This is the heartbreaking story of a tragedy that could and should have been avoided.
|All time on this page are CET (Central European Time).
Many British reports are in GMT (Greenwich Meridian Time), meaning 1 hour difference
|The Tragedy of H.M.S. Glorious, H.M.S. Ardent and H.M.S. Acasta|
|© Image courtesy Gary Martin on behalf of GLARAC Association.|
|Operation "Juno" - Preparation and Early Phase|
|In May 1940 the German Naval High Command prepared an operation against the supply lines for the British army still fighting on northern Norway.
Primary area of operations were Harstad, Andfjord, Vaagsfjord and possibly Ofotfjord, secondary target were convoys directed to Trondheim, Saltdal, Bodo and Mo.
The codename for this operation was "Juno" and the command of the fleet sailing, composed by Gneisenau (flagship), Scharnhorst, heavy cruiser Admiral Hipper and the four destroyers Karl Galster, Hans Lody, Erich Steinbrink and Hermann Schoemann was personally selected by fleet commander Admiral Wilhelm Marschall.
The support ships Adria, Samland, Nordmark and Dithmarschen, togheter with repair ship Huascaran, were sent to the area to provide logistic support.
The operation started 4. June 1940 at 08:00 (CET), when the German squadron sailed from Kiel escorted by the torpedo boats Jaguar and Falke, the escort u-boat F6 and the Speerbrecher IV (minesweeper).
Skagen, the northern tip of Denmark, was passed at 06:30 on 5. June 1940 and after noon the escort ships were detached to Wilhelmshaven.
In the first hours of 6. June 1940, the German squadron was north-east of Viking Bank, sailing north at 24 knots, at sunrise they passed Bergen strait under rain and poor visibility.
In the evening, course was altered to meet the oiler Dithmarschen, that appeared at 19:25 and the ships refuelled from her.
On 7. June 1940 at 20:30, Adm. Marschall asked the captains of the different ships to attend Gneisenau to discuss the plans for the operation.
At 22:15, the ships left the area moving towards Harstad area moving south-west.
Admiral Hipper intercepted two ships, the "Oil Pioneer" and the "Juniper". The first was hit by Gneisenau and a torpedoed by destroyer Hermann Schoemann to be sunk, the second was sunk by the heavy cruiser Admiral Hipper.
At 09:40 of 8. June 1940 Admiral Hipper intercepted and sunk the Orama, leaving the hospital ship Atlantis to sail away.
At 13:30 Admiral Hipper and the four destroyers were detached to Trondheim to refuel, Scharnhorst and Gneisenau continued to Harstad.
At 16:46 Scharnhorst look-out position sighted smoke on the horizon to the east at 60°.
|Operation "Alphabet" - British Ship's Approach to the Battle|
|Operation "Alphabet", the evacuation of all British and Allied forces from Norway, was carried out from the 5-8. June 1940.
Two troop convoys were formed, the first (Group I) sailing on 7. June and the second (Group II), sailing on 8. June. Both convoys reached the UK safely. During the night of 7-8. June 1940, the carriers Ark Royal and Glorious were operating in company north of Andenes Point, Lofoten Islands. Glorious had flown on 20 RAF fighters for transport to the UK and also had on board 10 fighters and 5 torpedo bombers of the Fleet Air Arm.
|Ark Royal and Glorious were to have formed part of the escort of the Group II convoy, but in the early hours (03:00) of 8. June, Glorious made a signal to Vice-Admiral Aircraft Carriers (VAA) Lionel Victor ("Nutty") Wells on Ark Royal, asking for permission to proceed independently to Scapa Flow, via a route which took her some 300 miles to the west of the German airfield at Trondheim and then ran south-west to pass between the Faeroe Islands and the Shetlands.
The request was approved and Glorious and her two destroyers Ardent and Acasta parted company with Ark Royal at 03:53 in position 70°17'N, 14°10'E.
By far the most crucial "command decision" to allow HMS Glorious to leave early and sail back was the one taken by Vice-Admiral (Aircraft Carriers) Wells on board H.M.S. Ark Royal.
Vice-Admiral (VAA) Lionel Victor Wells lived until 1965. Why have nobody asked him the real reason to why he gave H.M.S. Glorious permission to proceed alone with only two destroyers as escort?
At this time official reasons for Glorious to sail back have been stated:
1) The Glorious had carried out the mission for which she had been despatched (the retrieval of RAF Hurricane and Gladiator fighters that were now on board, having landed for the first time on an aircraft carrier)
2) She could contribute less to the safety of the evacuation convoys, which were the Fleet's next main concern, than she herself would need in the way of protection
3) It is considered to be doubtful whether, after five days at sea off Norway, she had sufficient fuel to return to base with the desired 33 percent reserve remaining
4) Although the Admiralty required that the ship's company was to be sent on leave from Devonport on completion of the operation, the C-in-C Home Fleet had stated that she was first to proceed to Scapa Flow to hold an outstanding court-martial.
Glorious was proceeding on course 250° at 22 knots. Later that morning Glorious reduced speed to 17 knots and, in an attempt to confuse enemy submarines, commenced zig-zag.
By 16:00 of 8. June 1940 the British ships had altered course to 205° for Scapa. Glorious was in the fourth degree of readiness, at cruising stations, steaming at 17 knots on 12 of her 18 boilers. No aircraft were ranged on deck, nor were any in the air.
Ardent and Acasta were disposed two cables (440 meters) on either bow. None of the ships were fitted with radar and the carrier had no lookout in her crow's nest. The sea was calm, with wind force 2-3 (approximately 6,5 knots) from the north-west, sea temperature 1°C (34°F), visibility unlimited.
Glorious normal fuel capacity was 3.450 tons, maximum stowage was 3.570 (seldom used).
Admiralty orders required warship to retain 33 % of the fuel which was 1.150 tons (of 3.450) for actions and high speed steaming.
The official fuel consumption of Glorious as been established by the MoD (Minister of Defense) on 1.840 tons of fuel, when order to sail back was given.
Of which: 600 tons for the outbound passage, 450 tons while detached to loiter, 700 tons while operating with Ark Royal and 90 tons while recovering the RAF aircraft (600 + 450 + 700 + 90 = 1.840 tons).
Adding 675 tons for the 16 knots passage home according to official calculations (1.840 + 675= 2.515 tons ) Glorious would have remained with only (3.450-2.515 = 935 tons ) 935 tons of fuel left (which are less than the required 1.150 tons for 33 %).
Based on the March 1940 fuel figures consumption of Glorious taken during trials after been docked and scraped in Malta and given that three months had elapsed and some of the weed and the fouling which increased the drag of the hull would have grown once more, it as been estimated that Glorious would have used only 1.640 tons of fuel.
Of which: 540 tons for the outbound passage, 400 tons while detached to loiter, 620 tons while operating with Ark Royal and 80 tons while recovering the RAF aircraft (540 + 400 + 620 + 80= 1.640 tons).
Using the above approximate fuel ship log consumptions based on ship logs, instead of the official provided fuel consumption, Glorious would have used 1.640 tons of fuel only, which are 200 tons less than the official estimate of 1.840 that are based on the ship out of dock since 6 months average calculation parameters.
Adding 610 tons (using estimated parameters as above instead of the 675 tons of the official evaluation) during the 16 knots passage home (1.640 + 610 = 2.250 tons) , Glorious would have remained with (3.450 - 2.250 = 1.200 tons) 1.200 tons of fuel or 35% of total, which was more than required.
Anyway, waiting in the area loitering for 24 hours at 11 knots (using 127 tons of fuel) and then returning with the convoy under the escort of Ark Royal, two cruisers and six additional destroyers at 14 knots (using 548 tons of fuel) Glorious would have used more or less same amount (127 + 548 = 675 tons) of fuel.
