Konigsberg First Major Warship Sunk by Air Attack

German light cruiser Konigsberg has the distinction of being the first major warship sent to the bottom by attack by aircraft.

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light cruiser KMS Konigsberg circa 1935. Official US Navy photo.

On 10 April 1940 during the Norwegian campaign, fifteen FAA (Fleet Air Air of Royal Navy) Skua dive-bombers pounced on KMS Konigsberg tied up to a jetty in Bergen Harbour. All fifteen dived bombed the ship. Three bombs hit the Konigsberg which rolled over and sank. Not one British aircraft was shot down.

She was the first major warship ever to be sunk by air attack.

 

source: Narvik by Peter Dickens

 

 

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KMS Konigsberg taken at Swinemunde, Germany, with a sentry on guard in the foreground. The original photograph, from Office of Naval Intelligence files, was dated 1938. However, it appears to have actually been taken earlier in that decade. Note Königsberg‘s searchlights and torpedo tubes. The light cruiser Leipzig is in the right distance.

Admiral Dudley Pound Wouldn’t Take His Own Advice

 

 

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Admiral of the Fleet Sir Dudley Pound and the Prime Minister on the deck of the SS Queen Mary. (Photo courtesy of the Imperial War Museum)

 

Early in his tenure as First Sea Lord, Admiral of the Fleet Dudley Pound wrote to a close friend in the navy and said, “why have Commanders-in-Chiefs and do their work for them? If they are not capable of doing it they must make way for someone who can.” 1

Unique amongst the respective British service commands, the Admiralty had command, organizational and administrative responsibilities of a standard service ministry but also had operational control over the fleets.

Unfortunately, Dudley Pound didn’t take his own advice during the war since he often went over the heads of his C-in-Cs and gave orders to formations under their command.

During the disastrous campaign in Norway beginning in early April 1940, Pound went over the head of both the senior Royal Navy officer on the scene (Admiral Jock Whitworth) as well over the head Whitworth’s C.O., the Commander in Chief, Home Fleet. Pound even sent orders to individual ships. This caused immense confusion as you might imagine.

While many of the orders sent to RN ships fighting in the Norwegian campaign by Dudley Pound were thought to have originated with then First Lord of the Admiralty, Winston Churchill, many other times during the war Pound needed no prodding from Churchill to interfere in fleet dispositions during action with the enemy.

This could cause serious problems and occasionally disaster such as the infamous scattering order issue to convoy PQ17.

As an aside, the Chief of Naval Operations in the US, has no operational authority over US naval ships. He, or she, is responsible for everything concerning the navy but he doesn’t exercise command over fleets or ships. This has always been the case in the modern history of the US Navy.

In World War Two, Franklin Roosevelt picked Admiral Ernest King out of  a dead-end post which Admirals took a few years before retirement and made him Chief of Naval Operations. However, this gave King little power over the dispositions of the actual naval ships themselves since those were in fleets or other units under the authority of Commander in Chief US Fleet. This title had the unfortunate acronym of CINCUS.

After a spell, this did not suit Roosevelt who wanted one person in charge so he elevated King to the position of Commander in Chief US Fleet while allowing him to also keep the office of Chief of Naval Operations. This gave King immense authority over the entire US Navy. (And he sometimes went over the heads of his commanders such as Nimitz, not to change any of their fleet dispositions but to fire some of their subordinates).

Upon assuming the position of Commander in Chief, US Fleet, Admiral King immediately changed the acronym to COMINCH. King is the only man ever to have held the position of Chief of Naval Operations and Commander in Chief US Fleet simultaneously.

1 Roskill, Stephen “The War at Sea”

 

 

 

HMS Hunter, Sunk 1st Battle of Narvik 10 April 1940, Found in One Thousand Feet of Water – Part 25

 

This brief You-Tube video shows the battleship HMS Warspite along with her screening destroyers barreling down the Narvik fjord on 13 June and sinking the remaining German destroyers.

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One of a series of nine pictures of the battle at Narvik on 13 April 1940, taken from the Swordfish attached to the British flagship, HMS Warspite. The original caption reads: With the entire force of seven German destroyers wiped out, the Warspite and destroyer screen steam out through the narrow exit of Ofot Fiord.

All the other the other remaining German destroyers, were sunk on 13 April 1940 during the Second Battle of Narvik. The Kriegsmarine lost a total of ten of their modern destroyers at Narvik and they only had twenty in the fleet. Three were sunk in the first battle and seven were sunk in the second battle. In a curious way, I think the sinking of these ten German destroyers was another nail in the coffin of the German invasion of Great Britain. Without a way to move elite detachments of troops across the English Channel, which the German destroyers could have done, the Germans never could have gotten a foothold for an invasion of the UK.

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Winston Churchill addresses the crew of HMS Hardy after their return from Norway in April 1940.

 

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Pair of anti-aircraft guns from the Georg Thiele. This is in about forty feet of water. The Germans ran the ship aground so it is in shallow water. (photo F. Bang)

[Images courtesy of History of War, Submerged, and Submerged.]

HMS Hunter, Sunk 1st Battle of Narvik 10 April 1940, Found in One Thousand Feet of Water – Part 2

 

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A map of the Narvik area. In the middle of the chart you can see where HMS Hunter went down and where HMS Hardy was beached and later rolled over.

Royal Navy H Class destroyer HMS Hunter was one of five destroyers of the Second Destroyer Flotilla which attacked ten German destroyers during the First Battle of Narvik on 10 April 1941. The nomenclature is somewhat confusing. Many historians refer simply to the naval engagements for control of the port of Narvik as “the Battle of the Narvik”.

Yet there were two distinct engagements, one on 10 April 1940 and another on 13 April 1940, each different in character from the other. Hence the meticulous Captain Peter Dickens, RN (a descendent of Charles Dickens),who wrote Narvik: Battles in the Fjords, the best book on the subject, specifically references the engagements the first Battle of Narvik and the second Battle of Narvik.

Given that he interviewed many of the surviving participants, both British and German, and given that he was a contemporary of these men and himself served with distinction in the Royal Navy in World War Two, including Norway (although not in the Narvik battles), I use him as the final authority on the subject.

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One of a series of nine pictures of the battle at Narvik on 13 April 1940, taken from the Swordfish attached to the British flagship, HMS Warspite. The original caption reads: With the entire force of seven German destroyers wiped out, the Warspite and destroyer screen steam out through the narrow exit of Ofot Fiord.

[Source: Narvik: Battles in the Fjords by Peter Dickens. Images courtesy of Wikipedia and History of War.]