German light cruiser Konigsberg has the distinction of being the first major warship sent to the bottom by attackby aircraft.
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
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.
(photograph courtesy of the US Library of Congress)
During the famous Battle of Tsushima Strait on 27-28 May 1905, the British-trained Japanese Navy annihilated the Russia fleet opposing them. British Royal Navy attache to Japan, Captain (later Admiral) William Pakenham, witnessed the battle as an observer aboard the flagship of Admiral Togo.
While known as a brilliant naval officer, Pakenham was also known for always being immaculately dressed no matter what the circumstances. During the battle, “Old Packs” paced up and down the Admiral’s bridge, intermittently watching the action through his telescope and making notes.
At one point, a Russian shell hit the flagship, killing a handful of Japanese sailors and spattering Pakenham’s immaculate white uniform with blood.
Without batting an eye, he immediately retired to his cabin below and changed into another immaculate white uniform. He re-appeared on the bridge a few minutes later and resumed his note-taking and observation.
“Old Packs” Admiral Sir William Christopher Pakenham, GCB, KCMG, KCVO (10 July 1861 – 28 July 1933). (Photograph compliments of the National Portrait Gallery in London.
His classic British imperturbability deeply impressed his Japanese naval hosts. They pronounced him the bravest man in either navy in the battle. In recognition of his utter coolness under fire, the Emperor bestowed upon him the Order of the Rising Sun (second class).
Fortunately, this eccentric, brilliant and popular man died in 1933 and hence did not witness the humiliation of the Royal Navy he had served so long and faithfully by the Imperial Japanese Navy.
source: The Rules of the Game: Jutland and British Naval Command by Andrew Gordon.
This is one of the best books on the Royal Navy I have ever read.
Several authors and historians and readers I have a lot of respect for recommended this book to me. This is one of the best books on the Royal Navy I have ever read.
The lead photo is of Rear-Admiral Sir William Pakenham, K.C.B. Commanding British Battle Cruiser Force. He is aboard his flagship HMS Lion. In lower background is a BL 4-inch Mk VII gun. Date February 1917. After several assignments in the Empire, Earl Beatty, then C-in-C Grand Fleet, promoted him to command the battlecruiser squadron. HMS Lion had been Beatty’s flagship at Jutland.
Important to stay up to date on Notices to Mariners in World War Two so you don’t stray into a minefield
Aerial photograph of British destroyer HMS Highlander (H44) underway. Rayner spent a number of months as her CO.
D.A. Rayner was an officer in the Royal Navy Volunteer Reserve during World War Two. They wore wavy stripes on their uniforms and were called, with condescension, the “the Wavy Navy”. There was also the Royal Naval Reserve consisting of masters and mates of merchant ships. It was said that the RNVR were gentlemen trying to become officers and the RNR were officers trying to become gentlemen.
Royal Navy corvette HMS Primrose
although not designed to operate in the vicious weather of the North Atlantic these ships could be built quickly. Convoy escorts were desperately needed so hundreds were built.
Rayner compiled an outstanding record in World War Two becoming the only RNVR officer to command a Royal Navy escort group in the Atlantic. His memoir, Escort, is rich in stories of his life at sea in the war, each one more amusing than the one before. Escort is one of the best naval memoirs I have ever read. It is beautifully written (the English really know how to write English), funny, very sad at times, and brutally honest. I certainly give it five stars. Escort is truly a must read.
The war has only recently begun and Rayner is commanding an anti-submarine trawler patrolling off the coast of England. He is lost in a dense fog. There was no radar then. Out of the fog looms a Royal Navy destroyer. Rayner orders the signalman to use his Aldis Lamp (Morse Lamp to Americans) and make to the destroyer: “Can you tell me where am I?” Comes the reply: “Regret have not known you long enough to venture an opinion.” Rayner is puzzled till he discovers the signalman had actually made the message: “Can you tell me what I am?”
Though only 30, Rayner is quickly given command of a corvette, a small escort vessel used in the North Atlantic. Because of the shortage of escort ships, he has been compelled to put to sea before his charts are up to date. As he is putting into port one day, Rayner sees a merchantman sinking off his starboard bow. He asks the escort commander for leave to rescue the crew. Comes the reply, “Proceed, but your attention is called to Notices to Mariners Number______.”
Rayner rescues a boatload of survivors and sees another boatload. Comes a signal from the escort commander, “Your attention is called to Notices to Mariners_____.” This annoys Rayner but given his charts aren’t up to date, he doesn’t want to ask the escort commander what he means so he waits until another corvette steams between him and the escort commander. Rayner makes inquiry of what Notices to Mariners_____means. Comes the reply, “Minefield. You are in it. We are not.”