Second Battle of Narvik, 13 April 1940 - German destroyer on fire

Second Battle of Narvik, 13 April 1940 - German destroyer on fire


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Second Battle of Narvik, 13 April 1940 - German destroyer on fire

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: Her guns silenced, and burning furiously, the destroyer drifted all through the night, lighting up the fiord. In the morning she sank.

Taken from Fleet Air Arm, HMSO, published 1943, p.50


Second Battle of Narvik, 13 April 1940 - German destroyer on fire - History

CAMPAIGN SUMMARIES OF WORLD WAR 2

GERMAN SURFACE NAVY AT WAR - Capital Ships, Cruisers, Destroyers, Torpedo Boats & Commerce Raiders

Each Summary is complete in its own right. The same information may therefore be found in a number of related summaries

(for more ship information, go to Naval History Homepage and type name in Site Search)

1933 - German pocket battleship "Deutschland" completed

1934 - German pocket battleship "Admiral Scheer" completed

1935 - Under the Anglo-German Naval Agreement, Germany was allowed to build a surface fleet up to 35% of British total tonnage.

1936 - German pocket battleship "Admiral Graf Spee" completed

1938 - Germany draws up the major naval rearmament programme, the 'Z' plan, to bring the Navy closer to equality to Britain by the mid-1940s. Battlecruiser "Gneisenau" completed carrier "Graf Zeppelin" was launched but never completed.

1939 - Germany abrogates the 1935 Anglo-German Naval Agreement in April. Battlecruiser "Scharnhorst" completed battleships "Bismarck" and "Tirpitz" launched before September 1939. German U-boats and two pocket battleships sail for their war stations in the Atlantic late August.

1939

SEPTEMBER 1939

Germany - Aircraft of RAF Bomber Command made their first attacks on German warships in Wilhelmshaven and Brunsbuttel on the 4th. Cruiser "Emden" was slig htly damaged by a crashing aircraft.

Atlantic - Pocket battleship "Admiral Graf Spee" sank her first ship in the Atlantic off Brazil on the 30th September.

OCTOBER 1939

Atlantic and Indian Oceans - Pocket battleship "Graf Spee" claimed four more merchant ships in the South Atlantic before heading into the southern Indian Ocean. Seven Allied hunting groups were formed in the Atlantic and one in the Indian Ocean to search for her. In total the Royal and French Navies deployed three capital ships, four aircraft carriers and 16 cruisers. Meanwhile sister ship "Deutschland", after accounting for two ships in the North Atlantic was ordered home. She reached Germany in November and was renamed "Lutzow".

Europe - Battlecruiser "Gneisenau" and other ships of the German Navy sortied on the 8th off Norway to draw the Home Fleet within U-boat and aircraft range. Capital ships "Hood", "Nelson", "Repulse", "Rodney" and "Royal Oak" together with carrier "Furious", cruisers and destroyers sailed for various positions, but no contact was made.

NOVEMBER 1939

Indian Ocean - Pocket battleship "Graf Spee" sank a small tanker southwest of Madagascar and headed back for the South Atlantic. More Allied hunting groups were formed.

Atlantic - Armed merchant cruiser "RAWALPINDI" on Northern Patrol was sunk on the 23rd by the 11in battlecruiser "Scharnhorst" as she and sister ship "Gneisenau" tried to break out into the Atlantic. After the action to the southwest of Iceland, they turned back and returned to Germany after avoiding searching ships of the British Home Fleet.

DECEMBER 1939

North Sea - British submarine "Salmon" torpedoed and damaged German cruisers "Leipzig" and "Nurnberg" in the North Sea on the 13th as they covered a destroyer minelaying operation off the Tyne Estuary, NE England .

13th - Battle of River Plate - Now back in the South Atlantic, “Graf Spee” (below - Courtesy Maritime Quest) claimed three more victims to bring the total to nine ships of 50,000 tons, before heading for the South American shipping lanes off the River Plate. Cdre Harwood with Hunting Group G - 8in-gunned cruisers “Exeter” and “Cumberland” and 6in light cruisers “Ajax” and New Zealand “Achilles” - correctly anticipated her destination. Unfortunately “Cumberland” was by now in the Falklands.

At 06.14 on the 13th, 150 miles east of the Plate Estuary, “Graf Spee” (Capt Langsdorff) was reported to the northwest of the three cruisers. Faced with “Graf Spee's" heavier armament, Cdre Harwood decided to split his force in two and try to divide her main guns. “Exeter” closed to the south while the two light cruisers worked around to the north, all firing as they manoeuvred. “Graf Spee” concentrated her two 11in turrets on “Exeter” which was badly hit. By 06.50 all ships were heading west, “Exeter” with only one turret in action and on fire. She had to break off and head south for the Falklands.

“Ajax” and “Achilles” continued to harry the pocket battleship from the north, but at 07.25 "Ajax" lost her two after turrets to an 11in hit. “Achilles” already had splinter damage, but still the German ship failed to press home its advantage. By 08.00, still with only superficial damage, she headed for the neutral Uruguayan port of Montevideo, the cruisers shadowing. “GRAF SPEE” (below) entered port at midnight. As other Allied hunting groups headed for the area, much diplomatic manoeuvring took place to hold her there. Finally, on the 17th, Capt Langsdorff edged his ship out into the estuary where she was scuttled and blown up. Only “Cumberland” had arrived by this time. Langsdorff then committed suicide.

1940

FEBRUARY 1940

North Sea - German destroyers were attacked in error by their own aircraft in the North Sea on the 22nd and ran into a minefield laid by Royal Navy destroyers. “LEBERECHT MAASS” and “MAX SCHULTZ” were lost northwest of the German Frisian Islands.

MARCH 1940

German Raiders - Converted from a merchantman and heavily armed, auxiliary cruiser “Atlantis” sailed for the Indian Ocean round the Cape of Good Hope. In 1941 she moved into the South Atlantic, and operations lasted for a total of 20 months until her loss in November 1941. She was the first of nine active raiders, seven of which went out in 1940. Only one ever broke out for a second cruise. Their success was not so much due to their sinkings and captures - a creditable average of 15 ships of 90,000 tons for each raider, but the disruption they caused in every ocean. At a time when the Royal Navy was short of ships, convoys had to be organised and patrols instituted in many areas. In 1940 raiders accounted for 54 ships of 370,000 tons. The first German raider was not caught until May 1941 - 14 months from now.

APRIL 1940

German Raiders - “Orion” sailed for the Pacific and Indian Oceans around South America's Cape Horn. She was out for 16 months before returning to France.

Norwegian Campaign

8th - Royal Navy destroyers laid minefields, real and simluated off the Norwegian coast, including near Bodo. Battlecruiser “Renown” and other destroyers provided cover. One of the screen, “GLOWWORM” was de tached to search for a man overboard just as 8in-gunned cruiser “Admiral Hipper” headed into Trondheim. They met to the northwest of the port and the destroyer was soon sunk, but not before she rammed and damaged “Hipper”.

9th - Germany invaded Denmark and Norway: G erman Navy forces included a pocket battleship, six cruisers, 14 destroyers, torpedo boats and minesweepers for the landings at the six Norwegian ports, with battlecruisers “Scharnhorst” and “Gneisenau” covering the two most northerly landings. Early in the morning of the 9th, battlecruiser “Renown” was in action with the two German battlecruisers to the west of Vestfiord. “Gneisenau” was da maged and “Renown” slightly. The Germans withdrew. As “Renown” was in action, German occupation forces heading for Oslo came under heavy fire from Norwegian coastal defences. Shore-sited guns and torpedoes in Oslo Fiord sank heavy cruiser “BLUCHER”. That evening, German cruiser “KARLSRUHE” left K ristiansand and was torpedoed by submarine “Truant”. She was scuttled next day.

10th - First Battle of Narvik - The 2nd Destroyer Flotilla (Capt. Warburton-Lee) with “Hardy”, “Havock”, “Hostile”, “Hotspur” and “Hunter”, entered Ofotfiord to attack the German ships assigned to the occupation of Narvik. These included 10 large destroyers. Several transports were sunk together with destroyers “ANTON SCHMITT” (AS) and “WILHELM HEIDKAMP” (WM) in Narvik Bay . Other German destroyers were damaged, but as the British 2nd Flotilla retired, “HARDY” was b eached, “HUNTER” sunk and “Hotspur” badly damaged by the remaining German ships.

Fleet Air Arm Skua dive-bomber’s of 800 and 803 Squadrons flying from the Orkney Islands sank German cruiser "KOENIGSBERG" at her moorings in Bergen. She was damaged earlier by shore batteries in the landings. This was the first major warship sunk by air attack.

11th - Returning from the Oslo landings, German pocket battleship “Lutzow” was to rpedoed and badly damaged by submarine “Spearfish” in the Skagerrak.

13th - Second Battle of Narvik - Battleship “Warspite” and nine destroyers were sent into the Narvik fiords to finish off the remaining German ships. The eight surviving German destroyers – “BERND VON ARNIM” (BA), “DIETHER VON ROEDER” (DR), “ERICH GIESE” (EG), “ERICH KOELNNER” (EK), “GEORG THIELE” (GT), “HANS LUDEMANN” (HL), “HERMANN KUNNE” (HK) and “WOLFGANG ZENKER” (WZ) were a ll destroyed or scuttled. The British “Eskimo” and “Cossack” were damaged.

MAY 1940

German Raiders - “Widder” headed for central Atlantic operations before returning to France six months later. On her way into the Indian Ocean, “Atlantis” laid mines off South Africa.

JUNE 1940

Italy declares War

German Raiders - Two more set sail. “Thor” made for the South Atlantic and returned to Germany eleven months later. “Pinguin” left for the Indian Ocean around the Cape of Good Hope, later operated in the Antarctic and was finally lost in May 1941. Meanwhile “Orion” which set out in April 1940 was laying mines off New Zealand that accounted for the gold-bullion carrying liner “Niagara”.

Norwegian Campaign - Conclusion and Aftermath.

On the 8th, at the end of the evacuation, British fleet carrier “GLORIOUS” with escorting destroyers “ACASTA” and “ARDENT” sailed for Britain independently of the other withdrawing forces. West of Lofoten Islands they met 11in gun battlecruisers “Scharnhorst” and “Gneisenau” sailing to attacked suspected Allied shipping off Harstad. The British ships were soon overwhelmed and sunk, but not before “Acasta” hit “Scharnhorst” with a torpedo. Naval losses on both sides were heavy, and in the case of the Germans included damage to battlecruiser "Scharnhorst" (followed shortly by "Gneisenau") and pocket battleship "Lutzow".