The fuel consumption figures can be used to make a case either way.
Still no evidences has been provided that the Glorious fuel situation was closely monitored on board Ark Royal. Additionally no signal, record or reports has been exchanged between Ark Royal and Glorious discussing the fuel situation.
Facts are that Glorious was clearly unable to provide her own sufficient valid air-cover so the alternative, to an independent passage with almost no cover, was to come back with good air-cover provided from Ark Royal, plus the protection insured by two cruisers and six additional destroyers.
Under those circumstances it does not make any logical sense, in order to save even 100/150 tons of fuel (only 10% of the emergency planned fuel reserve), to allow her to sail back independently and so poorly protected.
It seems clear that the carrier was routed to Scapa Flow and not, as has been previously thought, for the sole reason that Scapa was the closest refuelling base, but because the Commander-in Chief Home Fleet's staff wished to process the outstanding court-martial before the ship sailed south and came under the command of C-in-C Western Approaches.
During Glorious penultimate sortie to Norway, there was a discussion between Captain d'Oyly-Hughes and his Commander (Air) J. B. Heat supported by Lieut. Comm. (Air) Slessor and Stephens about a request made from Flag Officer Northern Norway (Narvik) of a raid against an inland target.
The 3 air officers advised against the raid because of several reasons would have placed the 5 Swordfish at very high risk unless, possibly, Glorious was going to move closer to the target at least.
This was considered as vergin of mutiny by d'Oyly-Hughes and back in Scapa Flow Commander (Air) J.B. Heat was put ashore pending court martial, while Slessor and Stephens were kept on board Glorious during the last mission.
In last personal letter home, written by Lieut. Comm. Slessor, this critical pending situation was confirmed in clear words.
It has been alleged that the Captain of the Glorious (d'Oyly-Hughes) may have wished to detach in order to speed up the court-martial, but apart from anecdotal evidence of his reputed state of mind. Fleet Air Arm officers of Flag rank who knew Captain d'Oyly-Hughes well, testify (their letters are in the Churchill Centre Archives) his impatient behaviour was entirely consistent with their experience of him, this has officially never been proved.
The only evidence is a manuscript notation added in 1968 to the Board of Inquiry file.
This manuscript reports that a visual signal had been intercepted from Commander Le Geyt of destroyer HMS Diana (later corroborated by Cdr (then telegraphist) Badger-Smith) in which Captain d'Oyly-Hughes "sought permission to proceed ahead (of the main body, i.e. the H.M.S. Ark Royal) to Scapa Flow for the purpose of making preparations for impending court-martial".
There is a signal from C-in-C Home Fleet dated 6. June 1940 to "Proceed to Scapa to enable a court-martial to be held".
So if Glorious was scheduled to sail back for fuel reasons, why those signal about the court-martial? Surely Vice-Admiral Wells on board Ark Royal was well aware of the court-martial, otherwise he should have asked "What court martial"?
If that was not the real known reason, why didn't they simply exchange signal like "Request of permission to proceed sailing back according to previous orders".
It is the Ministry of Defence's contention, supported by the 6. June 1940 signal from C-in-C Home Fleet, that in this, Captain d'Oyly-Hughes on board Glorious, was doing no more than follow C-in-C Home Fleet's instructions and there is no evidence that this affected Vice-Admiral (Air) Wells' (on board Ark Royal), judgement or the timing of the detachment of the 3 ships (H.M.S. Glorious, Ardent and Acasta).
The Failure of Intelligence
There is evidence that the Admiralty took very seriously any indication that the German navy might be at sea, that this concern was reflected by the Fleet's principal commanders and that prudent steps were taken to provide protection for the most vulnerable shipping.
The immediate action taken on 5. June 1940 in response to a "false alarm" provides an example, as does the disposition of the capital ships at sea during the days which followed.
The 5. June 1940 incident also provoked an investigation of the state of air reconnaissance on that day; the subsequent Operation "Division" (Home) report has not been traced, but it is evident that poor visibility in the North Sea areas had been a factor in the undetected break-out by the German heavy ships.
With regards to the situation when the Glorious was detached, there were no reliable indications from Signals Intelligence that a powerful German squadron was preparing for a sortie, let alone that one had been at sea since 4. June 1940. The reliability issue about the indication is the key factor here, because what prevented the warning to be passed on from Admiralty to the ships at sea as it should have been? Question is if it was passed on, at least to the C-in-C Home Fleet? This lack of "early warning" contrasts with the earlier stages of Norwegian campaign when air reconnaissance and submarine patrols had provided early intelligence of German surface ship movements.
The personal re-collections of the late Professor Sir Harry Hinsley, a former member of the Signal Intelligence community, who stated on televison (British Channel 4), that he had personally given repeated urgent warnings to the Admiralty were at variance. More than at variance they were more in an anecdotal form; Prof. Sir H. Hinsley wrote about persistent warnings from Bletchley Park to the Admiralty about German ships at sea due to increased W/T (Wireless Telegraphy), but the Admiralty remained sceptic about the yielded results, with the same individuals written account of intelligence circumstances at the time of the loss of the Glorious.
According to the latter account, which appeared in the first volume of the Official History of British Intelligence in the Second World War (published by HMSO, Her Majesty's Stationary Office, on 1979) there had been no more than a vague warning via the Government Code and Cypher School, summarised for the Admiralty on 7. June 1940 as "German naval forces in Norwegian waters may in the future be associated in any offensive action taken by German units in the North sea" Note that, according to Prof. Sir H. Hinsley, the wording of this summary did not originated in Bletchley Park, but they were the own Admiralty interpretation of Bletchley Park warnings; furthermore he wrote that the words "German naval forces" is not only meaningless, but it was not issued to ships at sea.
It is not surprising that such an assessment may not be perceived as firm advise of impeding or current operations in northern Norwegian waters by the Admiralty.
Still it's a fact that in almost every account of Bletchley Park in its early days, there is mention of Hinsley's attempts to persuade the Admiralty of the likelihood that German main units were about to emerge from Kiel.
The Glorious Unpreparedness
There is no doubt that the unpreparedness of the Glorious was criticised by senior members of the Board of Admiralty.
The fact that:
1) The upper visual look-out position (the crow's nest) was not manned, in condition of extreme visibility
2) The lack of air-patrol around the carrier
3) The Glorious boiler status.
being the most important shortcomings.
No hypothesis can be offered for a lack of a visual look-out in the highest point of the ship, other than the possibility that the enemy would probably have been expected in the forward hemisphere where the 2 destroyers screening 45° degree ahead on each side of the carrier bow at 2 cables (440 meters) might be expected to sight them first.
The German ships did appear on the forward hemisphere, but they saw the British squadron 10-15 minutes before the British ships saw them, this because the lack of look-out on Glorious crow's nest cannot be compensated by the destroyers look-out positions. As the crow's nest were positioned very low compared to the one on the carrier (the one on Glorious was twice the height) the destroyers should have been placed well far ahead of the carrier to compensate that.
It is generally been accepted that the Glorious was not flying air patrol due to the wish of the Captain d'Oyly-Hughes to rest his aircrew.
To fly off and recover, the carrier would have had to turn from her south-westerly course into the wind which was blowing briskly (Force 4) from the west-north-west
To make good the ground lost during the "jinks" for flying operations and maintain the average "speed of advance" of 16 knots ordered by Vice-Admiral (Air) Wells from Ark Royal when detached her, Glorious and her attendant destroyers would have had to cruise at higher speed, burning more fuel.
At least one Swordfish reconnaissance aircraft and three Sea Gladiator fighters were at 10 minutes "Readiness" when the enemy was sighted, but according to Board of Inquiry statements these were not on the deck.
It was doubly unfortunate that when the German battlecruisers did appear they were upwind, so that the carrier could not fly off aircraft and run away from them at the same time.
