, Weyher, the commander of Orion had refused to land his white prisoners at Emirau, and only agreed to let go of the ones referred to as "people of colour". I found some additional info on this in an article in "Krigsseileren", Issue No. 4/1977, written by Asbjørn Worseth from Ringwood. He describes the intense disappointment when they had to stay on board the raider, while women, "coloured people" and crews of many nations, even some British officers were landed at Emirau. Ringwood's crew was later placed on the German Merchant ship Ermland, which from Japan went to Bordeaux, via Cape Horn. She also had prisoners from a number of other ships on board. Ermland reached France on Apr. 3-1941, and by May the Norwegians from Ringwood were back in Norway. There had also been a Russian on board, I'm unable to establish what happened to him.

Related external link:
The Australian War Memorial has a picture of Vinni's captain. The picture has the caption: Emirau Island. 1940-12. The captain of the Norwegian merchant vessel Vinni with captain Upton of the British vessel Rangitane, both of whose ships were sunk by German raiders Komet and Orion in the Pacific, on board the Australian steamer Nellore. They, with passengers and crew from their own and other ships, had been cast away on Emirau Island in the Bismarck Archipelago whence the Nellore had rescued all 496 of them.

A long list of other pictures can be found at the bottom of this page.

Crew List - No Casualties:

(Received from the captain's grandson - The list is dated Sydney Jan. 17-1941 and signed H. Henriksen).

Karl Helmer Henriksen
1st Mate/Radio Operator
Aslak Jensen
2nd Mate
Ole Olsen
3rd Mate
Hans Karlsen
Hans Chr. Hansen
Hans Arntzen
Able Seaman
Gunnar Jacobsen
Able Seaman
Asbjørn Bangor
Able Seaman
Finn Stensvik
Ordinary Seaman
Herolf Johnsen
Ordinary Seaman
Oddvar Klaussen
Ordinary Seaman
Kaare Bjerknes
Ordinary Seaman
Ola Wilhelm Olsen
Deck Boy
Ragnar Svendsen
Deck Boy
Kaare Jacobsen
1st Engineer
Ole Oftedal
2nd Engineer
Lars Nilsen
3rd Engineer
Einar Enger
Arnold Kristoffersen
Klaus Wiborg
Anker Henriksen
Walter Aage Becker
Rolf Johannesen
Erling Henriksen
Odd Christiansen
Engine Boy
Rolf Lindgren
(Age 16)
Engine Boy
Reinhard Karlsen
John Bakken
Rolf Erling Westin
Galley Boy
Odne Johansen
Mess Boy
Håkon Halvorsen
Saloon Boy
Andreas Strand
* See this Guestbook message from the cook's daughter

The picture on the left shows Boatswain Hans Arntzen and Able Seaman Finn Stensvik on Vinni shortly before she was sunk, and on the right is Finn Stensvik. These pictures, and the 2 below, were received from the captain's grandson, Karl H. Henriksen, who in turn got them from Finn Stensvik's son Svein. Finn Stensvik, who is "still going strong" at age 87 (Aug. 2005 - contact address can be provided) has identified the men in the pictures as far as he remembers them. His son says that his father and Aslak Jensen were the "entrepreneurs" for the straw hut visible in the second picture. It was constructed of palm leaves and wire. It is believed the photoes were taken by Gunnar Jacobsen's camera and the film taken care of by Aslak Jensen, who had it developed in Australia, with copies given to all those who were in the pictures. Those of the crew who are not present, were taking care of their luggage etc. at the time.

Standing in back row, from left:
2nd Engineer Lars Nilsen, with 3 unknown's next to him. The guy with the white hat (No. 2) looks like Carpenter Hans Hansen in the picture below. The dark skinned man is probably one of the locals. I've been contacted by Oddvar Klaussen's daughter who has told me that her father is the tall man (6ft 4in) standing in the back, 4th from the left, whose face is barely visible. She has also recognized him in one of the pictures on The Australian War Memorial website which I've linked to at the bottom of this page. The fellow in the white singlet is Hans Arntzen, the names of the 2 whose heads are peeping out are unknown, except the one in the back who has been given the nickname "Tulla", then comes Able Seaman Asbjørn Bangor (with a scarf on his head), 2 unknown's (barely visible), Motorman Anker Henriksen (white singlet), then Steward John Bakken, 1st engineer Ole Oftedal, Captain Henriksen (with suspenders), 3rd Mate Hans Karlsen and 1st Mate Aslak Jensen.

