Editor's Note—The Battle of Narvik, fought last April along the narrow, winding fiords of Norway, was one of the most unusual encounters in naval annals. Reports at the time were of necessity fragmentary. Maclean's now presents the complete and detailed story of this historic episode.
THE LITTLE Norwegian town of Narvik, with about 10,000 inhabitants, lies 135 miles north of the Arctic Circle and about thirty miles up the winding Ofot Fiord, which opens onto the wider Vest Fiord between the Lofoten Islands and the mainland.
The Swedish frontier is little more than twenty miles away, and Narvik, connected by railway with the Swedish ore fields, owes practically the whole of its industry to the export of iron ore. The harbor, which is well sheltered and never freezes, because of the Gulf Stream, was generally filled with steamers, and had wharves and jetties for their accommodation.
Much of the high quality ore used for Germany’s war effort was shipped at Narvik, to be carried thence through nearly a thousand miles of Norwegian territorial waters among and behind the islands, where it could not legitimately be intercepted by British warships.
On April 8, the British and French Governments announced the laying of mines at three points on the west coast of Norway “to deny the continued use by the enemy of stretches of territorial waters which are clearly of particular value to him.” In justification, the Allied Governments cited the brutality of the German campaign against neutral merchant shipping and fishing craft, and the threats and pressure which compelled Norway to allow German ships passage through territorial waters, while Norwegian shipping was sunk and Norwegian seamen murdered.
“The Allied Governments can no longer afford to acquiesce in the present state of affairs by which Germany obtains resources vital to her prosecution of the war, and obtains from Norway facilities which place the Allies at a dangerous disadvantage,” the official pronouncement said. Therefore, mines would be laid to prevent the unhindered passage of vessels carrying contraband of war through Norwegian territorial waters, though they would not interfere with the free access of Norwegian nationals or ships to their own ports and coastal hamlets.
One of these mine fields was laid near Bodo at the southern end of the Vest Fiord giving access to Ofot Fiord and Narvik, at which port, on April 8, there were at least twenty-four merchantmen, including five British, nine German, seven Swedish, two Norwegian and one Dutch. Some of the German vessels were there for the purpose of loading iron ore; but two at least were large cargo steamers of a type never seen at Narvik before, while on the afternoon of April 8, there arrived the Jan Wellem, of 12,000 tons, which was a whale-oil-refinery ship carrying a large amount of oil fuel.
Two Norwegian warships, the coast defense vessels Norge and Eidsvold, were also based on Narvik, and apparently took turns in patrolling outside for the purpose of maintaining Norwegian neutrality.
On that same day, much farther in the south, off Lillesand. on the Norwegian shore of the Skagerrak, a German transport, the Rio de Janeiro, was intercepted and torpedoed by a British submarine. Bound from Stettin to Bergen, she carried German troops in uniform.
In the early morning of April 9, Germany invaded Denmark and Norway—Oslo, Stavanger, Bergen, Trondheim and Narvik, among other ports, being occupied by German troops.
The circumstances in which they were put ashore are already well known. At Narvik, according to competent eyewitnesses, between 1,500 and 2,000 soldiers landed at five a.m. and obtained possession of the little town without serious resistance from the Norwegians. As at Oslo, it is possible Narvik was handed over by treachery.
Some of these troops are said to have come from the Jan Wellem and various German cargo ships, where they had been concealed. Others were landed from German destroyers, which ran into the harbor at dawn in the midst of a heavy snowstorm. It was disclosed in German broadcasts that most of the soldiers in the destroyers were Austrian Alpine troops, herded together like cattle for a voyage of more than a thousand miles. For most of the journey there was a heavy sea, and, according to the German commentator, the soldiers learned to know its “most violent and impressive nature.”
The Norwegian warship Eidsvold was apparently sunk in the fiord outside. According to the testimony of Captain Charles Evans, master of the British steamer North Cornwall, the Norge was torpedoed in the harbor. Captain Evans saw a huge explosion amidships, and the ship broke in half and sank in about a minute. He heard the cries of men in the water.
