Tuesday, June 23, 2009
HMS Glowworm (H92)
Figure 1: HMS Glowworm (H92) prior to World War II. Click on photograph for larger image.
Figure 2: HMS Glowworm (H92) circa 1936. Click on photograph for larger image.
Figure 3: HMS Glowworm (H92) prior to World War II. Click on photograph for larger image.
Figure 4: HMS Glowworm (H92) at Alexandria, Egypt, after her collision with HMS Grenade, her sister ship, during a training exercise in May 1939. Click on photograph for larger image.
Figure 5: HMS Glowworm (H92) in heavy seas, probably at the start of World War II. Click on photograph for larger image.
Figure 6: Lieutenant Commander Gerard Broadmead Roope, captain of HMS Glowworm (H92) at the time of her battle with the German heavy cruiser Admiral Hipper on 8 April 1940. Click on photograph for larger image.
Figure 7: Starboard view of the German heavy cruiser Admiral Hipper on trials in 1939. Click on photograph for larger image.
Figure 8: HMS Glowworm (H92) making smoke and firing torpedoes at the German heavy cruiser Admiral Hipper on 8 April 1940. This picture was taken by a crewmember on board Admiral Hipper during the battle. Click on photograph for larger image.
Figure 9: “The Attack on the Admiral Hipper by HMS Glowworm,” by maritime artist Ivan Berryman. HMS Glowworm (H92), burning severely after receiving hits from the mighty Admiral Hipper, is depicted turning to begin her heroic sacrifice off the Norwegian coast on 8 April 1940. Hugely out-gunned and already crippled, Glowworm’s captain, Lieutenant Commander Roope, rammed his destroyer into the side of the Admiral Hipper, inflicting a 130 foot rip in its armor belt before drifting away and sinking. Click on photograph for larger image.
Figure 10: British crewmen from HMS Glowworm (H92) cling to what’s left of their ship after their battle with the German heavy cruiser Admiral Hipper on 8 April 1940. This photograph was taken through one of Admiral Hipper’s gun sights. Click on photograph for larger image.
Figure 11: Captain Hellmuth Heye, commanding officer of Admiral Hipper on 8 April 1940. Click on photograph for larger image.
Figure 12: Oil-covered survivors from HMS Glowworm (H92) being rescued by Admiral Hipper, 8 April 1940. Click on photograph for larger image.
Figure 13: Captain Hellmuth Heye oversees the rescue of British sailors from HMS Glowworm (H92) on board Admiral Hipper, 8 April 1940. Click on photograph for larger image.
Figure 14: Oil-covered survivors from HMS Glowworm (H92) climbing up rope ladders to board Admiral Hipper on 8 April 1940. Click on photograph for larger image.
Figure 15: German crewmembers on board Admiral Hipper while survivors from HMS Glowworm (H92) are being rescued. Click on photograph for larger image.
HMS Glowworm (H92) was a 1,350-ton G-class Royal Navy destroyer that was built by John I. Thornycroft and Company at Woolston, Hampshire, England, and was commissioned on 22 January 1936. The ship was approximately 323 feet long and 33 feet wide, had a top speed of 36 knots, and had a crew of 149 officers and men. Glowworm was armed with four 4.7-inch guns, eight 21-inch torpedo tubes, and about eight 0.5-inch (12.7-mm) machine guns.
Glowworm initially was assigned to the Mediterranean, where she acted primarily as an escort during the Spanish Civil War and the Munich Crisis. In May 1939, Glowworm collided with her sister ship, HMS Grenade, during a nighttime naval exercise in the Mediterranean. Glowworm sustained significant damage to her bow and it took several weeks to repair the ship. Once World War II began in Europe in September 1939, Glowworm was stationed with the First Destroyer Flotilla at Alexandria, Egypt, but in October the flotilla was transferred to the Western Approaches Command. On 19 October, Glowworm, along with her sister ships HMS Gallant, HMS Grafton, and HMS Greyhound left for England, arriving at Plymouth on 22 October. Glowworm was assigned to convoy escort duties and to anti-submarine patrols and on 12 November was transferred to the 22nd Destroyer Flotilla based at Harwich. She began patrol and escort duties in the North Sea, which continued until February 1940.
On 22 February 1940, Glowworm was hit by the Swedish ship Rex in a thick fog off Outer Dowsing, just north of Norwich, England. Once again, Glowworm suffered substantial damage as a result of a collision and was sent to Hull, England, for repairs that lasted until late March. After repairs were completed, Glowworm was transferred back on 20 March to the First Destroyer Flotilla, which now was based at Scapa Flow. On 22 March, she was assigned to escort duties in the North Sea and to the North Western Approaches to England.
