Winston Churchill's Warning
This page is the beginning of the "Naval History" section; all Links in this section are on this page. To follow the Links in order click-on the highlighted Link displayed at the bottom of the page; or use the links shown at the side.
The previous page was: "Royal Marines Charities"
Nothing, Nothing in the World, Nothing that you may think of or dream of, or anyone else may tell you; no argument, however seductive, must lead you to abandon that Naval Supremacy on which the life of our Country depends.
Winston Churchill 26/11/1918
Royal Marines Charities
The Illustrious Churchills
H.M.S. Warspite the greatest Battleship ever
I, by no means, can give you the whole "History" of the Navy. My intentions are to try and add on a regular basis, to give a brief historical general view, of England's Navies through the centuries.
Starting from the Round Ships in 1340, and through the "Private Navies" to the present day Royal Navy. The various aspects of men, their ships and their weapons are highlighted with the hyperlinks below; and in that order.
Englands First Navies
The New Navy
Sail Of The Line
Ship Of The Line
The Royal Navy formed in 1600
Britain's Senior Service the Royal Navy, have so many battle honours it is impossible to choose which might be the best to describe; they also have so many heroes of all ranks it is also impossible to choose which one might be the best to
The most inportant item for any navy is their Ships which I feel might be the better place to make a start; so I have chosen to mention H.M.S. Warspite the eighth ship to bear her name; she was the greatest battleship ever that history can recall.
Despite the best efforts of the Germans no single ship would acquire more battle honours. In the spring of 1940 just two had been added to her honours board; Jutland 1916, Atlantic 1939. By the days end Narvik 1940 would join them.
Typical Line Ship
Order of Ships
Heart of Oak
Royal Navy hunting for the enemy
Through scattered snowstorms H.M.S. Warspite charged up Vestfjord protected by her destroyers on either side. Although the weather was very grim Warspite sent her seaplane aloft. Shortly before mid-day, and some 30 miles from Narvik, her swordfish was catapulted into the sky over the entrance to
Pilot P.O. 'Ben' Rice steered the redoubtable aircraft east, he could fly no higher than 1,000 feet thanks to the low cloud. Within 10 minutes, the swordfish had spotted a German ship the Hermann Kunne patrolling in the middle of the fjord, followed by the Erich Koellner further east. She opened fire on the biplane, also sending a warning to the destroyers in Narvik harbour to gather steam for an impending battle.
Warship and Merchantman
Old for New
Getting ready for action
Aboard Warspite, Royal Marine Duff Cooper was filled with "a combination of excitement and not a little fear" as the men closed up in their turrets. "The sweet, sickly smell of cordite spread throughout the turret as the silk bags of explosive were rammed behind the huge 15inch shell," he recalled. "The breeches closed, we stood by, and waited for our orders."
Fighter and Seaman
An unmistakable outline
Above the Swordfish scoured the inlets of Ofotfjord, turning up Herjangsfjord hugging the northern shore of the bay was the unmistakable outline of a submarine, on the surface, anchored a few yards from the jetty.
Ben Rice was determined to "have a go" at the u-boat which he did from 300 feet, he dropped two 100lb bombs while his machine-gunner exchanged bullets with the German submarine. It was the bombs that did the trick, one hit the bow and the other hit the conning tower.
The U-64, which had left Wilhelmshaven just a week before, sank by her bows in just under one minute. The waters were sufficiently shallow that her stern stuck out. The Swordfish had yet more to offer.
The Erich Koellner - unseaworthy after an accidently running aground in the fjords - lay in wait in a cove near Djupvik, her guns and torpedoe tubes directed into the fjord.
Ex Warrant Officers
Enter the battleship Warspite
As for the Hermann Kunne, she was scurrying east down the fjord laying a smokescreen over the water while her comrades emerged from Narvik harbour to join her. That they did. The German destroyers zig-zagged furiously across Ofotfjord, posing a tricky target for the advancing British ships.
For the first ten minutes or so this was the destroyer's battle, but when the Warspite entered the fray. In the confined waters of the fjord, the morale effect alone was awsome.
"The cumulative effect of the roar of Warspite's 15-inch guns reverberating down and around the high mountains of the fjord, the bursts and slashes of these great shells must have been terrifying," the vice-admiral wrote.
When Warspite's turrets opened-up
It was the crippled Erich Koellner who was to feel the force of the battleship's mighty guns. The German destroyer had already been battered by four British warships before the Warspite trained her turrets on her.
