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

H Class destroyer HMS Hotspur – the 4th ship in the Royal Navy to carry the name – May 1937, Malta

One of my favorite novels in the Hornblower series by C.S. Forester is Hornblower and the Hotspur. Curiously, because of the sequence of events in the real battle, the main character of my new proposed series will be aboard HMS Hotspur (above) in the First Battle of Narvik. My first novel in the proposed series has the working title: For Wild Confusion.

Continuing where we left off:

Those on the bridge of the Hotspur could only watch in helpless agony as their ship rammed HMS Hunter and almost cut the drifting ship in half.

For a minute or two the other four British destroyers continued to follow their leader, HMS Hardy, until they realized Hardy was no longer under control. The remaining four British destroyers turned back to the course which would take them out of the fjord in the quickest way.

To their misfortune, the British ships had been making smoke since they first sighted the German destroyers coming at them. (They would do this both by using chemical smoke generators on the main deck and altering the fuel mix in the boilers). Between their smoke and the patchy weather, it was hard to see anything. As they tried to escape, the remaining British destroyers ran a gauntlet of fire from the German destroyers, two of which were very close to the British ships and blasting them with all their guns with the other three blundering around in the smoke and confusion.

The second British ship to take a mortal hit was HMS Hunter. She was torpedoed by Georg Thiele and then peppered with gunfire by the German ship which circled around her at 1,000 yards after firing the torpedo. In moments, HMS Hunter, her engines wrecked by the torpedo and her helm no longer answering, came to a halt and the wind and the waves turned her broadside to the Royal Navy ships coming up behind her.

HMS Hotspur came out of the smoke screen at thirty knots and saw HMS Hunter just ahead. Captain Layman of the Hotspur immediately bellowed ‘engines full astern’. Yet a moment before he gave that order, two shells from the nemesis of RN destroyers that day, the Georg Thiele, struck HMS Hotspur. Those two shells not only severed all communications between the bridge and the engine room but put the forward wheelhouse out of commission. The ship steamed full bore at Hunter.

Those on the bridge of the Hotspur were horrified. The Captain slid down the ladder from the bridge to run to the engine room hatch and a mere second after he left, a shell from the Georg Thiele struck the bridge of the Hotspur and killed everyone. And with that, the Hotspur rammed HMS Hunter, almost cutting the drifting ship in half. This ended what little hope HMS Hunter had of surviving.

Another collision almost occurred when HMS Havock came out of the smoke cloud at full speed just astern of HMS Hotspur. Only by putting her helm hard a port did Havock avoid ramming Hotspur.

Battle class destroyer HMS Agincourt on speed trials in 1943. While twice the size of the ‘H’ class this will give you an idea of what HMS Hotspur must have looked like moments before she struck HMS Hunter.

[Source: Narvik: Battles in the Fjords by Peter Dickens. Images courtesy of Perth One and Ships Nostalgia.]