HMS Hunter, Sunk During First Battle of Narvik 10 April 1940, Found in One Thousand Feet of Water – Part 23

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One of the famous Tribal class fleet destroyers, HMS Eskimo (F75), had her bow blown off by a torpedo during the Second Battle of Narvik. Fortunately, her collision bulkhead held and the ship did not sink. After shoring up the bulkhead, the ship proceeded slowly to England and an entire new fore section was built on. May 1940

With water spraying in a huge V shape from her damaged bow, sort of like the rooster tail a water skier makes but on each side of the bow and much bigger, HMS Hotspur made all possible speed with the Bernd von Arnim and other German destroyers banging away at her and the aft batteries of the Hotspur, under local control, keep up a steady fire on the Germans.

However, as Hotspur came out of the smoke and fog and built up speed, her flotilla mates, HMS Havoc and HMS Hostile saw the damaged ship, turned around and went at full speed toward her to cover her retreat.

The German destroyer Z2 Georg Thiele beached in the inner part of the Rombaks Fjord off Sildvika after the 2nd Naval Battle of Narvik on 13 April 1940. Georg Thiele’s Kommandant used the last bit of power he had left in his engines to beach his ship which allowed his crew to escape. After the crew abandoned ship, they set the ship afire and it blew up.

Georg Thiele herself, was on fire and had been hit as many as seven times by the British destroyers and was about to run out of fuel so pursuing Hotspur was out of the question. The other German destroyers, also low on fuel and ammunition halted the chase, allowing HMS Havoc and HMS Hostile to shepherd HMS Hotspur to safety.

British destroyer HMS Hostile, underway on completion in October 1936. Her main armament is turned towards the camera. Since there is no bow wave the ship is presumably proceeding at “slow ahead”.

[Images courtesy of the UK Imperial War Museum, UK Imperial War Museum, and the UK Imperial War Museum.]

HMS Hunter, Sunk During First Battle of Narvik 10 April 1940, Found in One Thousand Feet of Water – Part 22

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Port side view of the destroyer HMS Hotspur (H01). She is painted in an unofficial camouflage scheme, the colours probably 507A, the darker grey, and 507C, the lighter. Her after torpedo tubes have been replaced by a 12 pounder AA gun. This is from later in the war after extensive repairs. (Naval Historical Collection)

Under the shock of the pounding HMS Hotspur was taking from the Georg Thiele, with the Bernd von Arnim joining in and assuming lead status, the ship was close to being sunk. After she went astern and untangled herself from HMS Hunter, the first few bulkheads in the forward part of the ship were crumpled. Fortunately, the 4th bulkhead was the collision bulkhead, stronger than any other bulkhead in the ship and designed to withstand collisions and keep the ship from sinking, hence the name.

(Had the RMS Titanic rammed the iceberg head-on, the ship probably would not have sunk since her collision bulkhead would have held – presumably. The bow is the strongest part of a ship and the standing orders of the White Star line were to ram bergs head-on if they could not be avoided. The deck officer tried to go around the berg, a huge mistake as we know. RMS stands for “Royal Mail Ship”. All the magnificent British cruise liners were built with a partial subsidy from the British Royal Mail since the ships all carried large amounts of mail.)

After being repaired, HMS Hotspur participated in a number of engagements including the last major fleet action fought by the Royal Navy battle in Battle of Cape Matapan in March of 1941. She survived the war, was sold to the Dominican Republic in 1948 and scrapped in 1972.

HMS Warspite seen in the distance in action with the Narvik shore batteries during the second British naval action off Narvik on 13 April 1940, smoke from her guns hanging above the battleship. One of the British destroyers is seen on the left. Photograph taken from an aircraft of the Fleet Air Arm. During this operation seven German destroyers were sunk or forced to beach themselves.

[Images courtesy of the Australian War Memorial and the UK Imperial War Museum.]

HMS Hunter, Sunk During First Battle of Narvik 10 April 1940, Found in One Thousand Feet of Water – Part 11

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This is said to be a photo of HMS Hunter (H35) sinking in Narvik fjord on 10 August 1940.

This photo said to be of HMS Hunter sinking raises several questions. It could only have been taken from the HMS Hotspur before she rammed the Hunter. Yet the eyewitness reports cited in Narvik: Battles in the Fjords by Peter Dickens, say the ship was aflame from all the hits she had taken from the Georg Thiele. So it is sort of confusing. Note: there is no smoke coming from her stacks which would be correct since the main steam line had been shattered and the stokers would have cut off the fuel to the boilers and blown all the steam.

Without taking a magnifying glass to various photos of Hunter and comparing them to the above, establishing the identity of the ship would be difficult. While ships of the same class all looked alike, each one had minor differences from the others because design changes were made as they were built.

I can’t state this for certain but since the photo above shows no signs of fire, I can only conclude that the above photo has been altered and must be of another H class destroyer sinking.

The photo below, is also said to be of HMS Hunter. By the way, her RN hull identification number was H35 which is painted on both ships. As you can see from the photo below, that number is much higher above the waterline than in the above photo of her sinking. So in the above photo, the ship really is sinking. But what ship is it?

Unfortunately, like much one finds on the internet, sources and dates are not given or any other way to find more information about the photographs.

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HMS Hunter (H35) in 1936

Incredibly, although under heavy fire, HMS Hotspur managed to free herself but the moment she backed away, HMS Hunter rolled over and sank. Casualties aboard HMS Hunter were heavy. Of the 158 officers and crew, only 46 survived. The rest were either killed in the battle, trapped below when the ship went down, or died of hypothermia. They were plucked out of the freezing water by the Germans and released to the custody of the Swedes several days later. (It would be churlish of me not to point out that the Germans made a concerted effort to rescue the British sailors as quickly as they could.)

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Wreck of HMS Hunter in a photo taken by the Royal Norwegian Navy. The wreck is so deep that the Norwegians had to photograph from a unmanned mini-sub.
I would like to thank Mr. Roger Cook, author and naval historian, who kindly emailed me and corrected my identification of the quadruple mount in the photo above. I had thought it a 2pdr pom-pom.
However, Mr. Cook correctly identified it in the following paragraph which I quote from his email:

“the photo of the quadruple gun mounting on the wreck is one of her quad Vickers .5in AA machinegun mounts. These ineffective weapons fired a smaller, less powerful cartridge than the contemporary .50 Cal browning (which is still with us). The lack of range was made worse by the fact that the guns were splayed out slightly one from another on the mounting, to give a scatter gun effect.”

Thank you, Mr. Cook, for your correction.

I started writing this blog years ago when recovering from successful treatment for cancer. Since I missed writing so much and since I was so fatigued, I couldn’t write much more in a day than a blog post. So I started my blog to entertain myself and have just continued on with it for more than five years. Not even sure why. Habit I guess.

One of things which constantly amazes me about my blog is this: while I have no idea who reads it, when I make a factual mistake, someone eventually emails me from somewhere in the world and politely corrects me.

Over the years readers from America, Canada, Belgium, England, Germany and the Netherlands have sent me corrections to posts. I appreciate that my readers take the time to do this.

 

 

[Source: Narvik: Battles in the Fjords by Peter Dickens. Images courtesy of Warships of World War II and NRK.]

HMS Hunter, Sunk During First Battle of Narvik 10 April 1940, Found in One Thousand Feet of Water – Part 8

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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.]