Only twenty were saved of the 500-odd which formed the crews of the Norge and Eidsvold, and at this time, let it be noted, Germany was not at war with Norway. The invasion and seizure of the ports was declared to be a "peaceful occupation.”
So Narvik passed temporarily into German hands.
Loss of the Glowworm
IT WAS obvious that the German decision to invade Denmark and Norway had been made long before the Anglo-French announcement about the laying of mines. Troops cannot be concealed in cargo ships, or sent on board warships or transports for voyages up to a thousand miles, in a matter of twenty-four hours. The plans, carefully worked out, were prepared long beforehand. Indeed, the British mine fields were laid at daylight on April 8, and the day before British aerial reconnaissance over the North Sea had discovered German battle cruisers, cruisers and destroyers on their way north. The British Fleet promptly left Scapa Flow to intercept and bring them to action.
On the afternoon of April 7, the British destroyer Glowworm, of the mine-laying force detailed for the Vest Fiord, lost a man overboard in heavy weather and stayed behind to pick him up. At eight o’clock the next morning, steaming north to rejoin her force, she sighted first one, and then two, enemy destroyers. She promptly engaged them, and they retired under a smoke screen.
The Glowworm next reported an unknown ship to the northward. Her last wireless message ceased abruptly, for within a few moments she was in action with an enemy cruiser and several destroyers. Sunk after a gallant fight against overwhelming odds, some of her crew were picked up by the Germans.
At daylight on April 9, off Narvik, the British battle cruiser Renown was also in action with the Scharnhorst and Hipper. It was blowing a full gale with a heavy sea and fierce snowstorms when the Renown opened fire at 18,000 yards. The Scharnhorst replied, but almost immediately turned away, the Renown chasing at twenty-four knots with the seas breaking over her forward turrets. The German, heavily hit, ceased firing, and retired at full speed to the southward, the cruiser Hipper coming into action and throwing a smoke screen across her wake.
Firing was intermittent because of the squalls of snow and sleet shutting out the view, but did not finally cease until the Germans disappeared at a range of 29,000 yards.
On this same day the main portion of the British Fleet was at sea in about the latitude of Bergen, when it was continuously attacked by German aircraft. Various mendacious reports were put out by the German radio of battleships and cruisers being sunk or seriously damaged. In point of fact, two cruisers were slightly damaged by splinters, while one heavy bomb struck the flagship Rodney. The thick deck armor withstood the impact, and her only casualties were ten wounded. The cruiser Aurora was subjected to five successive bombing attacks, which all failed. The destroyer Gurkha, however, which was accompanying the Aurora, was hard hit and sank after four and a half hours, all but fifteen of her crew being saved.
More or less simultaneously with these operations, British submarines were busy in the Skagerrak and Kattegat taking heavy toll of the transports and supply ships keeping up communication with the German forces in Norway.
On the afternoon of April 9, five British destroyers, the Hardy, Hotspur, Hostile, Havock and Hunter, were in the Vest Fiord between the southern part of the Lofoten Islands and Norway. From what the First Lord of the Admiralty afterward said in the House of Commons, their orders were to attack the enemy who had got into Narvik, and especially to destroy the store ships in which they had smuggled their soldiers up the Norwegian corridor, and on which they must depend for working up the efficiency of their defenses. It was to be expected that the enemy had landed a certain number of guns in the twenty-four hours they had been there.
The British flotilla was under the command of Captain Bernard A. W. Warburton-Lee, in the Hardy, and at four in the afternoon he closed the Norwegian pilot station at Tranoy, at the mouth of the waterway leading to Narvik. Two officers were landed to discover what they might. They learned that Narvik itself was in German hands, and that there were in the fiord at least six enemy destroyers, ships larger and more powerfully armed than the Hardy and her consorts.
The news was sent back to the Admiralty by wireless. “Shall I go in?” Captain Warburton-Lee asked.
The Admiralty thought the operation so hazardous that at one o’clock on the morning of April 10 they replied that the captain must be the sole judge of whether to attack or not. Whatever he did, whatever happened, the Admiralty would support him.
