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 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 Her after torpedo tubes have been replaced by a 12 pounder AA gun.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 20

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A German destroyer abandoned and on fire east of the harbour during the Second Battle of Narvik in a photograph taken from the battleship HMS Warspite. She drifted until the next morning (14 April) when she sank.

The poor design of the German destroyers, made life aboard the ships all the more difficult. At the end of the First World War, the Treaty of Versailles imposed a maximum size on the German Navy of 15,000 men of which 1,000 could be officers. Germany was forbidden from building naval ships over a certain tonnage, could never build submarines, and in general had her entire navy reduced to glorified coast guard.

Almost the entire Imperial German Fleet was seized by the British and forced to steam under the guns of the Royal Navy to the fleet anchorage at Scapa Flow. Several months later on 21 June 1919, at a signal from the German flagship the vessels scuttled themselves. Fifty-two out seventy-four total ships sank while the other were towed or pushed ashore by Royal Navy ships on guard.

Scuttling of the German Fleet at Scapa Flow: SMS Bayern down by the stern and sinking at Scapa Flow on 21 June 1919.

The most deleterious consequences to the German Navy was the forced breakup of naval shipyards along with the collapse of commercial shipyards with experience building warships due to lack of German naval construction. Naval ship building is a complex endeavor requiring workers with a wide variety of skills some of which are only required by yards building warships. With the breakup or bankruptcy of the building yards, the skilled workforce which built Germany’s navy ships was scattered to the winds and was impossible to re-assemble several decades later when Nazi Germany began to re-arm.

Even more damaging was both the unemployment of naval ship designers, a rare specialty, who went on to seek other work, and very few German men coming into the profession. When time came to re-arm, warship designers were difficult to find and most were not experienced and made numerous mistakes.

[Images courtesy of the 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 15

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USS Iowa in a floating drydock at Manus Island, Ulithi Atoll, 28 December 1944.

You can see the mammoth size of a floating dry-dock big enough to take a battleship. This happens to be an American floating dry-dock big enough to take a the largest size US battleship. The Royal Navy had several floating dry docks which could accommodate battleships and these dry-docks were prime targets.

There was a huge floating dry-dock in Alexandria, Egypt, the main base of the Royal Navy’s Mediterranean Fleet. This had been towed to Alexandria by the Royal Navy because at one point as many as five Royal Navy battleships were on station there. German and Italian aircraft bombed the port on a regular basis hoping to hit the floating dry-dock but never succeeded in putting it out of action.

From Sailor’s Odyssey: Autobiography of Admiral of the Fleet Viscount Cunningham of Hyndhope by Admiral of the Fleet Andrew Browne Cunningham, 1st Viscount Cunningham of Hyndhope, KT, GCB, OM, DSO and two Bars (7 January 1883 – 12 June 1963):

The Italians, I may say, kept their bombing rigidly to the port. When the Luftwaffe arrived they bombed indiscriminately all over the city, particularly in the Arab quarter teeming with natives and their families.

 

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The 15 inch guns of HMS Warspite bombarding German positions around Caen during the invasion of Normandy. In the beginning years of the war, HMS Warspite was the flagship of the Royal Navy’s Mediterranean Fleet.

[Source: Sailor’s Odyssey: Autobiography of Admiral of the Fleet Viscount Cunningham of Hyndhope by Admiral of the Fleet Andrew Browne Cunningham, 1st Viscount Cunningham of Hyndhope, KT, GCB, OM, DSO and two Bars (7 January 1883 – 12 June 1963). Images courtesy of Wikipedia and the Imperial War Museum.]