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Kriegsmarine Zerstörer Z-21 Wilhelm Heidkamp at speed in the late 1930s.

There is something slightly deceptive about the photograph above. The German Navy painted false bow waves on their ships to confuse the enemy as to the speed of the ship. Given there is almost no smoke coming from the stacks, which there would be if the ship were going at a high speed, makes me wonder if the front portion of the bow wave is actually painted on the ship and she really isn’t going very fast.

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Wreck of the German destroyer and Flotilla Leader, Z-21 Wilhelm Heidkamp, in Narvik harbor. The ship was hit in the aft powder magazine by a torpedo fired from HMS Hardy. This blew the Heidkamp in half.

The strategic reasons for the British to contest the German occupation of Norway were sound but the execution was amateurish and exposed the shocking deterioration in the capabilities of the British, French, and Norwegian armies. The Royal Navy acquitted themselves with great courage and did significant damage to the German fleet. Yet to look at these photographs of the sunken German destroyers in Narvik harbour can induce a certain melancholy.

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Another photo of the wreck of the German destroyer and Flotilla Leader, Z-21 Wilhelm Heidkamp, in Narvik harbor. Over eighty German crewman and several officers including the Flotilla commander, who was asleep, died when a torpedo from HMS Hardy hit the aft magazine and blew the ship in half.

Large sums of money were spent to build up the destroyer force of the Kriegsmarine under Adolf Hitler in order to help Nazi Germany dominate the world. Immense numbers of workers had to be recruited for the abandoned shipyards to be revived to construct the ships — and those workers had to be trained in the complexities of shipbuilding. These workers had to be paid, housed, fed.

The Kriegsmarine had to recruit thousands of crewmen and officers and then train them. All the while the German admirals knew they could never hope to defeat the Royal Navy much less the RN and the USN.

Today, the remnants of ten German destroyers commissioned in the 1930s by the “master race,” now lie on the bottom of the Narvik fjord, the wrecks nothing but a curiosity and tourist attraction for scuba divers.

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A propeller from the German destroyer Erich Koellner sunk at Narvik.

[Images courtesy of Bismarck Class, Taucher.net, Filefront.com, and Filefront.com.]