|Site Map | Search Warsailors.com |Merchant Fleet Main Page | Warsailors.com Home|
Updated May 10-2012
Received from George Robinson.
From Bjørn Milde's postcard collection
Another picture is available on this external page (click in it to enlarge).
Manager: Westfal-Larsen & Co. A/S, Bergen
Delivered in Jan.-1920 from N.V.C. van der Giessen & Zonen Scheepswerven, Krimpen, Holland.
Captain: Johan Edvard Grung.
Related item on this website:
Her voyages are listed on this original document received from the National Archives of Norway.
(Received from Don Kindell - His source: The late Arnold Hague's database).
Follow the convoy links provided for more information on each.
Errors may exist, and some voyages may be missing.
Received from D. Van Oord, who is researching this ship in an effort to establish if his father Gerrit Van Oord (Dutch) was on board at the time of sinking. It will be noticed that some of the dates here differ slightly from those given in the archive document; this could simply have to do with time zones:
The tip of one of her propeller blades was broken off on Jan. 16-1940, in the lock-pit of Alexandra Dock, Hull. The following month she had problems with ice while discharging coal in Drammen, Norway. According to the archive document, she arrived Baltimore from Narvik, Norway on Apr. 5-1940; war broke out in Norway on Apr. 9. As can be seen, she subsequently remained in Baltimore for over a month. On May 24* that same year she grounded when leaving port at Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island, but after having been refloated and the balance of her cargo of fertiliser had been unloaded, a survey found her to be seaworthy. That fall (Aug.-1940) she was held up in New York because of "crew trouble"**. Ravnanger eventually departed New York on Sept. 4 for Sydney, C.B., joining Convoy SC 5 on Sept. 18 (having been cancelled from Convoy SC 4, Sept. 10), cargo of iron and steel for Middlesbrough. She stopped at Clyde on Oct. 4, leaving Clyde again on Oct. 15 for Methil Roads, then proceeded to Middlesbrough, where she arrived Oct. 23.
Ravnanger was bombed and sunk by German aircraft (possibly He 115 of the 3./K. Fl. Gr. 906) on Nov. 11-1940, 1-1.5 miles northeast of No 20 Buoy, Tees Bay, when proceeding at half speed (in ballast) while awaiting a convoy to go back to Sydney, C.B.; she had left Middlesbrough the day before. The aircraft had a green light underneath and was first thought to be British when it passed over at around 00:25. But when it came back a second time a column of water was observed about 2-3 ship lengths off, and just as the aircraft passed over, an explosion occurred under Ravnanger's foreship, and she started to sink by the bow. (It was bright moonlight at the time). One of the lifeboats was caught and pulled under as the ship sank, but the 5 who had been in it were able to get onto rafts which drifted past. The 3rd engineer was last seen on his way to his cabin, and probably went down with the ship. 26 survived, listed by name further down on this page. As the motor lifeboat with the survivors headed for land the ship's bow was on the bottom while her stem was visible above water.
"S.S. Ravnanger departed Middlesbrough at 2.15 p.m. 10/11-1940 and continued to anchorage off the Fairway buoy, at a spot decided by Naval Control, and that also the pilot directed me to upon leaving the vessel at the breakwater. We anchored abt. 4 p.m., and received an order from the guardboat (examination vessel) to join convoy* at buoy no. 20 abt. 12 p.m. As the initial order had been for 10 p.m. we had already weighed anchor and were waiting, alternating between stop and slow ahead on engine. Continued to buoy no. 20 at 11 p.m. British day light saving time, and remained in vicinity of buoy no. 20 from 11.30 to 12.15 a.m. When no convoy could be observed, vessel was turned around abt. 12.30 a.m. in order to return at half speed to anchorage. At this time, an aircraft was heard closing in from seaside and passed astern of vessel. A greenish light was seen underneath the plane that cruised at about 200-300 ft altitude. The aircraft dropped a bomb or a mine in the sea 700-900 ft from vessel, and then made a turn back to sea. A bomb or mine exploded in the front part of the vessel and she immediately started to sink. All hands were summoned and ordered to the lifeboats.