13th - Five days after the sinking of “Glorious”, aircraft from “Ark Royal” attacked the damaged “Scharnhorst” in Trondheim but to little effect.

20th - As the damaged battlecruiser “Scharnhorst” headed for Germany, “Gneisenau” feinted towards Iceland. West of Trondheim she was torpedoed and damaged by British submarine “Clyde”. Both battlecruisers were out of action during the critical phases of the Battle for Britain until the end of the year. German Warships - By now, of the 23 surface ships of destroyer size and above that took part in the invasion of Norway, 17 had been sunk or damaged.

Europe - FRANCE capitulated and the Franco-German surrender document was signed on the 22nd. Its provisions included German occupation of the Channel and Biscay coasts including the major base of Brest.

JULY 1940

Europe - As the damaged "Gneisenau" made for Germany from Norway on the 26th, submarine "Swordfish" carried out an attack and sank escorting torpedo boat "LUCHS".

German Raiders - Only 11 months before German attacked Russia, “Komet” sailed for the Pacific through the North East Passage across the top of Siberia with the aid of Russian icebreakers. She operated in the Pacific and Indian Oceans until returning to Germany in November 1941, the last of the first wave of surface raiders to leave Germany.

Atlantic - Off the coast of Brazil on the 28th, German raider “Thor” badly damaged armed merchant cruiser “Alcantara” in a gun duel.

OCTOBER 1940

German Surface Warships & Raiders - Pocket battleship "Admiral Scheer" sailed from Germany for the Atlantic and later Indian Oceans. She got back home in March 1941. Meanwhile German raider "Widder" arrived in France after six month's operations in the central Atlantic where she sank or captured 10 ships of 59,000 tons.

NOVEMBER 1940

North Sea - A planned attacked on the 7th by German torpedo boats (small destroyers) off the coast of Scotland ended when "T-6" was mined on the British East Coast barrage and went down.

Loss of the "Jervis Bay" - Hali fax/UK convoy HX84 with 37 ships and its solitary escort, armed merchant cruiser "Jervis Bay" was attacked on the 5th by the 11in-gunned pocket battleship "Admiral Scheer" in mid-Atlantic. The convoy was ordered to scatter as "JERVIS BAY" headed for the "Scheer", guns firing. The end was in no doubt and she went down, but her sacrifice saved all but five of the merchant ships. "Admiral Scheer" headed for the Central and later the South Atlantic.

DECEMBER 1940

German Raiders - "Kormoran" was the first of the second wave of raiders to leave for operations. She started in the central Atlantic and later moved to the Indian Ocean, where she was lost in November 1941. Much further afield in the South West Pacific, "Komet" and "Orion" shared in the sinking of five ships near the phosphate island of Nauru. Later in the month "Komet" shelled the installations on Nauru.

Atlantic - Armed merchant cruiser "Carnarvon Castle" was bad ly damaged on the 1st in action with raider "Thor" off Brazil, the German ship's second and equally successful fight with an AMC.

German Heavy Warships - Earlier in the month the 8in heavy cruiser "Admiral Hipper" left Germany and passed into the Atlantic through the Denmark Strait. On Christmas Day the 25th December, 700 miles to the west of Cape Finisterre, northwest Spain she encountered Middle East troop convoy WS5A, one of 'Winston's Specials', escorted by cruisers. They were accompanied by carrier "Furious" ferrying aircraft to Takoradi in West Africa. In an exchange of gunfire the heavy cruiser "Berwick" and two merchantmen were slightly damaged. "Hipper" retired and soon entered Brest. She was the first of the Gerrnan big ships to reach the French Biscay ports. From there she and her companions poses a major threat to the Atlantic convoy routes right up until the big-ship "Channel Dash" of February 1942.

1941

JANUARY 1941

German Heavy Warships & Raiders - Pocket battleship "Admiral Scheer" was hunting in the South Atlantic, while battlecruisers "Scharnhorst" and "Gneisenau" in Germany and heavy cruiser "Hipper" in Brest, France prepared to sail. At the end of the month the two battlecruisers headed out into the Atlantic for two months operations before returning to Brest. Six of the original seven raiders were still at sea - "Orion" and "Komet" in the Pacific, "Atlantis" at the desolate island of Kerguelen in the southern Indian Ocean, "Kormoran" in the central and "Thor" in the South Atlantic. Finally "Pinguin" was in the Antarctic. All six moved to different areas over the next few months. Until June 1941, German warships sank 37 ships of 188,000 tons and raiders 38 ships of 191,000 tons. Thereafter neither type inflicted many losses as worldwide convoys were organised and the raiders' supply ships sunk.

FEBRUARY 1941

German Heavy Warships - At the beginning of the month, heavy cruiser "Admiral Hipper" sailed from Brest. On the 12th, far to the west of Gibraltar, she sank seven ships from slow unescorted convoy SLS64 bound for Britain from Sierra Leone. Returning to Brest, in March she heads back to Germany via the Denmark Strait and took no further part in independent commerce raiding. On the 8th, battlecruisers "Scharnhorst" and "Gneisenau" sighted convoy HX106 escorted by the lone battleship "Ramillies" south of Greenland, but declined to attack in case of possible damage. Two weeks later, five unescorted ships were sunk east of Newfoundland, before they headed for the Sierra Leone routes. Meanwhile pocket battleship "Admiral Scheer" in the Indian Ocean operated successfully off Madagascar before preparing to return to Germany.

MARCH 1941

German Heavy Ships - Battlecruisers "Scharnhorst" and "Gneisenau" were sighted by aircraft of battleship "Malaya" escorting convoy SL67 off the Cape Verde Islands. The German ships returned to the Newfoundland area and on the 15th and 16th sank or captured 16 unescorted ships. They returned to Brest on the 22nd, having accounted for 22 ships of 116,000 tons, but never again took part successfully in commerce raiding.

APRIL 1941

Atlantic - On the 4th, armed merchant cruiser "VOLTAIRE" was sunk in a gun duel with German raider "Thor" west of the Cape Verde Islands.

German Raiders - "Thor" now returned to Germany after an absence of 11 months, having accounted for 11 ships of 83,000 tons plus the "Voltaire". Pocket battleship "Admiral Scheer" also got back to Germany after five months in the Atlantic and Indian Oceans credited with 16 ships of 99,000 tons and the "Jervis Bay".

German Heavy Ships - The arrival of battlecruisers "Scharnhorst" and "Gneisenau" in Brest led to a long series of heavy RAF bomber raids. These did not end until the Channel Dash in February 1942. During this time both ships sustained varying amounts of damage. On the 6th "Gneisenau" was torp edoed and badly damaged by an RAF Beaufort of No 22 Squadron, Coastal Command.

MAY 1941

Indian Ocean - On patrol north of the Seychelles in the Indian Ocean, heavy cruiser "Cornwall" found and sank German raider "PINGUIN" on the 8th. This was the first raider to be hunted down, having accounted for 28 ships of 136,000 tons.

18th-28th - Hunt for the "Bismarck", Phase 1 - On the 18th, new German 15in battleship "Bismarck" and heavy cruiser "Prinz Eugen" sailed from Gdynia in the Baltic for the Atlantic via Norway. A simultaneous sortie by the battlecruisers "Scharnhorst" and "Gneisenau" from Brest was fortunately prevented by the damage inflicted by the RAF. On the 20th, they were sighted in the Kattegat by a Swedish warship. 21st - In the evening the German ships were sighted in a fiord south of Bergen, Norway. Two of the Home Fleet's capital ships, "Hood" and "Prince of Wales" (the latter not fully completed and still working up), sailed from Scapa Flow towards Iceland to support the cruisers on Northern Patrol.

22nd - "Bismarck" was reported at sea and the main body of the Home Fleet under Adm Tovey left Scapa Flow and headed west. Battleship "King George V", fleet carrier "Victorious", cruisers and destroyers were later joined by battlecruiser "Repulse". "Victorious" was also a recent addition to the Fleet and still working up. 23rd - In the early evening, heavy cruisers "Suffolk" and shortly "Norfolk" sighted the German ships north west of Iceland and shadowed them southwestwards through the Denmark Strait separating Iceland from Greenland to the west. "Hood" and "Prince of Wales" pressed on to intercept west of Iceland. 24th - That morning the big ships met and opened fire. Around 06.00, after firing two or three salvos, "Bismarck" hit "HOOD" which blew up with only three survivors. Now it was "Prince of Wales" turn to be the target. After being hit several times, she turned away but not before damaging "Bismarck" and causing her to lose fuel oil to the sea.

Phase 2 - German Adm Lutjens decided to make for St Nazaire in France, with its large dry-dock, and headed southwest and later south out of the Denmark Strait. The two Royal Navy cruisers, and for a while the damaged "Prince of Wales", continued to shadow. Adm Tovey hurried west with the rest of Home Fleet. With "Hood's" loss, Force H (Adm Somerville) with battlecruiser "Renown", carrier "Ark Royal" and cruiser "Sheffield" sailed north from Gibraltar. Battleship "Ramillies", released from convoy escort duties, and "Rodney", then to the west of Ireland, headed towards "Bismarck's" expected track. "Ramillies" played no part in later operations. At 18.00, still an the 24th, "Bismarck" feinted north towards her shadowers long enough to allow "Prinz Eugen" to get away. (The cruiser went south, later refuelled from a tanker and cruised for three days before reaching Brest on 1 June. There she joined the two battlecruisers under heavy RAF attacked until the Channel Dash of February 1942.) Around midnight, southeast of Greenland's Cape Farewell, Swordfish from Adm Tovey's "Victorious" got one hit on "Bismarck" after she had resumed her southerly course. The damage was negligible. Shortly after in the early hours of the 25th, she altered course to the southeast for France and the cruisers lost contact. At this point Adm Tovey's heavy ships were only 100 miles away.

25th - "Bismarck" held her southeasterly course, but broke radio silence. Unfortunately the British direction-finding service put her on a northeasterly heading. Adm Tovey sailed in that direction for a while before turning to the southeast in pursuit. Now he was well astern of his quarry. Only by slowing her down could destruction become possible. In the meantime, Force H continued to sail north to took up a blocking position between "Bismarck" and her new goal of Brest. 26th - After a 30-hour interval, "Bismarck" was once more sighted, this time by a RAF Catalina of No 209 Squadron, and only 30hr from home. In the afternoon a Swordfish strike from Force H's "Ark Royal" attacked cruiser "Sheffield" in error. They missed. A second strike took place in the evening by 810, 818 and 820 Squadrons with 15 Swordfish led by Lt-Cdr Coode. They torpedoed "Bismarck" twice and one hit damaged her propellers and jammed the rudder. As "Bismarck" circled, destroyers of the 4th Flotilla (Capt Vian) came up around midnight, and made a series of torpedo and gun attacks but with uncertain results. Capt Vian's "Cossack", "Maori", "Sikh", "Zulu" and Polish "Piorun" had been detached from troop convoy ("Winston's Special") WS8B, an indication of the seriousness of the "Bismarck's" threat. By this time Adm Tovey's force of heavy ships had lost "Repulse" to refuel, but been joined by "Rodney". They now came up from the west but did not attack just yet. 27th - "King George V", "Rodney" and the still circling "Bismarck" all opened fire around 08.45. Only the German ship was hit and by 10.15 she was a blazing wreck. Heavy cruiser "Dorsetshire", having left convoy SL74 the previous day, fired torpedoes to finish her off. "BISMARCK" sank a t 10.36 to the southwest of Ireland. Shadowing cruiser "Norfolk" was there at the end.