It must be said that during previous similar Norwegian operations, when J. B. Heat was in command, there were always airplanes flying around the carrier.
Glorious was cruising on a reduced number (only 12 out of 18) of boilers, consequently she could not develop full speed (from 17 till 30 knots) as fast as was required.
Flashing-up the remaining 6 boilers, that were shut down, took her around 30 minutes. This situation connected to the course run by Glorious that did not turn south immediately, but for half an hour kept with a west course, was fatal to the carrier. Glorious soon came within the range of the main guns of the German ships and it was not possible to avoid being hit by enemy fire due to the distance being closed because of this.
Ship's Company Leave
The Glorious had been away from the UK for 27 months, when she returned on 18. April 1940.
Glorious was dispatched almost immediately for operations in central Norway.
No time being available to give the crew a leave as usual after a "Foreign Service Commission".
The need for leave was recognised, as on 9. May 1940, while lying in the Clyde awaiting the order to sail to northern Norway ferrying RAF Hurricanes, the Commander-in-Chief, Home Fleet signalled: "As soon as the series of operations now in progress permit, Glorious will proceed to Plymouth to give 7 days leave to each watch".
In the event, the ship made two trips to deliver the fighters, refuelling at Scapa Flow between sorties, and on the second of these she was ordered by the Admiralty to return to the Clyde.
This order, which may have been a preliminary to dispatching the ship on leave, was changed on 29. May 1940, when she was diverted to Scapa to refuel prior to returning to Norway to re-embark RAF aircraft.
By 5. June 1940, when the Admiralty repeated its wish that the Glorious should proceed to Devonport, her ship's company leave was nearly over 6 weeks overdue.
RAF aircraft had to be recovered and returned to UK
Another reason being evaluated, was the need of having the RAF fighters (10 Hurricanes and 10 Gladiators) back in UK as quickly as possible, for the on going battle of Britain against Luftwaffe bombers. The squadron leader (Air Marshall Sir Kenneth Cross, one of the few survivors) was not aware that this was considered a top priority, or that another day would have made much difference.
Need to return to re-embark Glorious Swordfish squadron. Also this possibility have been evaluated and does not appear to be the case.
The operation they were supposed to execute, dropping mines in the Swedish/Baltic area (Operation "Paul"), was abandoned at an early stage.
|Battle between British H.M.S. Glorious, Ardent and Acasta and German Scharnhorst and Gneisenau, 8. June 1940|
|At 16:46, the German battleships, while being at 69°00'N, 03°10'E steaming north at 18 knots on course 345°, spotted a smoke on the horizon to the east.
Midshipman Goos and W. Schulte from Scharnhorst foretop control identified smoke on the horizon with bearing 60° to the east on the German ships starboard side.
A report was immediately sent to flagship Gneisenau were Admiral Wilhelm Marschall (Fleet commander) was on board.
At 16:58, another communication was immediately forwarded from Scharnhorst to the flagship Gneisenau saying that a British force spotted on south-east at the distance of 40 kilometer (40.000 meters, 43.700 yards or 21,6 sea miles).
At 17:00, the German battleships turned to course 330°, speed was now 19 knots.
Wind was WNW 4 (approximately 6,5 knots), sea was calm (state 2), temperature 1° Celsius (34°F) very good unlimited visibility.
Order was given back to Scharnhorst from Fleet Commander on board Gneisenau to steam up and increase to maximum speed.
At 17:01, on board Glorious (Capt. Cdr. G. D'Oyly-Hughes) the 2 stranger ships were noticed.
Glorious and her escort destroyers were sailing on course 205° at 17 knots making zig-zag to avoid potential U-Boot torpedo attack.
The aircraft carrier was on the fourth degree of readiness, which means cruising stations with only 12 out of 18 boilers steaming up.
No aircraft were ranged on the deck, nor were any in the air, patrolling.
Glorious was carrying in her hangars 10 Hurricanes and 10 Gladiators from RAF and her own 9 Sea Gladiators plus 5 Swordfish.
Destroyers Ardent and Acasta were disposed 2 cables (440 meters) ahead on either bow, Ardent to starboard and Acasta on port side of Glorious.
No radar on board on those 3 ships and the Glorious had no look-out in her crow's nest.
Ardent (Lt. Cdr. J. F. Barker) was ordered to close and identify them, being the closer destroyer to the approaching ships.
Acasta (Cpt. Cdr. C. E. Glasfurd) was ordered to remain close to the Glorious moving from the port side of the aircraft carrier to her starboard side.
Meanwhile a pipe was made for the 5 Swordfish of the 823. Squadron to be ranged on the flight deck.
At 17:02, the ALARM was given on board German units with the order to clear the ships and get ready for the battle.
At 17:06, a turn to starboard was executed by the Germans, course was now 30°.
Scharnhorst leading, Gneisenau followed close on her port side, the German battleships were closing distance to the British squadron with this approaching manoeuvre.
At 17:07, speed of the German battleships was at 24 knots and radar was switched on as ranging for gunnery aid.
Glorious was increasing speed while the Ardent and Acasta were falling on her quarter position.
At 17:10, Scharnhorst First Artillery Officer, Fregatten Kapitan Lowisch, from foretop control reported a thick funnel and a mast with battle centre made out, probably also a flight deck.
At 17:12, German units sailing direction was altered turning to starboard on course 70°. Still Scharnhorst was sailing ahead of the German squadron, Gneiseanu was sailing on her port side aft.
At 17:13, on board Scharnhorst Senior Gunnery officer reported more precisely an aircraft carrier series of details, believing to have identified it as the H.M.S. Ark Royal escorted by 2 destroyers. One destroyer to the north and one destroyer to the south of the aircraft carrier, now clearly visible (obviously those were H.M.S. Glorious, H.M.S. Ardent and H.M.S. Acasta).
At 17:15, Ardent was closing in on the German ships making light identification signal.
Glorious was increasing her speed and Acasta was moving in Glorious wake from the port to the starboard side of the aircraft carrier.
At 17:18, Ardent probably reported to Glorious a negative confirmation of the coming ships and got ready to attack them to provide Glorious and Acasta more time to sail away if possible.
At 17:20, "Action Station" (ALARM) was sounded on board Glorious and the 2 destroyers.
Glorious commenced transmitting of her enemy report with the main set of 253 kHz and the secondary one to one of the Home Station HF Frequencies, 8,29 MHz "Two battlecruisers bearing 308° distance 15 mile on course 030°. My Position 154° from 69'N 04°'E".
At 17:21, the German battleships made the last approach turn to starboard on course 150°, now the enemy was on their port side and instead of sailing away like situation was at 16:46 at first sight, now the German ships were sailing on a collision course at full speed.
Scharnhorst still leading the German force, with Gneisenau behind on her port side.
Ardent made a turn to port to avoid getting closer and started a parallel run with them being around 8 sea miles south-east of the enemy, getting ready to start a torpedo attack.
At 17:23, Glorious turned to port while smoke from Acasta started developing to cover her up on her starboard side (smoke from one smoke generator only).
On board Glorious, activities were going on to bring the Swordfish on the deck and make them ready to take off (only 3 ready to be taken up from the hangar and only 2 reached the bridge, loaded with anti-sub bombs, without torpedo).
At 17:26, speed was 26 knots, on Scharnhorst orders were given to main artillery to engage the aircraft carrier and the secondary artillery to engage the destroyer to the north which was Ardent.
At 17:27, Gneisenau opened fire against Ardent that was hit on the Nr. 1 Boiler room by the first salvo, speed got reduced on Ardent that started zig-zag in her own smoke while shooting her 4,7 inch (120 mm) guns.
At 17:28, speed on Scharnhorst was 29 knots.
