The War Illustrated, No. 240, Vol. 10, August 30th 1946

Great Stories of the War Retold Evacuation o f theN arvik area was mainly carried out in two groups but owing to the variety o f vessels employed, it proved impos­sible to concentrate them all in a single body on cither occasion, some ships having there­fore to rely mainly on diversive routeing for their security. Despite these difficulties, the whole military force of 24,000 arrived safely in this country. The aircraft carriers Ark Royal and Glorious had been sent to Narvik from Scapa on May 31, the former to provide fighter protection during the evacuation and the latter to bring back from North Norway much-needed Gladiator and Hurricane air­craft of the R.A .F. There seems to have been a misplaced assumption that the Germans lacked enterprise, pre­ sum ably because for some months previously carriers and other heavy ships had been crossing the North Sea inde­pendently without inci­dent. For this .reason the Glorious was not allowed to accompany the second large group of ships returning, as her consort the Ark Royal did, but sailed indepen­dently. This unfortunate decision is understood to have been made on the grounds that otherwise the Glorious would not have had enough fuel left to get home. Thus at 03.00 on June 8 the Glorious parted from the Ark Royal, which wore the flag of the Admiral (Air), in a position 17 degrees N. by 14 degrees 10 minutes E. She was accompanied by the destroyers Acasta and Ardent as an anti-submarine escort. Unfortunately she was sent right into the jaws of the enemy. No Reconnaissance Aircraft Up An enemy squadron, comprising the battleships S charnhorst and G neisenau, ships o f nearly 32,000 tons each, armed with nine 11-in. guns, and the cruiser Admiral Hipper, of nearly 15,000 tons with eight 8-in. guns, had left Kiel on June 4 and passed Bergen at midnight on June 5-6. Their orders were to attack British convoys proceeding from the Narvik area. N o suspicion o f their presence seems to have been entertained by British Naval Intelligence at any rate, neither the Flag Officer, N arvik, nor the C.-in-C., Home Fleet, was aware o fit. At 8 on the morning o f June 8 the Admiral Hipper encountered the tanker Oil Pioneer, which she sank, rescuing 11 survivors. A Motto :"Through Fire and Water" H.M.S. ARDENT, sister-ship of the Acasta (see below), was sunk with her and the aircraft carrier Glorious on June 8, I94D, after an engagement with Scharnhorst and Gneisenau. The two destroyers laid a smoke-screen in an endeavour to assist the Glorious to escape and later fired their torpedoes at the German battleships. little later she did the same with the empty transport O ram a and the trawler Juniper, picking up 112 from these ships. Though the British hospital ship Atlantis saw the O ram a being shelled, the Geneva Convention precluded her reporting the fact by wireless, it maybe doubted if our enemies would have acted so scrupulously in such a case. Soon after 16.00 on the same day the Glorious sighted the two German battle­ships, the Admiral Hipper having put into Trondheim .No reconnaissance aircraft were up, nor had any been flown ofT since parting from the Ark Royal, or the encounter might have been avoided. As it was, the Glorious did her best to escape to the southward undercover o f a smoke-screen laid by the two destroyers. Though this caused the enemy to ceasefire for a time, the forward upper hangar had already been hit, destroying the Hurricane aircraft and preventing any torpedoes being got out before the fire curtains were lowered. About an hour after the enemy ships had first been sighted, a salvo hit the bridge o f the Glorious, and further heavy hits were sustained about 15 minutes later. Soon' after this the order was given to abandon ship, and she sank with a heavy list to starboard about 17.40. The carrier’s armament of 4‘7-in. guns was, o f course, quite useless against two such powerful adversaries. Both the destroyers were sunk, the Acasta about 17.28 and the Ardent at 18.08. They had duly fired torpedoes, one from the Ardent hitting the Scharnhorst abreast o f H.M.S. ACASTA, 1,350-ton j destroyer, gave her name to avery successful class, all of which exceeded the designed speed of 35 knots. Armament consisted of four 4’7-in. ar.d sis smaller guns, ar.d eight 21-in. torpedo tubes on quadruple mounts—these being the first destroyers in which tubes wcro thus mounted. PAGE 292 Photo, Wright and Logan Photo, Wright a:\d Logan her after 11-in. turret, 'inflicting severe damage. As the result o f this, the Scharn­ horst made for Trondheim under escort of her sister ship, their cruise being abandoned. They look with anthem officer and four ratings from the Glorious and one man from the Ardent as prisoners o f war. TV'o intelligible report of the action was 1 ^received by any British ship, though at 17.20 the cruiser D evonshire nearly 100 miles to the westward picked up the beginning o f a wireless signal addressed to the Vice-Admiral (Air) from the Glorious it must have been made as the ship was being abandoned. Unfortunately, with the exception o f the Ark Royal, Southampton and Coventry, other ships in the North Sea were keeping wireless watch on a different wave frequency. This applied to the Valiant, which was then about 470 miles to the south-westward. On the morning o f the following day that battleship made contact with the hospital ship Atlantis, which reported having seen a transport being attacked by the battleships Scharnhorst and G neisenau, and the heavy cruiser Hipper. This information was at once passed to the Commander-in-Chief at Scapa, who sailed with the Rodney, Renown and six destroyers to cover the convoys. _ First news o f the end o f the Glorious came from an enemy broadcast on June 9. Though diligent search was made for sur­vivors, aircraft from the Ark Royal actually passed close over a num­ber o f men on rafts outwith­ seeing them .Owing to the heavy sea, which capsized the A casta‘s boats, and the extreme cold, men soon perished, the total death roll in the three ships am o u n tot­ing 94 officers and 1,380 ratings, besides 41 R.A .F. personnel. The few who did survive were picked up by the little Norwegian steamer Borgund (341 tons gross), which landed them Tat horshavn, in the Faroe Islands (see map in page 291). Apart from the fact that aircraft carriers were extremely precious, the loss o f the Glorious must be accounted a sad waste o f the olives f brave men, most o f them of high professional qualifications, not easily re­placed. In the absence o f any official state­ment on the subject, it must be left to future historians o f the War, who presumably will have full access to all relevant documents, to award the blame, for the disaster, if any is due. Motto :"Remember your Ancestors"
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