The lifeboats were put out on both sides, but it was difficult to clear them from ship's side due to the fast increasing port list. As soon as I observed that the boats were ready to go on the water, I went from boat deck to midship deck with intention to go into saloon to pick up vessel's documents which had been prepared and put in my bag, but sea was already above the midship deck and I therefore returned to boatdeck and entered one of the lifeboats. Both lifeboats were launched, but just as the ship rapidly keeled over and started sinking very fast, port side lifeboat was hooked by the davit and was dragged under. Five men were in this boat, myself included, and we all fell in the water. We grabbed hold of two liferafts that came drifting by and dragged ourselves onto these. The liferafts drifted past the stern of the ship, and the poop was now the only visible part of the ship. We drifted over towards the motor lifeboat where the rest of the crew were, with the exception of the 3rd Engineer, Ole Karlsen, who was missing. We tried to enter the vessel to search for the missing person, but as the sea was very rough and the motorboat took on water, we had to give it up.
After a while the motor stopped, and we started rowing toward shore. After several attempts, we managed to start the motor again and we continued towards examination anchorage in order to find the guardboat and notify about the accident. We could not locate the guardboat in the dark, and we started for the mouth of the Tees, and we landed at the pilot station about 4.45 a.m. We disembarked at the pilot station, and a bus took us to the Seamen's Mission in Middlesbrough where we were given dry clothes and food. The motor lifeboat was left in the pilot station's custody, as was some of the wet clothings of the crew. None of the crew were able to save any of their personal belongings. The only injury was to myself when I had a finger on my left hand squeezed between our lifeboat and a spare lifeboat drifting by.
The maritime hearings were held in London on Nov. 26-1940 with the captain, the 1st and 2nd engineers, the 1st, 2nd and 3rd mates, Stoker Holte and Stoker Reklev appearing. The 2 stokers had just come on watch at midnight, and both had spoken to the 3rd engineer in the engine room. When the explosion occured, Stoker Holte had been in the fireroom and went directly from the stoke hold to the boat deck where he got into the motorboat, while Stoker Reklev had been in the engine room. The latter, who had signed on in New York in July-1940, had gone up through the fidley, could not get the door open, then went down and out through the engine passage. He says the 3rd engineer was not in the engine room at that time, but he had seen him 3 minutes before the explosion.
The captain states that he found out later when visiting the Naval Office that the convoy had left prior to midnight, meaning they would have been able to join it, had they been at the meeting place at 10 o'clock as ordered by the examination vessel the first time. He also states that the Norwegian Heire was the only other ship that was to join the convoy from Middlesbrough (looking at her Voyage Record for this period, we see that she did indeed leave Middlesbrough on Nov. 10 - she's not mentioned in FN 330, but the listing is incomplete, so it's possible she took part; she is, however, included in EN 25, mentioned above - external links). This ship was seen shortly after Ravnanger had left the anchorage, but disappeared in the darkness and had not been seen again, so the captain assumed she had either found the convoy, or proceeded without. The captain adds that when Ravnanger was on her way out, and was about half way to, and about half an hour's time from the meeting place, they passed 4-5 incoming cargo vessels sailing close together. He later learned at the Naval Office that these were from the convoy that Ravnanger should have joined. He calculated that these ships must have passed the meeting place at about 11 o'clock. While they were still waiting at the buoy, about 10-15 minutes before they turned around in order to proceed back to the anchorage, a tanker also passed by. (Ravnanger's instructions were to turn back if the convoy was not found).
The droning of the aircraft was heard about 5-10 minutes after they had turned around. It came flying in towards land from seaward. The reason why they initially thought it was British was the greenish light underneath it, because the captain had seen similar lights on aircraft on the British coast as well as in America; these had been red on one side, green on the other, and had a white light as well. The aircraft passed a little astern of the ship, then turned outwards at which time he saw a column of water in the sea about 2-3 ship's lengths from them. He could not see the plane ahead of them, but as he was standing next to the 3rd mate on the starboard side of the bridge he saw a flash from the port side of the forward part of the ship, the ship shook and pieces of glass from the windows in the side houses were flying about so that he had to take cover. The forward part of the ship soon started to sink, heeling over to port, so he ordered the 3rd mate to call the crew to the boats with the steam whistle, whereupon he (the 3rd mate), the lookout man and the helmsman went to the boats. At the same time the rest of the crew came on deck, while the captain remained on the bridge for a while to see if the ship might stay afloat. However, when he noticed that the watertight bulkhead between No. 1 and 2 holds had been damaged he went to the port lifeboat.
