Second Battle of Narvik, 13 April 1940 - Warspite and British Destroyers withdraw
One of a series of nine pictures of the battle at Narvik on 13 April 1940, taken from the Swordfish attached to the British flagship, HMS Warspite
The original caption reads: With the entire force of seven German destroyers wiped out, the Warspite and destroyer screen steam out through the narrow exit of Ofot Fiord.
Taken from Fleet Air Arm, HMSO, published 1943, p.51
Battle of Narvik April 10th, 1940 World War 2 Naval Battles Royal Navy
First Battle of Narvik WW2
In the First Battle of Narvik on April 10th, 1940, five Royal Navy destroyers entered the harbour of Narvik where five destroyers of the Kriegsmarine were seriously damaged, thereof two sunk. Six other German ships were also sunk. And also two British destroyers sank. Both the German Commander, Commodore Bonte, and the British Commander, Captain Warburton-Lee, were killed in the battle.
Warburton-Lee was later awarded the Victoria Cross, the UK's highest award for gallantry in the face of enemy action.]
Second Battle of Narvik
The Second Battle of Narvik occurred three days after the First Battle of Narvik on 13 April 1940.
Vice Admiral William Whitworth and his forces arrived at the fjord to finish off the eight remaining German destroyers and two U-boats that were virtually stranded in a trap due to lack of fuel, a result of the First Battle of Narvik. The British forces consisted of the HMS Warspite (probably the best known 20th century Royal Navy battleship) and nine destroyers and planes from the carrier "Furious".
During the battle, a Fairey Swordfish catapult aircraft launched from the HMS Warspite sank the submarine "U-64", making it the first U-boat to be sunk by an airplane in World War II.
The Royal Navy easily wiped out the remaining eight German destroyers.
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The Great drop of the interwar
It is useful to recall the might of the Royal Navy in 1918. As the first nation to embark on the Dreadnought type, showing the way forward, the Royal Navy had the greatest dreadnought fleet of any nation. Calibers started at 12-in (305), then 14-in (340) and 15-in (381). Added to this, the Royal Navy still boasted the largest fleet of pre-dreadnoughts. In 1919, it was still question to keep at least the largest part of the dreadnoughts.
The Washington treaty limitations
The Washington treaty, signed in 1922 however, ruined these prospects entirely. Drastic cuts into the tonnage and self-evident choices left the Royal Navy with the very latest dreadnoughts in service, those completed shortly before or during the great war, to summarize, the Queen Elisabeth (1913) and the Resolution (1915) classes, notably for the sake of standardization.
Non-standard but recent ships like the Iron Duke class (14-in artillery) were disarmed or converted as training vessels for some time, whereas the HMS Erin (a Turkish order) was discarded, and Canada, paid by Chile before the war, returned to its original owner. Choices were made for battlecruisers also, and they were, again, self-evident.
Notably the two Renown class ships, state of the art in 1917, and the Hood, the mightiest ship in the world at that time, were kept. The “admiral” class was cancelled, leaving only the Hood being completed, in 1920. UK won the same ratio as the US, compatible with its “two fleets policy”, of 5 compared to other nations (3 for Japan, 1.75 for France and Italy).
The motivation behind the Empire was quite simple: The British perspective showed concerns that the United States could expand its naval program, catch up and even topped the Royal Navy. The policy of having twice the tonnage of both best navies united cracked up after the Washington treaty and good relations with the US never excluded some scenarios due to the American isolationism, like “War Plan Red”, declassified in 1974 and causing a stir in these relations.
The two major sets of consequences of the treaty for WW2 British battleships were:
-Quantitative: Ban on construction, and tonnage allocation that necessitated the scrapping of 24 British battleships (versus 26 American and 16 Japanese warships). This ban expired at the end of 1936. There was a global 525,000 tons limitation on capital ships (135,000 tons on aircraft carriers).
-Qualitative: Capital ships were defined as above 10,000 tons displacement above 8 inches guns, and under 35,000 tons /16 inches guns.
There were of course exceptions: The WW2 British battleships Nelson and Rodney were already in construction in 1922, just barely started. They could have been scrapped and the material recycled like many immediate-post war capital ships in construction elsewhere, but UK obtained a derogation to the ban, provided that enough older dreadnoughts were scrapped. Indeed, the Iron Duke class was initially planned to stay in service until the late 1930s, and be modernized. They were ultimately the sole, and smaller of the G3 type, pre-Washington concepts, in service by 1926-27. They proved their worst during WW2 at several occasions but never had the chance of “crossing the T” of an enemy fleet, as planned.
The last dreadnoughts
The last capital ship to be later part of WW2 British battleships were completed during the great war was HMS Ramillies, of the Revenge (Or Resolution) class, in December 1917. Construction has been postponed and resumed in one year before the launch and completion. HMS Renown, Repulse and Resistance were also planned, but they saw their construction suspended on 26.08.1914 and never resumed. The names were soon given to new battlecruisers, a more promising breed at the time (Before the battle of Jutland).
There were no plans for more battleships at that time, until 1918 and V-Day, when personal returned to various yards, allowing to envision new capital ships, taking in account lessons from the war. HMS Hood was already modified during construction to incorporate these. In addition, British engineers had an insight into German battlecruiser construction (notably the Hindenburg), seeing how it was advanced in its protection design. Nothing was lost for the development of future British battleships during the interwar.
In early 1940, Britain badly needed a victory to give heart to the country in the face of the seemingly unstoppable German Blitzkrieg. It came with a series of daring attacks on the Kriegsmarine as they invaded Norway and typifies the British fighting spirit at a time when Europe was a German Empire and we stood alone. As one newspaper headline said at the time, “Let them all come”
On the 1st of March 1940, Hitler ordered the invasion of Norway codenamed “Wesereubung”. The long Norwegian coastline would give his aircraft and warships an ideal base from which to attack northern Britain and the year round ice free port of Narvik would be used to transport Swedish iron ore to Germany.
The invasion fleet was divided into five groups tasked with capturing Norway’s six main ports and on the 6th of April, Group One, commanded by Kommodore Bonte and consisting of 10 destroyers, each carrying 200 assault troops, set sail for Narvik, escorted by the battleships Scharnhorst and Gneisenau.
On the 9th of April, Group One arrived in Ofotfjord leading to Narvik, in fog and heavy snow. In the fjord they captured three Norwegian patrol boats, but failed to stop their commander from sending a warning signal to two coastal defence ships guarding Narvik. When the German destroyers arrived they attempted to negotiate the surrender of the two defence vessels and when this failed, the Norwegians opened fire on the attackers. The Germans retaliated and torpedoed both ships.
The German destroyers were now short of fuel. Plans had been made to send three tankers with the destroyer group but only one had managed to reach the fjord. One had been sunk by a suspicious Norwegian patrol ship and one had been intercepted by the British cruiser HMS Suffolk. The surviving tanker began refuelling the destroyers, but could only handle two at a time in a process taking some seven hours. The rest of the group were stationed around the fjord in various inlets.
The Royal Navy had meanwhile been seeking to engage the Kriegsmarine and on the 8th of April, the British destroyer Glowworm attacked the heavy cruiser Admiral Hipper and two destroyers, but was badly damaged. In true naval tradition she rammed Hipper before going down. The next day, the British battle cruiser HMS Renown exchanged salvos with Scharnorst and Gneisenau, causing some damage, but the main German mission had been completed and the invasion force was successfully landed.
The day after the invasion, a British flotilla of five H class destroyers, Havoc, Hardy, Hotspur, Hunter and Hostile, under the command of Commodore Bernard Warburton-Lee, was sent into the Ofotfjord and at 4.30 am, in driving snow, they caught the enemy by surprise and in the ensuing fire fight, sank two German destroyers and damaged three others. They went on to bombard the invasion troops on the shore, but lacking a landing force, began to withdraw, but not before launching torpedoes at the merchant shipping in the harbour, sinking eleven of them.
They were then themselves attacked by three German destroyers emerging from the inlets and in some heavy fighting, the flotilla leader HMS Hardy was beached in flames and Hunter was torpedoed and sunk. One other destroyer was badly damaged. The Germans being low on fuel and ammunition did not continue the pursuit and the British were able to sink a German ammunition ship on their way out of the fjord. The commanders of both groups were killed during the action. Commodore Warburton-Lee was awarded the Victoria Cross for his leadership and the German Kommodore Bonte was awarded the Knights Cross of the Iron Cross.
The Royal Navy was determined to defeat the Germans at Narvik and sent a powerful task force comprising the battleship HMS Warspite with nine destroyers accompanied by aircraft from the carrier HMS Furious. They arrived in Otofjord on the 13th of April to find the remaining eight German destroyers, all low on fuel and ammunition. Warspite then launched its Fairy Swordfish float plane which bombed and sank the German submarine U- 64. This was the first instance of a U-Boat being sunk by aircraft in the war.
The German destroyer, Erich Koeliner tried to ambush the task force, but was spotted by the Warspite’s seaplane and promptly sunk by gunfire and torpedoes, while the survivors of the crew were captured by Norwegian forces. Two others were sunk in the fighting and the five remaining, now out of ammunition, scuttled themselves in the fjord. The only German ship to survive in the port area was the submarine U-51. Warspite’s guns pounded the German shore batteries and installations before heading back out to sea where she was attacked by German submarines U-46 and U-48, but the subs magnetic fused torpedoes malfunctioned probably due to the high northern latitude.
The battles had cost the Germans ten destroyers, one submarine and a number of supply ships, plus the loss of some 1,000 lives. The surviving crew members of the scuttled ships were formed into an improvised marine infantry unit and fought alongside their army comrades in the land battle that followed.