Sitting in front row, from left:
The first 2 are unknown, but to me, the first one looks like the young man named Deck Boy Kaare "Popeye" Jacobsen in the picture below, and No. 2 looks like Mess Boy Håkon Halvorsen. Seated in front is Finn Stensvik. Able Seaman Gunnar Jacobsen, seated fourth from the left, who also settled in Australia has been identified by his son. Additionally, the son of Andreas Strand, has contacted me through my guestbook saying he thinks his father is the one sitting on the ground with what appears to be a coconut in front of his face. Andreas Strand is still alive and currently residing in Westchester, New York (see also this Guestbook message). Seated behind him to the right is Mess Boy Rolf Lindgren, the other 3 in the front row are Ordinary Seaman Ola W. Olsen, Oiler Rolf Johansen(?) and Deck Boy Ragnar Svendsen (nicknamed "Svarten", which means Blackie).

Standing in back row, from left:
3rd Mate Hans Karlsen, 2nd Engineer Lars Nilsen, Able Seaman Asbjørn Bangor, Ordinary Seaman Oddvar Klausen, Captain Helmer Henriksen, 3rd Engineer Einar Enger, Boatswain Hans Arntzen, Ordinary Seaman Kåre Bjerknes, Steward John Bakken, 1st Engineer Ole Oftedal, Engine Boy Rolf Lindgren, 1st Mate Aslak Jensen.

Sitting in front row, from left:
Deck Boy Ragnar Svendsen, Mess Boy Håkon Halvorsen, lying in front of him is Deck Boy Kaare "Popeye" Jacobsen, then behind these 2 is Motorman Anker Henriksen, with the head of Motorman Klaus Wiberg visible in front of him (to me, he looks more like the steward in pic above, judging from his hat). Sitting in front of him is one of the locals, next to him is the fellow nicknamed "Tulla", then Saloon Boy Andreas Strand, Ordinary Seaman Ola Wilhelm Olsen, Carpenter Hans Hansen, behind him is Galley Boy Odne Johansen, then in front Able Seaman Finn Stensvik, Able Seaman Gunnar Jacobsen and Oiler Rolf Johansen.

Related external links:
Another picture of survivors in front of a palm hut (Australian War Memorial)
Large group

More pictures from the island are available via the external links provided at the end of this page.

Oddvar Klaussen's daughter says her father was 21 years old in 1940, settled in Australia and never went back to Norway again in the 46 years he lived there. He died in 1986. She adds:
"My father was the eldest of 5 from Bø in Vesterålen. When war broke out he did what he thought was best and joined the merchant marine as this would mean one less mouth to feed for his family (his real dream was to become a teacher) he was extremely gifted artistically. I could never get him to talk about his time during the war, and your home page has helped me understand what happened. Thank you, I only wish my father was alive to read this web site and that he knew his time during the war was not forgotten."
This was the circumstances for so many of the Norwegian seamen; they went to sea in order to ease the economical situation at home, never realizing it would change their lives forever.

I also found the following text along with a picture and an article in the Norwegian magazine "Krigsseileren, Issue No. 2 for 1973:
"Hans Karlsen, Erling Henriksen, Hans Arntsen, Arnold Kristoffersen, Anker Henriksen, Klaus Wiborg, Finn Stensvik, Erling Westin (all from Hvaler), Eivind Enger (Indre Østfold) and the man nicknamed "Popeye" from Stavanger. 5 more men are pictured, but names forgotten. This picture is also taken on Emirau, in front of a palm hut, and appears to be of a different group of people than those shown in the photos above. I'm not sure whether there might be a copyright on it, so therefore I haven't added it here. The article that goes with it is based on an interview with Klaus Wiborg, and the picture might also belong to him.