Ardent kept on zig-zag turns and reacted to German shots firing her first salvo of torpedoes against the German ships, one of which was seen to pass close ahead of the Scharnhorst
At 17:30, permission to open fire on board Scharnhorst that fired at Ardent at the distance of 14.500 meters on bearing 120°.
Ardent after having fired the torpedoes turned away moving back into her own smoke screen.
At 17:32, from flagship Gneisenau to Scharnhorst order to open fire with main artillery (280 mm) at the aircraft carrier.
Fire opened from 26.000 meters (28.446 yards) against the Glorious.
Ardent had opened fire already on the German ships and kept on zig-zagging to try to avoid being hit from such close an overwhelming fire.
At 17:33, Scharnhorst's secondary armament ceased fire due to interference with main armament firing at Glorious.
Gneisenau to engage Ardent with secondary artillery on her port side.
Both British destroyers were making dark smoke screens very effectively now with the funnels that was more effective than the usual smoke generator equipment, which is why it was dark smoke and not clear as usually is.
At 17:34, on board Glorious first group of Swordfish was now on the main deck and getting ready to be launched, armed with torpedoes.
At 17:35, signal "P" received, course now 170°.
Scharnhorst's second salvo went too far over Glorious.
At 17:36, speed was 29 knots on board Scharnhorst. Gneisenau was making already 30,5 knots.
Fire was continuing with main and secondary artillery against the British ships.
At 17:38, speed was 30 knots on board Scharnhorst.
Gneisenau kept on speeding up at more than 32 knots moving in the wake of Scharnhorst moving from port side to the wake of the leading German battleship.The first hit from Scharnhorst with her third salvo reached Glorious from 24.175 meters (26.450 yards), which is the longest gunfire hit on any enemy warship ever achieved.
The 280 mm (11 inch) shell penetrated the flightdeck and burst into the upper hangar starting a big fire, in the middle of the deck a big hole made it impossible to launch any other aircraft.
All the aircraft present on the main deck were seen falling over board (presumably the 2 Swordfish that reached the main deck earlier).
Splinters pierced a boiler casing and smoke entered air intakes. This caused a temporary drop in steam pressure from 2 boilers, but steam was built up again as the smoke cleared.
Acasta opened fire with her 4,7 inch (120 mm) guns at the German ships.
At 17:40, Scharnhorst secondary artillery (150 mm) re-opens fire at Ardent well manoeuvred by her commander, but still the British destroyer received hits on board due to extremely accurate fire from the German ships.
Scharnhorst fired at Glorious from 23.000 meters (26.137 yards).
At 17:42, Gneisenau ceased fire on Ardent leaving Scharnhorst to still engage the destroyer.
Gneisenau turned to starboard at full speed.
Ardent was getting ready to fire another salvo of 4 torpedoes
At 17:43, Gneisenau was moving fast crossing Scharnhorst wake.
Communication came from Admiral Wilhelm Marschall to Scharnhorst to deploy shipboard aircraft as needed. However Captain K. C. Hoffmann did not find this necessary.
Ardent launched her second set of torpedoes against Scharnhorst.
At 17:44, Gneisenau was now sailing on Scharnhorst's starboard side at faster speed.
Gneisenau opened fire at Glorious with main artillery guns 280 mm (11 inch).
At 17:45, on board Scharnhorst "ALARM" for approaching torpedo on course 330° from Ardent, course quickly changed with fast turn to port and later back on course 170° to avoid them.
At 17:47, Ardent moved fast going back and forth from her own smoke screen firing at Scharnhorst.
British destroyers black smoke screen generated via the funnel seemed exceptionally effective.
Ardent hit Scharnhorst with a 120 mm (4,7 inch) gun shot and fired the third set of torpedoes.
At 17:49, another Scharnhorst torpedo alert due to Ardent torpedo tracks.
Again a fast turn to port was made and Scharnhorst was back on course 170°.
At 17:50, Gneisenau was surpassing at full speed on Scharnhorst's starboard side.
At 17:51, Glorious was on fire and listed heavily to starboard.
At 17:52, both German battleships were on course 170°.
At 17:53, order from Gneisenau to Scharnhorst, alter course to 130°.
At 17:55, Ardent fired her fourth torpedo salvo set at Scharnhorst.
Torpedo "ALARM" from 110° sounded on board Scharnhorst
At 17:56, Glorious received another 280 mm hit that wrecked the bridge killing the ship Captain (d'Holy-Hughes) and almost all of the bridge personnel.
The Executive Officer Lovell assumed command of the Glorious.
At 17:58, Glorious was under fire and listed heavily, started being hidden behind smoke screen.
Observed thick black clouds of smoke with more smoke developing.
Scharnhorst main artillery ceased fire while Gneisenau kept on firing at Glorious.
Scharnhorst Chief Engineer reported an engine room out of service, speed was decreasing.
At 18:00, Gneisenau ceased fire from main artillery too due to Glorious now not in sight anymore because of the smoke.
Firing continued with secondary artillery at the destroyers while Admiral Wilhelm Marschall ordered both ships Artillery Officers not to waste too much ammunition.
At 18:02, Scharnhorst was making 27 knots. The ship was having engine problems, boiler 1.1 out, probably due to split tube.
Gneisenau with more speed was engaging Glorious and Acasta having surpassed Scharnhorst and now sailing fast on Scharnhorst's starboard side.
The 2 German battleships were sailing between Ardent and her flagship still escorted by Acasta sailing on the starboard side of Glorious.
Ardent was engaged from Scharnhorst and was on the German battleships port side.
Acasta and Glorious were located on Gneisenau's starboard side.
At 18:03, Ardent fired the fifth set of torpedoes to Scharnhorst.
At 18:04, Scharnhorst scored another hit on Ardent with her secondary guns.
Ardent, after being hit, was proceeding at low speed at 15 knots and heavily listed to port.
At 18:05, another torpedo "ALARM" sounded on Scharnhorst, 3 torpedoes approaching from bearing 330°.
Acasta started a smoke curtain crossing Glorious bow, from west to east.
At 18:08, communication from German ships to SKL (Naval Command) in Germany, engaging aircraft carrier on Quadrant 2160 while sailing south-east (course was 130° at the moment for the German ships).
At 18:10, torpedo "ALARM" direction 320° on board German battleships.
At 18:11, Scharnhorst's heavy anti-aircraft artillery (105 mm) opened fire with contact fuse at Ardent too, immediately after another hit was noticed on the British destroyer.
Ardent fired her sixth set of torpedoes at Scharnhorst.
At 18:12, Acasta had just completed another smoke curtain for Glorious, then turned to south quickly at 35 knots to make another one ahead.
At 18:13 Another torpedo "ALARM" on board Scharnhorst, Ardent was fighting very hard.
Glorious started being visible again through the smoke screen.
At 18:15, orders from flagship Gneisenau to Scharnhorst, not to waste anymore ammunition.
Heavy anti-aircraft guns ceased fire at Ardent.
Ardent fired her seventh set of torpedoes at Scharnhorst while been hit by the German ship's secondary armament. Ardent's guns kept on firing since the beginning of the fight.
At 18:18, Glorious became again clearly visible, consequently, order was given from Admiral Wilhelm Marschall to both German ships to re-open fire at the British aircraft carrier with main artillery.
Ardent was increasingly listing and still firing.
At 18:19, Scharnhorst's communication to Gneisenau, Admiral Wilhelm Marschall, Scharnhorst having engine problems, not able to sail faster than 28,5 knots at the moment.
Gneisenau was now the hunter of the Glorious and Acasta at full speed, Scharnhorst was taking care of Ardent already in great difficulties.
At 18:20, Scharnhorst sailed on course 150°.
Gneisenau kept on firing to Glorious from approx. 20.000 meters (11 sea miles or 22.000 yards).