Georg Thiele had an overall length of 119 meters (390 ft 5 in) and was 114 meters (374 ft 0 in) long at the waterline. The ship had a beam of 11.3 meters (37 ft 1 in), and a maximum draft of 4.23 meters (13 ft 11 in). She displaced 2,223 long tons (2,259 t) at standard load and 3,156 long tons (3,207 t) at deep load. The Wagner geared steam turbines were designed to produce 70,000 shaft horsepower (52,199 kW) which would propel the ship at 36 knots (67 km/h 41 mph). Steam was provided to the turbines by six high-pressure Wagner boilers ΐ] with superheaters. Georg Thiele carried a maximum of 752 metric tons (740 long tons) of fuel oil which was intended to give a range of 4,400 nautical miles (8,100 km 5,100 mi) at 19 knots (35 km/h 22 mph), but the ship proved top-heavy in service and 30% of the fuel had to be retained as ballast low in the ship. Α] The effective range proved to be only 1,530 nmi (2,830 km 1,760 mi) at 19 knots (35 km/h 22 mph). Β]
The ship carried five 12.7 cm SK C/34 guns in single mounts with gun shields, two each superimposed, fore and aft. The fifth gun was carried on top of the rear deckhouse. Her anti-aircraft armament consisted of four 3.7 cm SK C/30 guns in two twin mounts abreast the rear funnel and six 2 cm C/30 guns in single mounts. The ship carried eight above-water 53.3-centimeter (21.0 in) torpedo tubes in two power-operated mounts. ΐ] Four depth charge throwers were mounted on the sides of the rear deckhouse and they were supplemented by six racks for individual depth charges on the sides of the stern. Enough depth charges were carried for either two or four patterns of 16 charges each. Γ] Mine rails could be fitted on the rear deck that had a maximum capacity of 60 mines. ΐ] A system of passive hydrophones designated as 'GHG' (Gruppenhorchgerät) was fitted to detect submarines. Δ] The crew numbered 10 officers and 315 men, plus an additional four officers and 19 enlisted men if serving as a flotilla flagship. ΐ]
HMS Warspite (03)
Authored By: JR Potts, AUS 173d AB | Last Edited: 12/17/2016 | Content ©www.MilitaryFactory.com | The following text is exclusive to this site.
HMS Warspite (03) was a Dreadnought Battleship of the Queen Elizabeth-class in service with the British Royal Navy. The hull of this all-new "big gun" ship design was patterned after the "Iron Duke" battleship class. When on the drawing board, the Queen Elizabeth class was championed by Winston Churchill, then First Lord of the Admiralty. Churchill knew he needed allies to convince the War Department to fund the massive project so he persuaded Admiral Sir John "Jackie" Fisher to come out of retirement and help secure the construction of Warspite and her sister ships. They were successful in their efforts and Warspite was officially launched on November 26th, 1913 from the Devonport Royal Dockyard in Plymouth and formally commissioned on March 8th, 1915. World War 1 (1914-1918) was already underway by then.
The Queen Elizabeth-class were constructed as "Super Dreadnoughts" which reflected their having more firepower, thicker armor and larger overall dimensions than preceding Dreadnought warships. Winston Churchill was able to push through the 15-inch main guns being developed in secret for the Elizabeth-class. In 1913, these guns were the largest rifled cannons of their kind anywhere in the world, making the Elizabeth-class the first to be designed around this new armament. Her architects chose to mount the guns in 4 x twin-gun turrets, all fitted inline with two forward emplacements and two aft. This was a change from previous Dreadnought battleships which included five total twin-gun turrets. The decision to remove the fifth turret helped to reduce the vessel's overall displacement and provide more internal space and tonnage for a larger powerplant - which significantly increased the speed of the class. Capable of 24 knots in ideal conditions, the Queen Elizabeth-class of World War 1 were considered the first true "fast battleships".
The 15-inch (381.0 mm) main gun barrel weighed approximately 100 tons and was 650.4 inches (16.52 m) in length. The shell was separate from the charges and weighed 1,920 pounds (870 kg) on their own. When fired, the recoil of the barrel was 46 inches (1.2 m) and a trained, experienced gunnery crew could maintain a healthy 2 rounds-per-minute rate-of-fire. Muzzle velocity was rated at 2,575 feet-per-second (785 m/s). By the time of World War 2 in 1941, the maximum elevation of the guns were changed from 20-degrees to 30-degrees. This elevation change allowed a streamlined shell to have a maximum range of 23,734 yards at 20 degrees and 32,500 yards (29,720 m) - more than 18 miles - at 30-degrees elevation.
The 6" BL Mk XII series were chosen as secondary armament and all 14 systems were placed in casements along the sides of the hull as built - 7 to port and 7 to starboard. The caliber was 6 inches and each gun weighed 6-tons. The length of the bore was 45 calibers (270 inches) and the weight of each shell was 100lbs (45kg). A gunnery crew could maintain a rate-of-fire of 7 rouns-per-minute with a maximum range out to 13,500 yards. In practice, the design of these guns of 1915 was such that in they were to fire forward for protection against smaller ships attempting to make torpedo runs on the vessel. The guns were close to the waterline and their use in this fashion proved them to be almost ineffective. Another possibility was to put four guns aft however this plan was abandoned and finally two guns were placed on the boat deck. After the Battle of Jutland in 1916, they were removed altogether as it was found the gun crews were too exposed to enemy fire.
The class also fielded 2 x 3" BL Mk 1 QF series anti-aircraft guns added in 1915. At this point in time, the general feeling by warplanners was that aircraft could not sink a battleship-type vessel therefore the need for anti-aircraft gun protection was a low priority. The caliber of these weapons was 3 inches and the length of the bore was 45 calibers (135 inches). The weight of the individual gun was 1-ton (2000lbs) and the shell weighed 12lbs, 8 oz. The crew could maintain a rate-of-fire of 20 rounds-per-minute. The shells' maximum range was approximately 11,200 yards.
Torpedo tubes were still seen as required armament on capital ships in 1915. As such, Warspite was given four torpedo launch tubes - two mounted forward and two mounted aft - in fixed launchers below the water line. The bow mounts - one port and one starboard - were about 80 feet back from the bow and the two aft tubes were situated as one port and one starboard under the most-aft 15-inch "D" turret emplacement. Each station held five torpedoes of 21-inches (533mm) in diameter and the length of bore of each was 45 calibers (270in). Each torpedo tube weighed 6 tons and the torpedoes themselves were 22 feet, 7.5 in long (6.896 m). The warhead weighed 280 pounds and the complete torpedo weighed 3,206 pounds (1,454 kg). Maximum range of these weapons was 18,500 yards with a cruise-to-target speed of 19 knots. The tubes were removed during the 1941 refit when destroyers took on the "torpedo boat" role in the British Royal Navy.
A number of boats and barges were assigned to HMS Warspite and her sister ships. The types consisted of a number of 32-foot Cutters with oars, 2 x 27-foot Whalers with sail and oars, a 42-foot sailing launch and a 36-foot pinache boat. Also assigned were 1 x 50-foot steam pinache, 1 x 45-foot steam Admiral's barge, a number of the standard 16-foot dinghy watercraft. Warspite was fitted with 8 x 40" searchlights as-built. After the Battle of Jutland, due to the poor performance of the British Fleet during the night action, an additional 8 lights were added making for a total of 16 searchlights placed about the superstructure.
Belt armor for the class was 13 inches amidships, tapering forward to 6 inches and aft to 4 inches. Above the waterline belt, the armor was 6 inches. The upright walls - or bulkheads - in the ship were from 6-inches to 4-inches thick forward and aft. The main 15-inch turrets weighed 750 tons, each having 13-inch armor fronts, sides of 11-inches and the turret roof with 4.25inch armor protection. The barbettes were given 7 to 10 inches above the belt and 4 to 6 inches below the belt. 6" guns were protected by 6-inch armor and the conning tower had 11-inch sides, a 3-inch roof and 4-inches on the revolving hood.
The propulsion system chosen were 24 x boilers, each having 285 psi maximum pressure and each driving 4 x direct drive turbines. The vessel had 4 x shafts and 75,000 shaft horsepower at 300 rpm. Electrical power for onboard systems was provided for by 2 x oil-driven 450kW dynamos and 2 x turbine-driven 200 Kw dynamos. Shortly after construction a single reciprocating engine-driven 200 kW dynamo was added to support the ships systems. The design speed was 24 knots at 56,000 shaft horsepower and, during trials in 1915, Warspite made 24.1kts at 56,600 shaft horsepower. The propellers each had 3 x 11 foot blades that turned at 275 revolutions per minute. 2 x 30 foot rudders were set behind the propellers, one between the first and second propeller and the second between the second and third propeller, allowing the ship to turn 360-degrees under power. Fuel storage below decks held tanks for 3,300 tons of oil and bins for100 tons of coal.
Warspite's first commanding officer was Captain Edward Montgomery Phillpotts. The Admiralty released Warspite to sea and she sailed into the Atlantic for a number of sea trials which included gunnery action of the new 15-inch (381 mm) main guns. Churchill himself was onboard when the guns were fired to test their accuracy and potency. The gunnery was on target and Churchill was satisfied with the new guns. Warspite then completed her sea trials and was posted to the 2nd Battle Squadron of the Grand Fleet in late 1915. On the journey, led by her escorting destroyers, Warspite grounded in the Forth resulting in damage to her hull. After repairs, she joined the Grand Fleet with the newly-formed 5th Battle Squadron which had been formed specifically for the fast battleship Queen Elizabeth-class. In December of 1915, Warspite was involved in a fast attack exercise with ships of her class and accidentally collided with her sister ship HMS Barham in a fog bank. The collision caused extensive damage to Warspite forcing her to return to Plymouth for repairs. Upon completion she returned to the fleet.
During World War 1, the overall strategy of Germany was to break the British blockade and to allow German mercantile shipping to once again bring much-needed supplies into Germany. The British strategy was to starve the people of Germany into capitulation so the Royal Navy was to engage and destroy the High Seas Fleet as well as keep German Navy warships and submarines away from Britain's own shipping lanes. World War 1 had been ongoing for two years now when, in May of 1916, Warspite, and the 5th Battle Squadron joined the Grand Fleet to take part in the first battle of her career - the Battle of Jutland.
