HNoMS FRIDTJOF NANSEN - Surveillance ship/Destroyer


TYPE: Surveillance ship/Destroyer
BUILDING SITE: Marinens Hovedverft, Horten
LAUNCHED: 5 november 1930
HOIST COMMAND: 29 may 1931

2x 100mm Fast firing automatic cannons
2x 47mm Fast firing cannons for anti air
The reinforcement was two 100mm guns at each end of the vessel and two 47mm anti-aircraft guns at the stern of the bridge.

Displacement: 1575-1700 ton, steel hull
Length: 72.8m
Width: 10.5m
Depth: 5.7m
Crew: 67 men

Lenz steam eigne
Power: 2.000 AHK
Speed: 15 knots

1931: Test drive
1931: Supervisory service in Northern Norway and Iceland 1931, 32 and 33
1939: Inspection and expedition ships as well as icebreakers
1940: Took part in the evacuation of Tromsø on 7 June
1940: Sailed to Storbitania June 8 with Admiral Diesen, General Fleicher, Foreign Minister Koth and 20 political refugees
1940: Sent to Iceland to reinforce British naval forces there
1949: Ground support and sank at Jan Mayen 8 November

There was an increased need for the presence of military vessels in northern Norway and in the northern fishing and fishing grounds. after 1905 there was an increasing need to deter and possibly prevent foreign trawlers from fishing within Norwegian territorial waters, and there was a need to support and possibly protect Norwegian fishing and fishing in areas such as the Eastern Ice, the Western Ice, Greenland and Spitsbergen. Heimdal had this task for several years, but it was expensive to operate and had little top speed. for a period Farm was also used, but it was small, unseaworthy and also lacked speed. When the Russians increased their territorial limit to 12 nautical miles in 1921, it affected more than 100 Norwegian sealing vessels that had been catching seals in the inlet to Lake Kvitsjøen. In 1922, Heimdal made two trips to the area to protect the Norwegian vessels. even though in the same year an agreement was reached with the Russians on seal catching for a fee, it was still a tense situation in the coming years. In 1923, the marine research ship Michael Sars was converted into a surveillance ship in support of Heimdal. Although relations with the Russians normalized, there were reports of concern that foreign vessels were settling in Norwegian waters as soon as Heimdal had left the area. Honningsvåg alone was visited in 1925 by no less than 588 British and 275 German trawlers.

The need for a specially designed surveillance vessel had barely been considered as early as 1909, when the Norwegian Navy’s main shipyard was asked to prepare plans and cost estimates for this. When, 19 years later, the Ministry of Defense finally put forward a budget proposal to build a separate surveillance ship, it was based on new plans/sketches from the shipyard in Horten. The vessel was to be 70 x 10 metres, 1275 tonnes and do 17 knots. initially they asked for 400,000 thousand Norwegian kroner. but it was a time when there was little will to invest in the Armed Forces and the proposal created debate. many believed that the task could be solved by rebuilding trawlers or using smaller vessels. the proposed vessel was almost twice as large as Heimdal at 670 tons and almost five times as large as Michael Sars at 226 tons. Other well-intentioned souls believed that if one were to spend so much money on a new vessel first, one might as well build a destroyer, which could also be used as a surveillance ship. even though the defense line was low, the svalbard region and our position as a polar nation probably contributed to increased understanding of the need for a military ship intended for polar regions. in addition to the supervisory service, it was argued that the vessel should also be an auxiliary vessel for our stations on Jan Mayen and Bjørnøya and that it should be able to be used for various research expeditions. In any case, the department’s proposal was eventually approved by the Storting

