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 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 18

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Wreck of German Destroyer Anton Schmitt in Narvik Harbor. Seen from the starboard bridge wing towards the bridge.

These new German destroyers which the Third Reich began building in the mid-1930s never fulfilled their promise. One of their major problems plain and simple: bad design. This was confirmed to me in an interview conducted on 22 January 2013 with Timothy Mulligan, PhD, world authority on the Kriegsmarine and U-Bootwaffe.

Neither Sharks Nor Wolves: The Men of Nazi Germany’s U-Boat Arm, 1939-1945 is a five star must read for anyone with an interest in the German U-Bootwaffe. There are a lot of amateur historians out there who have written a lot of nonsense on this subject. You will be enlightened and surprised by this book by professional historian and government archivist Tim Mulligan. The book is meticulously researched with every fact coming from the official records of the German U-Bootwaffe and personal surveys of surviving U-Boat officers undertaken by Mulligan.

Lone Wolf: The Life and Death of U-Boat Ace Werner Henke has just been re-issued in paperback by the US Naval Institute Press, which has the odd habit of constantly letting its books go out of print. This is also a five star must read, both for the absolute meticulous nature of the research and for the fascinating figure of Werner Henke, the only German U-Boot Kommandant killed on American soil.

I had the true pleasure on Tuesday January 22nd of meeting and interviewing one of the two world authorities on the Kriegsmarine/U-Bootwaffe, Timothy P. Mulligan, PhD (the other being Jak P. Mallman-Showell). As a historian, Dr. Mulligan spent his career as an archivist with the US National Archives where he specialized in captured German naval records, German military records, as well as World War Two era US military and naval records. As a fluent German speaker, Dr. Mulligan read a huge volume of these records, including original copies of German war diaries.

Dr. Mulligan confirmed that the German destroyers were badly designed in a number of ways, one of the most egregious flaws being the destroyers were terrible “sea boats.” They took green water over their bows even in moderate weather which would cover the decks and seep below. And when I say ‘cover the decks’ I mean cover the open decks with water as far back as the stern, where men working on the depth charge racks could be up to their waists in swirling water from time to time. (A problem on the Graf Spee and her sister ships as well.) The Kriegsmarine had hoped to use these destroyers in the Atlantic but their inability to proceed in heavy weather made this impossible. (This is especially relevant in the Scharnhorst disaster when her destroyer screen could not steam at even moderate speed in the heavy seas and Scharnhorst just left them behind.)

Senior Kriegsmarine officers were so concerned about this flaw they had the destroyers dry-docked and their bows rebuilt to a new design they called the “Atlantic bow.” This did little to solve the problem according to Dr. Mulligan.

[Image courtesy of Z 22 Anton Schmitt.]