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Hipper and Glowworm

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Admiral Hipper
Admiral Hipper
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On April 5th 1940 the British navy commenced minelaying in Norwegian waters, supported by Vice Admiral Whitworth in the Battlecruiser Renown, accompanied by 4 destroyers Greyhound, Glowworm, Hyperion and Hero. Unknown to the Admiralty at the same time German forces had initiated the invasion of Norway, supported by a large naval group composed of the Battlecruisers Scharnhorst and Gneisenau, the heavy cruiser Hipper, and 14 destroyers.

Glowworm had lost touch with the squadron after loosing a man overboard. At about 0830, Admiral Whitworth received a signal timed 0759, 8th April 1940, from Glowworm reporting two enemy destroyers in about 65 04' N., 6 04' E., 140 miles distant from the Renown. The Renown together with the destroyer Greyhound turned to the southward at their best speed and steered to intercept the enemy. At about the same time the Repulse, Penelope and four destroyers were detached from the main fleet to proceed at their best speed to her assistance.

Further signals from the Glowworm showed that she was engaging a superior force, the last signal was timed at 0855. It was not until the end of the war that the details of her fate became known.

The two enemy destroyers reported by the Glowworm at 0759 were part of the main German force which had been sighted by British aircraft on the previous day, 7th April; but in bad weather and heavy sea, they had lost contact with their heavier consorts.

The first to be sighted by the Glowworm, soon after 0710, was the Hans Ludemann. Glowworm fired recognition signals, but on orders from the S.O. 3rd German Destroyer Flotilla, the enemy ship made off to the N.W. at 35 knots, followed by two salvoes from the Glowworm which appear to have fallen short (the German ships had orders to avoid action until their missions in Norway had been completed).

Shortly afterwards the Glowworm sighted the second German destroyer, the Bernd von Arnim, on her starboard bow, heading in the other direction. The enemy ship opened fire at 0802 in 64 05' N., 06 18'E., and a running fight ensued ; in spite of accurate fire on the part of the Glowworm, the German destroyer was not hit, though she suffered some damage to her superstructure from the heavy seas, which nearly capsized her. The wireless message sent by the Bernd von Armin on being attacked was picked up by the main German force which was not far off, and the Hipper was at once ordered to the destroyer's assistance. Owing to the bad weather it was not until 0857 that she was able to identify which was the hostile destroyer and to open fire. The first salvo from her 8" guns hit Glowworm's bridge. The Glowworm fired a salvo of two or three torpedoes which the Hipper avoided ; then, considerably damaged by enemy gunfire, the destroyer laid a smoke screen and momentarily disappeared from view.

Glowworm setting her smoke screen, taken from Hipper
Glowworm setting her smoke screen, taken from Hipper
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The Hipper entered the Glowworm's smoke screen and, failing to answer her helm owing to the high seas, found herself in the path of the British ship. The destroyer rammed her just abaft the starboard anchor wrecking her own bows, then crashing down her side tore away 130 feet of the Hipper's armoured belt and her starboard torpedo tubes. She herself was fatally damaged ; listing heavily with her torpedo tubes under water she lay wrecked and blazing and blew up a few minutes later, sinking in 64 27' N., 6 28' E.

The Hipper picked up 40 survivors, including one officer, a Sub-Lieutenant; the captain of the Glowworm was being hauled aboard and had just reached the cruiser's deck when he let go exhausted and was drowned.

When the details of the Glowworm's gallant action became known the Victoria Cross was awarded to her Commanding Officer Lieut. Commander G.B. Roope.

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