Glorious received another 280 mm hit, that entered the center engine room shocking the whole ship, which thereafter began to loose speed, develop a starboard list and commencing a slow circle to port. This was the hit that defined the final destiny of the aircraft carrier, Gneisenau speed and fire power were just too much for her.
Acasta was starting another smoke curtain for Glorious from east to south-west.
At 18:22, Ardent was still visible, her mast knocked down, the brave destroyer capsized and sunk.
Scharnhorst ordered secondary artillery to cease fire on Ardent and resumed main artillery fire at Glorious from 23.450 meters (25.645 yards).
At 18:23, torpedo "ALARM" direction 10° on board Scharnhorst, those were the last ones fired from Ardent.
Gneisenau main artillery kept on scoring hits on Glorious with decreasing speed and progressively easier to be hit by the Gneisenau's main artillery guns.
Ardent was not visible anymore, carley floats were all around her sinking place.
At 18:24, Scharnhorst's secondary armament switched target to Acasta on bearing 0°, acquiring target.
Last torpedoes from Ardent were passing ahead of Scharnhorst.
Glorious was burning even more fiercerly.
At 18:25, message from Admiral Wilhelm Marschall on board Gneisenau to Scharnhorst:
"Congratulations for having sunk the destroyer north" (which was the HMS Ardent).
At 18:26, Scharnhorst's secondary armament (150 mm) re-opened fire at Acasta without permission, but distance was too big (around 10 sea miles or 18.520 meters/20.240 yards) and fire was ceased. Meanwhile it kept on firing to Glorious from 22.000 meters (24.059 yards) with main artillery.
Acasta's Commander decided to attack the German ships with torpedoes, turned to a west course diverging from Glorious and getting ready the torpedo tubes, intention was communicated to the crew to get ready to attack from 8.000 yards into effective torpedo firing range (7.312 meters).
At 18:29, message from Admiral Wilhelm Marschall to Scharnhorst commander: "I will not tolerate any more waste of ammunition" (Gneisenau was 4000 meters closer than Scharnhorst to Glorious at that point with the carrier under her precise main aritillery gunfire).
At 18:30, Gneisenau main artillery was firing from very effective distance on Glorious sailing very slow, distance between Gneisenau and the heavily damaged and listed Glorious burning and making smoke was around 18.500 meters (10 sea miles or 20.240 yards), but it was quickly decreasing and German fire from Gneisenau was more accurate and intense.
At 18:31, Acasta was making smoke and fired her guns while sailing a west course that seemed separating her from Glorious, very skillfully handled as well as was Ardent.
Acasta shells were falling 50 meters ahead of Scharnhorst.
Glorious was clearly visible again and now under very intense fire by Gneisenau's main guns.
At 18:32, Acasta seemed to make ready for an attack at the German Ships.
Scharnhorst's secondary artillery (150 mm) received permission to fire and re-opened fire on Acasta.
Course was 170° on Scharnhorst, which made a 20° turn to starboard to keep Acasta directly ahead on her bow.
At 18:33, Acasta turned and fired from port side her first set of 4 torpedoes (Nr. 2, 3, 6 and 7) at the 2 German ships.
Scharnhorst foretop control signalled 3 torpedoes fired from Acasta and on the run.
At 18:34, on Scharnhorst course resumed to 150°, ultra short-wave set unserviceable.
Scharnhorst was firing at Acasta from 13.300 meters (14.450 yards).
Acasta, after having completed a 180° turn to east, was making zig-zag while kept on firing and sailed to re-enter her own smoke.
At 18:35, Acasta was sailing east now on course 90°, crossing Scharnhorst's bow from starboard side to port side.
The British destroyer received a hit that damaged the pom-pom platform, but still fired her second set of 4 torpedoes from her port side at Scharnhorst.
At 18:36, Gneisenau's main guns were finishing off Glorious from a very short distance of 9.260 meters (5 sea miles or 10.130 yards).
At 18:39, Scharnhorst had sever tremor astern, apparently a torpedo hit. Main guns ceased fire. Radar unserviceable.
Gneisenau was shooting last broadside at Glorious.
On Acasta the crew saw the flash and the huge water column on the Scharnhorst aft starboard side, they knew they had hit the German ship, Acasta Comm. Capt. Glasfurd congratulated the crew.
At 18:40, Acasta was still making thick dark smoke screen to protect the aircraft carrier in front of the German battleships, after having successfully attacked with the torpedoes instead of sailing away from the heavily damaged and condemned flagship, Acasta came back again between the German ships and the Glorious while firing her 120 mm (4,7 inch) guns and making zig-zag.
At 18:41, Scharnhorst speed reduced, a turn to starboard of 90° was made on course 240° with the intention on close distance with Gneisenau.
Gneisenau ceased fire on Glorious and switched target to Acasta.
Acasta was still sailing east now having passed close to Glorious was sailing away on east direction with course 90° to be ready to turn and come back again making smoke screen to protect Glorious.
At 18:42, Scharnhorst gave permission again to secondary armament to fire at Acasta.
At 18.43, Scharnhorst turned to port now on course 190°.
Gneisenau opened fire to Acasta as well, now it is the only fighting ship and Glorious destiny seemed well defined, Acasta torpedoes were the real danger at that moment.
At 18:44, on board Scharnhorst, reports from gunnery control notified evacuation of "turret with heavy explosion and flooding, thick smoke belching out. Report from command centre declared torpedo probably hit at level of "C" turret on the starboard side, magazines being flooded . Last report from engine room said starboard engine out of action. Speed was still at 26 knots.
At 18:46, Scharnhorst on course 260°. Turret "C" magazines all flooded.
Gneisenau still fired at Acasta with his secondary armament from around 6 sea miles ( 11.000 meters or 12.000 yards ).
At 18:47, Gneisenau fire on Acasta was very intense and kept on scoring on it, to avoid getting torpedoed like Scharnhorst, Gneisenau made a semi-circle around Acasta remaining large and out of Torpedo range.
At 18:48, Scharnhorst was increasingly listing to starboard. Chief Engineering checked the engine rooms.
Acasta turned to port in order to come back again on Glorious help and getting away of Gneisenau fire.
At 18:49, searchlight communication from Scharnhorst to flagship Gneisenau: Torpedo hit astern.
On board Scharnhorst damages were communicated to Control Room.
Engine Room reports of knocking noises in HP bearing starboard engine.
Ship control reports hit in compartments III and IV.
Secondary armament silent. Ultra short-wave link resumed.
Gneisenau was still firing at Acasta with secondary guns very intensively.
Acasta laying smoke screen while coming back on course 300° to WNW, stil firing her guns against Gneisenau.
At 18:51, communication from Scharnhorst to Gneisenau, "Scharnhorst hit by torpedo on the starboard in compartments III and IV. Turret "C" unserviceable".
Scharnhorst was on course 180°.
At 18:52, on board Scharnhorst reports were coming to Control Room.
Turret "C" magazine, water being pumped out.
Foretop reported Acasta out of torpedo launching range.
Request coming from Gneisenau asking which speed Scharnhorst could maintain.
Acasta was coming back at the German ships' direction.
At 18:53, Acasta was in sight again.
Scharnhorst Commander renewed secondary armament permission to open fire on the destroyer, fire was resumed on Acasta.
Gneisenau secondary guns were still firing heavily at Acasta as well.
At 18:55, Gneisenau signalled to Scharnhorst to assume formation in line astern of the flagship.
Scharnhorst turned on course 160°.
Gneisenau secondary guns fire scored several hits on Acasta now progressively damaged and slow turning south heavily damaged.
At 18:57, Scharnhorst reports on control room from First Officer insured torpedo hit would not interfere with running of the ship.
Scharnhorst course was made at 150° to close in on the Gneisenau.
At 18:59, request from Gneisenau to Scharnhorst to ensure that the ship could maintain 28 knots of speed.