Vice-Admiral Reinhard Scheer commanded the German fleet and the Royal Navy's Grand Fleet was commanded by Admiral Sir John Jellicoe. The German fleet's intention was to destroy only a portion of the Grand Fleet for the German Navy held an inadequate number of ships to engage the entire British fleet as a whole. Churchill said Jellicoe was the only man who could lose the war in an afternoon. At the end of May, Scheer ordered the entire High Seas Fleet to sortie into the North Atlantic expecting to meet Admiral Beatty's battlecruiser squadron based on the Forth and destroy it. The Royal Navy knew Scheer's plans (having broken the German naval code) and the Grand Fleet sailed out to meet him.
The British and German fleets sailed in standard formations with scouting squadrons of faster cruisers sailing ahead of the main body. The battle began on May 31st as Admiral Beatty, commanding the squadron, and was seven miles behind the cruisers who sighted the smaller German cruiser flotilla commanded by Admiral Hipper. Hipper was lured south into range of the main German fleet. Two British cruisers were destroyed as the Germans tried to overtake and destroy the British cruiser fleet. The 5th Battle Squadron appeared after the destruction of HMS Indefatigable and, as the German fleet closed on the British ships, they found themselves under plunging fire from Jellicoe's main battle fleet as the British crossed the "T" - the ultimate "broadside against the bow" maneuver in navy lingo. As the German fleet crossed the British fleet they received 27 direct hits while only scoring 2 hits on British ships.
HMS Warspite and HMS Malaya were engaged with the German battleships at about 4 pm on the first day of the battle. During violent maneuvers to avoid a collision with HMS Valiant, Warspite's steering jammed causing her to steam in circles, exposing her to heavy German guns though (inadvertently) drawing fire away from the damaged cruiser HMS Warrior. After two full turns, Warspite was under control and came to a heading against the attacking German fleet. Earlier damage made it possible that only her first turret could engage enemy targets. Inevitably, Warspite was saved from annihilation only when the German fleet was forced to turn and run from the guns of the British Grand Fleet. In all, Warspite suffered fifteen direct hits from German 11-inch and 12-inch shells. Her engine room was taking on water and her speed was reduced to just 16 knots. When she regained steam she was ordered to return to Rosyth for repairs. She reached the British port on June 1st. The outcome of the battle saw the Germans losing one heavy and four light cruisers, one pre-Dreadnought battleship and five destroyers. The British losses were three heavy and four armored cruisers along with and eight destroyers. Overall the surviving German capital ships had suffered serious damage and the final result of the battle increased British naval dominance of capital ships over Germany. The battle ended any threat from the German High Seas Fleet for the balance of the war. The blockade continued and the Royal Navy continued to control the North Sea till war's end.
Warspite was repaired by July 20th, 1916, and returned to the fleet only to be involved in a collision with HMS Valiant on August 24th. The damage suffered required that she undergo massive repairs in Plymouth, these lasting until September 28th. Her steering damage that occurred in the Battle of Jutland was never completely repaired and would continue to dog the vessel the rear of her fine career. She returned to the fleet and for some time served as flagship for 5th Battle Squadron. In June of 1917, Warspite - again having steering problems arise - collided with HMS Destroyer, causing enough damage that both ships were required to return to Scapa Flow for repairs. Her problems only continued when, on July 9th, 1917, HMS Warspite was undergoing these repairs. On that day, a coal fire had sprung aboard the nearby HMS Vanguard, ignited cordite in a weapons storage that caused a massive explosion. HMS Vanguard sank, taking with her 804 British sailors and leaving only 2 survivors. HMS Warspite's final mission of World War 1 occurred on November 21at, 1918 when she set sail into Scapa Flow to accept the German surrender from the High Seas Fleet.
After the war, Warspite was assigned to the 2nd Battle Squadron, Atlantic Fleet, with operations centering mainly in the Mediterranean. In 1924 she entered dry dock for a two year period and underwent a revision that saw her two smoke funnels removed and replaced with a single, larger funnel. Her beam was also widened to 104 feet to allow for anti-torpedo bulges to be implemented along her hull and deck armor was increased. After the work had concluded, Warspite was a flagship once more, this time in the Mediterranean. She then was transferred to the Atlantic Fleet in 1930.
During the period from 1934 to 1937, the Navy decided to upgrade their Elizabeth-class vessels. The project centered on replacing the entire propulsion system with a more modern arrangement to better suit the class. As such, the original twenty-four boilers of the class were removed in favor of six new individual boiler rooms. Additionally, four new engine rooms were built along with new gearing rooms for the geared Parsons turbines. The new engines decreased fuel consumption by 35% and led to greater endurance as well as uprated output. The lighter engines further allowed the vessel to take on more weaponry and additional armor protection to meet the demands of the new world - a world once again gearing up for total war. Four of Warspite's the 6-inch gun turrets were removed while her forecastle area was increased. The 200 ton conning tower was removed while 4x2 4" inch guns and 4x4 2-pdr "pom-pom" anti-aircraft guns were added. Deck armor was increased to 5-inches critical ammunition store areas and 3.5 inches now covered the engines and applicable compartments. Warspite's superstructure was revised as well and reduced in overall size to allow for an onboard aircraft hangar to be installed. The original fire control system was replaced by the more modern HACS MkIIIa system as threats to warships from enemy aircraft were proven in World War 1. A new fire control system - Mk VII - was added for the 15-inch gun batteries. Warspite was made ready for sail by the end of 1937, making her the most modernized ship in the British fleet and the most powerful in the world for a time. She returned to the Mediterranean Fleet as the flagship once again. However, as Warspite prepared to steam to Mediterranean waters, her steering issues arose, delaying her official return for several months more.
On September 1st, 1939 World War 2 officially began when the German Pre-Dreadnought Battleship SMS Schleswig-Holstein moored close to the Polish fortress at Westerplatte. At 04:47, Schleswig-Holstein opened with her main battery against the Polish positions and fired the first shots of World War 2. The British Admiralty ordered HMS Warspite from the Mediterranean to join the Home Fleet at Scapa Flow. Warspite, now part of the Atlantic Fleet, was to take part in the British campaigns in Norway. In April of 1940 the Royal Navy understood that long-term German success in the war depended on the large quantities of Swedish iron ore that departed from the neutral port of Narvik, Norway. The British Navy had blockaded Germany in World War 1 with great success so, as World War 2 began, the fleet was to use naval power against Germany once more. The United Kingdom and France came to Norway's aid with an "expeditionary" force supporting the Second Battle of Narvik.
The British flotilla included the battleship HMS Warspite and nine destroyers - HMS Cossack, HMS Punjabi, HMS Bedouin, and HMS Eskimo plus HMS Foxhound, HMS Kimberley, HMS Forester, HMS Hero, and HMS Icarus. For air support Whitworth was given the aircraft carrier HMS Furious. This substantial force arrived in Norwegian waters on April 13th to which Warspite launched her Swordfish biplane scouts. They sighted the German submarine U-64, anchored in the Herjangsfjord near Bjerkvik, and engaged, sinking her with bombs. U-64 became the first German submarine sunk by battleship-launched aircraft since World War 1 and the first German submarine sunk in the war by aircraft proper.
When the British fleet entered Ofotfjord they found eight German destroyers supporting the Second Battle of Narvik. The Royal Navy found the Germans with little fuel and short of ammunition. Warspite and her accompanying destroyers engaged and sank three German destroyers, the remaining five deciding to scuttle their own ships to avoid them being taken as war prizes by the British. Warspite and her escorts left Norwegian waters the next day so as to be out of range of German land-based aircraft - should there be a retaliatory response.
Warspite arrived back in Scapa Flow with her destroyer flotilla and, after undergoing repairs, refueling and taking on fresh stores, she was ordered back to Mediterranean waters. The main threat to British success in the region was now focused on the modernized Italian Navy. Warspite, and two other battleships and six heavy and five light cruisers, sixteen destroyers and a carrier were matched against the Italian fleet which consisted of two battleships, six heavy and eight light cruisers plus sixteen destroyers. This meeting gave rise to the Battle of Calabria on July 9th, 1940.
The two Italian battleships maneuvered to shell Warspite in a joined effort. The Italian Battleship Giulio Cesare opened fire at a range of 26,400 meters while her sister ship - Conte di Cavour - held up, the Italian strategy being to have only one ship shelled at a time. During the Battle of Jutland it was found that if more than one ship fired at a single target it became very difficult for the rangefinding parties on each attacking ship to tell which direct hits were theirs. Conte di Cavour had been assigned to fire on HMS Malaya and HMS Royal Sovereign, which were trailing Warspite and did not join the engagement. Warspite then split her fire between the two Italian Battleships ships which saved the Giulio Cesare. She straddled the Italian flagship and scored her first hit after only eight minutes. The Italians then withdrew and the action ended with no clear victor. In November of 1940 she supported the attack on the Italian fleet at Taranto and in December of 1940 she was part of the naval force charged with bombarding the Italian naval base at Valona.
From March 27th to the 29th of 1941, HMS Warspite, along with the Battleships HMS Valiant and HMS Barham took part in the Battle of the Mediterranean Sea off Cape Matapan near Greece. The order-of-battle consisted of the Italian fleet made up of 1 Battleship, 6 heavy cruisers, 2 light cruisers and 17 destroyers. The combined British and Australian fleet consisted of 1 Aircraft carrier, 3 Battleships, 2 light cruisers and 17 destroyers. The British fleet had fewer ships but greater fire power and some 80 aircraft on hand. The Italian ships had no radar and could not spot British ships except by lookouts with binoculars. HMS Ajax found the Italian fleet at night prompting the British battleships HMS Barham, HMS Valiant and flag ship HMS Warspite to close in unnoticed within 3,828 yards. Comparatively the Warspite's main guns held a maximum range of 32,500 yards. The British Battleships opened fire on the Italian ships at point blank range. The Italian ships were illuminated by searchlights from the British vessels and gunners witnessed the Italian cruiser's main turrets blown up meters high into the air. The outcome was a major British victory as losses included only a single aircraft with, three dead and four cruisers lightly damaged. The Italian fleet suffered heavy damage with three heavy cruisers and two destroyers sunk. The Battleship Giulio Cesare was heavily damaged and lost over 2,300 men.