JUNE 1941

Germany Invades Russia

Atlantic - Pocket battleship "Lutzow" attempted to break out. Attacked on the 13th off the Norwegian coast by an RAF Beaufort, she was hit by one torpedo and only just made it back to Germany.

Battle of the Atlantic - Following th e capture of the German “U-100” Enigma code material, the Royal Navy tracked down the supply ships already in position to support the "Bismarck" as well as other raiders and U-boats. In 20 days, six tankers and three other ships were sunk or captured in the North and South Atlantic.

JULY 1941

German Heavy Ships - RAF Bomber Command badly damaged battlecruiser "Scharnhorst" at La Pallice, France on the 24th. Heavy cruiser "Prinz Eugen" was a lso damaged in July. With "Gneisenau" in Brest and "Lutzow" back in Germany, both undergoing repairs, the main big ship threat was from the new battleship "Tirpitz".

AUGUST 1941

German Raiders - "Orion" returned to France from the Indian Ocean via the Cape of Good Hope. In 16 months she had accounted for 9 1/2 ships of 60,000 tons, some in co-operation with "Komet".

NOVEMBER 1941

German Raiders - Indian & Atlantic Oceans - Far across the Indian Ocean off Western Australia, the Australian cruiser "Sydney" came across German raider "Kormoran" on the 19th. Apparently caught unawares, "SYDNEY" was m ortally damaged and lost without trace. "KORMORAN" also went down. In a cruise lasting 12 months she had sunk or captured 11 other ships of 68,000 tons. While replenishing "U-126" north of Ascension Island on the 22nd, raider "ATLANTIS" was sur prised and sunk by heavy cruiser "Devonshire". The raider's operations in the Atlantic and Indian Oceans had cost the Allies 22 merchantmen of 146,000 tons. "Komet" returned to Germany through the Atlantic having reached the Pacific across the top of Siberia some 17 months earlier. Her score was just 6 1/2 ships, some in operations with "Orion".

German Heavy Warships - As the completed "Tirpitz", sister-ship to "Bismarck" prepared for operations, units of the British Home Fleet sailed for Iceland waters to cover any possible breakout. Still short of war, the US Navy supported then with a battle squadron

DECEMBER 1941

Japan declares War

1942

JANUARY 1942

German Surface Warships - The German big ships gave the Admiralty much cause for concern. "Scharnhorst", "Gneisenau" and "Prinz Eugen" all now repaired, were ready for a possible break-out from Brest into the Atlantic. At the same time the new battleship "Tirpitz" moved to Trondheim in the middle of the month from where she could prey on the Russian convoys. In fact Hitler had ordered the Brest squadron back to Germany. By early February the Admiralty had got wind of the proposed "Channel Dash" and prepared accordingly.

German Raiders - Raider "Thor" sailed from France for her second cruise. She was the only raider to do so successfully. Operations in the South Atlantic and Indian Ocean continued until her loss in November 1942. No German raiders had been at sea since the previous November, and "Thor" was the first of three to break out in 1942. In the first six months of the year they sank or captured 17 ships of 107,000 tons.

Air War - RAF Bomber Command carried on its offensive against Germany and occupied Europe. Attacks were made in January on Bremen, Emden and Hamburg and the big warships in Brest.

11th-13th - The Channel Dash - The Bres t Squadron (Vice-Adm Ciliax) with "Scharnhorst", "Gneisenau" and "Prinz Eugen", heavily escorted by air and other naval forces, left late on the 11th for Germany in Operation 'Cerberus'. The aim was to pass through the Strait of Dover around noon the next day. A number of problems conspired to prevent the RAF standing patrols detecting their departure. The first intimation of the breakout came with a RAF report around 10.45 on the 12th as the German force steamed towards Boulogne. This left little time for attacks to be mounted. Soon after midday the first was made by five motor torpedo boats from Dover and six Swordfish torpedo-bombers of 825 Squadron (Lt-Cdr Esmonde), but no hits were made. All Swordfish were shot down.

From then on, events moved swiftly. At 14.30 off the Scheldt, "Scharnhorst" was slightly damaged by a mine. An hour later, torpedo attacks by six destroyers from Harwich were unsuccessful. Twenty minutes later a heavy attack by the RAF fails. The German ships carried on and in the early evening off the Dutch Frisian Islands, first "Gneisenau" and then "Scharnhorst" (for the second time) hit mines. Both were damaged, but together with "Prinz Eugen" reached German ports in the early hours of the 13th. The escape was an embarrassment for the British Government, but a tactical victory for the German Navy was also a strategic gain for the Royal Navy. The Brest Squadron no longer directly threatened the Atlantic convoy routes, both battlecruisers were damaged and ten days later "Prinz Eugen" was badly damaged. Two weeks later "Gneisenau" was further damaged in a RAF raid on Kiel and never went to sea again. A start was made on her repair but in early 1943 she was laid up.

German Surface Warships - Following the "Channel Dash", heavy cruiser "Prinz Eugen" sailed w ith pocket battleship "Admiral Scheer" to join "Tirpitz" in Norway. Off Trondheim, submarine "Trident" torpedoed and heavily damaged her on the 23rd.

German Raiders - Raider "Michel" sailed for the South Atlantic and later Indian and Pacific Oceans.

Russian Convoy PQ12 and Return QP8 - By now Germ an battleship "Tirpitz", the ship that dictated Royal Navy policies in northern waters for so long, had been joined in Norway by pocket battleship "Admiral Scheer". The next Russia-bound and return convoys therefore set out on the same day, the 1st, so they could be covered by the Home Fleet with battleships "Duke of York", "Renown", "King George V" and carrier "Victorious". Convoys PQ12 and QP8 passed to the southwest of Bear Island and with "Tirpitz" reported at sea, the Home Fleet tried to place itself between her and the convoys. There was no contact between the surface ships, but on the 9th, aircraft from "Victorious" attacked but failed to hit "Tirpitz" off the Lofoten Islands. Of the 31 merchantmen in two convoys, only one straggler from QP8 was lost to the German force.

Russian Convoy PQ13 - PQ13 and its escort, including cruiser "Trinidad" and destroyers "Eclipse" and "Fury", were scattered by severe gales and heavily attacked. On the 29th three German destroyers encountered the escort north of Murmansk. "Z-26" was sun k, but in the action "Trinidad" was h it and disabled by one of her own torpedoes. As the cruiser limped towards Kola Inlet an attack by "U-585" failed and she was sunk by "Fury". Five of the 19 ships with PQ13 were lost - two to submarines, two to aircraft, and one by the destroyers. "Trinidad" reached Russia.

Raid on St Nazaire - Concerned about the possibility of battleship "Tirpitz" breaking out into the Atlantic, the decision was made to put out of act ion the only dry-dock in France capable of taking her - the 'Normandie' at St Nazaire. Ex-US destroyer "Campbeltown" was to be loaded with high explosives and rammed into the lock gates while British commandos, carried over in Royal Navy ML's or motor launches were to land and destroy the dry-docks installations. The force sailed from southwest England on the 26th, and by a number of ruse penetrated the heavily defended port early on the 28th. In the face of intense fire, "Campbeltown" was placed exactly in position and many of the commandos got ashore to carry out their mission. Losses in men and coastal forces' craft were heavy, but when "CAMPBELTOWN" did blow up, the lock gates were put out of commission for the rest of the war.

Russian Return Convoy QP11 - QP11 departed Russia on the 28th April and on the 30th cruiser "Edinburgh" was torpedoed twice by U-boat. As she limped back to Russia, three German destroyers attacked QP11, but only manage to sank a straggler. They found the cruiser on the 2nd. In a series of confused fought amidst snow showers and smokescreens, "Edinburgh" disabled the "Hermann Schoemann" by gunfire, but was then torpedoed for a third time by either "Z-24" or "Z-25". Escorting destroyers "Forester" and "Foresight" were a lso damaged. Both "EDINBURGH" and "HERMANN SCHOEMANN" were scuttle d on the 2nd.

German Surface Warships - In addition to aircraft and U-boats, the Germans now had "Tirpitz", "Admiral Scheer", "Lutzow", "Hipper" and nearly a dozen big destroyers at Narvik and Trondheim. With by-now continuous daylight throughout the journey, the Admiralty pressed for the convoys to be discontinued, but they continued for political reasons.

German Raiders - German raider “Stier” left Rotterdam for the Channel and operations in the South Atlantic. Off Boulogne on the 13th, she was attacked by RN coastal forces. One MTB was lost, but escorting German torpedo boats “ILTIS” and “SEEADLER” were torp edoed and sunk. “Stier” was free for four months until her eventual sinking.

Destruction of Russian Convoy PQ17 - PQ 17 left Reykjavik, Iceland on the 27th June with 36 ships, of which two returned. The close escort under Cdr J. E. Broome included six destroyers and four corvettes. Two British and two US cruisers with destroyers were in support (Rear-Adm L. H. K. Hamilton), and distant cover was given by the Home Fleet (Adm Tovey) with battleships "Duke of York" and the US "Washington", carrier "Victorious", cruisers and destroyers. The British Admiralty believed the Germans were concentrating their heavy ships in northern Norway. In fact pocket battleship "Lutzow" had run aground off Narvik, but this still left battleship "Tirpitz", pocket battleship "Admiral Scheer" and heavy cruiser "Admiral Hipper" - all formidable adversaries, which reached Altenfiord on the 3rd. At this time PQ17 had just passed to the north of Bear Island, after which German aircraft sank three merchantmen. Fear of attack by the German ships led the First Sea Lord, Adm Pound, far away in London, to decide the fate of the convoy. In the evening of the 4th the support cruisers were ordered to withdraw and the convoy to scatter. Unfortunately Adm Hamilton took the six escorting destroyers with him. The merchantmen were now to the north of North Cape. Thirty-one tried to make for the isolated islands of Novaya Zemlya before heading south for Russian ports. Between the 5th and 10th July, 20 of them were lost, half each to the aircraft and U-boats sent to hunt them down. Some sheltered for days off the bleak shores of Novaya Zemlya. Eventually 11 survivors and two rescue ships reached Archangel and nearby ports between the 9th and 28th. In fact "Tirpitz" and the other ships did not leave Altenfiord until the morning of the 5th, after the 'convoy was to disperse' order. They abandoned the sortie that same day. No more Russian convoys ran until September.