 Captain Karl Helmer Henriksen's report on life on board Komet: 
(translated from Norwegian, info from "19 Oslo-skips historie under verdenskrigen, fra April 1940 til krigens slutt i 1945" (The Story of 19 Oslo ships during the World War, from April 1940 until the End of the War in 1945").

"There were 165 of us beneath No. 1 hatch on the raider which was 7500 dwt and was a combined passenger/cargo ship. The 'tweendeck was divided into 3 rooms, while the lower one was divided into only 2 rooms. One of the rooms in the 'tweendeck was referred to as the "ladies' cabin", and was as far as we could see meant for ladies. It was separated from the other rooms and had its own toilet and two washbasins. The room was 10 X 14 ft and had 2 double beds, and 2 cupboards for food, so there wasn't much floor space left. However, the "cabin" had a table and 2 benches, all of which could be folded and stored under the ceiling when not in use. In this cabin there were 13 men altogether, 5 captains, 1 doctor, who was 67 years old, 2 mates and 5 engineers. 8 slept in the double beds, 3 lentghtwise on the floor, a 4th across by the feet of those 3, while the 13th had to place himself diagonally, out through the door. "Navigating" through all these bodies wasn't easy if someone needed to get up during the night.

The other 4 rooms held the deck and engine people, as well as numerous passengers from a large passenger vessel, mainly pilots and pilot apprentices, as well as some Polish refugees. There were only men on the raider we were on, all the women on ships that had been sunk earlier had been transferred to another, larger raider, where they were allowed to live amidships and had daylight, which we didn't have. From the deck we entered our "cabin" by way of a narrow, steep stairway. 2 fairly fat people couldn't pass eachother on the stairs. On the deck side it was equipped with a strong steel door which was kept closed with the help of 3 or 4 strong steel bars with padlocks on them. There were no guards in the room, but on deck there were armed guards. We had no portholes, so that we saw no daylight. The air was circulated with the help of fans, and once we got used to it we found it to be fairly good, but those who had been prisoners the longest were starting to get a prison color in their faces, that is, on what could be seen of them, as most had quite long beards towards the end.

Each man was given a singlet, a pair of shorts, a small towel, a piece of soap, a toothbrush and toothpaste. The singlet wasn't used as it was hot in the room. We were very close to the Equator, and everyone walked around bare-chested. On the 'tweendeck there were a dozen washbasins, meaning that several of us used the same basin, but we weren't too particular, and besides we had to be careful with the water which was given to us 3 times a day. Some of that had to be set aside for drinking water. The food was simple, but as far as I could see very nourishing. In the beginning there was a lack of utensils. 13 of us had to share 4 coffee mugs, and we couldn't be too particular about that either. There was never a question of discarding anything even though the "coffee" was more like water. Also, several men had to use the same forks, knives and spoons at each meal. The "mess superintendent" was the luckiest, he got to eat from the ladle. The doctor, our fellow passenger declared everything very sanitary and that made us feel better, and we didn't come down with any deseases. Breakfast was at 7 in the morning and consisted of dark bread, on which we used margarin one day, unsalted lard the next. This lasted us all day as it got stuck in our mouths. Every now and again we got syrup for our bread and that tasted good, because we never got any sugar, nor did we see any milk, salt, pepper, potatoes or vegetables of any kind. Dinner at 12:30 consisted of some kind of soup with preserved potatoes and some kind of meat, mostly lamb. Everything was willingly consumed, and nobody complained about the food; there was simply nobody to complain to.

From 1 o'clock until 1:30 we were allowed on deck, but only on and around No. 1 hatch, and at that time the stairway down to our "cabin" was crowded with people wanting to get on deck as quickly as possible. The entrances to the middle of the ship were watched by armed guards on both sides, but everything took place in good order, and we never saw anything to complain about as far as behaviour of the guards or the German officers.

