Daily Event for June 8, 2005


June 8, 1940 HMS Glorious, HMS Ardent and HMS Acasta were sunk in a fierce battle with the German battleships Scharnhorst and Gneisenau off northern Norway. At about 16:45 lookouts on the Scharnhorst spotted smoke on the horizon. The two German ships began preparations for battle. The British however did not notice the German ships for a full fifteen minuets. Ardent was sent to identify the two ships. The little destroyer moved toward the Germans. Ardent was no match for the two warships, at only 1,350 tons with 4-4.7" guns she was greatly out matched by the German battleships. As the Ardent moved closer the Germans identified the enemy ships as the Ark Royal under escort by two destroyers, the identification was of course wrong. The carrier Glorious was the target.

At 17:20 the alarm was sounded on the British ships, Glorious began sending distress signals alerting other British ships to the location of the German ships. Ardent continued her suicide mission, she was preparing to attack the German ships single handed to give Glorious and Acasta a chance to escape. I am sure the Captain and crew knew they had no chance to win the battle, at 17:27 Gneisenau opened fire.

Her main battery fired at Glorious and her secondary guns fired at Ardent. Ardent fired her 4.7" guns and fired torpedoes. Gneisenau found the range on Ardent and Scharnhorst now began to fire at Glorious. Her first salvo fell short the second too far but the third found the mark. Ardent continued to engage the German ships firing no less than seven rounds of torpedoes. Ardent managed to hit the Scharnhorst with one 4.7" round causing damage to one of the boilers. As the battle continued Glorious was burning and listing, Acasta was trying valiantly to hide Glorious with a smoke screen and Ardent kept the battleships busy by firing torpedoes. However the small destroyer finally had enough and at 18:22 the valiant ship capsized and sank. The effort of the crew did not stop the inevitable.

It was now Acasta's turn to sacrifice herself in another attempt to save Glorious. Acasta began to attack with her guns and torpedoes. She scored a hit on the Scharnhorst with one of her torpedoes, she was hit in the stern which slowed the battleship down. The C turret was also knocked out of action and she began to list. Acasta also scored a hit with her 4.7" guns on Scharnhorst's B turret. The little destroyer could not stand up to the pounding from the German ships, and by 19:15 both Glorious and Acasta were gone. On board the Gneisenau a pause in the battle was ordered. When it was determined the battle was over the flag on Gneisenau was ordered to be run down to half mast and the crew stood at attention in honor of the brave crew of the Acasta.

The German ships made no attempt to rescue the 900 men in the water. They believed the signals had alerted other British warships who were en route to the battle scene. Also the damage suffered by Scharnhorst slowed her down and the Germans wanted to get her to port as soon as possible. The Germans were wrong about the British. The signals sent from Glorious were either not received, ignored or misunderstood. Either way nobody was on the way to help. The loss of the three British ships was not even noticed until the following day when passing ships found bodies and survivors. In all the toll in human life was huge. Over 1,500 British sailors and airmen died, hundreds in the water if only because they were not rescued in time. From the three ships only 48 men survived. The two small destroyers, fighting alone against two battleships could not save the Glorious, but the courageous crews will always be remembered as giants.

© 2005 Michael W. Pocock
MaritimeQuest.com


HMS Ardent H-41

 

HMS Acasta H-09

 

MaritimeQuest received the following message on Jan. 15, 2009

I was very pleased to see your comments on the battle of Narvik. My Uncle, L.S. James Joseph Lucey was responsible for the torpedo crews on HMS Ardent and went down with the ship. It's gratifying to see these
brave men remembered. My location is Dublin, the family are from Cork.

Yours Faithfully,
James Joseph Lucey