German Raiders - After sinking just three ships, German raider "STIER" encountered American freighter "Stephen Hopkins" in the South Atlantic on the 27th. The "Hopkins" was sunk, but not before her single 4in gun damaged the raider so severely she had to be abandoned.

German Raiders - German raider "KOMET" attempted to pass down the English Channel on the 14th on the way out for a second cruise. A force of British escort destroyers and MTBs attacked off Cherbourg, and in spite of a strong escort, she was torpedoed and sunk by MTB.236.

Human Torpedo attack on "Tirpitz" - Ba ttleship "Tirpitz" posed such a threat to Russian convoys and held down so much of Home Fleet's strength that almost any measures to immobilise her were justified. A gallant attempt was made in October when a small Norwegian fishing vessel "Arthur", penetrated to within a few miles of the battleship in Trondheimfiord carrying Royal Navy personnel with their Chariot human torpedoed slung underneath. Just short of the target they broke away and all the efforts were in vain.

German Raiders - On the 30th, German raider "THOR" was d estroyed in Yokohama, Japan when a supply ship laying alongside caught fire and blew up. Since leaving France in January she had sunk or captured 10 ships of 56,000 tons.

Battle of the Barents Sea & Russian Convoys JW51A and JW51B - Af ter a three-month gap the first of the JW convoys set out. JW51 sailed in two sections. Part A left Loch Ewe, Scotland on the 15th with 16 ships bound for Kola Inlet. All arrived safely on Christmas Day, the 25th accompanied by supporting cruisers "Jamaica" and "Sheffield". JW51B (14 ships) left on the 22nd escorted by six destroyers, a minesweeper and four smaller vessels under the command of Capt St. V. Sherbrooke in "Onslow". Adm Burnett with "Jamaica" and "Sheffield" joined the convoy south west of Bear Island on the 29th to provide close cover through the Barents Sea. By now "Tirpitz", pocket battleship "Lutzow", heavy cruiser "Admiral Hipper", light cruisers "Koln" and "Nurnberg" and a number of 5in and 5.9in gun destroyers were in Norwegian waters. The Admiralty assumed they were for attacks on Russian convoys. In fact, they were in Norway because Hitler feared invasion. Convoy JW51B was reported an the 30th and 8in "Hipper" (Adm Kummetz), 11in "Lutzow" and six destroyers put to sea from Altenfiord to intercept north of North Cape. Early on the 31st, New Year's Eve, the British ships were in four groups (1-4) . The main convoy (1) with five remaining 4in or 4.7in destroyers "Achates", "Onslow", "Obdurate", "Obedient" and "Orwell" headed due east. (Some of the escort and merchantmen had been scattered by gales and never regained the convoy). Northeast of the convoy, detached minesweeper "Bramble" (2) was searching for missing ships. Adm Burnett's two 6in cruisers (3) covered to the north. Further north still a straggling merchant ship and escorting trawler (4) tried to reach the convoy. Capt Sherbrooke planned to use the same tactics as Adm Vian in the Second Battle of Sirte and head for the enemy while the convoy turned away under smoke. Unfortunately for the British, Adm Kummetz divided his force in two [1-2] and planned to attack from astern on both sides - "Hipper" [1] and three destroyers in the north and "Lutzow" [2] with the other three in the south.

On the 31st around 09.30, the action started with "Hipper's" three destroyers [1] heading north across the rear of the convoy (1) , and opening fire on "Obdurate". The convoy later turned as planned, but south towards "Lutzow" [2]. Then "Onslow", Orwell" and Obedient" sighted Hipper" [1] and held her off until, at 10.20, "Onslow" was hit and Capt Sherbrooke badly wounded (Capt Rupert St. V. Sherbrooke RN was awarded the Victoria Cross for gallantry). Meanwhile, Adm Burnett's cruisers (3) , following a radar contact, had diverted north towards the straggler and escort (4) . They only headed towards the action around 10.00. Still to the north of the convoy, "Hipper" [1] and her destroyers came across the hapless "BRAMBLE" (2) and sent her to the bottom around 10.40. They headed south, and 40min later the 8in cruiser [1] approached JW51B (1), opened fire and hit "ACHATES" which sank after the battle was over. Lutzow [2] had alr eady come up on the convoy from the south but did not join battle until 11.45. She was driven off by the remaining destroyers. By now "Jamaica" and "Sheffield" (3) had arrived on the scene. They quickly hit "Hipper" [1] and sank destroyer "FRIEDRICH ECKOLDT". "Hipper" tried to get back to the convoy but again the destroyers skillfully kept her at bay. By midday the German ships were withdrawing with the two cruisers in pursuit. Contact was shortly lost. None of the merchantmen were more than lightly damaged and all 14 reached Kola on the 3rd January. Return convoy RA51 left Kola on the 30th December. After being supported part of the way by "Jamaica" and "Sheffield", the 14 merchant ships were safely delivered to Loch Ewe on the 11th January. When Hitler learnt that his big ships had been driven off by light cruisers and destroyers he flew into a rage and ordered them all paid off. Grand-Adm Raeder resigned in protest and was succeeded as C-in-C, German Navy, in January by Adm Doenitz. The paying-off order was revoked.

Midget Submarine attack on "Tirpitz" - Nearly a year ea rlier an unsuccessful attack had been made on battleship "Tirpitz" using Chariot human torpedoes. Now it was the turn of midget submarines - the X-craft each with two 2-ton saddle charges. Six left for northern Norway towed by 'S' or 'T' class submarines. Two were lost on passage, but on the 20th off Altenfiord, "X-5", "X-6" and "X-7" set out to attack "Tirpitz" and "X-10" for the "Scharnhorst". "X-5" was lost a nd "X-10" was unable to attack, but "X-6" (Lt Cameron) and "X-7" (Lt Place) penetrated all the defences to reach "Tirpitz" laying in Kaafiord at the far end of Altenfiord on the 22nd. Both dropped their charges under or near the battleship before they sank and some of their crews escaped. "Tirpitz" managed to shift her position slightly, but not enough to avoid damage when the charges went up. She was out of action for six months.

English Channel Actions - Cruiser "Charybdis", accompanied by two fleet and four 'Hunt' class destroyers, sailed from Plymouth to intercept a German blockade runner off the coast of Brittany in Operation 'Tunnel'. Early in the morning of the 23rd, the force was surprised by a group of torpedo boats. "CHARYBDIS" was hit twice by torpedoes fired by "T-23" and "T-27" sinking with heavy loss of life. 'Hunt' class escort destroyer "LIMBOURNE" followed her down after a hit by "T-22".

Battle in the Bay of Biscay - Eleven G erman destroyers and torpedo boats sortied into the Bay of Biscay to bring in the blockade-runner "Alsterufer". She was sunk by a Czech Liberator of RAF Coastal Command on the 27th, and next day, the 28th, as the German warships returned to base they were intercepted by 6in cruisers "Glasgow" and "Enterprise". Although outnumbered and out-gunned they sank 5.9in-gunned destroyer "Z-27" and torpedo boats "T-25" and "T-26".

Battle of North Cape and Russian Convoy JW55B - R ussian convoys were still sailing in two sections. JW55A left Loch Ewe, Scotland on the 12th and arrived safely with all 19 merchant ships on the 20th. Adm Fraser with "Duke of York" went right through to Russia for the first time before returning to Iceland.

Convoy JW55B, also with 19 ships, sailed for Russia on the 20th. >>>

<<< Three days later return convoy RA55A (22 ships) set out.

Cover for both convoys through the Barents Sea was to be provided by Vice-Adm R. L. Burnett with cruisers "Belfast", "Norfolk" and "Sheffield" (1) which left Kola Inlet on the same day as RA55A - the 23rd. The Admiralty expected the 11in battlecruiser "Scharnhorst" (below - Maritime Quest) to attack the convoys and Adm Fraser with "Duke of York" and cruiser "Jamaica" (2) left I celand and headed for the Bear Island area. "Scharnhorst" (Rear-Adm Bey) and five destroyers [1] sailed from Altenfiord late on the 25th, Christmas Day. Early next morning JW55B was 50 miles south of Bear Island, the weather stormy, as the Germans headed north to intercept. Meanwhile Adm Fraser (2) was 200 miles away to the southwest and Adm Burnett's cruisers (1) were approaching the convoy from the east.

At 07.30 on the 26th the German destroyers were detached to search for the convoy, failed to make contact and were later ordered home. They played no part in the battle. First contact (by group 1) was just before 09.00 on the 26th when "Belfast" detected "Scharnhorst" by radar as she was heading south and only 30 miles east of the convoy. "Norfolk" engaged and hit the battlecruiser which turned north and away to try to get around to JW55B. Adm Burnett anticipated this move and instead of shadowing, carried on towards the convoy. "Belfast" regained contact at noon and all three cruisers (1) opened fire. In the next 20min "Scharnhorst" was h it and "Norfolk" badly damaged by 11in shells. The German ship now headed south away from the convoy as Adm Burnett shadowed by radar. At this time, Adm Fraser (2) was now to the south-southwest and in a position to cut off her retreat. He made radar contact soon after 16.00 at a range of 22 miles and closed in. Fifty minutes later at 1650, "Belfast" (1) illuminated "Scharnhorst" with starshell and Adm Burnett's cruisers (1) engaged from one side and "Duke of York" and "Jamaica" (2) from the other. Hard hit, especially by the battleship's 14in shells, the German ship's main armament was eventually silenced. Finally the cruisers and accompanying destroyers fired torpedoes, 10 or 11 of which struck home, and soon after 19.30 "SCHARNHORST" went do wn. Only 36 men could be rescued. Now only "Tirpitz" remained as a potential big-ship threat to the Russian convoys. On the 29th JW55B reached Kola safely. Return convoy RA55A was well clear of Bear Island by the time the battle had started and made Loch Ewe on 1st January. The second return half - RA55B of eight ships - left Russia on the last day of the year and got in on 8th January.