Tea was at 6 o'clock, and at that time we got a little extra, either something canned, or a piece of sausage. The food was fetched in the galley by crew, as none of the imprisoned officers were allowed on the foredeck, so they could not go and get the food. But the fellows who went to get the food were told to pay particular attention to where the sun came up, which direction the wind was coming from, and to guess what speed the ship was doing. Based on these reports we navigators tried to figure out where we were, as some of us had rescued our watches, which had not been set since we left our own ships, but the bad part was that the Germans didn't seem too particular about giving us our meals at the same times, so many a different position was calculated in the "ladies' cabin".

During meals the Germans played music over the loudspeakers, mostly marches, most probably to chew by so that the food would taste better. There were 4 loudspeakers down in the room, which also sent news in English. It was claimed they were true news, in other words not news from BBC. Also, in the evenings we got a paper called "Radio News for prisoners". At about 8 in the evening one of the passengers would give a bible sermon in one of the rooms, which started with one of the well known English psalms, which everyone knew. After that some chapter or other from the bible was read and elaborated on, then a prayer was said, and finally another psalm which everyone knew was sung. Nothing was ever said about enemies or anything like that during these sessions, but the prayer was basically geared towards asking that the thoughts of the ruling powers would be turned in a better direction, so that one could hopefully meet loved ones at home again soon. The speaker used to stand on a pile of hammocks, barefoot and in shorts, nothing else. Additionally he would be dirty and unshaven, and the same goes for the congregation, so you automatically got the impression of being back in one of the areas described so often during the missionary times in the old days. Without a doubt we would have made a good photo for one of those articles.

We were also allowed on deck for a while between 5:30 and 6, but after that we had to be downstairs until 1 o'clock the next day. The air in the room was accordingly, rather thick. And it was terribly hot down there, we were pouring with sweat, even when being quite still. From one of the sunken ships the Germans had taken a lot of books, which were sent down to us. They went from hand to hand. Other than that we spent our time playing cards and telling stories; there was always someone with a story to tell. The "galley telegraph" provided a nice change and that started early on. The most incredible rumours were sent out about where we were and where we were going. Someone had spoken to one of the guards and heard this and that, another had heard from the cook that this is how it was; many rumours had to be sorted out. But what we feared the most was meeting an allied war ship; that would have meant drowning like rats in a trap. One night the alarm went 4 times, and we all got up, that's the only thing we could do.

While we were on board we attacked 2 other vessels. Every time the gun was fired we were almost knocked down, and we all stood there and waited for the reply from the other vessel, but luckily for us none came. Unfortunately it didn't always take place without loss of life, and many were wounded as well. One of the officers taken prisoner died and he was buried after dark one night. The captain of the sunken ship was ordered to perform the burial ceremony, and when he and 4 of his crew went to do this, he was clad in a torn and bloody shirt and pants that were in no better shape, with nothing on his feet. His 4 helpers weren't much better off.

One day we noticed that the Germans did some strange things. We also felt a bump in the starboard side of the ship. When we came up on deck for our "airing" we found we were next to a raider that was twice as big, being replenished with oil. On our port side we had 12 small islands, on our starboard side a little further away 6 islands, and about 6 miles behind us a large island. The other raider appeared to have twice as many prisoners as we did, and there were also women on board. On our ship there were many who knew the women on the other raider, and a continuous waving between the vessels ensued. It would be a lie to say that the women were dressed in the latest fashions, and it was obvious that many hadn't been able to take as good care of themselves as they may have liked to. There was even a touch of a beard on the double chins of some of the elder women, though those double chins had probably shrunk considerably, as many of them weighed themselves once we had landed and found to have lost about 14 pounds. So there's no doubt our menu had a slimming effect. Recipe hereby given free of charge.

Everything has an end, so also our imprisonment on the German raider. One day I and 495 other prisoners were landed on a small island, like a bunch of Robinson's; on Emirau Island in the Bismark group. Before we were landed we all had to sign a document* that said: "We the undersigned do hereby give our word of honour and declare solemnly that on our release we will bear neither arms nor undertake military actions gainst Germany and her allies during the present hostilities. By breach of this promise we realize we are liable to capital punishment". Underneath this declaration was the title, names, date and year of birth and address, then the signatures of everyone from Vinni. At the end it said 'Im Auftrage des Kommandes, Eggert Oberleutnant S.'"