On board Scharnhorts reports from engine room Chief Engineer confirmed T1 and T2 was running clear, T3 is knocking noises.
At 19:00, from Scharnhorst to Gneisenau, maximum speed being 27,5 knots currently.
The Scharnhorst was very evidently listing to starboard, stern deck was 3 meters down compared to the normal level from the water.
Gneisenau was still scoring to Acasta now slow and listed turning again to east to try to disengage.
At 19:04, Gneisenau secondary ceased fire to Acasta now heavily damaged and listed to port.
At 19:05, on Scharnhorst revolutions centre engine were dropping fast.
At 19:06, on Scharnhorst centre engine stopped.
Report from engine room declared apparent major water inrush in T1.
One propeller was knocking very heavily.
Communication to Gneisenau: Centre engine out of service
Acasta was still firing with her aft guns at the German ships, turned to north, listing and heavily damaged.
Acasta was on fire astern very slow and heavily listed to port
On board Scharnhorst secondary armament was ordered to cease fire (to save ammunition).
At 19:09, on board Scharnhorst speed was 25 knots.
Report from engine room Chief Engineer confirms knocking noise from propellers been louder.
At 19:10, Acasta was still firing her guns and hits the Scharnhorst on the "B" turret right barrel.
Scharnhorst Commander renewed permission to open fire to the secondary armament that opens fire at Acasta.
From Scharnhorst engine room Chief Engineer reported needs to reduce speed because T3 was knocking noise more evidently. Presumed starboard screw knocking. T1 fire out.
Acasta was still burning, heavily listing and now unable to manoeuvre.
At 19:12, Glorious was completely gone and a lot of carley floats were all around her sinking place.
On Acasta order was passed on board to abandon ship.
At 19:15, Scharnhorst Command Center declared pause in the battle, and ceased fire on Acasta.
Acasta was still burning and carley floats are all around her.
At 19:17, on Scharnhorst order came from Gneisenau ultra short-wave to turn on course 70° at 24 knots.
From first officer reports on starboard propellers heavy knocking.
Aft platform deck starboard side 1 meter under water.
Pumping under way. Fuel oil being transferred to compensate for list.
At 19:22, on board Scharnhorst speed indicates 21,5 knots.At 19:24, on board Scharnhorst the battle was declared over.
Damage repairs were first priority.
At 19:25, all 3 British ships had been sunk and only carley-floats and rafts with around 900 survivors were on the sea.
The German ships kept on sailing to east toward Trondheim in Norway on course 70°.
The German ships left the area of the battle without rescuing British survivors.
At 19:28, on board Scharnhorst helm put to "Peacetime helm position" as result of switching error.
Scharnhorst temporarily not answering helm and steering to port.
At 19:30, as requested from flagship Gneisenau after last manoeuvre Scharnhorst confirms no difficulties as regards steering.
Overall damages situation were still being checked out, Scharnhorst had 48 sailors killed by the Acasta torpedo on board.
|The last Signals from Glorious, Ardent and Acasta|
|The unexpected presence of enemy surface ships represented a great danger to the Group II convoy (8.000 troops escorted by Ark Royal, 2 Cruisers and 6 destroyers) and to broadcast a warning should have been the highest priority.
Officially only one brief transmission was heard by Royal Navy units (HMS Devonshire), and its significance was not immediately appreciated neither forwarded.
The Admiralty were very concerned that no useful enemy reports had been received and later asked all UK shore W/T stations if anyone had heard any sort of signal from Glorious or her two destroyers.
None officially had.
Glorious started transmitting (before going to Action Stations) her enemy sighting report at 17:15 with the main set on 253 kHz and the secondary one on one of the Home Station HF frequencies, 8,29 MHz.
The message was: "Two Pocket Battleships bearing 308° 15 miles course 030°. My position 154°69'N 04°E. 11 miles = 16:15 (GMT time)." (VE MTA V OW2 O-U 2PB 308 15 030 154GQOX 11 BT 1615 IMI).
Then the carrier re-transmitted (while going to Action Stations) her enemy sighting report shortly after 17:20 with the main set on 253 kHz and the secondary one on one of the Home Station HF frequencies, 8,29 MHz.
The message was this time: "Two Battle Cruisers bearing 308° 15 miles course 030°. My position 154°69'N 04°E. 11 miles = 16:15 (GMT time)." (VE MTA V OW2 O-U 2BC 308 15 030 154GQOX 11 BT 1615 IMI).
The fact that this message from Glorious was not received or almost un-intelligible is not the story told by 6 members of Devonshire crew (4 of whom are still alive). They differ in some re-collected details, but all are adamant that what was heard at 17:20 that day and was, at the least, sufficiently intelligible to cause considerable consternation on Devonshire bridge because the ship was kept sailing away from Glorious in clear danger.
According to PO Senior Telegraphist T. Jenkins, who was in charge of the W/T Remote control office, the message was clear and contained all details (the PB's) and was received by one of his operators that called his attention to it, while on the main wireless office another operator received/confirmed it as well.
Midshipman D. Corkhill confirmed that when plotted showed clearly to the Devonshire bridge senior officers how close Devonshire was to Glorious.
That message had been restricted by Vice-Admiral J. Cunningham orders and all copies have been handled to his staff Flag Lieutenant, including the operators log.
This message was officially never received on board HMS Devonshire according to the Admiralty and MoD, they only declare Devonshire having received garbled and un-intelligible signals only at 18:20.
Note that Devonshire at that moment was less than 28 sea miles on the west of the German ships and around 43 sea miles from the Glorious.
Devonshire did not change course, exercised main guns and kept sailing away increasing speed.
The correct frequency for an enemy report was 7,3 MHz, the Narvik area wave, but this was not used until later in the action (at 18:20 with her Amplifying report) when the General Purpose set in the Main Office started up on this frequency.
It was one of these 7,3 MHz transmissions that was heard by Devonshire and Gneisenau at 18:20.
Evidence available indicates that Glorious continued to keep the main set on 253 kHz until it was disabled at about 18:20.
Glorious also transmitted her enemy report on the "Reconnaissance wave" (probably 230 MHz) from a GP set in the RCO, but this was an uncertain means of communicating over 200 miles, given the bad atmospheric conditions reported by the Germans.
Ships in the Narvik area had been directed to shift from Narvik area frequencies to Home Station frequencies upon crossing 65'N.
This should normally have occurred about 08:40 on the 9 June 1940 but, for reasons which have never been established, Glorious changed over at 14:00 on 8 June 1940, while still some 300 miles north of this line.
On 8. June 1940, carriers and cruisers in the Narvik area were keeping watch on 230 kHz (Fleet Air Arm Wave) and 3,7 MHz (Area wave).
Destroyers were on 3,7 MHz from 04:00 on 8. June 1940.
In the Narvik area Fleet Air Arm Wave 230 kHz was being used instead of Fleet Wave 253 kHz because of "intolerable interference" on the latter.
It is evident that Glorious had not received the information that the use of 253 kHz had been discontinued and that ships were to shift to Home Frequencies upon crossing 65° N.
There was considerable traffic on 3,7 MHz on the afternoon of 8. June 1940.
Ark Royal, three cruisers and at least a dozen destroyers were within 200 miles of' Glorious at the time of the action.
Many of these ships were in relatively close company, and operators may have cut back their RF gain to avoid strong signals blocking their receivers.
This combined with the large amount of traffic and the bad conditions reported by the Germans would have reduced the probability of a distant signal being heard in the area frequency.
At the time of the action Devonshire's W/T department was in two watches, with both her main W/T and her Remote Office listening on the high and low frequencies of both Home and Narvik areas.
The Secondary W/T was manned only at action stations or if, for any reason, the main transmitter was down.
Petty Officer Telegraphist T. Jenkins aboard Devonshire at the time of the action, stated that otherwise, according to him the secondary was never used if the main transmitter was operating.
