The motorship Vega was built for the Bergen Steamship Company (Bergenske Dampskibsselskab) (BDS), a company which initially operated a service between Bergen, Stavanger, Kristiansand and Hamburg, prior to establishing in 1895 a passenger service between West Norway and the United Kingdom, some sailings also called at Stavanger and Haugesund. From 1928 the service terminated at the purpose-built Tyne Commission Quay, North Shields.
The motor vessel Vega was built by Cantieri Riuniti dell'Adriatico of Trieste, launched during January 1938 and commissioned in May 1938, having been purchased as an offset for Italian shipments of fish from Norway. The Vega would join the 1931 built motorship Venus on the North Sea service, during the summer a service of four round trips per week was operated until the outbreak of World War II, with departures from Bergen at 11.00 on Mondays, Wednesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays, and from Newcastle at 19.30 on Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays. Southbound trips from Bergen by the Venus on Wednesdays and Saturdays, and northbound trips from the Tyne by the Vega on Tuesdays and Saturdays also called at Stavanger and Haugesund. The Venus had been purchased in 1931 in response to the competition expected following the introduction of a new route established by Swedish Lloyd between Gothenburg and Tilbury.
After delivery the Vega operated between May 1938 & August 1939 on the Bergen - Stavanger - Newcastle route. With the arrival of World War II on September 1st 1939 and because of their value, the Vega & Venus were removed from the North Sea service and laid up at Stanghelle in Osterfjorden near Bergen. On September 11th 1940 the ships were taken by the German authorities, but returned to the owners on October 16th 1940 and then laid up again. Six months later on March 18th 1941 the ship was claimed by the Kriegsmarine and operated with German crews, by June 1st 1941, and known as the Wega, was in use as a target-ship (Zielschiff) by the 1. U-Lehrdidvision, Pillau, Germany. From March 1942 the ship was used by the 25. U-flotille at Gdansk and later at Travemunde (Lubeck), Germany.
During the first week of May 1945 the Vega was one of six depot ships anchored at the U-boat training school south of Fehmarn island when air attacks were launched on May 3rd & 4th 1945. The five other ships were the 1925 built motorship Pioneer (ex. Parkston 2762 grt. 93m, 13m, 5m), the 1929 built Kurassier (ex. Esbjerg, sistership to the Pioneer), the 1937 built steam powered German freighter Messina (2192 grt. 92m, 13m), the 1939 Hamburg built Swakopmund (ex. Egemen, Turkish passenger liner about 6000 grt. 117m, a coalfired steamship) and the Bolkoburg (ex. Ostwind, ex. Warzawa II, a new passenger vessel built in Holland during the war, 3436 grt. 300 ft.). It is reported the Vega had been used to evacuate people from East-Preussen to Lübeck.
The first attacks took place on May 3rd 1945 between 11.35 and 19.40 hours, seven Typhoons of 183 Squadron (Wunstorf) attacked the ships off the south eastern tip of Fehmarn. Thirteen 500 lb. bombs were dropped and two direct hits on the stern of one of the ships were claimed besides near-misses on another ship. The attack, according to the captain of the Pioneer was not a success. The ships were well dispersed and none were hit. The nearest bomb fell about 300 metres from Pioneer and further away from any of the other ships. After the attack the ships were dispersed further apart because of the number of aircraft which were in the area. Pioneer, Messina and Kurassier went to a position north of Fehmarn where the Pioneer was beached despite being completely undamaged, the crew went ashore. The other ships remained south of the island, where they were attacked again later in the day.
At about 19.20 on May 3rd 1945 eleven Typhoons of 193 Squadron (Ahlhorn) attacked four ships south of Fehmarn. They dropped twenty-two 500 lb. bombs fuzed with 25 seconds delay. The Vega was reported to have two direct hits aft of the funnel and two near misses on the port side causing the ship to catch fire and with a list to starboard but remaining above water near Eckernförde. The Swakopmund sustained two direct hits amidships, two near misses to port and two near misses to starboard, the attacks also caused the Swakopmund to catch fire and eventually to capsize in shallow water.
The next day, May 4th 1945, the Bolkoburg was attacked by eight Typhoons of 197 Squadron (Ahlhorn) at 09.35 hours in a position south of the island of Fehmarn. Sixteen 500 lb. bombs, fuzed with 25 seconds delay, were dropped, two very near misses were claimed, one near the bow and another on the stern. The target was also strafed with 20 mm cannon fire. Three hours later, just after noon the eight Typhoons returned and attacked the stationary Bolkoburg again. This attack was more successful with bombs and cannonfire eventually setting the ship ablaze. During July 1946 the wreck taken over by the insurers - Den Norske Krigsforsikring and left in-situ. Three years later during October 1948 the wreck was sold to Sigurd Skaugen, Oslo. The wreck was parted into three sections, the fore & aft sections were scrapped in-situ whilst the midship section was towed to Howaldtswerke where the two engines were removed and the remainder scrapped. The engines was later installed in the Norwegian ships Kollgrim (ex Norheim, ex Empire Pearl) and Haukefjell (ex Norholm, ex Empire Druid).
The Haukefjell was sold to Panama in 1952 and renamed Bluewater, serving until 1959, when she was scrapped in Japan.
The Kollgrim was sold in 1955 to Dingwall Shipping Co Ltd, Halifax, Nova Scotia, renamed Walton and eventually converted to an ore carrier. Sold in 1963 to United Shipping & Trading Co Ltd and renamed James Hamel, then in same year to Paget Traders Inc, Liberia and renamed Paget Trader. Sold in 1968 to Pecos Steamship Co Inc, Liberia. Scrapped in January 1969 at Vinaròs, Spain.
Built: Cantieri Riuniti dell Adriatico, Trieste, Italy (Yard No. 1205?) IMO 5615034
Page added December 14th 2013