Rigel (left) and Korsnes (right) under attack
|Namesake:||The star Rigel|
|Owner:||Bergen Steamship Company|
|Builder:||Burmeister & Wain, Copenhagen|
|Fate:||Sunk by aircraft, 27 November 1944|
|Length:||367 ft 6 in (112.01 m)|
|Beam:||51 ft 6 in (15.70 m)|
|Depth:||22 ft 6 in (6.86 m)|
|Propulsion:||2 × 6-cylinder B&W diesel engines, 2,076 ihp (1,548 kW)|
|Speed:||11 knots (20 km/h; 13 mph)|
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 prisoners of war, German deserters and Norwegians arrested by the German police.
In November 1944, the two vessels, escorted by two German naval vessels, were attacked by Fairey Barracuda dive-bombers from the aircraft carrier HMS Implacable, which was taking part in "Operation Provident". 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 official number of casualties is 2,572, mostly Soviet (numbering 2,248), Polish and Serbian prisoners of war; seven Norwegians also perished. There has been speculation whether this number of people killed is too high or too low, estimates varying from 2,000 up to 4,500. The British Government said at the time that they had mistakenly believed the vessels to be carrying German troops. Survivors, as recently as in a 2005 documentary, claimed the British aircraft killed several of the prisoners by firing on them in the lifeboats.
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. All the graves are anonymous, but a memorial stone in the form of a cross has been erected on the site.
- "B&W ships list". maritime-museum.dk. 2012. Retrieved 27 August 2012. (Danish)
- Lawson, Siri Holm (2012). "M/S Rigel". warsailors.com. Retrieved 27 August 2012.
- "The War Graves Service". Ministry of Government Administration, Reform and Church Affairs. 2012. Retrieved 27 August 2012.