This report is signed Helmer Henriksen.

*I have a copy of this document, received from the wife of 3rd Mate's Hans Karlsen's grandson - it's dated Sydney, Jan. 14-1941, is signed by the captain, and says "the following had to be signed by Hans Karlsen before being freed from enemy raider".

During a conference that the captains of the various captured ships had with the commander of the raider, the Norwegian captain requested that the latter give him a written, signed statement that he had sunk the Norwegian ship. Fortunately the request was taken in good humour, and a "receipt" was given. After the war was over the original was sent from Sverre Ditlev-Simonsen (shipping company) to the Maritime Museum in Oslo as a gift.

 Stranded on Emirau: 

As mentioned, the prisoners had spent about 2 weeks on Komet before being landed on Emirau Island on Dec. 21. The Orion had also arrived at the same time, and a total of 496 people came ashore that day. In addition to the 165 prisoners from Komet, 32 of whom were from Vinni, there were prisoners from the British ships Rangitane, Komata, Triaster, Triadic, Triona, and Holmwood, among them 8 or 9 children, 65 women and 110 Chinese and Phillippinos. Embarkation took place under strict guard, with armed soldiers keeping an eye on them until they had entered the woods on the island, and with German reconnaissance aircraft circling above. At that point one of the Norwegian prisoners turned to a German officer and asked very politely if he could give him directions to the nearest store. The officer replied quickly, almost like a British policeman, "You go right ahead two blocks, Sir, then turn to your left and take the right hand turning on the left-hand side, Sir, and you will be right there. You cannot miss it, Sir".

On the island there were two white men and their wives, managing a coconut plantation, and a number of natives. The island was about 10 miles wide, and they were landed on the south end, while the plantation they were going to was on the north end, so a long walk was ahead of them. The weakest ones among them took 10 hours to get there, others reached their destination in 4 hours. On the night of arrival they were too exhausted from their march to do anything, but the next morning they set to work making huts out of palm leaves. They were divided into groups according to who had already made friends with eachother on the raiders, and therefore the huts took on various shapes, forms and characteristics. The author of this particular story (unknown, one of the men from Vinni) reckoned "Camp Polska" and "Camp Norway" were the best looking ones of them and also the biggest. They were very much bothered by mosquitoes, and also found it rather unnerving to wake up from large, cold lizards crawling across their bodies at night. In an effort to keep the mosquitoes at bay they would have fires burning all through the night, which necessitated "fire duty" in order to prevent a forest fire.

The native population consisted of about 200 people (converted to methodists by an active missionary, their ancestors had been headhunters), who were very helpful to the newcomers. The first thing they needed was water. The natives taught them how to dig wells 8-10 meters from the beach. By the time the water had filtered through the sand it was quite drinkable, though not great. There was no soap, and they would take baths down by the beach. Since all of them had "forgotten their bathing suits at home" men and women had to take turns, keeping watch for eachother all the while. The managers of the plantation let them help themselves to whatever they could find on the island in the way of food. There were several cows, some of which they slaughtered (see link to picture below), though the Germans had already taken 3 of them previously, and had also shot and injured some, so those were used first. Quite a few semi wild swine were also available, which the natives killed with spears. No vegetables were to be had, but plenty of coconuts, papayas and bananas. There was no flour so they didn't have bread until they were rescued off the island.

With regard to meals, those who had their stewards and cooks on their teams naturally had an easier time of it than those who didn't. Everyone took part in the preparations for Christmas to make it as festive as possible, and though the food wasn't the fanciest, and their attire not of the latest fashion they kept in good spirits. Instead of a Christmas tree, they had a Christmas bonfire, and since several of them were good singers, "Camp Norway" drew a large crowd around the bonfire on Christmas Eve (which Norwegians celebrate). On Christmas morning there was carolling by the English, with a priest, Father Kelly, as the lead singer. The ladies, primarily nurses, had formed a good choir which received a lot of genuine applause.