1944

APRIL 1944

Fleet Air Arm attack on "Tirpitz" - The da mage inflicted by midget submarines on "Tirpitz" in September 1943 was nearly repaired and the Admiralty decided to launch a Fleet Air Arm attack. On the 30th March, Adm Fraser left Scapa Flow with battleships "Duke of York" and "Anson", fleet carriers "Victorious" and the old "Furious", escort carriers "Emperor", "Fencer", "Pursuer" and "Searcher", cruisers and destroyers, split into two forces, and headed north, partly to cover JW58. By the 2nd the two forces had joined up 120 miles off Altenfiord and early next morning on the 3rd, two waves each of 20 Barracuda bombers with fighter cover surprised "Tirpitz" at anchor. A total of 14 hits were made, but the damage was not serious. However, the battleship was out of action for another three months. Home Fleet was back in Scapa on the 6th. A similar operation was attempted later in the month, but bad weather prevented any attacks. Instead a German convoy was found in the area and three ships sunk. The weather again saved Tirpitz from two sorties in May 1944, but the fleet and escort carrier aircraft did manage to sink several more merchant ships at these and other times during the month.

English Channel Actions - Two surf ace actions took place in the English Channel off the coast of Brittany, both involving Canadian destroyers. On the 26th, cruiser "Black Prince" with four destroyers - three from the Royal Canadian Navy - was on Western Channel patrol out of Plymouth. Early that morning they ran into German torpedo boats "T-24", "T-27" and "T-29" on a minelaying mission. "T-27" was damaged and "T-29" sunk by the Canadian 'Tribal' class "Haida". Then on the 29th, "Haida" and sister ship "Athabaskan" were covering Allied minelaying, when they were surprised by the surviving "T-24" and repaired "T-27". "ATHABASKAN" was hit by a torpedo from "T-24" and blew up, but "Haida" managed to drive "T-27" ashore where she was later destroyed. The surviving "T-24" hit a mine but got into port.

JUNE 1944

Normandy Invasion - Attempts by German light forces to interfere with invasion shipping had little effect and they suffered heavy losses. However, on D-day, torpedo boats sank the Norwegian destroyer "SVENNER". Then on the night of the 8th/9th another force of destroyers and torpedo boats tried to break through from Brest but was intercepted by the 10th Destroyer Flotilla of 'Tribals' off Ushant. Destroyer "ZH-1" (ex-Dutch) was damaged by "Tartar", then torpedoed and sunk by "Ashanti", and "Z-32" driven ashore by the Canadian "Haida" and "Huron" and later blown up.

JULY 1944

FAA attack on "Tirpitz" - Barra cuda torpedo bombers from Home Fleet carriers "Formidable", "Indefatigable" and "Furious" attempted to hit "Tirpitz" in Altenfiord on the 17th, but failed, partly because of defensive smokescreens.

AUGUST 1944

FAA attack on "Tirpitz" - Russian convoy JW59 (33 ships) left Loch Ewe on the 15th with a heavy escort including escort carriers "Striker" and "Vindex" and the 20th and 22nd Escort Groups. Home Fleet, under the command of Adm Moore, sailed in two groups, partly to cover the convoy but mainly to launch further FAA attacks on "Tirpitz" in Altenfiord. One group included "Formidable", "Indefatigable" and "Furious" and battleship "Duke of York" the second one escort carriers "Trumpeter" and the Canadian-manned "Nabob" together with t he 5th EG (Cdr Macintyre). Between the 22nd and 29th, three strikes were made, but in two of them the German ship was obscured by smoke and although a hit was obtained on the 24th, the bomb failed to explode.

SEPTEMBER 1944

RAF attack on "Tirpitz" - No w it was RAF Bomber Command's turn to hit at battleship "Tirpitz" (above - Maritime Quest) in Altenfiord in the far north of Norway. Flying in difficult conditions from Russian bases near Archangel on the 15th, the Lancasters managed to get one hit in spite of the usual smokescreens. Partly because of the damage, the battleship was moved south to Tromso.

NOVEMBER 1944

RAF Destruction of "Tirpitz" - Th e damaged "TIRPITZ" was finall y destroyed on the 12th as she lay at anchor off Tromso, Norway. Lancasters of Nos 9 and 617 (Dambuster) Squadrons, RAF Bomber Command using 12,000lb bombs put paid to the ship that had tied down the Home Fleet for so long. After several hits and near misses by bombs weighing over 5 tons, she turned turtle trapping nearly 1,000 men inside.

1945

MARCH 1945

German Heavy Warships - The end of the remaining German big ships was in sight. Battlecruiser "GNEISENAU", out of service since 1942 and now hulked, was sunk as a blockship in Gdynia (Gotenhafen) on the 27th. Light cruiser "KOLN" was sunk at Wilhelmshaven by Allied bombing. Only two pocket battleships, two heavy and three light cruisers remained, and most of these would survive only a few more weeks.

APRIL 1945

Last Month of the German Surface Fleet - In RAF raids on Kiel early in the month, pocket battleship "ADMIRAL SCHEER" capsized and heavy cruiser "Admiral Hipper" and light cruiser "Emden" were badl y damaged. A few days later pocket battleship "Lutzow" was al so put out of action at Swinemunde.

MAY 1945

Last Week - Pocket battleship "LUTZOW" at Swinemunde and heavy cruiser "ADMIRAL HIPPER" and light cruiser "EMDEN" at Kiel, all badly damaged in April bombing raids, were scuttled in the first week of May. When Germany surrendered, just three cruisers survived. "Prinz Eugen" was used in A-bomb trials in the Pacific "Leipzig" scuttled in the North Sea in 1946 loaded with poison gas munitions and "Nurnberg" ceded to Russia. A dozen or so big destroyers also remained afloat.

8th Surrender of Germany


Service History

The destroyer Leberecht Maass was the first destroyer to be build in Germany since the First World War, with Georg Thiele laid down and launched on the same days as the former but commissioned a month and a half later. The ships of this type suffered from a number of problems. They took on large amount of water during high seas, making the forward artillery unusable, had structural weakness and severe vibrations caused by the engines. A new turbine system installed in the ships proved initially promising but soon disappointed and caused them to be limited to a short range, this being one of the two decisive factors against the ships during the battles of Narvik, the other being the ships limited ammunition storage capability.

Georg Thiele was the only one of the four Type 1934 destroyers not to be present on 22 February 1940, when its two sister ships, Leberecht Maass and Max Schultz were sunk in a friendly fire incident.

At the outbreak of the war in September 1939, the ship carried out operations in the Danzig Bay, along with the cruisers Köln, Leipzig, and Nürnberg.

The destroyer was one of ten ships, together with Z22 Anton Schmitt, Z21 Wilhlem Heidkamp, Z17 Diether von Roeder, Z12 Erich Giese, Z13 Erich Koellner, Z11 Bernd von Arnim, Z18 Hans Lüdemann, Z19 Hermann Künne and Z9 Wolfgang Zenker, to carry the 3rd Mountain Division, commanded by Eduard Dietl, to Narvik, as part of the Operation Weserübung. The ship took part in the Battles of Narvik from 10 to 13 April 1940, losing 27 of its crew in the process. On 13 April, after using up all its ammunition in the fight with the British destroyers HMS Eskimo, HMS Hero and HMS Kimberley, covering the disembarkation of the crews of the other German destroyers, Georg Thiele was scuttled at Rombaksbotten after running aground. The surviving crew of the ship took part in the land fighting at Narvik in the following weeks. Max-Eckart Wolff, the last commanding officer of the ship, served as a battalion commander in the Marine-Regiment Berger during the land battle. He was awarded the Iron Cross first class in May 1940 and the Knight's Cross the following August for his leadership of Z2 at Narvik.


Ship sunk in battle of Narvik found after 68 years

A British destroyer which was sunk during a fierce battle with the German navy has been found after lying undisturbed at the bottom of a Norwegian fjord for almost 70 years.

The Ministry of Defence announced that HMS Hunter, part of a flotilla which took part in the Battle of Narvik early in the second world war, had been located by a Norwegian minehunter during an exercise involving the British, Norwegian and Dutch navies as well as ships from Spain, Belgium and Germany.

More than 100 crewmen, two-thirds of those on board, were lost when HMS Hunter, launched on the Tyne at Wallsend in 1936 and badly damaged by a mine off Spain a year later, was sunk at 5.30am on April 10 1940. The site will now be marked as a war grave.

HMS Hunter, along with five other H-class destroyers, had sailed north to attack ships taking part in the German invasion of Norway. The group sank two German destroyers and badly damaged a third during the battle in Ofotfjord at the entrance to Narvik harbour.

Five German destroyers which had been at anchor in other fjords attacked the British flotilla as it turned to make its escape. HMS Hunter was sunk and the flagship, HMS Hardy, badly damaged. Captain Bernard Warburton-Lee, commanding the operation from HMS Hardy, was killed and posthumously awarded the first VC of the war.

Hunter was found in 300m (1,000ft) of water by an echo sounder on the Norwegian ship Tyr. Its identity was confirmed by information from remote-controlled underwater equipment.

An MoD spokesman said a wreath-laying ceremony with ships sailing in line past the site of the sunken vessel would be held tomorrow and would involve British, Norwegian and Dutch vessels.

"Finding HMS Hunter was a poignant moment and being able to pay our respects along with our Norwegian and Dutch allies is particularly fitting to those who lost their lives," said Major General Garry Robinson, commander of the UK amphibious force taking part in Exercise Armatura Borealis in Norwegian waters.

Colonel John Ogland, spokesman for the Norwegian national joint headquarters, said: "Being able to host this large multinational exercise is great for us but to find HMS Hunter while doing so makes it very special indeed. We remain close allies and are eternally grateful to those who helped preserve our freedom."

News of the discovery will be warmly welcomed by the families of those who died and those who survived, and by members of the HMS Hunter Association.

On a wartime memories website, Rob Ward writes: "My father, Fred Ward, served on the HMS Hunter . He was held in the town of Narvik in a building called Bjornfjell. He witnessed the second battle on April 13 that obliterated the remaining German destroyers.

"The Germans then force-marched [the British crewmen] over the mountains to Sweden. While [in] Sweden he took his chance and did a run. The run was on a ship called the Skteren, loaded with iron ore for Britain, and would take them through the Skaggerak. A German patrol boat and a destroyer approached them and the captain scuttled the ship. My father was taken to Denmark . finally ending up in Stalag VIIIB."


Events in History in 1940

Agreement of Interest

Mar 18 Benito Mussolini and Adolf Hitler meet at Brenner Pass where the Italian dictator agrees he will, in due course, join Germany's impending war effort in the west

Event of Interest

Mar 19 French government of Édouard Daladier falls

    Paul Reynoud becomes French premier The Lahore Resolution (Qarardad-e-Lahore), calling for independent Muslim state(s), is adopted by the All-India Muslim League

Theater Premiere

Mar 26 "The Fifth Column", a play by Ernest Hemingway and adapted by Benjamin Glazer premieres in NYC courtesy of the Theater Guild

Election of Interest

Mar 27 Peter Fraser becomes Prime Minister of New Zealand after the death of his predecessor Michael Joeseph Savage from cancer

    Construction begins of the exhibition center to host the Thessaloniki International Trade Fair Karelo-Finnish SSR becomes 12th Soviet republic (until 1956)

Event of Interest

Apr 1 Filipino President Quezon officially authorizes the printing and publication of the grammar and dictionary prepared by the Institute of the National Language.

