Cruiser Squadron Eighteen’s War Diary
commenced on 1 March
1940. Before this time, their activities being
carried by the Rosyth War Diary which only began on 5 November 1939 (ADM
199/362) and more broadly in the Daily Operations Report for First Lord (ADM
199/1939 et al).
COMMANDING, 18TH CRUISER SQUADRON
1st – 15th
ENCLOSURE TO 18TH C.S. 155/682 OF 23RD March 1940
tenders “A” and “B” (n.b. line whited out
in document; “Fleet tenders” were dummy battleships PAKEHA and WAIMANA (REVENGE
and RESOLUTION, respectively), escorted by 4 destroyers, arriving p.m.
Saturday, 2nd March
CS 18 in MANCHESTER) left Scapa at 0730
and proceeded to take up patrol N.P. 54.
At 1030 a patrol aircraft reported Swedish S.S. LAGAHOLM on fire and
sinking in position 59-34 degrees North, 5-10 degrees
West and a submarine submerging in the vicinity. A lifeboat with survivors was also reported.
LAGAHOLM at 1145 when there was no sign of fire, but ship had a big list. Aircraft were directed by V/S to obtain
assistance from trawler on patrol TR 15, and MANCHESTER altered
course to N.E, away from the submarine, at 1200 and proceeded at 19 knots. The survivors from the lifeboat were
subsequently reported by aircraft as having been rescued.
Weather. Fresh – strong W. wind.
Sea moderate, becoming
Sunday, 3rd March
patrol area at 0900 and reach patrol line N.P. 54 at 1300.
1620. In position 62-37 degrees
16-00 degrees West, sighted and identified Norwegian S.S. HALLINGDAL, for Oslo from
cargo of sugar. Weather being unsuitable
for boarding, she was escorted towards the W.
Weather.Northwesterly gale, veering
N.N.W. with heavy sea and swell.Visibility moderate to good except in snow squalls.
1730. Made rendezvous with NORTHERN SUN and turned
HALLINGDAL over to her.
course 290 degrees to return to eastern end of N.P. 54, but excessive rolling
(approximately 35 degrees each way) made it necessary to heave to on course 330
degrees, approximately speed of advance 4 knots.
the weather was wind N. by W., Force 10, Sea 45, snow.
Tuesday, 4th March
Weather. The gale moderated slowing during the night
and morning, and course was altered at 0900 to take up new N.P. 54 (Flag
Officer Commanding, Northern Patrol’s message times 1231 of 4th
By , the wind had back to west, force 2
– 3. Sea Slight, and
on patrol line, having been absent from it for 43 hours owing to the heavy
weather encountered while escorting HALLINGDAL to rendezvous.
1545. Carried out range and inclination exercises
with YORK (on
1655. In position 62-54 degrees
14-00 degrees West, sighted and identified Danish S.S. VENUS, with armed guard
from DERBYSHIRE on board. The officer in
charge of the armed guard signalled by semaphore
“Master demands an escort to Kirkwall” and at
the same time the signal “Desire an escort” was made by VENUS by flags.
Officer in Charge of the armed guard was directed to take the ship to the West
Faroes rendezvous and
given instructions contained in Flag Officer Commanding, Northern Patrol’s
signal 1101 of 5th March to DERBYSHIRE.
2025. In position 62-39 degrees
15-40 degrees West, sighted and identified Swedish S.S. JOHN from Buenos
Aires to Landskrona with
general cargo. Ship was boarded and it
was found that the whole cargo was covered by Navicerts
except for 200 tons of Ground Nut Expeller.
Ship was therefore sent in in detention.
Weather. Strong S.W. winds veering west and reaching
gale force p.m. Visibility
1120. In position 63-30 degrees
12-10 degrees West, sighted and identified Swedish S.S. INGER, eastbound.
Allowed to proceed in
accordance with Admiralty Message 2056 of 2nd March 1940.
1930. In position 62-42 degrees
15-30 degrees West, sighted Belgian trawler VAN OOST, steering S.S.E. She was
Friday, 8th March
Weather. Wind veered to North suddenly at 0500 and
temperature fell from 37 degrees F to 22 degrees F, considerable snow in
afternoon. Wind W. or N.W., squally.
0115. In position 63-12 degrees
13-22 degrees West, sighted and identified Swedish HAMMAREN, westbound, from
Goteburg to New York.
Allowed to proceed.(C.A.F.O. 261/40).
1436. In position 63-09 degrees
13-22 degrees West sighted and identified Swedish ship NORDSTJERNAN from Buenos
Aires to Sweden. Allowed to proceed (Admiralty Message 2055)
of 5th March.
2230. In position 62-48 degrees
14-32 degrees West, sighted a darkened ship bearing 200 degrees about 10
challenged twice with box lamp and five times with Aldis
without reply. The darkened ship altered
course away. MANCHESTER
accordingly chased and increased speed to 30 knots.