“Going Into Action”
TO A MAN of Warburton-Lee’s mettle, the answer could not be in doubt. He had served much of his thirty-two years in destroyers, and was imbued with all the dash and élan of the destroyer service. Back to the Admiralty in Whitehall, thirteen hundred miles away, went the message: “Going into action.” He intended to attack at dawn.
Captain Warburton-Lee signalled to his flotilla, informing them of his plan, and at three o’clock, when it was still dark, the five ships ceased their patrol and formed up in line ahead.
There was a slight easterly breeze, with mist and heavy snow—so difficult to see that the ships had to use electric clusters to keep touch. Led by the Hardy, they groped their way through the grey void into the one-and-a-half-mile-wide entrance to the Ofot Fiord. So low was the visibility that except once, when they nearly struck the rocks at the water’s edge, they never sighted the high, snow-covered hills on either side. The Ofot Fiord is really a deep submarine valley with depths of a hundred fathoms and more within a stone’s throw of the shore. Toward the entrance, the depths in the centre run down to three hundred fathoms, or 1,800 feet. In the fiord off Narvik there are a hundred fathoms and more, the harbor itself shallowing to twenty fathoms and less.
Creeping on at moderate speed, the British flotilla was off Narvik at ten minutes to five. It was snowing hard. The harbor is a roughly circular pocket about a mile long and the same distance across, with an entrance about half a mile wide. Detailing his other four ships to patrol outside, Captain Warburton-Lee took the Hardy in alone. One must imagine her rippling through the calm water in the grey half-light of the dawn, with her crew at action stations and the guns and torpedo tubes manned. The hearts of all on board must have been beating a little faster.
A merchant ship was anchored near the entrance, and for the moment nothing else could be seen. Passing her, however, the Hardy sighted a dense cluster of ships lying at anchor off the town. With them was a large enemy destroyer.
It was a matter of split seconds. Turning to port, the Hardy increased speed and fired torpedoes. As she was swinging, two more enemy destroyers came into view, at which she fired torpedoes and opened fire with every gun that would bear. Amid the roar of her 4.7’s there came the thud of a deeper explosion as one of her first torpedoes found its billet. A burst of red flame shot into the air from the first enemy destroyer. It was accompanied by an upheaval of spray and smoke, and showers of bright sparks which looked as though some giant had taken a running kick at a bonfire. Burst asunder, the German sank, to carry her dead and dying with her. The unwounded cast themselves overboard into the icy cold water.
The attack seems to have come as a surprise; but on her way out, having fired her torpedoes, the Hardy was hotly engaged by the five-inch guns of two German destroyers and more artillery mounted ashore. Then the four other British came in hotfoot to the attack, their guns roaring out against the enemy and smiting them savagely, and torpedoes wreaking havoc among the densely clustered transports and store ships.
Then the Hardy came in a second time, to be heavily engaged by the heavier guns of the destroyers and shore batteries, and to hammer away in return. She withdrew, and her consorts came in again, firing once more at the shore defenses and destroyers. The enemy guns ceased firing, though six torpedoes passed close by the Hardy as she made her way into the open fiord.
Captain Warburton-Lee led a third attack, but opposition seemed to have ceased. One destroyer and six supply ships or transports were thought to be sunk or sinking. Others were on fire.
In point of fact, the destruction was even greater. Captain Evans, of the North Cornwall, with others from the British steamers Mersington Court and Blythmoor, had been made prisoners soon after the German occupation and put on board the Jan Wellem. From the deck of that ship Captain Evans witnessed the attacks. “It was like being in the front row of the stalls,” he said, “except that shells were whistling all round us, torpedoes exploding, guns banging, and ships blowing up, sinking and bursting into flame.”
The Jan Wellem was being used for fuelling the destroyers, and Captain Evans saw the destroyer actually lying alongside at the time, torpedoed and sunk in a huge explosion. Another, torpedoed or battered by gunfire, lay with her bows underwater. A third was sinking by the stern, while a fourth, lying alongside a jetty, was blazing like a bonfire.