When the prisoners were landed the Germans had extracted a promise from them not to try and contact the outside world for 48 hours after the raiders had departed. In return they were promised a boat with some oars to get to a neighbouring island where it was possible to get in contact with the mainland via radio. This was a lighthouse about 75 n. miles away. The boat proved useless, but Emirau had a large motorboat belonging to a missionary institution, and this boat had been sent to another island the night before they arrived, which was probably a good thing as they assumed it would have been taken had the Germans known about it. 8 natives were sent in a canoe to this island about 30 n. miles away to get the boat, and exactly 48 hours after the landings, on Dec. 23 the 1st mate from the British ship M/S Rangitane, and the 1st Mate from Vinni, Aslak Jensen were on their way to Kavieng, arriving the next morning to notify the authorities at Raboul and Port Moresby by radio. On Dec. 25 a plane arrived Emirau, bringing a doctor and medicines. That evening more help arrived in the form of food and clothing sent by the Red Cross, and the following day two schooners, Shamrock and Lionell arrived to take those who had been injured, as well as some women and children and some male passengers to the mainland, from where they were picked up by the passenger vessel Nellore. Most of those who left had their coconut cups and other homemade "utensils" with them, and were seen wearing those around their necks later when they got to Australia.

On Dec. 27 the passenger ship picked up the rest of the stranded people. A British naval captain gave a thank you speech before they left, and ordered 3 X 3 hurrah's for the two plantation owners and the natives. Once aboard the passenger ship they were amazed at seeing a menu for the first time in a very long time. When it was placed in front of them they ordered everything on it for the first 3 meals, without even checking what was offered first. Nellore arrived Raboul on Dec. 28, and departed that same afternoon for Townsville, Queensland. They arrived Australia on the afternoon of Jan. 1 and were immediately sent by special train to Sydney, a trip which took 3 days. All along the route Red Cross representatives waited at the stations with food etc., no matter what time of night it was. Several of the Norwegians had to go to a hospital when they got to Sydney, having developed symptoms of malaria and other diseases, but first they enjoyed an overwhelming reception.

Those who were admitted to hospital were: Ole Oftedahl, Lars Nilsen, Arnold Kristoffersen, Anker Henriksen, Odd Christiansen, Hans C. Hansen, Hans Arntzen, and Herolf Johnsen.

Meanwhile, Vinni's 1st Mate, A. Jensen was extensively questiond by the naval authorities at Kavieng on Dec. 25. He departed the following morning by means of a "military aircraft", arriving Port Moresby that evening, along with 6 officers from the other captured ships. After more questioning they continued to Townsville the next morning. On the evening of Dec. 28 they arrived Melbourne, where Vinni's 1st Mate got in touch with the ship's agents, as well as the charterers, British Phosphate Commissioners, who also wanted a report on what had happened. For another two days the officers had to answer questions, whereupon A. Jensen got in touch with the Norwegian consul in Melbourne to give him all the necessary information, then on Wednesday Jan. 1-1941 he left Melbourne for Sydney.

The hearings were held in Sydney on Jan 13-1941 with Capt. Henriksen, Aslak Jensen, Finn Stensvig, Ola W. Olsen (helmsman at the time of capture), Einar Enger and Lars Nilsen appearing.

 Copy of a letter written by Helmer Henriksen: 
received from Captain Henriksen's grandson, translated from Norwegian (some of these dates conflict with the report above):

"Continuing from Emirau Island. Came on board S/S Nellore Dec. 28-1940. In Raboul Dec. 30 - Dec. 31-1940. Arrived Townsville Jan 2-41 and that same afternoon travelled by 2 large trains to Sydney, arriving "dinnertime" Jan. 5-41 (I believe this usually means around noon). Stayed at a hotel for about 2 weeks and then with Mr. Fogden in Compie - a small town 10 miles outside Sydney for 16 days. At the end of Jan. received orders by telegram from Nortraship, London to travel to Newyork or London, and to advise telegraphically which route I would choose. Obtained a passport for U.S.A. and departed Febr. 7-41 with S/S Monterey.
First landed at Auckland and was accompanied by Capt. Upton, Sir Albert Ellis and postmaster and wife and children from Chatham Island. During my stay in Auckland I was ordered to the detective bureau and was picked up by 2 detectives whom I already knew. Also saw to some items relating to the ship's interests with Mr. Scott (Veritas) and was at the office of British Phosphate Commissing where the reception was warm. From Auckland continued to Suva - Pago Pago (Samoa) Honolulu, San Pedro and Frisko where I arrived before noon Febr. 25-41. Departed that same afternoon with Santa Fe Railroad for Newyork via Chicago. Arrived Newyork March 1-41 after a very interesting voyage by steamship and train".

