MS L. A. Christiansen sunk by U-129/Witt 10 June 1942 off Bermuda

L. A. Christiansen
            The Norwegian motor ship L. A. Christensen was built in 1925 by Deutsche Werft A. G., Betrieb Finkenwärder in Hamburg. Her owners were Roed & Co – Roed, Mcnair & Co. – Sigurd Roed – Hjalmar Roed – United A/B, of Tonsberg (Tønsberg) Norway. The ship was under the control of the Norwegian Shipping and Trade Mission who had chartered her to the British Ministry of War Transport. The ship was 4,362 gross tons and her dimensions were 116.6 meters long by 16.2 meters wide. A single diesel engine pushed her at 10 knots.
Her master was Captain Arne Host Olsen, and he was responsible for 30 other sailors, one of whom was a gunner. On its final voyage the L. A. Christensen left Karachi, Pakistan for New York, with a call in Bombay. En route she rescued the survivors of the British steam ship Clan Ross, which had been sunk by the Japanese submarine I-6 on the 2nd of April 1942 300 miles southwest of Bombay ( The Norwegian crew was to see the favor returned in just over two months.
After leaving Durban South Africa on the 9th of May its final port was changed to Philadelphia. On the 10th of June the ship was nearing its destination and had made it to 27.44N and 65.54W, which is about 250 miles south of Bermuda and well east of the northern Bahamas.
            At 1:50 pm ship’s time the Christensen was steering 70 degrees west true at 10 knots. She was zig-zagging evasively by as much as 90 percent. The sea was settled, the weather clear and calm with just a light and variable breeze. There was a single lookout, Ordinary Seaman Reidar Vistung, on the monkey island atop the bridge. Ordinary Seaman Finn Nossum was at the wheel and Second Mate Fridjof Nilsen was on the bridge along with Captain Olsen.
Suddenly a torpedo fired by Hand-Ludwig Witt in U-129 struck the ship between the number one and two cargo holds forward on the starboard side. As a result of the explosion hatches were blown into the air, the radio aerials were damaged and the first hatch was badly twisted. Captain Olsen ordered the engines stopped and the ship abandoned.
            Seven minutes later all 31 men were aboard two standard lifeboats and one motorized boat which made away from the ship. The Radio Operator had been unable to send a distress message and the gunner unable to bring his 4-inch or the other Marlin and Hotchkiss machine guns to bear. Two officers from U-129 asked in English about the ship’s ports of departure and destination. After confirming the ship’s name on the rafts and debris and giving the men in the boats the course and distance to Bermuda, the submarine then headed off in a southerly direction on the surface.

By five minutes after 2:00 pm the L. A. Christensen had sunk beneath the waves in 18,000 feet of water. The survivors kept the three boats together and were fortuitously discovered the next morning at 08:25 am the following morning by the fellow Norwegian steam ship Bill. They were landed in Bermuda the following day, 12th June 1942. All 31 men made it ashore safely. The Bill, of 2,445 tons, was sunk just six weeks later by U-155 under Adolf Cornelius Peining east of Barbados. Out of a crew of 24 mostly Norwegian sailors all but one, Brazilian helper Aurelino Alves de Quieroz, survived.