“I never saw anything to equal it,” he said. “Ships all round us, destroyers and merchant ships, were sinking and on fire. Our chaps seemed to come in again and again, loosing off their guns and slamming in every torpedo they had. The harbor was a shambles of sunk and burning or sinking ships.”
THE SOUND of firing had been heard by others. Other German craft lay at anchor in the branching arms of the main fiord, and on her way out, while actually turning to the westward at the head of her flotilla for the thirty-mile dash to the open sea, the Hardy sighted three enemy destroyers steaming full speed toward her from the eastward, the direction of Rombaks Fiord.
The British increased speed to thirty knots and opened fire at the Germans, about three thousand yards astern and coming up fast. The enemy replied. Once more the air became filled with the roar of guns, the crash of exploding shells, and the eerie screech and whining as they drove through the air. The calm water vomited fountains of spray as projectiles fell wide. It was broad daylight now, and the mist had almost gone.
Gathering speed as her turbines were opened out, the Hardy was still swinging to the westward when two more enemy destroyers appeared ahead, barring the passage to the sea. Like those astern, they were larger ships than the British, armed with heavier guns. They were immediately engaged.
It was a battle of five against five, but the odds were overwhelming. The British had already been in hot action, and were now caught between fires. Shells rained upon them from two directions, but they fought desperately.
Almost at once the Hardy was badly hit forward, the two foremost guns being put out of action, and the bridge reduced to a mass of tangled wreckage. Captain Warburton-Lee fell, mortally wounded. Lieutenant Charles P. W. Cross, the signal officer, was killed outright, and Lieutenant Commander Russel C. Cordon-Smith, the navigating officer, seriously wounded. Every officer or man on the bridge except one was killed, wounded or stunned, the only one left being Paymaster-Lieutenant Geoffrey H. Stanning, the captain’s secretary, and he with his left foot useless through a wound. The after guns were still firing under the orders of Lieutenant-Commander Victor G. D. Mansell, the first lieutenant.
Recovering himself, Stanning suddenly realized he was alone amid the wreckage, with the dead and dying all around him. The ship was steaming fast, with no one at the helm, the wheelhouse having been hit. He lowered himself painfully down a steep ladder to find the wheelhouse a shambles, with the coxswain and other men killed or wounded. So Stanning himself took the wheel and steered, peering out through a shell gash in the steel plating. There was no one to give him orders from the bridge.
Then an able seaman appeared, and the paymaster-lieutenant gave him the wheel, climbed back to the bridge and took charge of the ship. The firing continued, and he had no notion of what was happening aft. But abreast of the Hardy, firing gun after gun at almost point-blank range, was an enemy destroyer. Stanning had the idea of putting the helm over to ram her, when the Hardy was badly hit in the engine room. Steam pipes were shattered, and the Hardy began to lose her way through the water. There was nothing more to be done. Still under heavy fire, Stanning gave orders for the helm to be put over to run the ship ashore. She was practically stopped by the time she grounded on the rocks three or four hundred yards from the shore under fire at short range. Her last remaining gun still blazed defiance.
The Hunter had been sunk, apparently being hit by a full salvo as she turned, and foundering in less than a minute, while the Hotspur and Hostile were damaged.
But the Germans had not come off scatheless. Some of them had been heavily hit and were on fire. They refrained from pursuing the four remaining British as they limped out to sea, sinking on their way the Rauenfels, carrying ammunition and explosives. She went up with a roar in a column of smoke and flame more than a thousand feet high.
Gallantry of Survivors
MEANWHILE orders had been given for the survivors of the Hardy to abandon ship, which they proceeded to do under fire without a boat that would float.
"We piled overboard as best we could and swam ashore,” one of the men said. "It was so cold after we got into the water, there was no feeling in our hands or feet. We had a hundred yards to swim, and at least another two hundred to wade.”
The desperately wounded captain was lashed in a stretcher, lowered into the icy water, and towed ashore by Mr. John W. McCracken, the gunner, and one rating, but was dead when the shore was reached.
Lieutenant George R. Heppel saved at least five men who could not swim by swimming backward and forward between the ship and the shore. Chief Stoker Styles, who was seriously wounded and afterward died on shore, was taken there by Lieutenant-Commander Mansell and Stoker Petty Officer Carey. There were numerous instances of self-sacrifice and gallantry on behalf of others.