After Cape Matapan, Warspite was sent to the United States for repairs and to receive upgraded anti-aircraft guns. She arrived at the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard in Washington state and was under repair when the Japanese Navy attacked Pearl Harbor on December 7th, 1941 - thrusting America into the war. Warspite was completed at the end of December and joined the British Eastern Fleet in the Indian Ocean. She then took part in Allied efforts to block the Japanese Indian Ocean raids but the Japanese forces ultimately captured Malaya , Singapore and the Dutch East Indies forcing the remaining British warships to withdraw to Trincomalee, Ceylon and, ultimately back to the Mediterranean. On April 21st, 1941Axis reinforcements were flooding into North Africa through Tripoli prompting Warspite to take part in the bombardment of the city.
In May of 1941,as the Germans invaded Crete, Warspite and HMS Valiant were sent to block the Italian Mediterranean fleet. HMS Warspite took up a position off the west coast of Crete and waited for the Italian fleet. However German land-based aircraft found her and attacked, Warspite being hit by bombs which destroyed the starboard 4-inch and 6-inch guns. Damaged, Warsprite was forced to retire back towards Alexandria. Upon inspection, she was found in need of extensive repairs and was ordered back to England for such. Soon Warspite was refurbished and sent back to the Mediterranean, ultimately taking part in the Allied invasion of Sicily in July of 1943, she being used as a bombardment ship against inland targets.
In September of 1943, while supporting the Salerno landings with offshore gunfire, Warspite escorted the Italian Fleet into internment at Malta after their formal surrender to the Allies. Back on station, she was bombed by German aircraft with three Ruhrstahl Fritz-X bombs - anti-ship, wire-guided glide bombs. It became one of the first operational attempts involving "precision guided" anti-ship munitions. One bomb penetrated Warspite's six decks deep before exploding at the Number 4 boiler room, ultimately destroying the boiler. A second Fritz-X missed Warspite directly but managed to blast a hole in her hull at the waterline. The hole on her port side allowed 5,000 tons of water to gush in causing a total loss of power throughout the ship. The bombs were powerful for their time however it was only luck that minimized personnel losses. Her lack of ship power required her to be towed to Malta by the USS Hopi and USS Moreno - both 1,675 ton fleet tugs with crews of 80 men. After some repair she returned to Britain and was in dry dock for 9 months. It became obvious the ship could not completely be repaired and she was desperately needed back in the war zone. Warspite, now fielded with less firepower, returned to action to bombard Normandy during Operation Overlord on June 6th, 1944 - the Allied invasion to retake Northern France.
During D-Day she could only fire six of her 15-inch guns, eight of her twelve 40inch anti-aircraft guns and forty of her "pompom" cannons. Even with these drawbacks she took part in the bombardment of German positions inland of the coast at Sword Beach. At the start of November the British were pushing to take the port city of Antwerp. Warspite supported the Allied landings on the island of Walcheren and was stationed at the mouth of the Scheldt. Warspite, and the monitors HMS Roberts and HMS Erebusboth having a single turret with two 15-inch guns, bombarded German gun batteries at the western end of the island. As the allies moved further inland and the Germans retreated, land-based targets for the Warspite went out of range of her 15-inch guns. Warspite was no longer needed as a bombardment ship and the war was essentially over for the battle-worn ship. She was placed in "Category C" reserve on February 1st,1945. The war in Europe was over by the end of May while the war in the Pacific would soon follow by the end of August.
Her many crew men tried to convince the British Admiralty to make Warspite a floating museum ship but their attempts ultimately failed. Due to her condition, the decision was made that she be sold for scrapping in 1947. During the tow to the scrap heap, Warspite broke loose and ran aground in Prussia Cove, Cornwall - some of her crew believing that the ship attempted to make a break for the North Sea instead of allowing herself to be broken up for scrapping. The battleship was recovered and taken to St. Michael's Mount where she was unceremoniously dismantled in 1955. A memorial stone was erected near the sea wall at Marazion. The remains of the masts were set on display at Prussia Cove while one section was erected on a point overlooking the cove itself. HMS Warspite was awarded the most battle honors of any ship in the Royal Navy - even besting Lord Nelson's famous HMS Victory - and became the most awarded warship for actions concerning World War 2. Her storied career spanned decades of excellent service and two world wars - a resume shared by only a few other vessels in the world.
Second Battle of Narvik, 13 April 1940 - Warspite and British Destroyers withdraw - History
Beset by human error and deserted by luck, the Allies could have been forgiven for thinking their failures in Norway were almost farcical had they not resulted in precious lives and territory lost. But far to the north, within the Arctic Circle, there was a glimmer of hope: Narvik. By mid-May 1940 the possibility of a tactical Allied victory in this imposing region was tantalisingly close. For one sizable contingent, the Polish Independent Highland Brigade (Samodzielna Brygada Strzelców Podhalańskich), Narvik would also represent the first step on the long road to Poland’s freedom.
Prior to the development of Narvik’s port at the turn of the 20th century, the shipping of Swedish iron ore in winter was hampered by the Gulf of Bothnia freezing up. Swedish ore was known for its quality and was a key ingredient in the blast furnaces of German steelmakers. To circumvent the problem a railway line was built connecting Sweden’s main ore fields to the port of Narvik, on the northern coast of Norway. This allowed for all-year shipping.
In 1938, it was estimated the Third Reich imported 22 million tons of iron ore, of which 2 million to 3 million tons was shipped via Narvik. The British and French took careful note, with the British Ministry of Economic Warfare computing that Germany needed at least 750,000 tons of iron ore per month in the first year of conflict or risk ‘major industrial breakdown’. Interrupt the flow of Narvik ore and the Allies could inflict a notable blow against Germany’s industrial base. Of course there was also another, less-publicised reason for intervening in Norway: both the British and French considered it an excellent location for a second front. Fighting the Germans to the north would distract them from the west, earning the Allies precious time to continue arming and building up their reserves.
The Germans were well aware of these possibilities and demanded Oslo maintain strict neutrality and strongly rebuff any Allied encroachments. The Third Reich would send forces to ensure Norway’s ‘protection’ if it was unwilling or unable to do this. However, much of this was hypothetical: Hitler knew many British and French politicians were wary of transgressing Norwegian neutrality for fear of incurring the censure of other non-aligned nations. In addition, Britain and France had emphasised time and again that they were fighting to uphold international law in response to Germany’s invasion of Poland. Thus their central justification for declaring war would be weakened if they were seen to blatantly violate Norway’s sovereignty.
A stand-off ensued, with the three sides – Germany, France and Britain, and Norway – each trying to second guess what the others’ intentions might be. Tensions were ratcheted further on 30 November 1939 when the USSR invaded Finland. There was great sympathy for the Finns’ plight in the democratic world, with many in France and Britain viewing Stalin as being little better than Hitler.* There was concern in Germany that the Allies would use Finland as a pretext to intervene in Scandinavia, strangling the flow of iron ore in the process. The hunch was correct, with the French notably bullish in joint planning and calling for an expeditionary force ‘to occupy Narvik and the Swedish iron ore fields as part of the process of assisting Finland’.
*All of which would start to change after the German invasion of the USSR in 1941. Stalin was absolved of his sins in propaganda that projected the image of a benevolent dictator, the pipe-smoking ‘Uncle Joe’.
Another spur for the invasion of Norway occurred in February 1940 with the dramatic interception of the Altmark, a German transport ship that had linked up with the Graf Spee and taken aboard around 300 British prisoners captured by the pocket battleship during its ill-fated rampage. Altmark managed to reach Norwegian waters when she was chased up a fjord and boarded by the Royal Navy destroyer Cossack, with the prisoners broken free. Germany viewed Norway’s passive response to Cossack’s actions as underlining tacit support for Britain.* In response, blueprints for a pre-emptive strike on Norway were drawn up, with the final plan calling for several German flotillas to capture Oslo and other key ports in an audacious surprise attack. On 2 April, Operation Weserübung was given clearance, with the various task forces to leave at staggered intervals to ensure all units arrived at their targets on 8/9 April.
*Conveniently forgetting their own violation of moving POWs through neutral waters.
While the Germans were thinking big, Allied preparations for a Scandinavian expeditionary force had been scuppered after Finland accepted Russian terms on 12 March. In response, the Royal Navy formulated a plan to lay mines in Norwegian waters in order to disrupt the shipments of iron ore. Clearance for an operation was granted at a Supreme War Council on 28 March. It was hoped the Germans would make an aggressive countermove that would allow the Allies to rush troops to Norway and open the second front. The operation was scheduled for 5 April and response units assembled in preparation. However, there was a sudden postponement until 8 April, which created a great deal of confusion. It also meant the Germans were now several vital steps ahead.
Norway’s politicians reacted to events on 8/9 April with disbelief and vacillation, despite receiving intelligence that a German invasion had started. This included the testimony of around 100 bedraggled German soldiers fished out of the sea by Norwegian vessels after their transport ship, Rio de Janeiro, had been sunk off the southern coast on 8 April. The survivors said they had been heading to Bergen as part of a German operation to protect Norway from the Allies. Their ship had been sunk by the Polish submarine Orzeł under the command of Captain Grudzinski.
In 1939, as the Blitzkrieg swallowed up Poland, Orzeł had escaped by sailing for the safety of Tallinn, Estonia. But the crew and its captain were unwilling to remain interned under the rules of neutrality the submariners had soon kidnapped their Estonian guards and escaped in their vessel. Without charts or compass, they reached the Swedish coast, landing their captives and handing them whisky, cash and cigarettes by way of an apology. In a triumph of seamanship and daring, the submarine reached Britain not long afterwards. Dutch-built Orzeł was a modern submarine and an extremely welcome asset for the Royal Navy to call on. She was involved in several other engagements in Norwegian waters after sinking Rio de Janeiro until contact was suddenly lost in early June, the vessel vanishing without a trace.*
*Numerous theories about this disaster have been proposed, although the most likely cause was striking of a sea mine. In summer 2008, a Polish expedition searched the area where Orzeł was presumed lost. Although several wrecks were discovered, she was not among them. Follow-up efforts have been unable to find her either and the fate of the submarine and 63-man crew remains a mystery.
