Part 1Part 2Part 3Part 4Part 5Part 6Part 7Part 8Part 9Part 10Part 11Part 12Part 13Part 14Part 15Part 16Part 17Part 18Part 19Part 20Part 21Part 22Part 23Part 24Part 25Part 26Part 27Part 28Part 29

Georg Thiele in Narvik.

German destroyer Georg Thiele was one of the most effective and aggressive of the German destroyers which attacked the British destroyers during the First Battle of Narvik. Just as HMS Hardy ran up the flag signal reading “Keep on engaging the enemy,” this being the last order Wash-Lee would ever give, shells fired by the Georg Thiele hit the bridge of HMS Hardy, mortally wounding Warburton-Lee, the Flotilla Commander, and killing most of the other men standing with him. The German destroyer then knocked out most of HMS Hardy’s guns, cracked her main steam line which resulted in the engines slowly going dead; and set the ship afire. (The Navigating officer was not killed outright although he was wounded so badly he was out of action. Although later hospitalized in the UK, he died four months after the battle.)

The only man left conscious on the bridge, Warburton-Lee’s Flotilla Secretary, Paymaster-Lieutenant G.H. Stanning, who was not a deck officer, ordered the coxswain to beach the ship. Yet the helm did not answer for everyone in the wheelhouse just below the bridge had also been killed. Although one of his feet was almost blown off, Stanning made his way to the wheelhouse and turned the ship, still proceeding at high speed, toward the beach. With the main steam line breached and the engines coming to a stop, the ship slowed to a few knots before riding up on the small strip of rocky soil on the side of the fjord. By beaching the ship, Stanning saved the lives of the 140 men still alive aboard HMS Hardy.

Paymaster-Lieutenant G.H. Stanning who took command of HMS Hardy after all the deck officers had been killed or mortally wounded. Photo by Rosemary Barnes.

[Source: Narvik: Battles in the Fjords by Peter Dickens. Images courtesy of Eugene of Norway Flickr Stream and Submerged.]