According to one survivor’s account, about 170 officers and men got ashore, many of them grievously wounded. Seventeen had been killed in the fight, and two more were missing.
Some hundreds of yards away from the shore where they landed there was a cluster of small wooden houses. Shivering and numb with cold, the men dragged themselves thither through snow that in places was six feet deep, taking their wounded with them. The houses had been evacuated during the battle, but the inhabitants soon returned.
Eighty of the Hardy's people went to the little dwelling of Mrs. Christiansen, who, with her daughter, distributed food and all the clothing they had.
As one of the men said, "The girl took off her coat and jumper, and gave them to those of us who needed clothing most. They made us tea and coffee, and prepared bread and butter. They gave us all they had, and we were thankful for it. All there was in that house was women’s clothes, and we had to make shift with that. We got underwear of various sorts, skirts and jumpers. The women even tore up carpets for coverings, and pulled down curtains and cut them up too. We cut up lifebelts and used them as shoes.”
The time was about eight o’clock, and much had happened since dawn. With the party were nine seriously wounded, and others with slighter injuries. Surgeon-Lieutenant A. P. B. Waind, Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve, himself wounded, did all he could for the suffering. Their bearing was very courageous. We learn from the official account that Able Seaman Geoffrey Bailey, half frozen with cold and with one hand shot off, sat for one and a half hours and never murmured.
The most important consideration for the moment was to get succor for the wounded, and a Norwegian telephoned to Ballangen, some fifteen miles away on the south side, which place sent a doctor and an ambulance. The snow was thick. For the greater part of the distance the frozen road was little more than a rough track filled with ruts and potholes. Some of the wounded went in the ambulance. Others were lashed to sledges and dragged by their shipmates, bearing the heavy jolting with the greatest fortitude.
At Ballangen, the Hardy's party were joined by Captain Evans, of the North Cornwall, with forty-six officers and men from the British merchant ships at Narvik. Landed on the south side of the harbor after the British attack, they managed to “lose” their German guards and get away, walking about twenty-five miles to safety.
At Ballangen all members of the party were housed in a new school building with central heating. They were amply provided with food and clothing, for which the generous inhabitants scoured the countryside. There they remained from Wednesday, April 10, until about noon on Saturday, the 13th. Then, as said one of the Hardy's men, they became aware that something was happening.
"We heard the sound of guns as a battleship started firing. We saw three German destroyers come out patrolling, and then they turned back, and we saw three of our destroyers come zigzagging up the fiord.”
Arrival of the Warspite
THEY watched with breathless excitement. Then someone raised a cheer. Others shouted. "Go on, boys! Let ’em have it!”
Next, to quote our informant, “We saw our destroyers driving the Germans on ahead, with the Warspite firing over the top of them in the direction of Narvik. Then up came the Warspite, though we didn’t know her name till later, and the battle swept past us.”
Once more the air shook to the rolling crash and thunder of guns; but heavier metal this time.
It was a grey, misty day, with low clouds and drizzling rain, so that the snowy hills more than five miles away on the opposite shore were invisible. Those men from the Hardy, we are told, could hardly believe their eyes when they saw a great battleship steaming past them. Her guns flashed defiantly, and sent the billowing clouds of dun-colored cordite smoke rolling in her wake. It was a goodly sight to see that grey ship with her battle flags fluttering in the breeze. Adding their puny voices to the roar of artillery, those officers and men from the Hardy, with some of the merchant seamen from the North Cornwall, cheered and cheered again.
The battleship Warspite, of 30,600 tons, flew the flag of Vice-Admiral W. J. Whitworth. Mounting eight fifteen-inch and eight six-inch guns, she was originally completed in 1915, and played a prominent part as one of the Fifth Battle Squadron at the Battle of Jutland.
Her aircraft, laden with bombs, were catapulted off just before their parent ship entered the Ofot Fiord. They flew off in the direction of Narvik to reconnoitre.