Back on land, German units consistently outfoxed and outmanoeuvred the Norwegians. At Narvik, the taskforce arrived after destroying two superannuated dreadnoughts that had bravely but forlornly tried to halt the invaders. Led by General Dietl, 1,200 men – Gebirgsjäger of the German 3rd Mountain Division – quickly secured the port, whose overwhelmed defenders either slipped away or surrendered. The Allies were now on the back foot in Norway and would remain so until the end of the campaign. However, they scored some early naval successes at Narvik: on 10 April and 13 April, the Royal Navy contained and then decimated the German flotilla in the harbour and neighbouring fjords.
The Kriegsmarine’s misfortune proved advantageous for Dietl as the surviving naval personnel were placed under his command, almost doubling his available manpower. And while their quality as soldiers was poor, they allowed the German general to plug important gaps in his defence lines. Later on, with the German perimeter shrinking and the casualties mounting, Dietl was reinforced through variety of means that included transport aircraft and seaplanes ferrying men and equipment parachutist drops and the crossing of neutral Sweden into Narvik by German ‘specialists’ on civilian visas. However, the numbers involved were not large for example, only 300 men and two anti-tank guns arrived within the German perimeter from 14 May to 22 May.
Aside from the naval success at Narvik, the British response to the Norwegian intervention had proven rushed and poorly executed. For example, the elite 24 Guards Brigade was landed in the Narvik theatre, while raw territorial troops – far too few in number and weakly armed – were thrown into central Norway to face the main German juggernaut now pushing north out of Oslo. Although these men put up some stiff resistance, and had the advantage of defensive terrain, they were without vital anti-tank capabilities. They were also under constant threat from the air as the Germans had almost complete mastery of the skies.
Back at Narvik an operational base was established at the small port of Harstad, 55km to the northwest. The commander of Allied land forces, Maj Gen Mackesy, favoured a step-by-step approach along both sides of Ofotfjord that leads to Narvik. Mackesy argued that the grim weather* and the lack of vital equipment, including skis, precluded any other form of advance. The navy, led by Lord Cork (soon appointed the theatre’s overall commander) believed an opposed landing offered the best possible solution. He was vetoed by Mackesy, who considered an operation of this sort too dangerous, while Cork made his opinions on the matter known to his superiors.
*It is worth noting the European winter of 1939/40 had been abysmal and the bleak conditions experienced at Narvik lasted well into May.
As the back-and-forth argument between the two men continued, the Royal Navy conducted an ineffectual bombardment of Narvik’s hinterland by the British battleship Warspite and several destroyers on 24 April. At least there was some positive news filtering back from the region north of Narvik as Norway’s 6th Division, which was responsible for defending the area, had been rallied by the tough but irascible Maj Gen Fleischer. While it suffered from inexperience and also struggled against the dismal conditions, its efforts were now keeping the enemy engaged and causing casualties.
Far from the icy and forbidding fjords of Narvik, thousands of Polish troops had been busy training in the countryside around Coëtquidan, Brittany. Among them were the soldiers of the newly-formed Polish Highland Brigade, which officially came into existence on 29 February 1940. Manpower for the Polish Army in France primarily came from two sources: the thousands of troops and civilians that escaped Poland via its southern borders or from France’s large Polish immigrant communities. Sometimes labelled Carpathian Chasseurs, few of the unit’s members actually came from the mountainous region of southern Poland. Interestingly, the brigade also contained a smattering of troops that had seen action fighting for the Republicans in the Spanish Civil War.
The aim was to quickly create an elite formation for operating in harsh environments like Norway and the training was intensive by necessity. The unit included 1st Half Brigade, comprising the 1st and 2nd Battalions, and 2nd Half Brigade, which included the 3rd and 4th Battalions. In overall command was Zygmunt Bohusz-Szyszko – promoted to Maj. Gen. on 9 April – who had served in the Tsarist army during the First World War and had led the Polish 16th Division in 1939. Polish High Command placed the brigade on alert as soon as the German invasion of Norway started. A full parade took place on 10 April, with the Polish leader and commander-in-chief General Wladyslaw Sikorski in attendance. ‘It will be your honour to lead the way,’ he said, before presenting the brigade with its new colours, a gift from the army field bishop, Józef Gawlina.
On the night of the 23/24 April, the 4,778-strong brigade boarded three liners bound for Norway. Following a dull voyage that was punctuated with the excitement and fear of a submarine contact, the Poles arrived off Tromso on 5 May. The dramatic Norwegian coast filled many with awe and some trepidation. ‘The hearts of the Polish soldiers sank at the sight of the huge, tooth-like mountains,’ Karol Zbyszewski and Józef Natanson wrote later in 1940. Few Poles had ever seen a landscape like it. Misguidedly, the Allies intended to move the brigade into East Finnmark province, which bordered Russia. The aim was to free-up Norwegian troops stationed there, enabling them to fight in the Narvik theatre. The Norwegians vigorously opposed this move as stationing Poles next to Russians would have been more than impolitic given the USSR’s annexation of eastern Poland in 1939. Quickly seeing sense, the Allies ordered the Poles to land at Harstad, which they did on 7/8 May.
The Polish 1st Half Brigade camped outside the small port along with the headquarters staff and support troops. Meanwhile, 2nd Half Brigade’s 3rd Battalion was transferred to Ballangen for use as a security force, while its 4th Battalion was sent to Salangen. The Poles would have been informed about the destruction of the Polish destroyer Grom in Ofotfjord she had been sunk by an enemy air strike for the loss of 59 men on 5 May. The 2,144-tonne vessel was hit by a bomb on the torpedo tubes, detonating the warheads and blowing the ship apart. Its destruction was also evidence, if evidence was needed, of Germany’s growing aerial might in the theatre as airfields in central Norway were brought into use by the Luftwaffe.
*Grom was one of three destroyers that had raced to Britain from Poland at the start of the war.
The Poles had landed shortly after several French units, including the 27th Half Brigade of elite Chasseurs Alpins that arrived on 28 April and the 13th Half Brigade, comprising two Foreign Legion battalions and several support elements, which arrived on 6 May. French and Polish forces were under the overall command of Bdr. Gen. Marie Emilie Béthouart who had already been involved in operations at Namsos, central Norway, until ordered by French High Command to take control of units in the Narvik theatre.
Although total Allied numbers in the theatre now stood at around 25,000, Mackesy’s cautious strategy still dominated. However, the arrival of French and Polish troops injected some much-needed animation on the Allied side, with a methodical advance to Bjerkvik on the northern shore of Ofotfjord soon proposed. The South Wales Borderers and a French ski platoon were then landed unopposed at Skjomnes, on the south shore and just west of the Ankenes peninsula. Their goal was the village of Ankenes that overlooks Beisfjord, with Narvik immediately beyond. Although there were only weak German outposts in the area, they were able to call in machine gun (MG) and artillery support on the only road west of the village, stopping the Borderers from reaching their objective. Alerted to the threat, the Germans then rushed Gebirgsjäger and naval personnel to the peninsula and counter attacked. British and French reinforcements were pushed back until the enemy came under naval fire and was also forced to retire.
The most notable Allied success in the following days was the capture of Bjerkvik. At Béthouart’s insistence, two battalions of the French Foreign Legion took this strategic village and its environs at the head of Herjansfjord on 12/13 May using early versions of landing craft. Simultaneously, the Norwegians and Chasseurs Alpins were continuing to fight and gain ground in the north. The Poles also played a small but notable part in this action the Highland Brigade’s 2nd Battalion landed at Lenvik and, supported by Norwegian ski detachments and British ships, was able to clear the northwest side of Herjangsfjord on 13 May. It then linked up with the French on 14 May. The enemy’s security force fell back in response, but soon discovered its line of retreat had been cut off. Heading into the mountains, this platoon-sized unit became lost until it stumbled into Gratangsbotn on 16 May, where it was swiftly captured by the French. Success at Bjerkvik gave Allied forces a badly-needed shot in the arm, as did the arrival of Maj. Gen. Auchinleck, who took over from the disappointing Mackesy. However, news from north-central Norway was becoming increasingly grim Allied efforts to stem an advance by the German 2nd Mountain Division to reach and relieve Dietl were failing.
For the Poles, a second naval sinking occurred when the converted Polish liner Chroby, carrying the Irish Guards in Vestfjord to the south, was hit by an enemy airstrike. Fortunately, the soldiers and sailors were transferred to ships that raced alongside and around 700 men were saved. However, ten Poles and three British crewmen were killed, as were several Irish Guards officers. The aerial threat had become such a menace that Cork and Auchinleck decided to prioritise the preparation of an airfield for RAF fighters. Efforts were centred on Bardufoss, northeast of Narvik, which became operational in late May. Several Gladiator biplanes from No.263 Sqn arrived on 25 May, joined the following day by Hurricanes from No.46 Sqn. But with good news came bad: Allied command in Narvik on 24/25 May was informed that operations in Norway were being brought to a close. With German armies now punching through the Western Front, the fate of France hung in the balance and Norway had become a secondary concern. However, it was stressed that the capture of Narvik and the destruction of its iron ore installations remained a priority before evacuation occurred.
The Ankenes peninsula had become an exclusively Polish concern by 19 May. The transfer of control started on 14 May with the arrival of two Polish battalions ferried in small boats from Bjerkvik to replace the South Wales Borderers, who were then shipped south to try and help tackle the advance of the German 2nd Mountain Division. Another Polish battalion arrived soon afterwards and it replaced the French 12th Battalion Chasseurs Alpins. They were followed by the final Polish battalion and headquarters staff, which arrived on 19 May. The Poles had the support of British artillery units and a small number of anti-aircraft guns.
