Daily Event for October 13, 2010

The Norwegian bark Stifinder was in for a rough voyage when she left New York on Sept. 27, 1918, the ship was carrying 68,000 cases of refined oil bound for Fremantle, Australia, she was also carrying 18 men. The ship struggled against a headwind which kept her from making good progress and on October 12 she was only about 1,100 miles from New York, it was on that day that Kapitänleutnant Adolf Franz and SMS U-152 found the Stifinder.

At about 4 p.m. Franz fired two warning shots at Stifinder which brought the ship to a stop. The sinking was quite orderly and there were no injuries, the submarine came alongside and the crew were ordered into the lifeboats, they were allowed to take plenty of provisions then the Germans removed what they found of value to them from the ship. The oils that were being carried were contraband so the sinking was legitimate, but it was made after the Kaiser had sent a radio message to all U-boats on Oct. 11 which said "Engage men of war only. The merchant was is over." Stifinder was sunk using charges on October 13, 1918, two days after the cease fire against merchant ships was ordered and Franz took his U-boat and left the men to the will of the sea.

The crew were in two lifeboats, the master, Gustave Bjorckman, and seven men in one and the first mate, T. Fritji, and nine men in the other, two days later the boats became separated. The mate's boat was found off the coast of New Jersey on Sept. 28 and the survivors were landed at New York, there was no word about the master's boat and it was presumed to have been lost with all hands.

Then on Nov. 5 the missing boat turned up on Turks Islands in the West Indies, over 1,500 miles from where the Stifinder was sunk. Their journey was not a pleasant one, only a few days after the sinking the boat capsized spilling the men and the provisions into the sea, the men managed to right the boat, but the majority of the provisions were lost and the men suffered many pains during the remaining time in the boat. The cold weather forced them to sail south and they hoped to make Bermuda, but they missed the island making their journey much longer. After a journey of 1,500 miles, with little food or water, the men were in very bad condition, but miraculously all survived.

Stifinder was the last ship sunk by U-152 before the war was over, and after the order for all submarines to return to Kiel was sent on Oct. 20 Franz set his course for the Fatherland. U-152 arrived at Kiel on Nov. 15, 1918 and promptly released two prisoners, Lt. (j.g.) F. L. Muller, USNRF and Lt. (j.g.) J. H. Fulcher, USNRF, who had been in the boat since the sinking of the USS Ticonderoga on Sept. 30. SMS U-152 was surrendered and scuttled off the Isle of Wight in 1921.
© 2010 Michael W. Pocock

October 13, 1918: Stifinder seen from SMS U-152.

October 13, 1918: Stifinder just about to slip under the waves.

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