Wilhelm Gustloff

Extreme conditions in the Navy.


The sinking of the M/S Rigel off the Norwegian coast, led to the most casualities during the war.

The ship carrying German equipment, was manned by Norwegian sailors untill an incident when they ran the vessel aground. It was later taken over by the Germans.

On it´s last journey the ship were filled with Russian prisoners of war along with 450 Wehrmacht soldiers. When the ship set out from the harbour of Bodø in the eve 26.nov.

1944 it carried a total of 2838 people. Outside Helgeland, things turned really bad. M/S Rigel came under attack by British aircraft, and caught fire. The captain desperately tried to run the ship aground, but five bombs hit the ship.

A few of them even hit the storage compartments where the prisoners were located. The planes relentlessly bombed the vessel, and the most horrific scenes took place. A total of 2571 lost their lives, and only 267 survied. Out of 10 Norwegian prisoners, only one manged to save his life. In the hospital of Sandesjøen the doctors operated for three days without a break.

Throughout time the sinking of M/S Rigel is the greatest sea tragedy off the Norwegian coast. The bow of the wreckage of M/S Rigel could be seen for many years along the main ship channel.

Wilhelm Gustloff
The greatest tragedy of all time was not Rigel, but the sinking of Wilhelm Gustloff 30th January 1945 in the Baltic sea.

The ship, filled with refugees from Balticum, was hit by torpedos from the Russian submarine S 13. Indescribable panic reigned as the ship listed and sank in about ninety minutes near the Danish island of Bornholm.

Rescue boats picked from the stormy seas 964 survivors, and they were taken on board the Danish hospital ship, Prince Olaf. The exact number of drowned will never be known. (Latest research puts the number of people on board at 10 582). It is estimated that a total of some 9000 lost their lives.

Ship window from M/S Rigel

M/S Rigel were packed with russian prisoners of war.

Wilhelm Gustloff - German hospitalship

Extreme conditions in the Navy.

Those who served in the Navy during 2.w.w. were often under extreme pressure.

The lookout, watching for mines, submarines etc. stood outside in the open, even during the winter time.

A quote from the book by Nils Bjørnsom: "Salty seabreeze, hail storms and raging winds whips in your face, which becomes more and more stiffened by salt.

In the highes winds it is difficult to breathe. The wind sucks the breath out of you and one must hide behind the wind screens to get your breath back. The water dreeps from your clothes and the thick duffelcoates becomes heavy as led. And the feeling of thousand needles pinning your face".

Norwegian sailer carryng a signal lamp.


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