The John P. Pedersen

On 20th May 1941 immediately after the attacks on the Darlington Court and the British Security,  convoy HX-126 was ordered to scatter by its commodore on the advice of its escort Aurania. The order was given about 12:50 GMT.

At 12:55 GMT the John P. Pedersen a Norwegian ship, was torpedoed (followed within five to ten minutes by the Cockaponset).

The John P. Pedersen was carrying fuel oil; luckily for the crew it did not explode and in fact the oil calmed the sea making it easier for the crew to abandon ship.

The ship's British gunner would not jump into the water and was still hanging on to the ship when it was hit by a further torpedo 20 minutes after the first strike. The body of the gunner was retrieved; sadly it appears that he choked on the oil in the water.

The rest of the crew, 37 men, were safe in two lifeboats which were roped together. The ship herself was still afloat but on fire two hours after the first hit.

Late on the afternoon of the next day the line between the boats had to be let go due to the danger from the worsening weather. One of these boats with 16 men was eventually picked up by a rescue vessel.

The other life boat contained 21 men boat drifted in the Atlantic and horribly was not rescued. It was seen by an aircraft 11 days later, on 1st June with 12 survivors and 5 dead. On the 21st June more than a month after the sinking, U-71 on its first mission encountered the boat with three survivors. They would not take them on board though it was clear that the boat and the men were not going to survive. U-71 claims to have given the survivors food. The men from John P. Pedersen were not seen again.

I suppose the U-boat captained by Walter Flachsenberg was following orders. Walter’s U-boat went on to sink 6 ships killing 118 more men. He himself died in 1996 aged 86 so he had plenty of time to consider his actions, maybe this was a regret but what could he have done.

As the John P Pedersen was a Norwegian Ship it is not included at Tower Hill but you can see crew list and far more detail on WarSailors.com.

View HX-126 Second Attack in a larger map

  • The map shows the sinking of the four ships in the second attack as the convoy scatters. 
  • I have also shown the sightings on the John P Pedersen's second life boat that was tragically never rescued.

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