2300. 4 rounds of star shell were fired at the
darkened ship. The darkened ship, with
was H.M.S. CORINTHIA, then challenged V.F. and MANCHESTER
identified by V.C. CORINTHIA then made
the first private signal identification signal several times.
2301. Meanwhile at 2301 a flashing light on the
port quarter had been reported and this proved to be a challenge from H.M.S.
CILICIA (N.P. 55). MANCHESTER made
identification signal in reply.
should have arrived on N.P. 57 at 1600 (Flag Officer Commanding, Northern
Patrol’s signal 1232 of 4th March 1940) and would appear to have
been some 50 miles too far to the northward of her proper position when first
sighted, and keeping a very poor lookout.
Saturday, 9th March
Scapa for patrol.
Weather. Wind westerly to north westerly, moderate to
fresh in morning with fine weather and extreme visibility. In the afternoon a series of violent squalls
of snow, rain, and wind, the latter reaching 50 knots in gusts. At dark the weather cleared and wind became
1035. In position 63-34 degrees
11-35 degrees West sighted and identified Norwegian S.S. HAALEGG from Philadelphia to
Aalsund. Ordered her to proceed in accordance with Admiralty Message 2020 of
Sunday, 10th March
Scapa for patrol.
Weather. Fresh strong squally westerly winds veering
to North with snow and rain squalls. Visibility good except in rain and snow.
0150. In position 63-18 degrees
12-57 degrees West, sighted and identified Norwegian M.V. TENTO from Newport, Va.For Oslo with coal.
Course and speed before interception 065 degrees, 9 knots. Kept her in company till 0800 when was
boarded in 63-45 degrees North, 11-25 degrees West and
released her, her whole cargo being covered by a Navicert.
2230. In 63-15 degrees
11-00 degrees West, sighted a Danish trawler steaming on a N.W. course.
Failed to establish communication.She as illuminated with a
searchlight and allowed to proceed, as nothing suspicious was observed.
Arrived Scapa 0830. Commander in Chief, Home Fleet, was present
in RODNEY and the Vice Admiral called on him, this being the first occasion of
being in his company since hoisting the flag on 20th November 1939. EDINBURGH
arrived, completed with fuel, and sailed.
She reported serious structural defects and was visited by the Fleet
Constructor Officer, who recommended an immediate refit.
ships of the 18th Cruiser Squadron were present at Scapa up till 15th
Wednesday, 13th March – Friday, 15th
completed with fuel and provisions, but had difficulty in obtaining naval
stores long on demand.
March, there was a violent North westerly gale (with gusts up to 65 knots.)
the 18th Cruiser Squadron on 15th March 1940
covering Scandinavian convoy
At Tyne, completing refit, p.m. 15th. Ready to sail a.m. 17th
At Belfast for repairs. Completing 22nd March
Patrol (left Scapa 9th)
Patrol (left Scapa 10th)
At Portsmouth (Leave and Degaussing). Ready for sea a.m. 16th
(1): Fitted with temporary degaussing arrangements
(2): Being fitted with D.G.
(3): Fitted with temporary D.G., but gear out of
(4): Not fitted with D.G.
COMMANDING, 18TH CRUISER SQUADRON
Saturday, 16th March
At 1952, an enemy air attack on the fleet began. The attacked commenced at dusk.
MANCHESTER was the
only ship of the 18th Cruiser Squadron present, and was A.A.
guardship, but delay in opening fire occurred due to the
pom-pom and 0.5 machine guns crews having been prematurely fallen out. As a result the first
of attackers were not engaged and only one of the second wave when
retiring. The first wave scored a direct
hit on NORFOLK. MANCHESTER fired
60 round 4 inch and 140 inch rounds pom-pom in subsequent attacks, but was not
herself attacked. The “all clear” was
given at 2115.
Sunday, 17th March
At Scapa.EDINBURGH was
ordered direct from convoying duty with the Norwegian convoy to the Tyne for
repairs as serious structural defects had been revealed on examination.
Monday, 18th March
Commanding, 18th Cruiser Squadron in MANCHESTER left
Scapa at 0700 to relieve SOUTHAMPTON on the
Scapa to fuel after passage from Portsmouth and
sailed later to relieve SHEFFIELD on
Tuesday, 19th March
SOUTHAMPTON and DERBYSHIRE leaving patrol.
1630. In position 62-41 degrees
15-50 degrees West, sighted and identified Fleetwood Trawler 56 (DHOON) and
Grimsby Trawler No. 9 (EVELYN ROSE), steering 120 degrees.
in Chief, Home Fleet ordered NEWCASTLE to
proceed to Tyne for refit
simultaneously with EDINBURGH, as the
former’s defects would not brook delay.
