…Intend attacking at dawn high water.- Captain Warburton-Lee, HMS Hardy, commanding Second Destroyer Flotilla to Admiralty, Most Immediate, 5:51pm 9 April 1940
Wreck of HMS Hardy, Second Destroyer flotilla lead ship, in the shallow water of Narvik fjord where she eventually rolled over after being beached. The ship and all the other ships in the Royal Navy which have carried the name of HMS Hardy, are named for Sir Thomas Hardy RN, the Captain of HMS Victory, Lord Nelson’s flagship at the Battle of Trafalgar (21 October 1805).
The only intelligence on the German fleet Warburton-Lee had from the Admiralty was, “Press report states one German ship has arrived Narvik and landed a small force.” He received this message at 12:00 noon on the 9 April 1940. However, after stopping at the pilot station at the head of the long fjord, the Norwegians told Warburton-Lee that there were six German warships in Narvik.
At 5:51 on 9 April Warburton-Lee signaled the Admiralty:
Norwegians report Germans holding Narvik in force, also six destroyers and one U-Boat are there and channel is possibly mined. Intend attacking at dawn high water.
The Norwegians didn’t have an exact count or else the number was lost in translation since there were actually ten German destroyers in Narvik.
The German ships were in the harbor because they had brought German mountain troops to Narvik the day before as part of the German invasion of Norway. Germany’s war effort depended on a massive supply of Swedish iron ore which came down a rail line to Narvik where it was loaded onto ore carrying ships. Reason for sending the iron ore to Narvik: it is the only year-round ice free harbour in the far north of Norway. Hence its importance to the Germans.
the magnificent beauty of Narvik Fjord taken in April of 2003. A number of memoirs from RN officers who fought during the two month campaign in Norway to try and stop the German attack on that country, comment on the irony of fighting in such a beautiful location.
[Source: Narvik: Battles in the Fjords by Peter Dickens. Images courtesy of Submerged and Wikipedia.]