On 5 April 1940, Glowworm was part of the destroyer escort screen for the battlecruiser HMS Renown, along with the destroyers HMS Greyhound, HMS Hero, and HMS Hyperion. These ships were part of a task force sent to lay mines off the coast of Norway, known as Operation Wilfred. At the same time, Germany was beginning its massive invasion of Norway. German merchant ships, escorted by powerful warships, headed for the coast of Norway. Bad weather and heavy seas blanketed the Norwegian coast and on 7 April Glowworm lost a man overboard. The commanding officer of Glowworm, Lieutenant Commander Gerard Broadmead Roope, was given permission to search for the missing sailor while the rest of the British task force headed towards Norway.
On the morning of 8 April 1940, Roope called off the search for the missing sailor. As the destroyer steamed to rejoin the British task force, Glowworm spotted the German destroyers Bernd von Arnim (Z11) and Hans Ludemann (Z18) and immediately attacked the two enemy warships, scoring a hit on one of them. The German destroyers were part of a naval detachment led by the heavy cruiser Admiral Hipper, which was assigned to land troops at Trondheim, Norway, as part of the German invasion of that country. The German destroyers quickly ran away from Glowworm while frantically radioing Admiral Hipper for help. Within an hour, the 14,000-ton German heavy cruiser, under the command of Captain Hellmuth Heye, arrived to deal with the British destoryer. Admiral Hipper was armed with eight 8-inch guns, twelve 4.1-inch guns, twelve 37-mm guns, and eight 20-mm guns and could certainly make short work of the much smaller British warship. Since the rough weather, speed and long-range guns possessed by Admiral Hipper made escape impossible, Lieutenant Commander Roope on board Glowworm decided to stand and fight.
Glowworm headed straight for Admiral Hipper and fired her torpedoes at the German heavy cruiser, all of which missed. Admiral Hipper at this point was firing her guns at Glowworm, scoring several major hits and setting the destroyer on fire. Lieutenant Commander Roope must have realized that it was only a matter of time before his ship was sunk and decided to make one last effort to destroy his mighty opponent. Roope ordered a smoke screen to be made, giving the impression that he was going to steam away from the German warship. Instead, he gave the order to turn hard to starboard and headed straight for Admiral Hipper, trying to ram her! The ruse must have worked because the German heavy cruiser couldn’t turn away in time. Glowworm, by now being pounded mercilessly by Admiral Hipper’s guns, struck the German cruiser’s bow, tearing away 130 feet of her armor belt and causing a major gash in her hull, leaving her in a listing condition with almost 500 tons of seawater pouring into the German warship. But Glowworm had been torn to pieces in the collision. What was left of the British destroyer was on fire and drifted away from Admiral Hipper. HMS Glowworm capsized and sank shortly after that.
To his credit, Captain Heye brought Admiral Hipper to a stop and spent roughly an hour picking up survivors from the sea. Only 31 out of Glowworm’s crew of 149 survived the battle and were picked up by the German warship. Lieutenant Commander Roope was last seen holding onto a rope while being pulled up the side of Admiral Hipper. Tragically, through a combination of rough waves and sheer exhaustion, Roope let go of the rope and fell back into the water, never to be seen again. Captain Hellmuth Heye was so impressed by Roope that he later sent a message to British authorities via the Red Cross describing the valiant courage displayed by his British adversary, even recommending that Lieutenant Commander Roope be awarded the Victoria Cross, Britain’s highest award for valor. Lieutenant Commander Gerard Broadmead Roope was posthumously awarded the Victoria Cross and it was the only Victoria Cross to be given partially based on the recommendation of the enemy, Captain Heye, commanding officer of the German heavy cruiser Admiral Hipper.
Before it was sunk, Glowworm managed to radio the task force headed by HMS Renown, alerting it to the presence of a major German warship in the area. Although this was valuable information, it did not alter the course of the German invasion of Norway, which, in the end, was a success. Admiral Hipper was eventually repaired and served almost to the end of World War II, before being scuttled at the German port of Kiel on 2 May 1945. Few people today know the story of HMS Glowworm and her remarkable commanding officer, Gerard Roope, but this in no way should detract from the heroic stand she made against impossible odds on 8 April 1940.
Posted by Remo at 9:38 AM