HMS Hunter, Sunk During First Battle of Narvik 10 April 1940, Found in One Thousand Feet of Water – Part 6

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German heavy destroyer Georg Thiele

Attacking the Kriegsmarine ships in Narvik harbour was a very brave action, especially since Warburton-Lee had no firm idea how many German destroyers were in Narvik harbor nor what type they were. It transpired that the German destroyers were larger and more powerful than the British H class: 3,000 tons to 1,500 tons for the British ships; 5 inch guns to the British 4.7 inch guns.

With his ship HMS Hardy in the lead, followed by the other four (Havock, Hotspur, Hunter, and Hostile), Warburton-Lee entered the Narvik fjord long before dawn and carefully navigated down the fjord in a heavy driving snow which all but blinded his ships. None of the ships had radar so the senior navigator (known as the ‘Pilot’ in the Royal Navy) aboard HMS Hardy navigated by dead reckoning – a difficult task to say the least in a narrow fjord completely whited-out by a blizzard. All the ships had to stay closed-up on one another at very short distances to maintain contact. (Often no more than thirty feet between them.)

Come dawn they were off the actual port of Narvik itself. And they attacked, taking the Germans completely by surprise. HMS Hardy fired torpedoes at the first German destroyer she saw which was the Flotilla leader, Wilhelm Heidkamp, which was at anchor. One of the Hardy’s torpedoes struck the German ship and ignited its after powder magazine which blew the ship in half, killing the German Flotilla Commodore and eighty of his men.

The British destroyers circled through the harbor three times firing at the Germans with everything they had. At the end of the battle, the British attack had sunk two German destroyers and seriously damaged three more. In the ensuing high speed withdrawal down the fjord toward the open sea and the protection of several British capital ships, HMS Hardy and the others ran into five German destroyers who had been anchored in nearby leads off the main fjord and had come steaming down on hearing the sound of battle.

Narvik Harbor 9 April 1940. The closest destroyer is the Diether von Roeder, the one further back is Wolfgang Zenker. These destroyers were larger and better armed than their British opponents.

[Source: Narvik: Battles in the Fjords by Peter Dickens. Images courtesy of German Navy Website and Wikipedia.]

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Charles McCain

Charles McCain is a Washington DC based freelance journalist and novelist. He is the author of "An Honorable German," a World War Two naval epic. You can read more of his work on his website: http://charlesmccain.com/

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