HNoMS Tyr (1887)

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Career (Norway) Norwegian State Flag
Name: Tyr
Namesake: Týr – god of single combat and heroic glory in Norse mythology
Builder: Karljohansvern Naval Yard in Horten
Yard number: 67
Laid down: 1884
Launched: 16 March 1887
Commissioned: 1887
Captured: by the Germans 20 April 1940
Service record
Commanders: Captain F. Ulstrup (?-16 April 1940)
Sub-Lieutenant K. Sandnæs
(16-20 April 1940)
Operations: Norwegian Campaign
Victories: Sunk:
3 supply ships,
2 naval trawlers
1 launch
1 e-boat and 1 naval trawler
Career (Nazi Germany) 60px
Name: Tyr
Acquired: 20 April 1940
Fate: Handed back to Norway after VE Day
Service record
Operations: Norwegian Campaign
Occupation of Norway by Nazi Germany
Career (Norway) Norwegian State Flag
Name: Tyr
Decommissioned: 1945
Renamed: Bjørn West (1949)
Fate: Sold to civilian owners in 1946, converted into car ferry, still afloat as of 1986
General characteristics as built
Class and type: Gor-class Rendel gunboat
Displacement: 290 tons[1]
Length: 31.8 metres (104.33 ft)
Beam: 8.5 metres (27.89 ft)
Draft: 2.2 metres (7.22 ft)
Propulsion: Two 420 hp Compound steam engines
Speed: 10 knots (18.52 km/h)
Complement: 44 men
Armament: 1 × 26cm/30 (10.2 inch) Krupp breach loading gun
1 × 1pdr (37 mm / 1.46 inch) automatic gun[2]
2 × 1pdr (37 mm / 1.46 inch) revolving gun[3]
General characteristics after rebuild to minelayer
Displacement: 290 tons[1]
Length: 31.8 metres (104.33 ft)
Beam: 8.5 metres (27.89 ft)
Draft: 2.2 metres (7.22 ft)
Propulsion: Two 420 hp Compound steam engines
Speed: 10 knots (18.52 km/h)
Complement: 38 men
Armament: 1 × 12 cm (4.72 inch) gun
1 × 76 mm (2.99 inch) QF gun
2 × 37mm (1.46 inch) guns
55 mines[1]

HNoMS Tyr was a Gor-class Rendel gunboat built for the Royal Norwegian Navy at Karljohansverns Verft Naval Yard in Horten. She was laid down in 1884 and launched in 1887 with build number 67.[4] Tyr was one of a class of two gunboats - the other ship in her class being HNoMS Gor. Gor and Tyr can be seen as improved Vale-class gunboats, of 290 tons instead of the 250 tons standard for that class.

The main gun was a staggering 7.8m meters long,[5] or about a quarter of the length of the whole vessel. In addition she was armed with three smaller, automatic guns for closer ranges.

Shortly before the First World War, Tyr was rebuilt as a minelayer. During this rebuild, the heavy gun was replaced with a more modern 12 cm breech loader, and one of the 37 mm guns was replaced with a more potent 76 mm gun. After the heavy gun and ammunition were removed, she could carry 55 mines.

Tyr was kept in service until the German invasion in 1940.

Tyr and the invasion

Mining the Bergen approaches

On 9 April 1940, the commander of Lerøy guard district, Captain F. Ulstrup, received a message informing him that German warships had forced their way past the small Lerøy Fort on their way towards Bergen. Captain Ulstrup immediately boarded Tyr and sailed out to mine the Lerøyosen approaches to the south-western Norwegian city. At 0130hrs the Norwegian minelayer began mining the stretch of water between Lerøy island and Sotra, putting out seven mines right before the German invasion flotilla arrived at Lerøyosen. Making good her escape Tyr placed another sixteen mines in the Vatlestraumen approaches north of Bergen.[6][7]

Due to a built-in time delay the Lerøyosen mines were not active when the German warships passed over them. As the supply fleet of the German forces in the Bergen area started coming into Lerøyosen late in the evening, however, the mines were ready.[6]

Effect of the Tyr's mines

The first ship to hit the mines was the 4,297 ton supply ship Sao Paulo,[6][8][9][10] which sank with great loss of both lives and war materiel at 2300hrs, 9 April. As the mine barrier had now been discovered the Kriegsmarine needed to sweep the Lerøyosen but had no dedicated minesweepers in the area. In an improvised reaction to the mines the invaders sent out the naval trawlers Schiff 9 and Cremon,[9] together with two of the depot ship Karl Peters's launches. In the evening of 10 April the improvised minesweeper force entered the mine barrier and began clearing the mines. At 1925hrs Schiff 9 struck a mine and went down in between one and two minutes. As the Cremon tried to rescue survivors she too blew up at 19.30 hours together with one of the two launches.

On 27 April the German 8.500 ton merchant ship Liege was sunk by one of the mines and yet another German vessel went down after hitting a mine in mid May 1940. All in all the Germans lost three supply ships, two naval trawlers and a launch sunk by mines laid by Tyr.[11]

Guarding the southern sea lane

After laying her mines Tyr resumed guarding the southern sea lane to Bergen and soon met up with German naval forces. Off the island of Skorpo she had a clash with an e-boat, without either vessel being hit. Tyr then withdrew behind the cover of Forstrøno island, but was chased down by a further three German e-boats. After a brief fight Tyr drove the enemy ships off, damaging one of the German vessels severely with a 37 mm shell.[11]

Into the Hardangerfjord, change of command

Later in the campaign, 16 April, Tyr moved to Uskedal in Ytre Hardangerfjord, where her captain became the commander of the newly created Hardangerfjord naval district. The second-in-command, Sub-Lieutenant K. Sandnæs, took over the minelayer. While in the Hardangerfjord she took part in the Battle of Uskedal in the early hours of 20 April.