By that time the ship was deep in the water by the bow. He belonged to the starboard boat (which was successfully launched), but as mentioned in the above report, he went down from the boat deck in order to save the ship's papers and misc. items which were located in the saloon. However, having come down on the amidships deck the water had started to come up there, so he found it best to return to the boat. While attempting to get it on the water it got hung up under the forward davit and was forced under water with the result that the 5 who were in it fell out. Fortunately, the spare lifeboat and the 2 rafts from the engine room skylight came floating past, and the captain, the 1st engineer and the lookout, Able Seaman Hansen were able to get onto one of them, while the 1st and 3rd mates climbed into the other raft. The 2 rafts were lying just by the ship, and only the stern was partly visible at that time, Ravnanger having taken the bottom and had stopped (in 20' of water).
The rafts were carried by the current towards aft, where they caught sight of the (starboard) motorboat with 21 men who rowed over to pick them up. They managed to get the motor started, then went looking for the missing 3rd engineer, but all they could see was wreckage. The sea was steep and choppy and continuously washing over the heavily laden boat, whose motor for some reason could not be regulated; it would only go at full speed - so the attempt at getting closer up to the ship was considered too dangerous and had to be abandoned. A little before 5 in the morning they came up alongside the pilot boat which was moored at a small quay, and roused the men there to inform them of what had taken place, whereupon they were taken to the pilots' boarding house. The Naval Authorities at Middlesbrough were immediately notified, as were the Military Authorities, stationed near the pilot station. About an hour and a half later they were all taken by bus to the Seamen's Mission where they got dry clothes and breakfast.
After having made further inquiries the captain learned that the 3rd engineer had stopped the engine and had come up on the midships deck where some men had spoken with him, urging him to hurry to his assigned lifeboat (port boat). A couple of men had seen him on the boat deck, but he had subsequently gone down from there, and it was believed that he may have intended to save a gold watch and chain from his cabin, and may have gotten trapped in there.
1st Engineer Knutsen states that he had been on watch until 12 o'clock, and was in his bunk when the explosion occurred. This was located just by the port engineers' passage - the 2nd and 3rd engineers having cabins further forward. As he came out the door he noticed that the engine had been stopped. He was called by the 2nd engineer who was on the platform, and at the same time he noticed the 3rd engineer rushing past towards aft, and that was the last time he saw him. He got the impression he was somewhat dazed. He then proceeded to the boat deck where he joined the captain, the 1st and 3rd mates, and Able Seaman Hansen in the port lifeboat. While looking for the 3rd engineer after having been picked up from the rafts by the motorboat, they steered towards the poop which was then standing up almost perpendicular, then after half an hour course was set for shore. The 1st engineer adds "3rd Engineer Karlsen was in good health and fit, but was not of a cool disposition." (Other witnesses also state that he was of a very nervous disposition).
2nd Mate/Radio Operator Kaldefoss had been on watch from 8 pm until midnight. He says there were 3 vessels outward bound, namely Ravnanger, Heire and a British(?) tanker, and Ravnanger was to have been the leading ship. Ravnanger started on her way at about 11 o'clock from the anchoring place, a small buoy in the roadstead, and arrived at the meeting place, a red buoy (No. 20) at about 11:30. The other 2 ships which were also lying at the same anchorage followed, and he had seen Heire at the meeting place but not the tanker. Being the leading ship, Ravnanger had carried a white light above a red light, placed immediately above the bridge by a flag line - these convoy lights were not dimmed. They were up from departure until about 5 minutes before midnight. Ravnanger also had the usual side lights and forward mast head light, which were dimmed as much as possible. He believes the convoy must have seen Ravnanger's lights at a distance of 4-5 n. miles, adding that he had measured the distance from the anchorage to the meeting place to be 5 n. miles, and says that even if the convoy had been at the meeting place as early as 11 o'clock Ravnanger's convoy lights would have been seen.