Opposing them were two companies of Gebirgsjäger: 6 Company 139th Regiment (Reg.), which defended positions in and around Ankenes village, while 7 Company 139th Reg. held several hills to the south. On 17/18 May, under the dim glow of a midnight sun, the Polish Highland Brigade’s 2nd Battalion attempted to move its lines forward but met fierce resistance. Nine Poles were killed and 15 wounded. However, the pressure on the Germans was such that Dietl was forced to send reinforcements 6 Company was relieved by 8 Company 139th Reg. on 18/19 May, while naval personnel, engineers and reconnaissance platoons were also sent across. A major boost for the defenders came with the arrival of 118 men from 2 Company 137th Reg. that had parachuted into the Narvik theatre on 25 May and was moved to the peninsula on 27 May. However, the Poles continued to make localised advances, making good use of protective cover whenever the defenders called in an airstrike. Momentum was on their side and victory was in their sights.
In the meantime, with the clock ticking down to evacuation and air cover finally in place, the Allies were finally ready to tackle Narvik. At midnight 27/28 May, French and Norwegian troops landed 1.5 km east of the port. Around 290 legionaries arrived first, racing up the slopes of the beach towards their first objectives. Two H-39 light tanks that were meant to follow and offer support became bogged down. Nonetheless, the French held their ground and, despite delays in bringing up reinforcements, secured control of the beachhead by 04:00. On their right, the Norwegian 2nd Battalion 15th Reg. was fighting to take the high ground on the eastern approach to Narvik.
Although the Germans started to counter attack, their efforts were constrained by incoming naval fire. The tide was almost turned in their favour when RAF fighter cover was forced to return to base after a layer of fog was reported nearing Bardufoss. The Luftwaffe was now free to bomb British ships, which took evasive action as a result. On the ground, the Germans launched another stinging counter attack. As the danger mounted, Lt. Commander Balfour – who had lost his signals lamps in the German push – rushed down to the shore, boarded a landing craft and ordered it back out into the fjord. He eventually reached Coventry, which signalled Beagle to give shoreline support at any cost. Her 4.7 inch guns had the desired effect and forced the Germans to retire.
Shortly afterwards, the fog at Bardufoss cleared and three Hurricanes were scrambled. Their presence was enough to scatter the German aircraft and allowed the British ships to resume their supporting role. A second battalion of French troops had landed by 11:00, adding extra impetus to the drive forward. The Germans were now steadily retreating towards defensive positions, closer to the Swedish border. Victorious, Béthouart was more than happy to grant a Norwegian battalion the honour of officially entering Narvik first. Total casualties stood at 150, with the French suffering 34 dead and 50 wounded.
As the French and Norwegians started the operation to take Narvik, the Polish launched their effort to seize the Ankenes peninsula. The 1st Battalion was to tackle Hills 670 and 773 to the south, while the 2nd Battalion was to eliminate German positions close to Ankenes village. Sections from the 4th Battalion maintained positions on Hills 677 and 734 and acted as close support. The rest of 4th Battalion and 3rd Battalion were placed in reserve. The attack started at midnight, with 3 Company 2nd Battalion heading up the road to Ankenes. The weight of navy and artillery fire impressed those about to go into action. ‘The whole mountain became one continuous explosion,’ wrote Zbyszewski and Natanson. The Poles managed to reach the outskirts of Ankenes village by 02:00 but then stumbled into a lethal cross fire, forcing them to retreat towards Emmenes.
At 00:20, 1 Company 2nd Battalion had also engaged the enemy, but at close quarters this time. ‘Crawling from stone to stone, Germans and Poles were firing at each other at point blank range,’ according to Zbyszewski and Natanson. However, the Poles allowed a dangerous gap to open up that the German 3 Company was quick to exploit. A group of 15 Germans rushed towards Hill 295, exactly where 1st Battalion commander Lt. Col. Dec was located. Although their numbers were small – and it was not long before the attackers were whittled down to just eight – they were able to inflict heavy casualties on Dec’s orderlies and staff who were ill-equipped for a vicious fire fight. ‘The officers had to hold them at bay with their revolvers,’ Zbyszewski and Natanson wrote. Amazingly, the eight Germans managed to hold Hill 295 until 20:00, having used up all their ammunition and throwing back three Polish counter attacks. They then withdrew to Beisfjord, found a boat and cast off, attempting to escape. They were spotted from the shoreline and were promptly sunk by machine gun fire, the bulk of the craft’s occupants killed as a result.
At 02:00, 2 Company 2nd Battalion started its attack and came under machine gun fire to the north of Hill 405. Fortunately for the Poles, two platoons from 2 Company 4th Battalion tackled this position, allowing their comrades to continue towards Nyborg, which they took by 09:00. Here the Poles caught German units attempting to evacuate from Ankenes across the Beisfjord. Again, the enemy’s boats were riddled with Polish fire, with two overturning in the fusillade and several German troops killed or drowned. As 2nd Battalion’s companies battled to make headway, those from 1st Battalion were also struggling against the limpet-like defence. Attacking Hills 650 and 773, the Poles were initially thrown back until 4 Company 4th Battalion sprang into action and forced most of the enemy to withdraw. Unfortunately, a German four-man machine gun team remained on the top of Hill 650, holding off the Polish advance. The position was finally stormed by 1 Company 1st Battalion at 21:00.
Tired and exhausted, the Poles now commanded the Ankenes peninsula, with advanced elements in control of Beisfjord village at the head of the fjord. Béthouart used French and Polish units to advance on Sildvik in the final days of May. The Poles often found themselves struggling to make assaults in weather that remained resolutely dismal. And while the enemy was on its last legs – the Germans were critically short of supplies and tired from the constant fighting – their morale was unshaken.
For the people of Narvik, the campaign came to a terrible culmination on 30 May when Luftwaffe bombers targeted the town. ‘The Allies had taken all possible trouble to spare the city. But soon after its capture by them, the Nazis, for no strategic reason, wantonly, out of sheer spite, at one stroke reduced it to ashes,’ Zbyszewski and Natanson wrote. Days later, starting on 4 June, the evacuation was initiated and it proved to be a complete success, surprising not only the Germans but also the Norwegians who had little inkling of the Allied decision.
Leaving on 6 and 7 June, most Polish troops thought they were being redeployed south to help contain the advancing German 2nd Mountain Division as their French and Norwegian comrades delivered the coup de grace to Dietl’s forces, either destroying them or forcing them to cross into Sweden, where they would be detained under neutrality laws. The discovery this was not to be, and that the campaign was over, left many stunned. As the ships left Narvik, Zbyszewski and Natanson wrote that Polish soldiers ‘stood staring, staring at that country, so foreign and yet so much their own, won only yesterday with their toil and blood’. Polish losses stood at 97 dead, 189 wounded, 21 missing and seven taken prisoner.
Thousands of Allied troops were evacuated without incident, with Norway’s King Håkon and General Fleischer among them. Many others were less lucky. Hitler had given Grand Admiral Raeder permission to use the heavy cruisers Gneisenau, Scharnhorst and Admiral Hipper in a strike on Allied shipping into Harstad. Instead, they stumbled on several retreating Allied ships, some of which fell victim to the German guns. The greatest loss was the aircraft carrier Glorious – of 1,559 listed on board, only 40 survived. At 22:00, on 8 June, Norway’s supreme commander Maj. Gen. Otto Ruge notified the enemy he was willing to enter ceasefire negotiations and German troops soon re-entered Narvik. The Norwegian campaign was officially over and the country’s bitter years of occupation had begun.
For the Poles, the return journey to France was uneventful but depressing. The scant news they received about the Western Front was deeply unsettling and it appeared the Blitzkrieg that ripped Poland apart was being replicated in France. Landing at Brest on 14/15 June, the Poles and were rushed to positions south of St Malo. They were unsupported and without artillery or communications. On the following day, the brigade was ordered east to St Malo and Dol. Again, no support was available. Around a battalion of men and women then managed to board ships evacuating for Britain, while the rest of the brigade was forced to surrender on 18 June at 11:00. Many became prisoners of war, while others returned to their families in France. Those who reached Britain, including Bohusz-Szyszko, were posted to Scotland to help defend the western coast. They became the Podhalańska Battalion, the 6th Battalion of the 2nd Rifle Brigade.
In the Norwegian campaign, both on land and at sea, the Poles had fought hard and won several notable victories. Once able to take stock, there was a realisation that their efforts had been noteworthy they proved Polish soldiers could defeat the enemy when backed up with the right resources. This fact was vital in sustaining morale as a new Polish army under British auspices was born. ‘The Pole who left Norway took away with him the sight of the German soldiers abandoning their arms and rifles, of the German soldiers with their hands in surrender above their heads looking terrified,’ the Polish Ministry of Information wrote in 1943.
In 1944, Polish veterans of the Narvik campaign would see their enemy surrendering once more throughout France and the Low Countries. Unfortunately, their hopes for Poland would be dashed at a strategic level Stalin had formulated his own plans for the country and Eastern Europe as a whole. Still, the dream of a free and democratic Poland – a central motivating force for those Poles who battled across the wind-swept Ankenes Peninsula – was never snuffed out. With some justification, it could be argued Narvik 1940 was the first step of a painful journey to freedom that took almost 50 years to complete – when Poland finally removed the Soviet shackles and became a free and democratic nation once more.
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Zbyszewski, Karol & Natanson, Józef, The Fight for Narvik (Lindsay Drummond, 1940)
The author would also like to thank Eric McAuley for his witness account of Chroby’s sinking.
One of the joys of Naval Wargaming the Second World War Period is the number of different battles and campaigns that are available to be played. These vary from large carrier actions in the Pacific between, principally, the US and Japanese Fleets, Atlantic actions based around the Royal Navy attempting to track down and eliminate German Raiders, to the Mediterranean Sea with French, British (including Commonwealth) and Italian ships squaring off against each other to the Indian Ocean with Japanese vessels squaring off against the Royal Navy. These Battles may be large affairs with many vessels and aircraft on each side (such as the Battle of Midway) medium sized actions where the hunter becomes the hunted, and then becomes the hunter again, such as the Battle of Matapan in the Mediterranean or small actions such as the hunt for the Graf Spee and the Battle of the River Plate, involving four ships.
I will admit that some of the ship collections I have are the result of purchasing a battle pack from Navwar (Philippines Sea and Matapan are two of these). Others are the result of collecting the ships necessary for the smaller actions.