Wednesday, 20th March
1315. In position 62-33 degrees North, 16-15
degrees West, sighted and identified Belgian trawler FREDDY of Ostend No.
O.89, steering 330 degrees.
2220. In position 62-12 degrees
17-23 degrees West, closed an Icelandic motor trawler steering 135
degrees. Name not obtained.
Thursday, 21st March
1704. In position 62-03 degrees
17-23 degrees West, closed and identified Icelandic ship EDDA from
Runcorn to Reykjavik, last
port of call Troon.
Ordered her to proceed.
Friday, 22nd March
Nothing to report.
during these four days was consistently moderate fresh E.N.E. with cloudy and
bright periods, visibility very good except in occasion rain squalls.
Saturday, 23rd March
increased to fresh N.E. during night.
0112. In position 62-21 degrees
16-089 degrees West, closed and identified Icelandic trawler DORA, steering 350
0247. In 62-27 degrees
15-24 degrees West, closed and identified one armed and four unarmed Grimsby
trawlers, steering 320 degrees.
0518. In 62-58 degrees
14-30 degrees West, closed and identified Belgian trawler O.297 (name not ascertained).
BIRMINGHAM on N.P.
53 to exchange signals regarding throw off firing on leaving patrol.
0934. Exchanged identities with SALOPIAN on N.P.
1700. In 62-03 degrees
17-30 degrees West, intercepted an Icelandic trawler, steering 140 degrees,
whose name and number could not be made out.
1715. In 62-02 degrees
17-37 degrees East closed and identified Dutch S.S. SLOTERDIJK westbound. She was allowed to proceed in accordance with
Sunday, 24th March
increased to gale force from N.E., sea rough.
Weather showery and colder.
Nothing to report.
Monday, 25th March
backed to North and decreased during day.
Visibility good except in snow squalls.
0450. In 62-45 degrees
14-24 degrees West, sighted a light, probably a trawler, bearing 260 degrees
(i.e. astern). I did not consider that
an alteration of course to the westward during darkness to investigate this
would be justified, as the ship would probably be intercepted in daylight after
course had been reversed at the normal time.
Light was lost sight of bearing 278 degrees at 0515 in 62-46 degrees
North, 14-13 degrees West.
1420. In 62-20 degrees
16-00 degrees West, intercepted and boarded Danish S.S. BETTY MAERSK.
Verified that whole cargo
(3400 tons corn) was covered by Navicert No.
D. 775. She as given
the flag of the day and ordered to proceed.
1812. In 62-10 degrees
18-00 degrees West intercepted Finnish ship MARIEBURG, westbound. On closing, she hoisted the correct flag of
the day and was allowed to proceed.
1830. In 62-08 degrees North, 18-08 degrees West
intercepted Icelandic trawler RAN (GK. 507) steering S.W.
2350. In 62-22 degrees
17-12 degrees West intercepted Icelandic trawler HUGINN steering 340
degrees. Fishing No. not obtained.
Tuesday, 26th March
N.E. moderate, increasing steadily to fresh and strong during the day. Visibility good except in snow squalls.
0217. In 62-36 degrees
16-16 degrees West sighted lights of 5 trawlers steering on a southerly
course. These were identified as a Grimsby fishing
section and allowed to continue.
0430. In 62-38 degrees
15-20 degrees West, sighted lights of 5 trawlers, steering 330 degrees. These were a considerable distance away and o
action was taken to investigate them.
1301. In 62-26 degrees
15-30 degrees West, intercepted Norwegian ship MOSTUN from New
York to Bergen with
general cargo, including a deck cargo of Ford cars in cases. The weather was considered unsuitable for
boarding in view of the rising wind and sea, and MOSTUN was escorted towards
the West Faroes
rendezvous, course 093 degrees.
1600. In position 62-23 degrees North, 14-35
degrees West, passed a Hull fishing trawler section, steering N.W. The following were identified:
H. 464 LADY SHIRLEY (armed)
H. 477 LADY ROSEMARY
H. 327 STELLA CARINA (armed).
in the Tyne for refit.
Wednesday, 27th March
Weather. Wind backed to N. and increased to gale
force during the night; sea rough.
MOSTUN, though she started at 13 knots (her stated speed) reduced
gradually until Morning Watch of 28th March, when she was not making
more than 7.
0310. In position 62-20 degrees
10-00 degrees West intercepted Norwegian ship HAARFAGRE. She was allowed to proceed in accordance with
0815. Turned over MOSTUN to armed trawler KINGSTON
TOPAZE at West Faroes
rendezvous. Proceeded to intercept
BIRMINGHAM for gunnery practices as arranged, but at 0950 it was decided to
abandon these in view of the weather (wind N, force 8, sea rough, frequent snow
squalls) and course was shaped for Scapa, BIRMINGHAM proceeding independently.
