Hurtigruten at war

DS Dronning Maud i brann etter flyangrep 1. mai 1940

When Norway was attacked by Germany the ninth of april 1940, almost every coastal express ship remained were they were, in the ports they were at the time. Everyone, with the exeption of SS Dronning Maud, who kept on on her way to Kirkenes in Finnmark. At that time there were 15 ships making up the coastal express route.
The norwegian government aquired several ships for transport missions. German command took hold of SS Mira, SS Nordnorge and SS Polarlys in Trondheim and Bergen.
Only on july second, 1940 the coastal express, somewhat reduced, started up again. From having daily landings in the summer of 1939 they were reduced to one ship from Bergen and two from Trondheim a week the summer of 1940. A fourth sailing were added in the fall of that year
The first coastal express ships hit by the war were not sailing in their ordinary routes. SS Sigurd Jarl were running a local route around Ålesund when she was sunk by german planes 23rd of april 1940. SS Nordnorge had been ordered to carry german troops when she was hit by british skipthe 10th of may. SS Dronning Maud had been aquired by the norwegian government to carry a health care personell when she was bombed and run a ground outside Foldvik. SS Prins Olav og SS Ariadne were evacuationg to Britain when they were both of them sunk on june 8th.
Both SS Dronning Maud and SS Ariadne had clear markings identifying them as hospital ships when they were hit

The first ship in ordinary Coastal express traffic to be directly affected by the war was Nordenfjeldske Dampskibsselskap’s SS Prinsesse Ragnhild. It went down on October 23, 1940. It is believed that it ran on a mine.

A total of 17 Hurtigruten ships were wrecked as a result of the hostilities, 13 of them during ordinary Hurtigruten shipping. Most were attacked by German planes or submarines, but some ships also fell victim to the Allied war machine.

The sinking of DS Richard With and DS Barøy as a result of allied submarine attacks was used by the National Assembly in war propaganda. Altogether over 700 Norwegians died in the Hurtigruten shipwrecks. We have no record of how many Germans were on board or perished.
The Hurtigruten shipwrecks during the war years were among the warship shipwrecks in the home fleet with the greatest number of fatalities, since these were passenger ships, often with many people on board when they went down.

As a result of the dangerous situation, and gradually the lack of ordinary Hurtigruten ships, several replacement ships were deployed in Hurtigruten shipping.

The situation gradually became precarious.

SS Lofoten was the last ordinary Hurtigruten ship northbound from Honningsvåg on 10 September 1941. SS Richard With went south from Honningsvåg as the last southbound two days later, and was torpedoed on 13 September by the British submarine Tigris. 71 passengers and 28 crew members were killed.

It was decided that the Tromsø-Kirkenes section should be covered with smaller motor cutters, a collaborative project between the four shipping companies, while the rest of the route was to be maintained with four weekly trips. The first replacement express route was MK Skandfer, hired by Vesteraalens Dampskibsselskap, which made the journey on 23 September 1941 from Tromsø
The amount of small boats that operated replacement routes grew steadily. As many as 50 boats stopped by as replacement ships until the scheme was discontinued in October 1944. Some made over a hundred trips, many tens. The replacement express routes also fell victim to the war. MK Uløy, MK Vaaland and MK Moder II were all sunk on the route.
MK Uløy (pictured) went down as a result of an air attack as early as the first trip, outside Hamningberg in Båtsfjord municipality. Three crew and twelve passengers died.

The replacement routes carried a total of nearly 25,000 passengers and over 231,000 bags of mail between 1941 and 1944. They made an invaluable contribution and were a necessity of life for the people of the northernmost part of the country.

The crews aboard the Hurtigrutens that sailed in ordinary Hurtigruten traffic south of Tromsø and the crews aboard the replacement Hurtigrutens risked their lives to keep coastal Norway operating during the war, they all have a rightful place among the Norwegian war sailors.

Sources:

Bakka, Dag Jr. Livslinje og eventyrreise Historien om hurtigruten. Bodoni. 2017

Rydheim, Per. Vesteraalske -Vesteraalens Dampskibsselskab 1881-1988. Fusa Dampskibsexpedition. Stokmarknes. 2015

Stavseth, Reidar. På Nordnorsk kjøl Vesteraalens Dampskibsselskab Gjennom 75 år. Vesteraalens Dampskibsselskab. 1956. Trondheim 

Visit the Hurtigruten Museum

Hurtigruten Museum

A monument to Norway’s Transport history: Visit the bridge, engine room and cabins on the Finnmarken express route (1956) in its iconic barley. Feel the atmosphere in the lounges from the steamship Finmarken (1912). Activities for children and families. Hurtigruta’s importance is told in modern exhibitions. Food and drinks are served in the dining room anno 1956. Welcome aboard!