Leading the British force was the destroyer Icarus, armed with four 4.7-inch guns and ten torpedo tubes. There were also the destroyers Hero, Foxhound and Forester of similar gun armament, but with two fewer torpedo tubes; the Kimberley, completed just before the war and armed with six 4.7’s; and the Cossack, Bedouin, Eskimo and Punjabi, all 1,870 tonners of the Tribal class, armed with eight 4.7’s.
The force was considerable; but it was known that several German destroyers were in the Ofot Fiord or its various branches. They were destroyers of the Roeder class, each armed with five five-inch guns and eight torpedo tubes. Under cover of the mist, they might easily deliver a torpedo attack on the Warspite. U-boats might also be present. However, these risks had to be taken, with the additional danger of navigating a deep-draught battleship in a narrow fiord on a small-scale chart in misty weather.
The enemy was on the alert and patrolling, for just before half-past noon a German destroyer showed up from the mist on the south side of the fiord and was instantly engaged by five British before she turned away and vanished. Passing the remains of the Rauenfels—the German munition ship destroyed three days earlier by the Havock—which was aground and still smoking, two more enemy destroyers were sighted to starboard before one o’clock. Both were engaged; the Warspite herself opening fire. The enemy replied.
Meanwhile the British were approaching Ballangen Bay, an indentation on the south side of Ofot Fiord, where the battleship’s aircraft, using wireless, had reported the presence of another enemy destroyer. Sighted by the Icarus at seven minutes past one, the pair were soon in hot action, in which the Bedouin, Punjabi and Eskimo presently joined. Fighting desperately, the German was overwhelmed by the murderous fire poured into her. In eight minutes she was burning from end to end, though one gun remained obstinately in action until knocked out by a six-inch shell from the Warspite.
The British light craft were still being engaged by two Germans to the eastward, which were presently joined by several others, until there were six of them zigzagging to and fro ahead and being driven to the eastward. The Icarus, Bedouin, Punjabi and Eskimo, having dealt with their first opponent, then joined in with the battle ahead.
High Speed Battle
IT WAS a confused, high-speed scurry, with all ships firing as fast as their guns could be loaded while twisting and turning to fire torpedoes or dodge enemy salvos. The enemy, unable to escape, were being driven to the eastward, and soon showed signs of distress. One ship after another was badly hit and burst into flame. Within half an hour three had been destroyed—one burning fiercely in Ballangen Bay; a second drifting helplessly off Narvik with her survivors abandoning ship and swimming for the shore; and a third hard and fast on the rocks on the north side of Herjangs Fiord with a dense cloud of black smoke pouring out of her.
For the Germans it was a holocaust, their senior officer, Commodore Bonte, and many officers and men being killed, drowned or wounded. As for the British, not a ship had been hit or a man wounded. Already the Hardy and Hunter had been amply avenged.
Meanwhile, by half-past one, aircraft of the fleet air arm had attacked the harbor at Narvik, and the Warspite, assisted by the Cossack, Punjabi and Foxhound, was bombarding the enemy’s shore guns round the port. The Cossack, Captain P. L. Vian, already famous for her boarding of the Altmark in the ice-strewn waters of the Josing Fiord on the night of February 16 and rescuing 299 British prisoners, closed the shore batteries to within less than half a mile and silenced a howitzer.
Later, according to one account, the Foxhound, and possibly other destroyers as well, went right in among the wrecks in Narvik harbor and was engaged by a damaged German destroyer lying alongside. She returned the fire at less than a hundred yards, and drove the crew ashore, hastening their flight with a few more shells.
The destroyer action had become a chase, and four enemy destroyers, one of them severely hit, fled up Rombaks Fiord, to the east of Narvik, dropping smoke floats as they went.
The fiord, about ten miles long, has an entrance roughly three quarters of a mile wide. Then it broadens a little, until, five miles up, it is separated from the inner part of the fiord, less than half a mile wide, by a moraine which restricts the navigable channel to a passage about 200 yards wide through which the tide sets strongly.
It was through this narrow gullet that the four German destroyers fled, with the Eskimo, Forester, Hero, Bedouin and Icarus in pursuit.