Towards the start of construction, a number of changes were made to the original draft, following good advice from the experienced Arctic skipper Peder S Brandal and after model tests in Hamburg. To improve stability and make room for more bunkers, the width was increased to 10.5 meters and the total length to 72.7 meters. The displacement was thus 1,634 tonnes. It got a Lenz steam engine of 2000 HP which was normally powered by two coal-fired boilers, but an extra oil-fired boiler could be connected at full speed. maximum speed was still no more than 15 knots, but the radius of action was almost 8,000 nautical miles with economical speed. to give the vessel good properties in the ice, the bow was constructed extra pointed. 12mm steel plates were used and double plate passages were used in the waterline and in parts of the foredeck. here the frames were set extra tight and there were several watertight bulkheads. the propeller had four screw-on propeller blades so that they could be replaced more easily. The vessel could also operate with only two propeller blades so that by placing these vertically the propeller could be protected against drifting ice. Good facilities were also provided for commanders and crew. the cabins were air-heated and had hot and cold water. the cabins were divided into open 4-man compartments and the galley had an electric oven. The reinforcement was two 10cm guns at each end of the vessel and two 47mm anti-aircraft guns at the stern of the bridge.

It was also taken into account that Fridtjof Nansen should be able to have one aircraft on deck for reconnaissance. this could be set out and taken aboard using a lifting boom on the aft mast. You don’t know how often you actually had a plane on your trip. but it is also known that the flight deck was sometimes filled with sacks of coal. there are photographs where the M.F.11 aircraft F.308 is lifted aboard. This aircraft, which was Flyfabrikken’s build number 100, could stay in the air for 10 hours with an extra fuel tank, and in 1935 it flew the route Longyerabyen-Tromsø.

In order to support the fishing vessels, the vessel was also equipped with a mobile pump, diving equipment and some workshop equipment. The construction period was estimated at approximately 2 years. launching and christening took place on 5 November 1930. Nansen himself died in May of the same year and we assume that the name of the vessel was decided after this. both because it was relevant to the vessel’s operations and as a tribute to the deceased polar explorer. after test trips in May/June 1931, and a trip to Bergen with the military committee, Fridtjof Nansen was ready for his first inspection tour in July 1931

The idea was now that Fridtjof Nansen would be equipped all year round and that in the summer half it would be assisted by Michael Sars. due to the heavy traffic from foreign trawlers, three fishing boats had to be hired in addition for the coastal inspection service. the first serious accident Fridtjof Nansen experienced on his way to the Barents Sea in April 1933. human error with the valve position meant that the engine room and aft boiler room were filled with water and they had to ask for assistance. it was worse when before Christmas that year they went on a reef at Måsøy west of the North Cape. the bottom was torn up and due to bad weather the situation was critical. the crew was rescued on board a German fishing vessel, and when the storm somewhat later lifted the ship off the reef, it sank in shallow water. it was salvaged later in the spring and temporarily sealed, so that it could be towed to Horten during the summer. the damage was so extensive that it was not a matter of course that the vessel was repaired. after a long debate in the Storting, it was decided that the Norwegian Naval Shipyard should repair the vessel. At the same time, money was allocated for the construction of two smaller inspection vessels, Senja and Nordkapp of only 265 tonnes. they were given the surnames Knoll and Tott

It was not until the summer of 1936 that Fridtjof Nansen was again ready for service, but it was only a three-month summer tour. from the winter of 1937 it was again a year-round operation. when you now also had Knoll and Tott and Michael Sars, Fridtjof Nansen was naturally given responsibility for the areas furthest away. An important part of the support for the Norwegian ships on long-distance voyages was the postal service and medical assistance for the ships. in the winter of 1938, Fridtjof got the nansen with commander captain Willoch as ship’s commander, finally some positive publicity

In harsh weather conditions, the vessel was able to salvage the abandoned seal fishing vessel Isfjell in Vestisen and tow it to safety in Tromsø. en route they had become aware of the crew of another sealer, Veslemor, shipwrecked on Jan Mayen with little food. From Tromsø they therefore headed straight for Jan Mayen and were able to rescue the crew on Veslemor. The shipping company was so grateful for this that they later gave everyone on board silver ashtrays

