MS Rigel

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Rigel and Korsnes under attack
Rigel (left) and Korsnes (right) under attack
Career (Norway)
Name: MS Rigel
Namesake: The star Rigel
Owner: Bergen Steamship Company
Builder: Burmeister & Wain, Copenhagen[1]
Yard number: 326[1]
Acquired: August 1924[2]
Fate: Sunk by aircraft, 27 November 1944[2]
General characteristics
Type: Cargo steamer
Tonnage: 3,828 GRT
6,785 DWT[1]
Length: 367 ft 6 in (112.01 m)[2]
Beam: 51 ft 6 in (15.70 m)[2]
Depth: 22 ft 6 in (6.86 m)[2]
Propulsion: 2 × 6-cylinder B&W diesel engines, 2,076 ihp (1,548 kW)[2]
Speed: 11 knots (20 km/h; 13 mph)[2]

MS Rigel was a Norwegian vessel built in Copenhagen, Denmark, in 1924. The ship was used as a German prisoner of war (PoW) transport during World War II, and was sunk by British Fleet Air Arm aircraft off Norway on 27 November 1944 with heavy loss of life.

Ship history[edit]

The Rigel (3,828 tons) and Korsnes were originally steamers owned by the Bergen Steamship Company. The Rigel was named after the brightest star in the Orion constellation. The ships had been requisitioned by the German occupation authorities in Norway in 1940 to transport Allied PoWs.

According to Norwegian sources Rigel, under the command of Captain Heinrich Rhode with a German crew, sailed under the German flag from Bjerkvik on November 21 carrying 951 PoWs and 114 guards. At Narvik a further 349 PoWs were loaded plus 95 German deserters and 8 Norwegian prisoners arrested by the German police. The ship then proceeded in convoy with Korsnes and some smaller vessels to Tømmerneset where 948 more PoWs were loaded into the cargo holds. Rigel called next at the port of Bodø.[3]

When the ship left Bodø on 26 November Captain Rhode reported 2838 persons on board. There were 2248 Soviet, Polish and Serbian prisoners of war with the 95 German deserters and 8 Norwegian prisoners. In addition there were 455 German soldiers and the normal ship's crew of 29 plus three coastal pilots. One of the pilots and one woman crew member were Norwegians. With many soldiers on the deck the vessel probably looked like a troopship to the attackers.


The convoy escorted by two German naval vessels was attacked by Fairey Barracuda dive-bombers from the aircraft carrier HMS Implacable, which was taking part in Operation Provident.[4] The location of the attack was between the islands of Rosøya and Tjøtta south of the port of Sandnessjøen in Nordland county.

After the bombing raid the German captain on board Rigel grounded her on the island of Rosøya, which probably saved the lives of the 267 survivors. The number of casualties is 2571 including seven Norwegians.[5] Survivors, as recently as in a 2005 documentary, claimed the British aircraft killed several of the prisoners by firing on them in the lifeboats.[citation needed]


The wreck remained half-sunk until 1969, when it was demolished and the remains of the dead buried in the war cemetery on the island of Tjøtta. The cemetery was consecrated in 1970, in memory of those killed on the Rigel.[6] All the graves are anonymous, but a memorial stone in the form of a cross has been erected on the site.

Also in 1970, a song ("Riegal") based on the story of the Rigel was released by the American psychedelic folk group Pearls Before Swine on their album The Use of Ashes.[7]

The Norwegian broadcaster NRK produced a short news video in 2004 to mark the 60th anniversary of the disaster, with an interview with one of the survivors, 83-year-old Asbjørn Schultz. It contains some underwater footage of the wreck. [8]


  1. ^ a b c "B&W ships list". 2012. Retrieved 27 August 2012.  (Danish)
  2. ^ a b c d e f g Lawson, Siri Holm (2012). "M/S Rigel". Retrieved 27 August 2012. 
  3. ^ Asbjørn Jaklin, Historien om Nord-Norge, Gylendal Norsk Forlag, 2004, pp. 261-263
  4. ^ C-inC HF War Diary 1944
  5. ^ Norwegian history source
  6. ^ "The War Graves Service". Ministry of Government Administration, Reform and Church Affairs. 2012. Retrieved 27 August 2012. 
  7. ^
  8. ^ 2500 died when the Rigel went down

Coordinates: 65°49′16″N 12°20′10″E / 65.82111°N 12.33611°E / 65.82111; 12.33611