In 1940, on this day, 8th April —the Captain of HMS Glowworm, Lieutenant Commander Roope’s actions had just earned him the first Victoria Cross of the Second World War.
In one of the most plucky sea-battles of the war, HMS Glowworm was alone, separated from the rest of the British force, and massively outgunned by German destroyer, Hipper. BUT that didn’t stop the commander proceeding to attack the 10,000-ton cruiser, in the 1,345-ton HMS Glowworm without any support!
And it was this courageous decision that later earned Lieutenant Commander Roope the highest military declaration for valour in the face of the enemy.
Forces War Records have Gerard Broadmead Roope’s record — we may have the record of your military ancestor too — our records are constantly being added to and updated.
Against all odds
HMS Glowworm was escorting the battle cruiser HMS Renown — part of a force sent by the Royal Navy to lay mines in Norwegian waters to prevent Swedish iron ore being exported to Germany, and to provoke a German reaction.
On the 7th April HMS Glowworm lost a man overboard, and later became detached from the British force while conducting a search. While trying to make its way back to the main force on the 8th April, it met two German Destroyers and their escorts — part of the German invasion force for Norway.
Against all odds, Lietenant Commander Roope was not deterred from attacking the German cruiser, despite his ship being massively outgunned by one ten times HMS Glowworm’s size.
“We immediately challenged her”, reported survivor Lietenant Robert Ramsay R.N.:
“and she replied that she was Swedish – then she opened fire”. A few moments later another destroyer was sighted, and the Glowworm began her gallant fight.
The battle developed into a slamming match, with the destroyers manoeuvring at full speed and firing with all guns.
“The ship was being thrown about and rolling very heavily. We lost two men overboard and several were injured by the roll of the ship, but we scored a hit on the leading enemy destroyer. They didn't hit us. Shortly afterwards they broke off the action and were obviously trying to lead us on to something more powerful.”
Although the Glowworm's Commanding Officer knew what the enemy was trying to do, he decided to follow with the sole purpose of inflicting as much damage as possible on the enemy before being sunk and fired torpedoes at the enemy.
However, the Glowworm soon became riddled with enemy fire and did indeed glow - it later came the order to abandon her before she capsized and sank. The loss of life was heavy and only 31 out of the Glowworm’s complement of 149 were saved.
Below is an exert from the london Gazette on the 6th July 1945:
Full information concerning this action has only recently been received and the Victoria Cross is bestowed in recognition of the great valour of the Commanding Officer who, after fighting off a superior force of destroyers, sought out and reported a powerful enemy unit, and then fought his ship to the end against overwhelming odds, finally ramming the enemy with supreme coolness and skill.
Tell me more about the Victoria Cross?
The Victoria Cross (VC) is the highest military decoration awarded for most conspicuous bravery, or some daring or pre-eminent act of valour or self-sacrifice, or extreme devotion to duty in the presence of the enemy. It can be awarded to members of the armed forces of various Commonwealth countries, and previous British Empire territories and to a person of any rank in any service and to civilians under military command.
Victoria Cross awards are always promulgated in the London Gazette with the single exception of the award to the American Unknown Soldier in 1921.
What does it look like?
What does it look like?
The decoration is a bronze cross pattée, 41 mm high, 36 mm wide, bearing the crown of Saint Edward surmounted by a lion, and the inscription for valour. This was originally to have been FOR THE BRAVE, until it was changed on the recommendation of Queen Victoria, as it implied that not all men in battle were brave.
The cross is suspended by a ring from a seriffed "V" to a bar ornamented with laurel leaves, through which the ribbon passes. The reverse of the suspension bar is engraved with the recipient's name, rank, number and unit.
On the reverse of the medal is a circular panel on which the date of the act for which it was awarded is engraved in the centre. The Original Warrant Clause 1 states that the Victoria Cross "shall consist of a Maltese cross of bronze". Nonetheless, it has always been a cross pattée; the discrepancy with the Warrant has never been corrected.
The ribbon is crimson, 38 mm (1.5 inches) wide. The original (1856) specification for the award stated that the ribbon should be red for army recipients and dark blue for naval recipients. However the dark blue ribbon was abolished soon after the formation of the Royal Air Force on 1 April 1918.
On 22 May 1920 King George V signed a warrant that stated all recipients would now receive a red ribbon and the living recipients of the naval version were required to exchange their ribbons for the new colour. Although the Army warrants state the colour as being red it is defined by most commentators as being crimson or "wine-red"
Perhaps one of your ancestors earned a Victoria Cross or other medals?
Your ancestor may have been awarded a Victoria Cross or another medal - maybe you know about it — or maybe you don't? Start searching our records today find out about the fantastic acts of bravery your family members may have been involved in. Look at our Medals section and click on the medal name for some descriptions...
Maybe you have you inherited some medals or/and memorabilia and don't know what they are? Pick our experts brains and we'll see if we can help you — get in touch via Customer support.
Forces War Records sell a range of replica Medals and for further research take a look at the material we have on medals and acts of bravery in our historic documents library including: The Bronze Cross, Ribbons and Medals and A Book of British Heroes.