During the neutrality watch, Fridtjof Nansen entered the Finnmark Department together with the submarines B1, B5 and some requisitioned vessels. Commander of Fridtjof Nansen, Captain P Bredsdorff, was also commander of the entire department. the armored ships Eidsvold and Norge arrived in Tromsø in December, but it was not until March 1940 that these, together with B1 and B5, formed the Ofot department. The rest of the Finnmark department was scattered around the Finnmark coast. in April, Fridtjof Nansen was in Honningsvåg. the vessel was first sent to the area north of the Porsanger Peninsula to intercept any German merchant ships and to protect telephone traffic, before being sent to Tromsø a few days later. here Bredsdorff had to take over as head of 3 naval defense district and the second in command, Captain Vogt, took over as ship commander on Fridtjof Nansen. for the coming weeks they remained to patrol and escort in the adjacent fjords, interrupted by a trip to Svalbard to take a German sealing ship and to advise the Norwegian ships to go home. Fridtjof Nansen thus became one of the 14 vessels which, by the evacuation order of 6 June, were ordered to go to Great Britain. two days later, Fridtjof Nansen left Tromsø with, among others, Admiral Diesen, General Fleicher and Foreign Minister Koth. Via Thorshavn on the Faroe Islands, they arrived safely at Rosyth in Scotland on 18 June

After various gilding works, Fridtjof Nansen went to Iceland in August, together with the surveillance ship Nordkapp and the patrol boat Honningsvåg. Here, the British had established a base and the Norwegian vessels were to operate guard and escort services under the British base commander. new commander on Fritsjof Nansen was the hero from the Destroyer Sleipner, Commander Captain Ernst Ullring. The Norwegian meteorological stations at Myggbukta and Torgilsbu in East Greenland and the station at Jan Mayen were of great importance to the British. The problem was that they only sent in clear language and that they were thus also useful to the Germans. Norway and Great Britain agreed that the stations in East Greenland should be equipped with codes and continued their operations. in doubt, it was thought that the station at Jan Mayen, even though it was the most important, should be closed down because it was exposed to German attacks. This operation, which placed great demands on the on-site assessments, was led by Fridtjof Nansen in a very good manner. Among other things, they had to take as prize a Norwegian ship, the Veslekari, which had been sent out to the stations by the occupation government in Norway. the station at Jan Mayen was dismantled, evacuated and burned early in Septmeber. immediately afterwards, Fridtjof Nansen had to arrest the pro-German crew of the Danish ship Furenak, who intended to establish their own weather station in East Greenland. At the end of September, they were again in the Jan Mayen area to check whether the Germans would try and establish a mission there or in East Greenland. Back in Iceland in October, it was assumed that the Germans had not given up their plans for stations but that they would not try in the darkest winter months. in November, however, there were reports that the Germans had sent out an expedition in search of Furenak, whose fate the Germans did not know. Thus, Fridtjof Nansen had to go on another trip towards Jan Mayen, and it was in this context that they went to an underwater reef at Rekvedbukta on 8 November. it was calm weather, but the reef, which later got the name “Nansenflua”, was unmarked. again the vessel had its bottom torn up, and because it tilted 45 degrees towards the cooling water intake on the port side, they could not use the machine. Distress signals were sent out, but no response was received until Ullring sent all the people into the lifeboats. The vessel then had an 80 degree list and it sank at a depth of 70 metres. The entire crew of 66 men made it ashore on Eggøya south of Jan Mayen. They planned to send the motyor boat to Iceland to get help, but before they got that far, they were rescued on 12 November by the patrol vessel Honningsvåg and brought back to Iceland. During March-April of the following spring, Ullring was also back on Jan Mayen, even though he had decided to establish a station on the island before the Germans eventually did so. with 15 men and two ship’s guns for protection, this station for the rest of the war sent important weather reports in code to Allied ships via Iceland





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