Event of Interest

Apr 7 US Post Office issues first postage stamp of African American educator Booker T. Washington

    German battle cruisers sink British aircraft carrier Glorious German cruiser Blucher torpedoed and capsizes in Oslofjord, 1,000 die Nazi Germany invades Denmark and Norway, and Denmark surrenders after a six-hour battle

Event of Interest

Apr 10 Vidkun Quisling forms Norwegian "national government"

    Italy annexes Albania Second battle of Narvik 3 German destroyers and one U-boat sunk by the Royal Navy, 5 more German destroyers scuttled Allied troops land in Norway RCA demonstrated its new electron microscope in Philadelphia British troops land at Narvik, Norway "Lake Shore Ltd" derails speed killing 34 near Little Falls, New York Dutch prime minister De Geer declares state of siege 1st electron microscope demonstrated (RCA), Philadelphia, Pennsylvania [1] Rear Admiral Joseph Taussig testifies before US Senate Naval Affairs Committee that war with Japan is inevitable

Event of Interest

Apr 27 Himmler orders establishment of Auschwitz Concentration Camp

    SS-Obersturmbannführer (lieutenant colonel) Rudolf Höss (not Hess, different Nazi) becomes commandant of concentration camp Auschwitz Norwegian King Haakon & government flee to Britain Robert Sherwood's play "There Shall be No Night" premieres in NYC Air New Zealand then known as TEAL makes its inaugural flight with a flight from Auckland to Sydney. Later becomes 1st airline in the world to boil hot water in-flight to offer customers hot tea and coffee. 140 Palestinian Jews die as German planes bomb their ship 21 "not neutral" Nazis & communists arrested in Netherlands

Event of Interest

May 6 Pulitzer prize awarded to John Steinbeck for "The Grapes of Wrath"

    Dutch-Indies Governor Van Starkenborch proclaims end to state of siege World War II: Nazi Germany invades the Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg and France

Event of Interest

    World War II: The first German bombs of the war fall on England at Chilham and Petham, in Kent NY World's Fair reopens French marines occupy St Maarten German tanks conquer Moerdijk bridges, Netherlands Nazi blitzkrieg and conquest of France begins with the crossing of the Muese River British bomb factory at Breda, Netherlands Winston Churchill says "I have nothing to offer but blood, toil, tears and sweat" in his first speech as Prime Minister to British House of Commons

Event of Interest

    German breakthrough at Grebbelinie British Local Defence Volunteers forms, an armed citizen militia designed to support the British Army during the Second World War. It is later renamed the Home Guard. Admiral Johannes Furstner, Royal Dutch Navy, departs to England German breakthrough at Sedan Lord Beaverbrook appointed British minister of aircraft production Nazis bomb Rotterdam (600-900 dead), Netherlands surrenders to Germany German armoured division moves into Northern France

Event of Interest

May 19 French counter attack at Pronne under General Charles de Gaulle

    German General Guderian's tanks reach the English Channel (British expeditionary army) Trailing 7-1 in 9th to Pitts, Phils win 8-7 AVRO-chairman Willem Vogt fires all Jewish employees Allied counter attack at Atrecht, northern France Paul Reynaud forms French government Dutch Premier De Geer begins working with Nazis UK Premier Winston Churchill flies to Paris to decide with General Maxime Weygand a strategy to save the city 1st great dogfight between Spitfires and Luftwaffe Dutch Queen Wilhelmina speaks on BBC radio

Event of Interest

May 24 Adolf Hitler affirms General von Rundstedts "Stopbevel"

Event of Interest

May 26 1st successful helicopter flight in US: Vought-Sikorsky US-300 designed by Igor Sikorsky

Miracle of Dunkirk

May 27 British and Allied forces begin the evacuation of Dunkirk (Operation Dynamo) during WWII

    World War II: In the Le Paradis massacre, 97 soldiers from a Royal Norfolk Regiment unit are shot after surrendering to German troops Belgium surrenders to Germany, King Leopold III gives himself up British-French troops capture Narvik, Norway Arthur Seyss-Inquart installed as Reich commissar of The Hague, Netherlands In WWII, Germans capture Ostend & Ypres in Belgium and Lille in France

Event of Interest

May 31 Major General Bernard Montgomery leaves Dunkirk

    Winston Churchill flies to Paris to meet with French Marshal Philippe Pétain who announces he is willing to make a separate peace with Germany Coffee & tea rationed in Holland Major General Bernard Montgomery returns to London Nazi occupiers kick Jews out of Dutch air guard Heavy German bombing on Dunkirk beach Last British and French troops evacuated from Dunkirk British complete the "Miracle of Dunkirk" by evacuating 338,226 allied troops from France via a flotilla of over 800 vessels including Royal Navy destroyers, merchant marine boats, fishing boats, pleasure craft and even lifeboats

Event of Interest

Jun 14 Auschwitz concentration and extermination camp opens in Nazi controlled Poland with Polish POWs, later expanded to include civilian Jews and gypsies (approx. 3 million would die within its walls)

    German U-47 sinks airship Balmoral 38 Italian Fiat bombers bomb Luc-en-Province Bread & flour rationed in Holland World War II: France surrenders to NAZI Germany, German troops occupy Paris Soviet Army occupies Lithuania Communist government installed in Lithuania General De Gaulle arrives in Bordeaux France asks Germany for terms of surrender in WW II General De Gaulle departs Bordeaux for London Germany occupiers ration bread in Holland USSR occupies Estonia World War II: sinking of the RMS Lancastria by the Luftwaffe near Saint-Nazaire, France German occupiers slaughter cattle, pigs and chickens Winston Churchill's "this was their finest hour" speech urging perseverance during Battle of Britain delivered to British House of Commons

Event of Interest

Jun 19 German 7th Armoured division under command of Rommel occupies Cherbourg

    Hermann Goering orders seizure of Dutch horses, car, buses and ships German occupiers disband Dutch States-General/Council of State The first successful west-to-east navigation of Northwest Passage begins at Vancouver, British Columbia France surrenders to Nazi Germany, with the northern half of the country occupied and the south established as the Nazi client state Vichy France SS rounds up 31 German/Polish/Dutch Jews in Roermond, Netherlands About 10,000 Afrikaner women march to the union buildings in protest of South Africa's involvement in WWII 1st Dairy Queen restaurant opened, in Joliet, Illinois Marcel Louette seeks opposition group "White Brigade" on Antwerp RAF bombs Schiphol, Netherlands After conquering France, Adolf Hitler visits Paris and views the Eiffel Tower and the grave of Napoleon Bonaparte France signs an armistice with Italy during WW II End of USSR experimental calendar Gregorian readopted 6/27 Soviet Army attacks Romania

Gregory Conquers Julius Caesar

Jun 27 USSR returns to the Gregorian calendar, using Sunday as a rest day, after 6 years using a Russian six-day calendar


Construction and career

Z22 Anton Schmitt was named after Bosun's Mate ( Bootsmannsmaat ) Anton Schmitt, who was the last man at the last operating gun of the sinking light cruiser Frauenlob during the Battle of Jutland on 31 May 1916 and went down with his ship. The ship was ordered from AG Weser (Deschimag) on 6 January 1936. She was laid down at Deschimag's Bremen shipyard as yard number W924 on 3 January 1938, launched on 20 September, and commissioned on 24 September 1939. After working up, Z22 Anton Schmitt helped to lay a minefield near the Newcastle area together with Z21 Wilhelm Heidkamp, Z16 Friedrich Eckoldt, and Z20 Karl Galster on the night of 10/11 January 1940. The destroyers Z14 Friedrich Ihn and Z4 Richard Beitzen were also supposed to participate, but the former had problems with her boilers that reduced her maximum speed to 27 knots (50   km/h 31   mph) and she had to be escorted back to Germany by the latter ship. The minefield only claimed one fishing trawler of 251   gross register tons   (GRT) . [5]

Norwegian Campaign

Z22 Anton Schmitt was allocated to Group 1 for the Norwegian portion of Operation Weserübung in April 1940. The group's task was to transport the 139th Mountain Infantry Regiment (139. Gebirgsjäger Regiment) and the headquarters of the 3rd Mountain Division (3. Gebirgs-Division) to seize Narvik. The ships began loading troops on 6 April and set sail the next day. [6] When they arrived off the Ofotfjord on the morning of 9 April, Z22 Anton Schmitt and her sister Z18 Hans Lüdemann landed their troops at the Ramnes narrows to search for the coastal artillery positions that the Germans mistakenly believed to command the mouth of the fjord. Z17 Diether von Roeder remained offshore to provide support if necessary and to serve as a picket ship in case the British intended to interfere with the operation. About 11:00 the troops were ordered to reboard their destroyers which proceeded to Narvik. Z22 Anton Schmitt had picket duty the following night and then sailed into Narvik harbor. [7]

Shortly after dawn on 10 April, the five destroyers of the British 2nd Destroyer Flotilla, Hardy, Havock, Hunter, Hotspur, and Hostile appeared, totally surprising the Germans. Hunter hit Z22 Anton Schmitt with a single 4.7-inch (120   mm) shell and with a torpedo in the forward engine room. And then Havock hit the listing ship with another torpedo that broke her in half, killing or wounding over 50 crewmen. The survivors joined the other survivors ashore in an ad-hoc naval infantry unit. [8]


HMS Warspite – A Personal Account

THE Royal Navy’s “Grand Old Lady,” the famous battleship HMS Warspite, was driven by a storm onto Cornwall’s rocks on 12th April 1947 while being towed to a ship-breakers’ yard on the River Clyde.

Although greatly saddened to learn about his former ship’s ignoble fate after it had survived two world wars, my late father, Lt. Fred Jones, who was a proud member of her crew for more than four years, commented: “She was eventually broken up where she lay by British workmen doing what the enemy failed to do.”

Commissioned in 1915, the 32 000-ton Warspite was the seventh ship to bear the name, which dates from the reign of Queen Elizabeth I and England’s wars with Spain. The motto on the ship’s crest “Belli dura despicio” means “I despise the hardships of war.”