At 17:52, Gneisenau heard Glorious transmit the following message on 8,29 Mhz addressed to Scapa W/T: "Two battlecruisers bearing 308° 15 miles course 030°. My position 154°69'N 04°E. 11 miles = 16:15 (GMT time)."
The complete message as based in Gneisenau would have been transmitted in the "self-evident" code used for enemy reports, and would have been transmitted in Morse as follows:
VE MTA V OW2 O-U 2BC 308 15 030 154GQOX 11 BT 1615 IMI
Breaking this down, we have:
VE = Prefix for all RN messages
MTA = Call sign for Scapa W/T
V = From
OW2 = Call sign for Glorious
O-U = Prefix for most immediate. the dash or "short break" being transmitted as "ii" in Morse.
2BC = Two Battle Cruisers
308 = Bearing 308°
15 = 15 miles
030 = Course 030°
The transmitting ship's position was coded as:
154 = Bearing to reference grid point (in this case GQOX)
GQOX = Reference gridpoint (GQOX = 69°N 04°E)
11 = Distances to reference grid point in miles
BT = Long break, transmitted as BT in Morse.
1615 = Time of origin (GMT Time)
IMI = Please repeat message if received.
Letter groups with an overhead bar (here underlined instead for convenience in typesetting) are transmitted as single groups, i.e. without any spaces between the letters.
At 18:00, Devonshire, then about 50 miles west of Glorious, heard a weak signal on 3,7 MHz "reception very doubtful" addressed to VAA from Glorious ". . . My 1615 2PB 16:40." There were some unreadable fragments of Morse before "My 16:15. .." The warbling note of the signal was identified by the Admiralty as coming from a Type 53 auxiliary transmitter.
Probably the missing Morse fragments were the single word "amend," making the whole message "VE 1NR (call sign of VAA) VOW20-U AMEND MY 1615 2PB = 16:40."
Why Glorious wanted to alter her first, and correct, identification of the enemy must remain a mystery.
The B. Dienst operator in Gneisenau recorded this as "the very same message" as the enemy report heard at 17:52.
The Germans reported that the message was sent with "badly fluctuating signal strength possibly due to interruptions in the power supply."
At 18:19, Gneisenau heard Glorious, calling VAA on 3,7 Mhz and attempted, unsuccessfully, to jam the signal.
This was undoubtedly the signal received (officially) by Devonshire at 18:20 (VE 1NR (call sign of VAA) VOW20-U AMEND MY 1615 2PB = 16:40).
The Germans were fully expecting Glorious to transmit on 7,3 MHz, and had a transmitter in Gneisenau, pre-tuned to that frequency in order to jam any outgoing signal. The Germans used a rather subtle jamming technique; instead of generating a lot of noisy interference, they attempted to drown out the legitimate signal by simultaneously generating a series of false signals which would overwhelm it, using standard RN call signs and procedures.
No ship or shore station reported receiving Gneisenau's bogus messages, and in fact Devonshire was unaware that the Germans were attempting to jam Glorious' signals.
There is no record of the destroyers sending any enemy report at all and this is very difficult to explain.
The W/T specialist in the Signal Department of the Admiralty made the following comments on the file on 18. June 1940:
"It is believed that the escorting destroyers attacked the enemy and no explanation can be given for their failure to make an enemy report. Any suggestion that they assumed that Glorious had made the necessary reports can hardly be accepted. Glorious must have remained afloat for at least 30 minutes after 'open fire.' If her W/T was out of action it is reasonable to expect that she would have told the destroyers to make enemy reports."
Few survivors could shed direct light on this issue. According to the sole survivor of Acasta, the ship was not hit until she attacked Scharnhorst at about 18:30.
Ardent also had only one survivor, an AB stationed at X-gun who could contribute nothing of value with respect to communications.
The part played by HMS Devonshire
The HMS Devonshire was on passage from Norway to the UK with 461 passengers, among whom were the King of Norway, his family and the Norwegian Cabinet and their families.
Orders were to keep radio silence (broken the day after at 02:00 am to ask for an escort).
The MoD/NHB re-assesment lately admitted that Devonshire was closer than thought before (at least 80 sea miles) from the Glorious.
It has been established by naval specialist re-plot that at certain point (i.e. 17:20 CET) she was at less than 28 sea miles from the German ships, when Glorious first sight signal was originated and at around 40-45 sea miles from Glorious.
Similarly has been estimated that Devonshire, which kept sailing away increasing speed, was at 80 sea miles when she first received second signal (i.e. 18:20 CET) from Glorious.
Mod/NHB official position was that there were no evidences that on board Devonshire they knew about the Glorious position.
Both Midshipman D. Corkhill and Petty Officer Telegraphist T. Jenkins (Devonshire crew members) reported consternation on Devonshire bridge because of the ship keeping course and sailing away from Glorious after Adm J. Cunningham had ordered the Glorious position to be plotted (how could they have plotted the Glorious position without having received the signal with her position clearly stated?).
Furthermore, Major Owen reported that from Devonshire look-out top 2 mast-heads were seen on the east (probably Scharnhorst and Gneisenau), and this was also confirmed by Signalman Slocombe.
At 17:20, she started exercising her 203 mm (8 inch) main guns.
Devonshire was sailing at 27 knots from 22:16 of 7. June 1940 (for some like 3 hours in between she sailed 29 and a half knots).
At 18:23, she increased the speed to 30 knots starting zig-zag course, just when the Glorious was transmitting her last report.
Devonshire maintained 30 knots speed for more than 2 hours, till 20:32 CET.
|The British Survivors Calvary|
When at 19:20 of 8. June 1940 the Acasta was sunk the 2 German ships (Scharnhorst and Gneisenau) left the area with Scharnhorst damaged by the torpedo on the starboard side fired by Acasta.
No trials to rescue British survivors was made by the German ships due to the clear danger they were in.
The possibility to have other British ships reaching the area because of the Glorious radio transmission potentially been intercepted by heavy units (even if disturbed by the Gneisenau) togheter with the sailing difficulties of the Scharnhorst unable to sail full speed forced Admiral Wilhelm Marschall to leave the area in a hurry to reach Trondheim as soon as possible to save the damaged Scharnhorst.
At 19:30, the sea was calm, and almost 900 British survivors were floating on rafts waiting to be rescued, with a very limited availability of water and food on the carley floats or the rafts, on some of them nothing at all.
No help came from Royal Navy ships on the area even if 2 destroyers, HMS Vanoc and HMS Veteran were detached to join Glorious from a convoy and without knowing the carrier destiny sailed through the area without noticing anything strange, later they met the survivors on the Faroe Islands.
On the morning of 9. June 1940 the hospital ship Atlantis met the British battleship H.M.S. Valiant and reported the presence of the 2 German battleships she met on the morning 8. June 1940.
Only at that point British Admiralty became aware of Scharnhorst and Gneisenau presence and suspected Glorious destiny, close connecting this with HMS Devonshire report.
H.M.S. Southampton log for 9. June records: "12:55 body sighted in the water, altered course to investigate. 3 bodies seen in the water. 13:05 proceeded at 20 knots to re-join convoy."
H.M.S. Southampton noon position was 68°46'N, 03°40E. These bodies were almost certainly casualties from the previous day engagement.
At about 16:00 on 10. June 1940 the Norwegian SS Marita en route from Tromsø to Thorshavn sighted empty rafts, rafts with dead bodies, and heavy oil at 68°39'N, 04°05'E.
Between 23:45 on 10. June and 05:55 on 11. June the Norwegian merchant ship SS Borgund en route from Tromsø to Thorshavn, sighted 21 rafts at 68°15'N, 02°20'E and 67°59'N, 03°42'E rescuing 3 Officers and 35 sailors from Glorious and 1 from Acasta.
