Krudtbåden M/S Gatun 

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13 June 2017 by scwharbour3639

Marius Christiansen/Allan Christiansen


Marius Christiansen, who this little report is about, was for years until his death in summer 1993 chairman for “The Danish Spain-volunteers Association”. He traveled, at 29 years of age, on the 7th January 1937, to Spain, where he was enrolled in the English speaking XVth International Brigade, as an ambulance driver. After many dangerous and dramatic experiences – which we will come back to in a later article – he traveled from Spain, on January 10, 1938, not to Denmark, but to Marseille, where he signed up with M/S “Gatun” as stoker. With the good ship of many names, he helped to sail weapons and ammunition to Republican Spain.

Marius Christiansen was, like many other Spain-volunteers, arrested by the Danish police on the 7th November 1941 and detained in the “Horserød-camp” 30 km north of Copenhagen. He shared his fate with 150 other detainees, who were sent to the German KZ-camp Stutthof near Danzig/Gedansk in Poland on October 2, 1943.
But let’s now let Marius tell about some of his experiences with the good ship M/S “Gatun”.


From ”Muhammed II” to M/S ”Gatun”.

In March 1938 I signed up with M/S “Gatun” – I call the ship so because it was hers name when I signed up as stoker in Marseille, but a dear child has many names, and it had M/S “Gatun” as well. I don’t remember them all, but on the side of the bridge where they painted the flag, which showed where it belonged, there was a approx 2 cm thick layer of paint.

The good ship M/S “Gatun”. A ship with many names.

It was an old rebuild French auxiliary cruiser, there was written “MUHAMMED II” on the ship’s bell. It loaded approx. 3000 tons and we had almost as much bunkers, that means coal. It burned approx. 60 tons a day when it went to full speed and ran its 21 knots, it was a big boost then. It also turned out that we ran from everyone, especially the Italian warships when they were after us.


The hunt across the Mediterranean.

Our trips or routes usually came from Marseille or Séte, where we took supplies, and took bunkers.

In the machine we were, as I remember it, more than 22 stokers and coal heavers. We were many, but we have also to put coal into 4 big boilers, each of them has 3 big furnace.

After we had taken supplies and bunkers, we would go to Greece. We went straight to Africa, and it did not take long before the Italians wanted to talk to us, and then began the hunt criss-cross the Mediterranean, until we went strait to Bizerte in Tunesia and anchored up in the middle of the harbour, where we lay for 8 days.


The Cement works at Piraeus.

When we had free, we went to snake hunting and much more until the Italians lost interest in us.

M/S “Gatun”s crew members on botany and snake hunting in North Africa.

Then we sailed slowly to Piraeus, or more precisely 4 km before at a cement factory. Soon after we had anchored at the factory, some barges came with our cargo – weapons and ammunition. When we had got what we could load, we pulled the anchor up and sailed slowly off in the afternoon.


The Strait of Messina.

Later in the afternoon we got busy, very busy, an extra chimney was raised, which lay inside the deckhouse. A forge was placed under the extra chimney, later it was fired, and it smoked like a real chimney. Yes “Gatun” had become a very nice passenger boat.

When we passed the Strait of Messina, all was sent on the deck, where we walked round like tourists, up and down, while we admired the beautiful lighting on land and city, here was peace and quiet. We sailed for half power through the Strait and fired well on our extra chimney, but as soon were through the Messina Strait everything was shut down and then full power on the machine.


To Port Bou.

The reserve chimney was taken down and stowed away. Then it got what it could bear right on Port Bou, a small harbor near the French border. Here we became immediate unloaded. After the unloading we went back to Séte or Marseille to get in supplies and bunkers onboard. Perhaps it was necessary with a minor repair.

4 stokers in Marseille. It is Marius to the far right.


and so we will continue


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Dedicated to the blockade runners, sailors and dock workers and their organisations who supported the Spanish Republic during the Spanish Civil War 1936 -1939.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.
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