Warspite took part in 15 major engagements, from Jutland in World War 1 to 14 actions in World War 2. These included the Atlantic convoys, Narvik, Norway, Calabria, the Mediterranean, the Malta convoys, Matapan, Crete, Sicily, Salerno, the English Channel, Normandy and the Bay of Biscay.

She fired her guns for the last time whilst bombarding German strongholds on Walcheren Island in the Scheldt Estuary in November 1944, earning the most battle honours ever awarded to one warship.

/>Fred Jones

My father Fred Jones joined Warspite in May 1937 after the 24-year-old ship had undergone a full-scale re-fit in Portsmouth dockyard. Her main machinery had been entirely renewed, one of the original two funnels was removed to make way for more anti-aircraft armament, and the eight 15-inch guns were elevated to 30 degrees to increase their range to 32,000 yards (16 miles).

The anti-aircraft defence armament had been boosted to four 4-inch twin mountings, two eight-barrelled 2-pounder pom-poms (nicknamed “Chicago Pianos” by the crew) and twin Oerlikons. A hangar was placed behind the funnel to house two seaplanes that could be catapulted off and hoisted back on board by a crane.

Her crew numbered 1284, including Chief Petty Officer/Gunner’s Mate Fred Jones, who was captain of “B” turret.

Leaving Portsmouth, HMS Warspite sailed for the Mediterranean to become the flagship of Admiral Sir Dudley Pound. She was based in Alexandria which, with war imminent, was to be the fleet’s base.

On 3 September 1939 Admiral Pound received a signal from the Admiralty that read: “Commence hostilities at once with Germany,” and Warspite was sent to escort 30 merchant ships in convoy across the Atlantic from Canada to Britain.

When the armed merchant cruiser Rawalpindi was sunk by the Scharnhorst in the North Sea, Warspite joined a search for the German battle-cruiser, but she slipped away in the foggy Icelandic weather.

Her first major action was the Battle of Narvik, fought on 13 April 1940 to prevent the shipment of iron ore from the Norwegian port to Germany. Warspite and nine destroyers left Scapa Flow and entered Ofot Fiord to attack German ships and shore defences. The Swordfish aircraft was catapulted off, bombed and sank a German submarine at its moorings, and reported the position and strength of the defenders.

Although Warspite was bows-on to the targets and could fire only the four forward guns, nine German destroyers were sunk and the port facilities were badly damaged.

Writing his memoirs after the war, my father described the battles he took part in and explained how the huge 15-inch guns (in turrets “A” and “B” forward and “X” and “Y” aft) were loaded and fired.

Turrets A and B

Each turret weighed about 700 tons. The guns were 54 feet long and weighed 100 tons. They consisted of a rifled tube over which was shrunk the outer jacket. A gun’s “life” ended after firing 335 rounds and it then had to be re-lined.

A turret’s hydraulic machinery raised the ammunition lying some 50 feet below in the magazine. Each shell weighed almost a ton and a slick crew could load one-shell-a-minute. Normal practice was to fire four-gun salvoes from the right guns of all turrets, followed by a similar salvo from the left guns.

To a stranger, the incessant and overwhelming noise inside the turret as every member of the 70-man crew did his job with split-second precision was equalled only by the unnerving blinding flash and stunning concussion of the firing. But to the men who controlled and worked the great guns it all became second nature.

Fred Jones takes up the story:

“For us, the Battle of Narvik begins with the order “Action stations.” The gun crews take up their positions and the turret captain reports to Control. We then hear “All guns load” and up come the gun-loading cages with a thud and out go the rammers.
The Controller barks “Salvoes” and the right gun is brought to the ready. Then “Enemy in sight” and the sight-setters chant out the range, by which time both guns are almost horizontal because of the close range.
The fire gong sounds “Ding ding,” the right gun fires and recoils as a “woof” rocks the turret. The left gun is brought to the ready as the right gun re-loads.
Sixteen rounds have been fired in the fiord and the targets either sink or blow up. Control issues the order “Check fire” and the gun crews clamber through the manhole at the top of the turret to see the damage.”

HMS Warspite in action

The German High Command revealed later that a second submarine ordered to torpedo the British battleship ran aground whilst submerged and took no further part in the battle.

After a further bombardment of Narvik port, Warspite sailed for Alexandria and arrived on 10 May 1940 to become the flagship of Admiral Sir Andrew Cunningham.

When Italy entered the war in June, Cunningham’s fleet carried out a sweep of the central Mediterranean, guarded convoys taking ammo and stores for Wavell’s campaign in Egypt and dodged high-level bombing by Italian aircraft.

Finding the battleship Giulio Cesare off the port of Calabria, Warspite scored a direct hit at a range of 26,000 yards. It was the longest-range gunnery hit on a moving target ever recorded and the Italian ship was put out of action for the rest of the war. The other Italian warships with her turned tail and sped away.

The “Grand Old Lady” (who was given her nickname by Admiral Cunningham) next supported the Eighth Army by shelling enemy fortifications along the coast at Bardia, Fort Capuzzo and Tripoli.

By early 1941 the Nazis realised that the Italians no longer had the heart to fight and sent their own air and ground forces to the Mediterranean. But not before the Italian Navy was caught at night by Cunningham’s fleet off the Greek coast at Cape Matapan. During the action, three Italian heavy cruisers and two destroyers were sunk in a barrage lasting less than five minutes.

Chief Petty Officer Jones reports:

22.25.30 Enemy in sight on Warspite’s starboard side.
22.27.15 Turrets loaded, ready and on target.
22.27.55 We open fire with broadsides.
22.28.00 Hits secured on first cruiser, which bursts into flames along its full
length.
22.28.40 Second broadside fired on same target, now sinking.
22.29.18 Third eight-gun broadside fires at next cruiser, which also bursts
into flames.
Such were the fruits of the Royal Navy’s gunners constantly practising night-fighting during peace time.

On 21st April 1941 Warspite opened fire with her 15-inch and 8-inch batteries on the quays and ships in Tripoli harbour, causing great damage. She was then engaged in convoy work and survived heavy attacks by the Luftwaffe due to the terrific anti-aircraft barrage put up by the fleet – but she was not so lucky when covering the evacuation of British troops when the Germans attacked Crete.

Cunningham’s entire fleet was again bombed and machine-gunned by German planes, and Warspite was hit by a 500 lb armour-piercing bomb on the starboard side forward where C.P.O. Jones had been standing one minute before while he was repairing a jammed ack-ack gun.

The 4-inch guns and all the gunners were blown overboard and the explosion started a fire that put all four 6-inch guns out of action. One boiler-room had to be abandoned and the ship’s speed was considerably reduced.

An officer and 37 men were killed and 31 others wounded. My father commented: “Had I not been ordered back to my turret to load up I would certainly have been among the casualties.”

He was mentioned in dispatches “for gallant and meritorious action in the face of the enemy” and awarded oak leaves that were sewn on his medal ribbon.

Warspite limped back to Alexandria and was patched up before sailing to have major repairs done at the Bremerton Navy Yard in Seattle, USA, where my father and other crew members left her and were posted to other ships. He served in HMS Resolution until October 1941 and then returned to the home and family he had not seen for four years and four months.
“That’s the luck of the Navy,” he observed. “But at least I got back alive.”

Although serving in other ships, he followed Warspite’s fortunes until the war ended. She was repaired and ready for service again by January 1942, by which time America was in the war. After taking part in the Sicilian campaign in January 1943, Italy surrendered and she led the surviving ships of the Italian fleet into captivity in Malta.

Admiral Cunningham addressing the ship’s company of HMS Warspite in the Mediterranean, August 1943

Warspite was bombed again in Salerno and, after more repairs, was in action on D-Day on 8 June 1944, then several other actions off the French coast.

When Germany surrendered in May 1945 the Admiralty decided that the “Grand Old Lady” should be scrapped after 30 years in service.

It was ironical that on 19 April 1947, while being towed by two tugs to an ignominious end in the Scottish ship-breakers’ yard, a mighty storm arose and a turbulent sea freed the proud old warrior from her captors.

An old Cornish man who witnessed the end of the battleship described the scene: “Aye, the old Warspite do lie there pointing towards Prussia Cove. I mind the night she came in, broadside-on and terrible to see. There was a high wind and powerful seas, and none could hold her. She took the ground close by and then, on the next high tide, she lifted again and was driven onto the rocks in the cove.”

The remaining parts of her hull disappeared forever in 1955 and a memorial stone was unveiled in 1992 near her final resting place.

Warrant Officer Fred Jones was discharged from the Royal Navy at the end of the war and left England with his wife and three sons in 1946 to become Lt. Jones, gunnery instructor of the South African Navy, based in Cape Town.

The “Old Salt” who was aged 36 when he survived the German bombing of Warspite in 1941 died of pneumonia in Grey’s Hospital, Pietermaritzburg, just three weeks before his 91st birthday in August 1996.

Dick Jones, now aged 86, is a former night editor of “The Natal Witness”.


Wreck Diving in Norway

11 Junker-52 planes made emergency landings on the ice on Hartvikvannet, just opposite Bjerkvik, on April 13, 1940. 10 of them went through the ice, and 3 of them are still in the water.

Georg Thiele

German destroyer Georg Thiele. The ship went down on April 13, 1940 during the second sea battle.

German destroyer Georg Thiele. The ship went down on April 13, 1940 during the second sea battle.

The relic from the Erich Giese at the bottom of the fjord. The ship went down on April 13, 1940 during the second sea battle.

The wreck of the German destroyer Bernd von Arnim, one of four German destroyers that were sunk in Rombaksfjorden outside Narvik on April 13, 1940 during the second sea battle.

A British ship outside Narvik, involved in the second sea battle.

Wilhelm Heidkampf, a German destroyer. During the first sea battle, the ship sustained heavy damaged, and two days later it sunk at Narvik harbour.

Norge-baugen

PS Norge, sunk by Wilhelm Heidkampf on April 9, 1940 in Narvik Harbour.

German destroyer Hermann Künne. The ship went down on April 13, 1940 during the second sea battle.

Odin framme ved bakken

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Narvik is undoubtedly one of the best places in the world to dive and see wrecks from the Second World War. At the bottom of Ofotfjorden, it is possible to explore more than 10 historical wrecks, including the Norwegian costal defense ship PS Norge and Jager Z2 Georg Thiele. The latter was one of Germany’s newest destroyers, and was to be used in the planned attack on Great Britain later the same year. It is also possible to dive and explore cargo ships and aircraft that were involved in the war.

To commemorate the 70th anniversary of the Battles of Narvik, Visit Narvik, Narvik War Museum and Expedia have created an interactive infographic about the history of what happened in the town during several dramatic days in early April 1940. The piece provides historical material, including unique interviews and photos, highlighting why Narvik was so important for everyone involved in the Second World War, and why it is now a diving hotspot on many divers’ ‘to-do’ lists.