These men were landed at Thorshavn (Faeroe Islands) at 19:30 on 13 June and subsequently returned to the Firth of Forth in Scotland by HMS Veteran, they arrived in Rosyth on 18. June 1940.
5 Glorious sailors rescued from another Norwegian ship taken to Norway and became prisoners of war.
2 Ardent sailors were rescued from a German aircraft became prisoners of war.
Total of 46 were rescued from the sea, while 1.519 (Winton) or 1.530 (Plate) or 1.561 (Curry) or 1.474 lost their lives, probably more than 800 only because they weren't rescued in time.
On German ships (only Scharnhorst) casualties caused by Acasta torpedo were 48 men.
|The German Ships Back Home|
|When at 19:20, the Acasta was sunk the 2 German ships (Scharnhorst and Gneisenau) left the area with Scharnhorst damaged by the torpedo on the starboard side fired by Acasta.
The damages on Scharnhorst were severe. The turret and magazines was filled with smoke, gun crews were evacuated, and magazine flooding was ordered, but cancelled when no danger of fire was reported. The shell plating, which offered enough impact resistance to activate the warhead detonator, bore the brunt of the detonation, and a section 6 by 14 meters was destroyed. The explosion was deep enough so that a major portion of its energy was vented into the ship, where it tore the torpedo bulkhead from the armour deck and bent its top edge inboard 1,7 meters. That bulkhead was damaged from the level of the side armor to a platform above the shaft alley for 10 meters. Two transverse bulkheads, the battery deck and the first platform deck were damaged. The armor shelf and some adjacent structure were slightly damaged.
The torpedo struck at a point where the propeller shafts passed through the torpedo bulkhead, which had had to be knuckled to fit in place and accordingly had reduced ability to deflect elastically. Also, there was an inadequate connection of the torpedo bulkhead to the armor deck, and the structure was not continuous, so that stress flow could not transfer to adjoining structure. The bulkhead began to deflect elastically, as designed, but the upper end connection failed and permitted extensive flooding of inboard compartments. As a result of this damage, four of the 22 main watertight compartments had some flooding; 30 spaces in the area took on some 2.500 tons of water and 48 men perished. The Scharnhorst listed 3 degrees to starboard and was down 3 meters by the stern.
The propulsion plant was seriously affected by flooding and damage. The starboard shaft, which passed through the lower part of the underwater side-protection system abreast of turret Caesar, was destroyed, and the shaft alley began to flood immediately. A seaman was trapped there, and when another man opened a watertight door in a rescue attempt, the after engine room, which supplied power to the centerline shaft, began flooding so rapidly that it was impossible to properly secure the plant. One of the turbines, under maximum load, cooled so quickly that the housing came in contact with the turbine blades, and it had to be stopped. All steam connections were shut off in this space. With the starboard engine room also secured, the ship had only one shaft in operation.
Turret Caesar was out of action. Some compartments below the magazine were flooded, and electrical and other equipment in the magazine was damaged. Some cartridges and a few powder cases burned; many were damaged. The cartridge magazine contained 283 projectiles and cartridges combined, ready to be fed to the turret above. Other projectiles, without cartridges, were on a loading platform a few meters from the impact area.
The starboard after 150 mm twin turret was put out of action by flooding of subturret compartments and damage to the electrical system. The fire-control system for the after group of 105 mm guns was damaged.
The ship was limited to a maximum speed of 20 knots en route to Trondheim. Collision mats were rigged in an attempt to prevent further structural damage, but could not be secured, and the attempt was abandoned.
Casualties were 48 men on board Scharnhorst.
The Group returned to Trondheim were they arrived on 9. June 1940 at noon.
On the afternoon divers ascertained the extent of the damage, the hole was 12 x 4 meters. Emergency repairs were carried out by the repair ship Huascaran and the salvage ship Parat, the damage being temporarily patched over. Ammunition was replenished from the supply ship Alstertor.
On 10. June an RAF Coastal Command plane spotted the Scharnhorst, while Admiral Marschall sailed with Gneisenau Admiral Hipper and 4 destroyers, to come back the day after.
On 11. June a dozen Hudson bombers dropped 36 113 kg semi-armour-piercing bombs on the Scharnhorst, Gneisenau and Admiral Hipper from an altitude of 4.570 meters, but all missed.
The battleship Nelson and the aircraft carrier Ark Royal were then dispatched. On 13. June Ark Royal was 170 miles from Trondheim and launched 15 Skua bombers. They were intercepted by German fighters, and eight of them were shot down. The others attacked the Scharnhorst, but only one bomb hit was made and that one, although it penetrated the upper deck, failed to explode.
The propulsion turbine for the centerline shaft was repaired in 10 days. The damage to the starboard shaft was believed to be serious and could only be surveyed in a dry dock; since it was feared that the shaft had been severed by the explosion, the propeller was lashed to the hull.
On 18. June, Scharnhorst was running engine trials on the fjord, on 19. June the ships was declared ready to set sail at 24 knots.
By 20. June, two shafts were in operation and the ship sailed for Kiel escorted by 3 boats of the 1st Minesweeping Flotilla, the destroyers Hans Lody, Hermann Schoemann, Karl Galster and Erich Steinbrinck and the torpedo boats Greif and Kondor. At midday on 21. June the torpedo-boats Falke and Jaguar were also attached.
Gneisenau group was detached to attack British patrolling cruisers, covering Scharnhorst trip back.
At the 22:09 of 20. June 1940, Capt. Ingram on board submarine HMS Clyde spotted the German squadron and within 30 minutes he delivered a complete set of 6 torpedoes against Gneisenau.
One torpedo hit Gneisenau on the bow on the starboard side making a big hole.
Gneisenau re-entered Trondheim at 19 knots in the morning of 21. June 1940.
Repair ship Huascaran came along and activities started till 19. July 1940.
On 22. June at 05:30 she left Stavanger heading for Kiel.
At 17:30 the 23. June the group arrived at the southern part of the Great Belt and Scharnhorst made fast to buoy A12 in Kiel at 22:26. The battleship entered drydock "C" on the afternoon of 24. June.
That night the bodies of the dead crewmen were removed from the flooded stern rooms. The funerals were held on 27. June 1940.
The next six months were spent in making repairs, till 21. November 1940, than she went to Gothenhafen to run trials in the Baltic to return to Kiel on 19. December 1940.
Gneisenau was in repair in Trondheim during July 1940 and on 25. June she left Trondheim with Admiral Hipper, and 4 destroyers Hans Lody, Karl Galster, Paul Jacobi and Friedrich Ihn to return to Kiel were she arrived safely on 28. July 1940.
Gneisenau remained in Kiel until 21. October, then she went to the Baltic for trials and returned to Kiel on 19. December 1940, togheter with her sister ship.
|Technical Specifications and Photo Gallery|
|Link to the GLARAC Association Website|
|The GLARAC Association is for survivors and relatives to lost sailors from the sinking of H.M.S. Glorious, H.M.S. Ardent and H.M.S. Acasta. The name "GLARAC" is formed by the first two letters in each of the three lost ships, Glorious, Ardent, Acasta.|
|Fred Butcher, UK||Helped with map and on determining exact ship positions and Wireless Communications|
|Bill Jurens, Canada||Helped with map, information and good advice.|
|Gary Martin, UK||Supplied a lot of material from his private archive. Gary Martin is a relative to one of the lost sailors.|
|Mike Sellick, UK||Supplied a lot of material from his private archive. Mike Sellick is a relative to one of the lost sailors.|
|Tim Slessor, UK||Helped with a lot of valuable material|
|Randy Stone, USA||Helped with maps and destroyer info|
|Markus Titsch, Germany||Helped with German documents.|
|Thank you very much for the wonderful support to all involved.|
© John Asmussen, 2001 - 2010. All rights reserved.