MT FINNANGER, Attack & Survivor’s Narrative
by Eric T. Wiberg, www.uboatsbermuda.com, July, 2014
M/T Finnanger, from the Steamship Historical Society of America (www.sshsa.org)
The Norwegian motor tanker Finnanger was built in 1928 by the Nederlandsche Scheepsbouw Mij NV in Amsterdam, Netherlands as yard number 191. She was 9,551 gross tons, with a carrying capacity of 14,530 deadweight tons of petroleum. The ship was 473.6’ long overall, 64.3’ wide and 36/6’ deep. Her twin 4,000 horsepower Werkspoor engines propelled her at 10.5 knots. Finnanger was home-ported to Bergen Norway, where her owners were the Westfal-Larsen & Company A/S.
The Finnanger had an exotic early career. In October of the year she was launched (1928) whe was carrying “Soviet oil from Batoum” and “grounded in the river at Fult-a-Point” on the Hooghly River in Calcutta, where Captain Ellertsen was forced to jetison 3,000 tons of oil valued at $200,000 in order to refloat. The oil was eagerly taken up by locals in all manner of craft, some even dabbing it up with rags and wringing it into pails. In June of 1936 Finnanger was involved in the salvage of cargo from the grounded 9,600-ton tanker Magnolia, which went ashore off Moppo, Korea. At that time the Finnanger was described as American flagged, perhaps because she hauled oil to and from San Pedro (Oakland area) California.
Starting in 1940 the ship was involved in multiple convoys – over fifteen. In July 1941 she joined Convoy BHX 59 from Bermuda to join HX 59 off Halifax. She returned to Bermuda in February 1941 and again in March of that year. From 1941 the Finnanger was in Admiralty service as part of the Royal Fleet Auxiliary. For the next year the ship shuttled petroleum between the Caribbean, New York, Halifax and Liverpool.
On the 14th of February 1942 the Finnanger sailed from the Clyde River estuary off Glasgow on a voyage from Greenock Scotland to Curacao via Halifax. Initially she joined the ill-fated Convoy ONS 67 which lost many ships, however she straggled behind and missed much of the onslaught in mid-Atlantic which culminated on the 24thof February. A week or so later found the ship 480 nautical miles northeast of Bermuda and 550 miles east-southeast of Cape Cod, Massachusetts. The ship was maintaining a course of 215 degrees south-southwest for Curacao, having evidently decided against calling at Halifax at all.
On board the Finnanger were 39 men under Captain Bernt Anton Thorbjørnsen, 52 years of age of Baerum, Norway, who was supported by First Mate Ingjald Harletvedt. The Radio Operator was Edvin Kristoffersen. Out of the men in the crew all were Norwegian except for Canadian Oiler James Clifford, Galley Boy Bernard Stephens, Saloon Boy Francis Sheridan and Chief Lewis Gunner Color Sargent William Thomas Whitmore, all of whom were British.
The afternoon of Monday 28thFebruary 1942 was a choppy night aboard the Finnanger. There was a wind blowing of over 30 knots, and seas were over five feet in height. A full moon provided preying submarines with clear visibility – ten miles – with which to attack. One of those submarines was U-158 under Kapitänleutnant Erwin Rostin, aged 34.