The smaller actions will be detailed in separate little articles like this. They are likely to be in no particular order at the moment. The ship lists will refer to the vessels that were there, or that could conceivably have got there in time for the battle. At some point in the future I’ll work out how to put up naval maps and maybe include those – changing the structure of this to an article per battle. This is will probably end up doing anyway, sort of a scenario article, as I will include technical details of the vessels involved as well as their General Quarters definition. These articles will probably be published as a PDF file and sit in the downloads section of Thomo’s Hole. Check in there from time to time.
Battle of the River Plate – 13 December 1939
This was fought off the coast of South America (near the mouth of the River Plate) and involved three cruisers HMS Exeter (8″ cruiser) HMNZS Achilles (6″ cruiser) and HMS Ajax (6″ cruiser) squaring off against the German pocket battleship Graf Spee. A fourth cruiser, HMS Cumberland (also an 8″ cruiser), was in the Falklands at the time under repair but, with slightly different timing, could have been part of the battle as she was a member of that cruiser squadron.
The Graf Spee was damaged, took shelter in Montevideo Harbour and was later scuttled by the Germans.
Off Trondheim, Norway – 8 April 1940
This was a brief action when HMS Glowworm, totally outgunned by the German Hipper, attempted to do as much damage as possible to the Hipper by ramming. The Glowworm was sunk. This, as a naval action, is made all the more bizarre as the Captain of the Glowworm was recommended for a Victoria Cross to the British government by the Captain of the Hipper.
First Battle of Narvik – 10 April 1940
This engagement was fought in the area of Narvik, Norway and involved the Second Destroyer Flotilla attemting to destroy a number of German transports. The transports were protected by German warships. The ships involved on the British side were HMS Hardy, Havock, Hostile, Hotspur and Hunter. On the German side were the vessels Anton Schmitt, Wilhelm Heidkamp, Bernd von Arnim, Di Ether von Roeder, Erich Giese, Erich Koelnner, Georg Thiele, Hans Ludemann, Hermann Kunne, Wolfgang Zenker, U64 and a number of transports.
Second Battle of Narvik – 13 April 1940
The British returned 3 days after the first battle of Narvik to complete their mission (which they did). Vessels involved from the British side were HMS Warspite, Eskimo, Cossack and 7 other destroyers. On the German side were the vessels Bernd von Arnim, Di Ether von Roeder, Erich Giese, Erich Koelnner, Georg Thiele, Hans Ludemann, Hermann Kunne, Wolfgang Zenker, U64 and a number of transports.
Off Norway – 8 June 1940
HMS Glorious, Acasta and Ardent on the British side, Scharnhorst and Gneisenau on the German side.
Set to #1 – 19 June 1940
The Galileo Galilei is captured by HMS Moonstone.
Set to #2 – 23 June 1940
Probably somewhere in the Mediteranean the Evangelista Torcelli faces off against HMS Kandahar, Kingston and the sloop Shoreham.
Set to #3 – 28 June 1940
HMAS Sydney squares off against the Italian Espero in the company of two destroyers.
Action Off Dakar – 5 July 1940
HMS Hermes in company with HMS Dorsetshire and HMAS Australia faces up against the French vessel Richelieu.
Action off Oran – 3 July 1940
Force H plus the Ark Royal faces off the French vessels Bretagne, Dunkerque, Provence, Strasbourg and a number of destroyers.
The Action off Calabria or the Battle of Punto Stila – 9 July 1940
The British ships, HMS Warspite, Malaya, Royal Sovereign, Eagle, Force H(??), Gloucester, Neptune, Liverpool, Orion, HMAS Sydney plus cruisers and destroyers opposed an Italian fleet consisting of 2 battleships, 14 cruisers and 32 destroyers plus the Guilio Cesare and Cavour.
Action off Cape Spada – 19 July 1940
HMAS Sydney along with some destoyers, namely HMS Hasty, Havock, Hero, Hyperion and Ilex were engaged with the Italians Bartolomeo Colleoni and Bande Nere.
Action off Cape Spartivento, Sardinia – 27 November 1940
Force H and the Mediterranean Fleet engaged Italian vessels off Sardinia. The British vessels were HMS Renown, Ark Royal, Despatch, Sheffield, Ramilles, Newcastle, Berwick and Coventry. The Italian vessels were 2 battleships, 7 heavy cruisers and destroyers.
Set to #4 – 12 December 1940
HMS Furious and Berwick versus the German Hipper.
Action off Sfax, Tunisia – 16 April 1941
HMS Janus, Jervis, Mohawk and Nubian v the Italian destroyers (I think), Baleno, Lampo, Tarigo and 5 transport vessels.
Set to #5 – 8 May 1941
HMS Cornwall versus the German Pinguin
The Hunt for the Bismarck – 18 – 28 May 1941
The British took exception to the German Battleship Bismarck being in the Atlantic Ocean so mobilsed pretty much every available ship to track the Bismarck down and eventually destroy her. This was, or course, where HMS Hood was sunk from fire from the Bismarck. On the British side were ships HMS Cossack, Maori, Sikh, Zulu, the Polish Piorun, HMS Hood, Prince of Wales, Suffolk, Norfolk, Renown, Ark Royal, Repulse, Rodney, Sheffield, Dorsetshire and Victorious.
The German vessels involved were Bismarck (or course) and Prinz Eugen,
Lists of Forces Engaged
| ||Page |
|I. NAVAL OPERATIONS ||261 |
|II. COMBINED OPERATIONS ||262 |
|§1. General Note on Command.|| |
|§2. Operations Based on Namsos. || |
|§3. Operations Based on Aandalsnes. || |
|§4. Operations Based on Mosjöen, Mo and Bodö. || |
|§5. Operations Based on Harstad (Narvik Area). || |
|III. AIR OPERATIONS ||267 |
PART I Naval Operations
§ 1. Engagements of 8th and 9th April
| ||( 8th April ) || || |
| ||Destroyer ||Glowworm ||(Lt-Cmder G. Broadmead Roope). |
| ||( 9th April ) || || |
| ||Battlecruiser ||Renown ||(flagship of Vice-Admiral W. J. Whitworth, |
commanding Battle Cruiser Squadron
Captain C. E. B. Simeon).
§ 2. First Battle of Narvik (10th April)
| ||2nd Destroyer Flotilla|| || |
| || ||Hardy ||(flotilla leader, Captain B. A. W. Warburton-Lee). |
| || ||Hunter ||(Lt-Cmdr L. de Villiers). |
| || ||Hotspur ||(Cmdr H. F. H. Layman). |
| || ||Havock ||(Lt-Cmdr R. E. Courage). |
| || ||Hostile ||(Lt-Cmdr J. P. Wright) |
§ 3. Second Battle of Narvik (13th April)
| ||Battleship ||Warspite ||(flagship of Vice-Admiral W. J. Whitworth, |
commanding Battle Cruiser Squadron
Captain V. A. C. Crutchley, V. C.).
| ||Destroyers ||Bedouin ||(Cmdr J. A. McCoy). |
| || ||Cossack ||(Cmdr R. St. V. Sherbrooke). |
| || ||Eskimo ||(Cmdr St. J. A. Micklethwait). |
| || ||Punjabi ||(Cmdr J. T. Lean). |
| || ||Hero||(Cmdr H. W. Biggs). |
| || ||Icarus||(Lt-Cmdr C. D. Maud). |
| || ||Kimberly||(Lt-Cmdr R. G. K. Knowling). |
| || ||Forester||(Lt-Cmdr E. B. Tancock). |
| || ||Foxhound||(Lt-Cmdr G. H. Peters). |
| ||F.A.A.|| ||striking force from Aircraft Carrier Furious. |
§ 4. Engagement of 8th June
Aircraft Carrier Glorious (Captain G. D'Oyly Hughes). Destroyers Acasta (Cmdr. C. E. Glasfurd) Ardent (Lt-Cmdr J. E. Barker
PART II Combined Operations
§ 1. General Note on Command
1. Admiral of the Fleet the Earl of Cork and Orrery, who had been appointed Naval Commander of the Narvik Expedition on 10th April, was appointed on 21st April to command all forces committed to thse task of capturing Narvik, and on 7th May the military forces in the Mosjöen-Bodö area were included in his command.
2. Lieut.-General H. R. S. Massy was appointed on 21st April to command the North-West Expeditionary Force, consisting of all military forces engaged in Norway elsewhere than at Narvik. This command terminated on 7th May the Narvik force took its name.
3. Naval operations, other than those of the Narvik expedition within 100 miles of Vaagsfjord, were included in the command of the Commander-in-Chief, Home Fleet, Admiral Sir Charles Forbes.
§2. Operations Based on Namsos
Naval escort to Norway:
( a ) 1 Cruisers Manchester , Birmingham.
Anti-aircraft cruiser Cairo .
( b) 2 Cruiser Emile Bertin (French).
Landing Party (Operation Henry):
Seamen and Marines from H.M.S. Glasgow , Sheffield .
Anti-aircraft cruisers Cairo , Curlew , Carlisle .
Sloops Auckland , Bittern .
Aircraft carriers 3 Ark Royal , Glorious .
Naval escort from Norway:
Cruisers Devonshire , York , Montcalm (French).
Anti-aircraft cruiser Carlisle.
Destroyers (British and French)
§ 3. Operations Based on Aandalsnes
Naval escort to Norway
( a ) 4 Cruisers Galatea , Arethusa .
Anti-aircraft cruisers Carlisle , Curacoa .
( b ) 5 Cruisers Galatea , Sheffield, Glasgow .
Landing Part (Operation Primrose):
Seamen and Marines from H.M.S. Hood , Nelson , Barham .
21st Light Anti Aircraft Battery Royal Marines.
Two detatchments 11th Searchlight Regiment Royal Marines.
Anti-aircraft cruisers Carlisle , Curacoa .
Sloops Black Swan , Flamingo , Bittern .
Escort Vessel Fleetwood .
Aircraft carriers Ark Royal , Glorious . 6
Naval escort from Norway:
( a ) 7 Cruisers Galatea , Arethusa , Sheffield , Southampton .
( b ) 8 Cruisers Manchester , Birmingham .