Having completed his watch on the bridge he went to bed in his cabin on the middle bridge, but hearing the aircraft at the same time he ran to the door. However, hearing nothing further, he went back to his bed, just before the explosion occurred. He only felt it as a bump, then the ship "seemed to collapse". He ran from his cabin to the motor lifeboat, being the first to arrive there, and the launching of this boat went smoothly. As they pushed off, no one else could be seen on board the ship, which was down by the bows at that time, the water coming to about amidships. The current carried the boat past the stern before they got the oars out.
3rd Mate Espenes had taken over the watch on the bridge from the 2nd mate at midnight. The details in his statements echo those given by the above, adding that the 3rd engineer had suffered from a weak heart, and that he had mentioned in conversation that he probably wouldn't be able to stand the strain, should they ever be torpedoed. The 3rd mate was inclined to think that he had rushed very quickly up from the engine room, which migh have had an effect on his heart.
1st Mate Thornquist was fast asleep when the explosion occurred, then joined the other 4 in the port lifeboat. His further statements are in agreement with the above. He did not see or hear any airplane until they were on their way in with the motorboat, at which time he had heard the droning of an aircraft. He adds that during the voyage from America the 3rd engineer had often complained of sleeping badly.
2nd Engineer Hilland was also fast asleep at the time. As he came out through his cabin door, which was just opposite the exit from the engine room, he saw the 3rd engineer, but the latter did not reply when he spoke to him, and he never saw him again.
There seems to be some disagreement as to the first order received with regard to the time for meeting the convoy, the 2nd mate saying that he had seen a printed form in the chart room which had said 5 in the morning of Nov. 11, but this had been scratched out and replaced by 11 o'clock on the 10th, whereas the captain says that he had been told by the Naval Control in Middlesbrough that the time for meeting the convoy was 12 midnight, but it had been pointed out to him that an alteration might be made and that such alteration would be passed on by the examination vessel. This vessel had arrived in the afternoon of the 10th, before it got dark, and had informed them that they were to meet the convoy at 10 that evening - this order was changed to 12 midnight, just as they were getting ready to comply with the 10 o'clock order - these orders were called from the bridge of the examination vessel. (The alteration from 5 am Nov. 11 to 12 midnight Nov. 10 had been done before the Naval Office gave the captain the instructions).
Captain Grung stated at the hearings in London that the cook, 1 ordinary seaman and 1 trimmer had been left behind (presumably in Middlesbrough) and were to be replaced at the convoy port (Sydney, C.B.?).
The men denoted * were in the port lifeboat, which capsized.
Related external link:
Back to Ravnanger on the "Ships starting with R" page.
Westfal-Larsen later had another Ravnanger, originally delivered as Cape St. George from Pennsylvania Shipyards Inc. Beaumont, Texas to United States War Shipping Adm. in Febr.-1942. Purchased by Westfal-Larsen in Nov.-1946 and renamed Ravnanger. Sold in March-1962 to Øivind Lorentzen Rederi, Oslo and renamed Nopal Verde. Sold in 1966 to Universal Shipping Lines Inc., Cebu, Phillipines, renamed Subic Bay. Broken up in Taiwan in 1973. In Nov.-1963 another Ravnanger was delivered from Eriksberg Mek. Verksted, Gothenburg. Sold to Monrovia in Jan.-1978, later Piræus, renamed Saronic Sea. Here's info on a more recent Ravnanger (external link).
The text on this page was compiled with the help of: "Nortraships flate", J. R. Hegland, E-mails from David Van Oord, "Sjøforklaringer fra 2. verdenskrig", Norwegian Maritime Museum, Volume II, "The Allied Convoy system", Arnold Hague, and misc. - (ref. My sources).