Tyr in the Battle of Uskedal

From her anchorage south of Uskedal Tyr first damaged an e-boat and then put a large hole with her 12 cm main gun into the armed trawler Schiff 18 right below the waterline, forcing her to be beached to avoid sinking. At 05.30 a.m. the battle turned against the Norwegians as another trawler, Schiff 221 landed more troops at Trones which advanced on Uskedal from a new direction. All the while during the battle the Tyr was providing naval gunfire support from her position in the Storsund midway between Uskedal and Herøysund, bombarding the Germans with high explosive shells. Even though she came under heavy machine gun fire from German troops, Tyr helped the Norwegian land forces hold their ground until taken by surprise by the sudden arrival of the German artillery training ship Bremse. Fire from the larger enemy ship forced Tyr to back out the fight and go to the docks in Uskedal. After a short while at anchor Tyr was ordered back into the fight to help the torpedo boat Stegg that was fighting the Bremse. Once Tyr returned to the battle she again gained the attention of the German warship and was forced to take cover in a small bay at Skorpo. As sub-lieutenant Sandnæs now considered the battle as hopeless he ordered his crew ashore to rest, also sending small arms and ammunition on land. Sandnæs started preparations to scuttle his ship with explosives, but before he could carry out his intentions two Schnellboots entered the bay and boarded Tyr. Before long Schiff 221 arrived and took Tyr in tow. By afternoon Tyr was on her way back to Bergen with a German crew.

German service during the invasion

Sognefjord with Uller

In German hands the Tyr was first used together with fellow captured Norwegian minelayer HNoMS Uller in a plan by Admiral Schrader to mine the entrance to the Sognefjord on 30 April. Together the two ships could carry 80 mines and quite effectively block in the Norwegian naval forces in the country's longest fjord. However, the Norwegian forces in the fjord had a very effective system of look-outs and guard ships. Before the two minelayers even had entered Sognefjord they were attacked by two of the Royal Norwegian Navy Air Service's M.F.11 biplane patrol aircraft. The seaplanes dropped nine bombs at the two minelayers, failing to damage either of the ships but wounding three sailors on Uller with shrapnel. Having escaped damage in this attack the minelayers continued north and started laying mines at the entrance to the Sognefjord. In the early hours of 1 May the Norwegians threw another seaplane attack against the German mining operation. A single Norwegian Heinkel He 115 made two dive bombing attacks on the Tyr and Uller, dropping one 250 kg bomb and four 50 kg bombs on the fiercely resisting ships. None of the bombs were direct hits, but one near miss damaged the side of the Uller, causing sea water to flood into her. Uller had to be beached on Losneøy island and thereafter scuttled by the only slightly damaged Tyr.[citation needed]


After scuttling Uller the Tyr abandoned her mining mission and retreated southwards to Bergen, carrying the crew of the Uller with her. Norwegian scouts were however still following her. Before the minelayer got back to base she was ambushed in the Fålefotsundet narrows between Hisøy and the mainland by the crew of a Norwegian guard boat that had been stalking her since leaving the Sognefjord. The crew had taken up positions on both sides of the narrows and opened a harrowing fire on the minelayer as she passed through.[11] As Tyr was shot up with intense machine gun fire the German crew replied with her 12 cm main gun and automatic weapons without hitting any in the ambush force. The fire fight continued until Tyr had passed through the narrows and got out of range of the Norwegians' light weaponry, making it back to Bergen. Tyr saw no further service during the Norwegian Campaign.

Post Norwegian Campaign service

After the Fålefotsundet ambush Tyr took no further part in the Norwegian Campaign. What the Germans used the minesweeper for after that is unknown.

After the Second World War, Tyr was returned to the Royal Norwegian Navy, and sold into civilian service. Her first rebuild was in 1946 when she converted to a heavy lift steamship. In 1949 she was sold to Br. Wilhelmsen A/S and rebuilt as a car ferry, being renamed Bjørn West in 1951 and was used as such by different companies for many years. In May 1986 she was rebuilt at Karmøy, this time as a heavy-transport ship. Later she was sold to a salmon farm company and as of 2006 was still in existence as a floating storage vessel.

See also


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 Abelsen 1986: p. 144
  2. Naval History on the 37mm 1pdr gun
  3. Naval History on the 37mm 1pdr Revolver gun
  4. Horten municipal archive of local history: Build numbers at Horten Yard (Norwegian)
  5. Naval History on the GR 10.2in 26cm 30cal Krupp gun
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 Berg 1995: 27
  7. Abelsen 1986: 135
  8. Naval war 1940 (German)
  9. 9.0 9.1 Shipwrecks off Bergen (Norwegian)
  10. Losses of the German merchant navy: Q-R-S (German)
  11. 11.0 11.1 11.2 Abelsen 1986: 136


  • Abelsen, Frank (1986) (in Norwegian and English). Norwegian naval ships 1939-1945. Oslo: Sem & Stenersen AS. ISBN 82-7046-050-8. 
  • Berg, Ole F. (1997) (in Norwegian). I skjærgården og på havet – Marinens krig 8. april 1940 – 8. mai 1945. Oslo: Marinens krigsveteranforening. ISBN 82-993545-2-8. 
  • Hauge, Andreas (1995) (in Norwegian). Kampene i Norge 1940. 1. Sandefjord: Krigshistorisk Forlag. ISBN 82-993369-0-2. 

External links