Anti-aircraft cruiser Calcutta .
148th Brigade (Brigadier (H. de R. Morgan).
1st/5th Battalion The Royal Leicestershire Regiment (Lieut.-Colonel G. J. German).
1st/8th Battalion The Sherwood Foresters (Lieut.-Colonel T. A. Ford).
15th Brigade (Brigadier H. E. F. Smyth):
1st Battalion The Green Howards (Lieut.-Colonel A. E. Robinson).
1st Battalion The King's Own Yorkshire Light Infantry (Acting Lieut.-Colonel E. E. E. Cass).
1st Battalion The York and Lancaster Regiment (Lieut.-Colonel A. L. Kent-Limon).
168th Light Anti-Aircraft Artillery Battery, Royal Artillery.
260th Heavy Anti-Aircraft Artillery Battery, Royal Artillery.
55th Field Company Royal Engineers (less one section).
No. 263 Squadron, Gladiators (Squadron-Leader J. W. Donaldson).
§4. Operations Based on Mosjöen, Mo and Bodö
Naval escort to Norway: Destroyers.
Transfers in Norway: Cruiser Effingham , Anti-aircraft cruiser Cairo ,
Repair Ship Vindictive and Destroyers.
2. 12th-22nd May:
1st Battalion Scots Guards.
Nos. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 Independent Companies.
One Troops, 203rd Field Battery, Royal Artillery.
One Troops, 55th Light Anti-Aircraft Battery, Royal Artillerty.
Detatchment 230th Field Company, Royal Engineers.
3. 23rd-29th May:
1st Battalion Scots Guards.
1st Battalion Irish Guards.
2nd Battalion The South Wales Borderers. 13
Nos. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 Independent Companies.
One Troop, 203rd Field Battery, Royal Artillery.
One Troop, 55th Light Anti-Aircraft Battery, Royal Artillery.
Detachment 230th Field Company, Royal Engineers.
Detatchment No. 263 Squadron (three Gladiators). 14
§ 5 . Operations Based on Harstad (Narvik Area)
Flag Officer, Narvik: Admiral of the Fleet the Earl of Cork and Orrery.
Battleship Warspite .
Cruisers Southampton , Effingham , Aurora , Enterprise .
Repair Ship Vindictive .
Aircraft Carrier Furious .
Flag Officer, Narvik: Admiral of the Fleet the Earl of Cork and Orrery.
Battleship Resolution .
Cruisers Effingham , Aurora , Enterprise .
Anti-aircraft cruisers Cairo , Coventry , Curlew .
Repair Ship Vindictive .
Aircraft Carrier Ark Royal .
24th (Guards) Brigade (Brigadier the Hon. W. Fraser).
1st Battalion Scots Guards. 15
1st Battalion Irish Guards.
2nd Battalion The South Wales Borderers.
One troop 3rd King's Own Hussars (tanks)
203rd Battery, 51st Field Regiment, Royal Artillery.
193rd Heavy Anti-Aircraft Battery, Royal Artillery.
55th Light Anti-Aircraft Regiment, Royal Artillery.
3rd Light Anti-Aircraft Battery, Royal Artillery.
229th and 230th Field Companies, Royal Engineers.
Detachment 231st Field Park Company, Royal Engineers.
27th Demi-Brigade Chasseurs Alpins:
6th Battalion Chasseurs Alpins.
12th Battalion Chasseurs Alpins.
14th Battalion Chasseurs Alpins.
13th Demi-Brigade Foreign Legion:
1st and 2nd Battalions.
Polish Brigade (Chasseurs du Nord), (General Bohucz-szysko):
1st Demi-Brigade: 1st and 2nd Battalions.
2nd Demi-Brigade: 3rd and 4th Battalions.
342nd Independent Tank Company.
2nd Independent Group Colonial Artillery.
14th Anti-Tank Company, 13th Chasseurs Alpins.
Flag Officer, Narvik: Admiral of the Fleet the Earl of Cork and Orrery.
Cruiser Southampton .
Anti-aircraft cruisers Cairo , Coventry .
Repair Ship Vindictive .
Aircraft Carriers Ark Royal , Glorious .
B. ARMY (North Western Expeditionary Force)
24th (Guards) Brigade. 16
Nos. 2, 3 and 5 Independent Companies. 16
One troops 3rd Kings's Own Hussars. 17
203rd Battery, 51st Field Regiment, Royal Artillery.
6th Anti-Aircraft Brigade, Royal Artillery (Brigadier F. N. C. Rosseter).
55th Light Anti-Aircraft Artillery Regiment (163rd, 164th, 165th Batteries) 18 .
56th Light Anti-Aircraft Artillery Regiment (3rd, 167th Batteries).
51st Heavy Anti-Aircraft Regiment (151st, 152nd, 153rd Batteries).
82nd Heavy Anti-Aircraft Regiment (156th, 193rd, 256th Batteries).
No. 10 Army Observer Unit, Royal Artillery.
229th and 230th Field Companies, Royal Engineers.
Detachment 231st Field Park Company, Royal Engineers.
French and Polish
As before (§5(2)B. above.)
PART III Air Operations
§ 1. Fleet Air Arm Attacks Against Ships in German-held Harbours
|Bergen ||10th April from Hatston, Orkneys. |
|Trondheim ||11th April from H.M.S. Furious . |
|Trondheim ||25th April from H.M.S. Glorious . |
|Trondheim ||25th, 28th April, 13th June from H.M.S. Ark Royal . |
§ 2. Royal Air Force Attacks Against Ships in German-held Harbours:
|by Squadrons Nos. 220, 224, 233, 269 (Hudsons) ||at Bergen ||(11th April, 29th May, 13th June) |
| ||Trondheim ||(11th June) |
| ||Larvik ||(17th April) |
| ||Haugesund ||(19th April) |
|by Bomber Command (Wellingtons and Hampdens) ||at Bergen ||(9th April) |
§ 3. Royal Air Force Attacks Against German-held Airfields:
|by Squadrons Nos. 107, 110, 254 (Blenheims) ||at Stavanger ||(18 attacks) |
| ||Trondheim ||(2 attacks) |
|by Squadrons Nos. 44, 50 (Hampdens) ||at Oslo ||(30th April) |
|by Squadrons Nos. 220, 224, 233 (Hudsons) ||at Stavanger ||(2 attacks) |
| ||Trondheium ||(20th May) |
|by Squadrons Nos. 9, 37, 75, 90, 99, 115, 149 (Wellingtons) ||at Kristiansand ||(20th April) |
| ||Stavanger ||(9 attacks) |
|by Squadrons Nos. 10, 51, 58, 77, 102 (Whitleys) ||at Oslo ||(10 attacks) |
| ||Stavanger ||(6 attacks) |
| ||Trondheim ||(5 attacks) |
1 Under Vice-Admiral G. Layton, who sailed from Scapa on 12th April.
2 Under the French Vice-Admiral Derrien.
3 Sail from Scapa 23rd April, under command of Vice-Admiral L. V. Wells.
4 Sailed from Rosyth on 17th Aprial under command of Vice-Admiral G. F. B. Edward-Collins.
5 Sailed from Rosyth on 22nd April under same command.
6 See § 2 above.
7 Sailed from Aandalsnes, etc., on 30th April/1st May under command of Vice-Amdiral G. F. B. Edward-Collins.
8 Sailed from Aandalsnes, etc., on 1st/2nd May under command of Vice-Admiral G. Layton.
9 Appointed 20th April, before which date the force, consisting of 148th Brigade and 168th Light Anti-Aircraft Battery was under command of Brigadier H. de R. Morgan.
10 On 23rd May the name was changed to Bodoforce.
11 Brigadier The Hon. W. Fraser was in command 12th-17th May.
12 Recruited from the 52nd, 9th, 54th, 55th and 1st London Division respectivlve. No. 2 Company did not land in Norway until 13th May. One company Scots Guards had been stations near Bodö since 1st May, but was not under Scissorsforces command.
13 Battalion completed its move south on 27th May.
14 Operated 26th/27th May only.
15 Less one company detatched at Bodö.
16 Brought back from Bodö for evacuation on 29th-31st May, Nos. 1 and 4 Independent Companies only being evacuated direct to home ports (see § 4B3 above).
17 Less tanks.
18 Less one troop sent to Mo.
World War II Today: April 13
A fierce engagement between German and British naval forces in the second battle of Narvik at Jassing Fjord, which results in the sinking of 8 German destroyers and a U-Boat whose surviving crews join Gebirgsjager units defending isolated Narvik.
British Naval forces, this time supported by the Battleship HMS Warspite, again engage the German naval forces located at Narvik in the Jassing Fjord. This, the 2nd Battle of Narvik, results in the sinking of 7 German destroyers and a U-boat whose surviving crews join Gebirgsjager Â units that are defending isolated Narvik.
German forces launch an attack against the Greek and British positions near Mt. Olympus. The Italian 11th Army in Albania begins to push the Greek Army back.
German troops capture Belgrade, Yugoslavia.
German advance spearheads capture Sollum. Rommel receives orders from Berlin that he is to consolidate on the Egyptian frontier and concentrate of capturing Tobruk. Only then will he be allowed to push into Egypt. The result of this order is that Rommel decides to rest his exhausted troops and wait until the 15th Panzer Division arrives at the end of May before making a major assault against Tobruk.
Japan and Russia sign a 5 year non-aggression pact, which all but removes any military threat to its northern borders.
The US destroyer USN Roper, sinks U-85 south of Norfolk, Virginia. This is the first success of the war by a US warship against a U-boat.
Fighting continues on Cebu Island, as the US-Filipino garrison withdraws in to the hills.
Simferopol, Feodosiya and Eupatoria in the Crimea fall to Red Army.
British troops retake Nanshigum Hill.
A local truce is declared near Celle so that the British Second Army can take over the notorious Belsen concentration camp. The U.S. NinthÂ Army clears the Duisberg Pocket. The US Third Army captures Erfurt and Weimar.
Troops of the Russian 2nd and 3rd Ukrainian front capture Vienna.
The Chinese launch a new offensive in Honan and Hupeh provinces of Central China.