Helmer Henriksen was later captain on D/S Jan for a few months (Apr.-Sept.-1941), then joined D/S Havørn (Dec.-1941/Febr.-1942). He then worked at Pictou Shipyard, Nova Scotia before he went home, arriving Bergen on Aug. 22-1945. After the war he was on board Sverre Ditlev-Simonsen & Co.'s new M/S Vinni (Ex Nortraship's Leiv Eiriksson) from the end of Nov.-1946 until he retired in June-1947. Krigsmedaljen was received posthumously in Febr.-1981.

Some external picture links related to the text on this page:

What follows is a list of pictures that can be found by running a search through this external page on the Australian War Memorial website, using the appropriate search terms, for instance "Emirau" or names of the ships involved, with Second World War in the field for "Conflict" to narrow the search results. (I believe most of these people are from Rangitane).

German Raiders Komet (as Manyo Maru), Kulmerland (with striped funnel) and Orion off Emirau Island.
Emirau Island
A picture of Emirau Island
A view of the island from the sea
Another view of island
And another

A Group portrait - some of the survivors while still on the island.
Survivors on island
One of the survivors with a native baby, near a hut on the island.
2 survivors - still on the island.
Some men with carcasses of animals - This may be the cows mentioned in the text above.
2 men - 2 women - on the island.
Another pic of 2 woment, 2 men
3 men with a native child
4 men in front of a palm leaf hut
A young man - next to a palm leaf hut
Another group in front of a hut
Survivors in front of some houses
Two men drinking coconut juice - with some natives (bad quality).
A man squatting on the water's edge - cleaning shell fish.
2 men in a bay
3 men
A group of 13 men

On a small boat
Picture of Nellore - she was later sunk by U-181 in The Indian Ocean on June 29-1944 (Charles Hocking says she was torpedoed, shelled and sunk by a Japanese submarine on that date, giving the location as 400 miles east of the Chagos Archipelago, on a voyage Bombay-Sydney with passengers. 100 of her complement of 341 were lost).
5 survivors on board Nellore
12 surviviors on board the Nellore - sitting on the edge of a lifeboat. The man on the far right has been identified (by his daughter) as Ordinary Seaman Oddvar Klaussen.
Young man on the rescue ship
Some of the survivors - sitting amongst supplies on deck
7 survivors - looks like they're aboard Nellore (bad quality).
Large group - probably on the Nellore, some are women.
Close up of 8 survivors - probably on Nellore, all men.
More survivors on Nellore

Please note - there are several more pictures.

Back to M/S Vinni on the V-page

The text on this page was compiled with the help of various sources, including "Nortraships flåte", J. R. Hegland, "The Story of 19 Oslo ships during the World War, from April 1940 until the End of the War in 1945". Covers ships under Halfdan Ditlev-Simonsen & Co., O. Ditlev-Simonsen jr., Sverre Ditlev-Simonsen & Co., John P. Pedersen & Søn, Helmer Staubo & Co. Based on the diaries and logs of 19 ships. (Harald Nicolaisen - 1945), "German Raiders of World War II", August Karl Muggenthaler, "Krigsseileren", Issue No. 2 for 1973 and No. 4/1977, "Sjøforklaringer fra 2. verdenskrig", Norwegian Maritime Museum, Volume II (all listed in My sources), and documents sent to me by Captain Henriksen's grandson, Karl Henrik Henriksen.

 Site Map | Search |Merchant Fleet Main Page | Home