Z2 Georg Thiele

The Georg Thiele was a Leberect Maass Class Destroyer with a displacement of 2200 tons, and a complement of 315 officers and men. She was 374 feet long, 37 feet in the beam, and had a draught of nine and a half feet. Her machinery, performance, and armament was similar to the Dieter Von Roeder Class, except that she had four 3.7cm and six 20mm guns.

The Georg Thiele, Z2, was launched on August 18th 1935 and was completed in February 1937. She had a few teething troubles with her engines, and prior to her becoming part of Group 1 (Narvik) she was having repairs at Bremen for a troublesome water pump. However on April 6th 1940 all was repaired and the George Thiele embarked two hundred mountain troops and sped off to rendezvous with the rest of the Task Force.

After a dreadful journey in gale force winds and high sea’s the George Thiele, in company with the rest of the Destroyer group successfully disembarked her troops at Narvik. On April 10th at the start of the First Battle of Narvik, the Georg Thiele together with the Bernard Von Armin were lying in a side Fjord (Balangenfjord) and came out onto the British flank as they withdrew after successfully sinking and crippling five German Destroyers in Narvik harbour.

Amongst others, the George Thiele fired on the British Destroyer Hardy, scoring hit after hit and was mainly instrumental in driving her ashore. With the Bernard Von Armin she then turned her attention to Hunter and Hotspur, sinking Hunter with gunfire and a torpedo after she had damaged Hotspur so severely that she became uncontrollable and collided with the Hunter at thirty knots. The Georg Thiele was then hit hard herself in one of her boiler rooms, had one of her guns destroyed and her fire control system put out of action.

By the time of the Second battle of Narvik, on April 13th, the George Thiele was only semi operational. She could manage 27 knots in a short burst, and the rest of her guns had been brought under local control so could all be fired. In addition to this she still had six torpedo’s.In the closing part of the battle, when the four surviving but badly damaged German Destroyers withdrew up Rombakisfjord, she acted as a rearguard so that the crews of the damaged destroyers could be landed before they were scuttled.

Unfortunately, she was caught by the British Destroyers Eskimo and Forester, who repeatedly blasted her with gunfire. Fighting to the end the Georg Thiele unleashed one of her torpedo’s and blew Eskimo’s bow off, before running herself hard aground.

This is the wreck I came to see. The bows stick out of the water and the stern is in 52 meters. Fantastic sight. We went down to the prop shaft where Steve had to tie on the rope This was a slight problem as it was 40 meters down and we were not exactly sure where the wreck was.Anyway as usual, Steve sorted it out, and once there it was great. Just below us was one of the guns pointing astern, the other is at 52 meters, then you come up the cliff of the hull which is lying on its side. On the right of the hull is the deck, with torpedo tubes, search lights and loads of portholes. As you go up towards the bow there are great caverns with loads more portholes with glass. All around were bits of brass and loads of switches.

On the torpedo tubes on the second dive, I saw the fire selector and the rest of the tube bits including the gas bottles. Near there was a small two barrelled gun (probably anti aircraft). Near this was what looked like a breach from another gun lying on the floor. Over to one side was a broken mast with lots of electric insulators lying everywhere. When you get to the bit of the bow that hit the rocks, you can go down a tunnel back to about 40ft. This whole area is covered with plumose anemones, and there are some great anemones like snake locks but much bigger.

On the second dive more of the same, but the highlight was to go in another little tunnel at about 60 ft and swim up through the wreck to about 15 ft. The tunnel got tighter and tighter, and on either side were holes through which you could see other compartments with loads of portholes. As it got tighter it got a bit iffy, but you could see out of the top, so all was well. Then we just swam along the keel not really wanting to leave, and gently on up to the surface. Because its right on the shore the dive boat likes to stand off, so it can be a bit of a long surface swim. This is a great wreck dive and was voted the best off all the ones we did.


German Zerstörers in Narvik 1940

Post by Gauntlet » 11 Dec 2005, 02:58

Basicly, I need a little help from you experts.

I have two main questions:

1.) Do any of you guys have pictures of all the Kriegsmarine captains/commanders involved?

Overall zerstörer operation commander:
Commodore Friedrich Bonte

1st Zerstörer Flotilla commander:
FK Fritz Berger

3rd Zerstörer Flotilla commander:
FK H.-J. Gadow

Z2 "Georg Thiele":
KK Max-Ekkart Wolf

Z9 "Wolfgang Zenker":
FK Gottfried Pönitz

Z11 "Bernd von Arnim":
KK Kurt Rechel

Z12 "Erich Giese":
KK Karl Smidt

Z13 "Erich Koellner":
FK Alfred Schulze-Hinrichs

Z17 "Diether von Roeder":
KK Erich Holthof

Z18 "Hans Lüdemann":
KK Herbert Friedrichs

Z19 "Hermann Künne":
KK Friedrich Kothe

Z21 "Wilhelm Heidkamp":
KK Hans Erdmenger

Z22 "Anton Schmidt":
? ? ?

2.) Which ships belonged to which flottila?

Some Data

Post by Ron Klages » 12 Dec 2005, 23:20

No pictures but here is what I have on the structure of the Narvik Force:

Z-2 “George Thiele” KK Max-Eckart Wolff
Z-9 “Wolfgang Zenker” FK Gottfried Pönitz
Z-11 “Bernd von Arnim” KK Kurt Rechel
Z-12 “Erich Giese” KK Karl Schmidt
Z-13 “Erich Koellner” KKAlfred Schulze-Hinrichs
Z-17 “Diether von Roeder” KK Erich Holtorf
Z-18 “Han Lüdemann” KK Herbert Friedrich
Z-19 “Hermann Künne” KK Friedrich Kothe
Z-21 “Wilhelm Heidkamp” KK Hans Erdmenger
Z-22 “Anton Schmitt” KK Friedrich Böhme

This gruppe was to sail at midnight on 6 April for Narvik with Gebirgsjäger-Regiment 139 with three battalions [about 2,000 men]. Two battle ships, the Gneisenau and the Scharnhorst, were to escort the group until it was off Namsos late on 8 April at which point the battleships would turn northwards to create a diversion.

On the morning of 7 April, Hudsons from RAF Coastal Command spotted German ships sailing north and that afternoon 12 Blenheims of No. 107 Wing spotted the ships 80 miles south of Cape Lindesnes and they attacked the convoy with no success. At about 0900 hours on the morning of 8 April the British destroyer Glowworm came across Z-11 “Bernd von Arnim” and the German destroyed attempted to engage the British destroyer but the seas were to rough. The Admiral Hipper was called in and it soon sunk the Glowworm with only 31 survivors being picked up by the Hipper.

On 9 April in the early morning hours the Narvik Gruppe sailed up the Ofotfjord with nine destroyers [Z-12 “Erich Giese” was 3 hours late because of damage suffered in the heavy seas.

Z-17 “Diether von Roeder”, Z-18 “Han Lüdemann” and Z-22 “Anton Schmitt” landed troops at Ramnes, 30 kilometers west of Narvik, to capture Norwegian batteries that quickly proved not to exist.

Z-9 “Wolfgang Zenker”, Z-13 “Erich Koellner” and Z-19 “Hermann Künne” sailed up the Herjangen fjord to land troops at Bjerkvik, 10 kilometers north of Narvik, to take the Norwegian army depot at Elvegardsmoen.

Z-2 “George Thiele”, Z-11 “Bernd von Arnim” and Z-21 “Wilhelm Heidkamp” headed for Narvik. At about 0415 hours, in a squally snowstorm, the squadron came across the Norwegian ironclad Eidsvold at the entrance to the harbor. In the leading Z-21 “Wilhelm Heidkamp” KzS Bonte lowered a small boat and sent an officer across to explain that the Germans were coming to Norway as friends to protect the Norwegians against the British. The German officer returned to his ship and the Norwegen Captain Odd sachsen Willoch called to his superior, Captain Petter Askim, on board Norge, the second Norwegian ironclad at Narvik. As Askim ordered Willoch to open fire, the German envoy was called back whereupon Willoch told him that he had orders to resist. The german departed again and Captain Willoch ordered the port side battery to open fire but, before he could do so, the Eidsvold was hit by three torpedoes from Z-21 “Wilhelm Heidkamp”. She quickley broke up into two pieces and sank and only six survivors could be rescued.

Then at 0440 hours the Norge spotted the other two German destroyers calmly tying up amidst the other ships moored in the harbor and quickly opened fire with her 210mm and 150mm guns. Z-11 “Bernd von Arnim” returned with a series of torpedoes and two of them found the Norge which listed and went down in less than a minute. Ninety of the crew were saved.

Soon the Gebirgsjäger jumped ashore and the surprised Norwegian garrison offered no resistence. At 0615 hours Narvik was surrendered to the Germans and only one battalion of Norwegian troops, about 250 men, escaped eastward amidst the confusion.

Gruppe Narvik was scheduled to sail back to Germany on the evening of 10 April but the Norwegian patrol boat Nordkapp had intercepted the German tanker Kattegat at the entrance to the Ofotfjord and the German captain had scuttled the tanker resulting in no fuel to refill the 10 destroyers.

On the evening on 9 April destroyers Z-21, Z-18, Z-22, Z-17 and Z-19 moored for the night in the Narvik harbor while Z-9, Z-19 and Z-12 went to Bjerkvik at the head of Herjangen fjord, 10 kilometers north of Narvik. The remaining two destroyers, Z-2 and Z-11 went to Ballengen bay on the south side of the Ofotfjord, 25 kilometers west of Narvik.

Early the following morning, 10 April five British destoyers steamed out of the morning mist into Ofotfjord and caught the destroyers moored there offguard. Z-22 was sunk and Z-17 and Z-21 were seriously damaged and sinking. KzS Bonte yhad been killed on board. The British lost the destroyer Hunter and the destroyer Hardy had to be grounded.

On 13 April a strong British force of the battleship Warspite and nine destroyers had entered the Ofotfjord to engage the remaining seven German destroyers. Z-12 and Z-13 were sunk and Z-18 was struck by a torpedo. The remaining German destroyers lacking fuel were scuttled by their crews and went ashore to continue to fight as infantry with the Gebirgsjäger.

That about covers a brief description of the ten German destroyers in their fights for Narvik. I do not have any photos and I do not have info on the assignment of the destroyers to which flotilla. In fact my source only notes that the 10 destroyers were from the 1. Zerstörer-Flotille [FK Fritz Berger] and the 4. Zerstörer-Flotille.


Watch the video: BATTLE OF NARVIK, WITH FINNTROLL 1984 BATTLEFIELD V creator: Jeff Wijns


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