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.

Königsberg_3

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.

Terror of UBoats Royal Navy Biplane Swordfish

FAMOUS BIPLANE SWORDFISH ENTERED OPERATIONAL SERVICE IN 1936 IT ISN’T FROM WORLD WAR ONE
A FAIREY SWORDFISH IN FLIGHT (TR 1138) Close-up of a Fairey Swordfish Mark II, HS 545 ‘B’, in flight as seen through the struts of another aircraft, probably while serving with No 824 Squadron, Fleet Air Arm, 1943-1944. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205188676

 

HMS_Activity

Escort carrier HMS Activity in Firth of Forth 1942

Like a number of escort carriers, HMS Activity was a merchant ship converted to an aircraft carrier. After the war, the landing deck was removed and the ship returned to merchant service. Often these small carriers only carried a handful of Swordfish but aircraft patrolling over convoys proved critical in the Battle of the North Atlantic and the overall war against U-Boats.

While we think of U-boats being sunk by convoy escort ships, almost half of U-Boats sunk in the European Theatre were sunk by U-boats. (Doenitz deployed a handful of U-Boats in and around Singapore).

 

THE BATTLE OF ATLANTIC, 1939-1945 (A 19718) A batman uses signal bats to guide the landing of a rocket-firing Fairey Swordfish of No. 816 Squadron Fleet Air Arm on board HMS TRACKER in the North Atlantic, September-October 1943. Note the rocket projectiles under the wings. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205186701

 

Swordfish were usually embarked aboard escort carriers on North Atlantic convoy duty. They made excellent U-Boat hunters once the proper type of radar was installed.

THE ROYAL NAVY DURING THE SECOND WORLD WAR (A 24986) Three rocket projectile Fairey Swordfish during a training flight from St Merryn Royal Naval Air Station This operational squadron was ommanded by Lieutenant Commander P Snow RN. Note the invasion stripes carried for the Normandy landings on the wings and fuselage of the aircraft. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205016147

 

While originally built as a prototype for the Greek Navy, they turned it down in the mid-30s and Fairey Brothers Aircraft offered it the Royal Navy primarily for use on aircraft carriers. After design changes the plane went into production as the famous Royal Navy Swordfish which served multiple roles: patrol and reconnaissance, torpedo bomber, tactical bomber to support infantry and U-boat hunter/killer. The plane was oddly effective in all of these roles and was used operationally for the entire war.

RAFCC1939-1945 IWMCL2277

Armourers unload 250-lb GP bombs in front of a line of Fairey Swordfish Mark IIIs of No. 119 Squadron RAF, undergoing maintenance at B83/Knokke le Zoute, Belgium. The Squadron flew anti-shipping patrols, principally against German midget submarines, in the North Sea, and off the Dutch coast.

(Photo CL 2277 IWM. Taken by Flt. Lt. B.J. Daventry, Royal Air Force Official Photographer. Courtesy of the Imperial War Museum).

 

IWM 4090 Swordfish_on_HMS_Victorious_before_strike_on_Bismarck

Swordfish torpedo bombers on the after deck of HMS Victorious before the attack on the Bismarck. Date 24 May 1941. This is photograph A 4090 from the collections of the Imperial War Museums now in the public domain.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bravest Man in Battle of Tsushima Strait

bravest man in the battle of Tsushima strait

 

Adm_Wm_C_Pakenham

Admiral Sir William C Pakenham, RN

(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.

 

by Walter Stoneman, negative, 1919

“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.

Minefield. You are in it. We are not.

Important to stay up to date on Notices to Mariners in World War Two so you don’t stray into a minefield

hms_highlanderh44

   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?”

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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.”