From outside this entrance to the inner fiord, it was impossible to see what lay beyond, and no sooner had the Eskimo put her bows through the passage than she came under heavy fire from a damaged enemy destroyer beached on the southern shore. The Forester was with her; both ships replying.
Then the Hero came up in support; but could get no farther, for lack of manoeuvring room. Meanwhile, the Eskimo, in hot action, silenced the enemy’s guns and set her ablaze, herself being damaged in the process.
Feeling their way, the Hero and Bedouin then went ahead, being cheered wildly by the other ships’ companies.
The Icarus and Kimberley followed the others into the inner fiord. The navigation was extremely difficult, with a waterway less than a quarter of a mile wide; but rounding the next bend, they were able to see what lay ahead. Hard up against the ice fringing the beach at the very end of the fiord were three German destroyers, or what remained of them. One, with no signs of life on board, lay broadside onto the shore and appeared to be undamaged. Another was on fire in the stern; but seemed intact. The third, in the centre, lay with her stern submerged and only her bows showing above the surface.
The British destroyers fired a few shells, but ceased when there was no reply. All three of the enemy ships seemed to have been deserted.
A little later, the Icarus and Hero sent in boats with armed parties to search the two Germans that were still afloat. The boats were on their way in when the northernmost enemy rolled slowly over to starboard, remained there for perhaps a minute, and then disappeared. Scuttled by her own crew, she had foundered in deep water.
Guns Silenced Ashore and Afloat
THE remaining destroyer, the Hans Ludemann, was boarded, the German ensign hauled down, and rehoisted with the white ensign over it. The ship, which was still burning, had no one on board except one wounded officer in a stretcher, and he was taken to the Hero as a prisoner of war. Exposed films found on board the vessel were afterward developed and found to contain photographs of the German troops landing at Narvik and German destroyers damaged in the earlier attack.
Salvage of the Hans Ludemann, a large destroyer of 1,800 tons, was impossible, so the Hero lay off and fired a torpedo, which hit the German under the bridge. The whole vessel seemed to lift in the air and to disintegrate.
That day seven enemy destroyers were completely shattered and the shore batteries silenced, at a toll of three British destroyers damaged. Leaving two destroyers in occupation of the fiords, Vice-Admiral Whitworth gave the signal for withdrawal.
At Ballangen, as has already been described, some of the men from the Hardy and the British merchant ships had seen the opening of the battle. Some of them went down to the beach in a motor car, and later a Norwegian coasting vessel came in with a German motorboat in tow. The motorboat was in working order, so it was “borrowed” by Lieutenant Heppel, who embarked with Captain Evans, of the North Cornwall, and some others, with the idea of intercepting one of the British ships to tell her of the British at Ballangen. They got on board the destroyer Ivanhoe at about eight o’clock, and that ship landed twenty-four armed Seamen, who took charge of the village. Some twenty wounded were left behind in the hospital; but between 130 and 140 officers and men from the Hardy, together with forty-seven merchant seamen, were ferried off to the Ivanhoe.
Later, during the night, 120 Germans from one or more of the sunken merchant ships entered the village, and without much ado surrendered to the armed party from the Ivanhoe. One hundred and twenty Germans were more than could be accommodated on board a destroyer which already had more than double her normal complement and might later be in action. On the other hand, the local Norwegians did not wish the prisoners to be released. So, when the landing party from the Ivanhoe was re-embarked, some of the local inhabitants were provided with rifles and ammunition, so that they could act as armed guards.
So were fought the two battles of Narvik, which resulted in the destruction of eight or ten German destroyers of the largest and most up-to-date type, and the sinking of many supply ships.
Both engagements were unusual, in that they were fought in the restricted waters of a Norwegian fiord—beyond the Arctic Circle—waters which had never been regarded as a possible battleground, and in any case were more suited to the operations of small gunboats than large, high-speed destroyers designed and built for work in the open ocean.
Both actions were fought with gallantry, skill, dash, and a complete disregard of consequences—shining examples of destroyer work which will be remembered long after the ships engaged have disappeared into scrap.