"Imagine, if you can, four 15-inch shells, each weighing one ton and packed with high explosive, hitting a thin skinned destroyer," recalled AB H Banks on Warspite.
And we can only imagine, because none of the Koellner's crew
has left an account of the battering she received. Six 15-inch shells crashed into the ill-fated destroyer simultaneously. lifting her out of the water onto the beach and then she slid back down again.
Battle off Dover
Heavy fighting in restricted waters
There remained five German destroyers in battle and one in harbour but over-all there were more than a dozen warships with their guns belching fire and steel, their torpedoe tubes occasionally hurling their weapons into the water. Their quarries taking evasive action, maneouvering despite the restricted waters.
The Hermann Kunne headed up Herjangsfjord; there was no fight left in the destroyer - literally. She had fired all her shells. Her captain, Friedrich Kothe, was not a 'death or glory' leader; he chose to beach his ship and scuttle her.
Which perhaps he did. For as the seacocks were opened and scuttling charges fired, the Hermann Kunne was rocked by a huge explosion. She died, possibly by her own hand, or possibly by a torpedoe fired from H.M.S. Eskimo.
Kings Knight 1350
The Great Gun
German destroyer dogged with engine trouble
In Narvik harbour the German destroyer dogged by engine problems finally got underway; it was too late to join the remainder of the flotilla making for Rombaksfjord. She would face the entire British force on her own.
Her captain, Karl Smidt had only enough ammunition for a ten-minute fight. In the face of overwhelming odds, determined to inflict as much damage on the enemy as possible he set sail for battle. He knew his ship would not survive the engagement.
Barely had she cast off when she broke down, stuck in the harbour entrance for 13 minutes; despite being at the mercy of the British guns and torpedoes she fought valiantly - but to no avail. Her torpedoes scored no hits. Firing had ceased - all guns were out of action or short of ammunition.
Smidt ordered his men to abandon ship; they leapt into the fjord where many succumed to the icy cold water. Some of the crew made it to the shore. A shell from the Warspite struck the face of the rocky cliff, bringing down an avalanche of rock on top of the German crew.
A journey up the fjord of no return
In harbour there was still the Von Roeder although crippled and tied up she was still able to fire her guns - and she fought as well as any German ship that day, despite being unable to move.
In the space of two-minutes she sent seven shells into H.M.S. Cossack - sending the British destroyer out of control and causing her to run aground.
The Von Roeder had to bow out of the fight her ammunition was expended, her crew set the scuttling charges and ran ashore. The Destroyer exploded and settled in shallow water by the jetty.
Armada Going Home
Reducing the risk of losing secrets
The four surviving German destroyers were steaming into Rombaksfjord from whence there would be no return.
Only two still had any fight left in them; their sisters had used up all of their ammunition and made for the end of the 14-mile fjord where they were run aground.
Five Royal Navy destroyers persued led by H.M.S. Eskimo her captain Cdr St John Mickelthwait acknowledged that he was running a certain amount of risk; entering the beast's lair. It was a risk he readily accepted.
Risks had to be taken
As Eskimo passed through the narrows the nearest German destroyer sent her four remaining torpedoes racing down the fjord; they were close but they all missed by inches thanks to some particularly deft manoeuvering from Eskimo.
In avoiding the nearest German destroyer Eskimo left herself exposed to the other German destroyer who fired its last remaining torpedoe; which hit the Eskimo and carried away the bows of the ship; and the forward medical station disapeared with its staff. The Eskimo continued the fight with her No.2 turret as if nothing had happened.
H.M.S. Hero sailed past the mauled ship; her sailors cheered the
brave men of the Eskimo. After the battle Eskimo was towed away and repaired and fought on through the remainder of the war.
The nearest German destroyer put up a smoke screen to hold the Royal Navy at bay while the other three raced for the shore and grounded where they were destroyed by deomlition teams.
The remaining destroyer was sacrficed to give the other three the chance to scuttle. When the navy boarded the ship it was deserted, all papers were burnt and the German signalers still in the office lay at their desks in pools of blood with their heads removed.
Battles at Narvik
Not all naval life is deadly serious; below decks you need a good sense of humour to while the time away. The new pressed men had to learn the lingo of the seamen quickly.
Many of those words and phrases that are in common use today can be traced back to the laguage of the the seafarers. The richness of the English language owes a great deal to "Jack Tar" the sailor.
Julian Stockwin Author of the Kidd Series Naval Adventure is well versed in the Salty Sayings and you can read about them on his web site:
The next Link below will be: "RN at Dunkirk"
RN at Dunkirk
"Pirates Trilogy" $20