1135. In position 61-50 degrees
8-30 degrees West intercepted Finnish ship NINA from Genoa to
Ordered her to proceed in
accordance with N.P.D.S. 22.
Thursday, 28th March
Arrived Scapa 0800.
northerly winds continuing.
relieved on patrol by SOUTHAMPTON and GLASGOW.
Scapa from covering O.H.N. convoy.
Friday, 29th – Saturday 30th March
Nothing to report.
Sunday, 31st March
Enemy aircraft active in vicinity of Orkneys in the morning. Shore batteries opened fire at enemy
reconnaissance machines at about 0845; our fighters went up, and MANCHESTER engaged
some of these for a short time in mistake for the enemy. No bombing attacks developed, though there
were further alarms during the day.
westerly gale sprang up in the afternoon, though with fair sunny weather.
p.m. with 2 destroyers for an operation to intercept enemy shipping off the
and GLASGOW were recalled from Northern Patrol by W/T to Scapa and Rosyth,
respectively for special operations. The
Northern Patrol lines were left temporarily without cruiser support.
State of 18th Cruiser Squadron
at 2359 on 31st March 1940
– refitting and giving 21 days leave
– refitting and giving 21 days leave
Scapa from patrol
Rosyth from patrol
Norwegian Coast for Operation DV
COMMANDING, 18TH CRUISER SQUADRON
1st – 15th
Monday, 1st April
At Scapa.N/E gale
Tuesday, 2nd April
there was an R/DF report from CURLEW of a large formation of unknown aircraft
approaching the Fleet. Five minutes
later, when action stations were being sounded off, a wave of three enemy
aircraft attacked the fleet anchorage and Gutter Sound, diving from the
southward. All were engaged. They were followed by a second wave, and
other formations appeared to be about, but were not identified from MANCHESTER. Some bombs were seen to fall in Gutter Sound
and some near the dummy HERMES, but no hits or casualties occurred.,
and two enemy aircraft were shot down.
final episode was a single aircraft which dived
southwards directly over MANCHESTER and was
heavily engaged by everyone else; it disappeared over Flotta,
firing machine guns at the searchlight positions, but did not appear to drop
Wednesday, 3rd April, Thursday, 4th
April, Friday, 5th April
In accordance with the normal patrol routine, MANCHESTER
would have sailed again for patrol a.m. on Wednesday, 3rd April, but
in consequence of the decision to carry out minelaying operations in Norwegian
waters, the Commander in Chief now withdrew all supporting cruisers from the
Northern Patrol, and the 18th Cruiser Squadron were disposed as
again enemy shipping
Norway – BIRMINGHAM (sailed
force for O.H.N. Convoys
(two at a
time) – MANCHESTER
to 1st Cruiser Squadron to replace NORFOLK for
(completes end of June)
(completes mid May)
minelaying operations, which were originally due on 5th April, were
postponed three days until 8th April. This enabled PENELOPE to continue covering
H.N. 24 and it was not necessary for MANCHESTER and
SOUTHAMPTON to sail
for convoy duty until 7th April.
Saturday, 6th April
PENELOPE arrived Scapa from covering O.H.N. 24.
Sunday, 7th April
Admiral Commanding, 18th Cruiser Squadron, in MANCHESTER with
from Scapa at 0530 to provide cover for O.H.H. 25, proceeding east of the
Orkneys and Shetlands. At 1411, North of MuckleFlugga, the SOUTHAMPTON
reported a firm A/S contact to port and dropped three depth charges. There was no further sign of the presence of
a submarine. The convoy was sighted at
1420 in position about 15 miles N.E. of MuckleFlugga with CALCUTTA and 4
destroyers in company; they were somewhat scattered owing to the recent heavy
there had been numerous reports of enemy surface forces at sea.
began with a report from aircraft of one cruiser and six destroyers with eight
aircraft in 55-30 degrees North, 6-37 degrees East at 0848 moving
northward. The subsequent reports
indicated the total force as one battle-cruiser, one pocket battleship, 3 LEIPZIG class
cruisers, and 12 destroyers.
were attacked by Royal Air Force Bombers, but without success, and presumably
continued their northward movement, although there was no definite report of
their position after 1342.
18’s first duty was to the convoy, and on contact being made, SOUTHAMPTON
proceeded to the van of the convoy and MANCHESTER to the
rear to cover.
a message was intercepted from Admiralty to the Commander in Chief, Home Fleet,
hinting that a German expedition to Norway and Denmark might be under way, but
somewhat discounting the report.
Commander in Chief ordered a cruiser and destroyer force under the Vice Admiral
Commanding, 2nd Cruiser Squadron, to a rendezvous off S.W. corner of
Norway (including SHEFFIELD from Scapa), but it was very doubtful whether they
could reach it at the time given (JST 53050/0700/8/4)
instructions were received from the Commander in Chief to reverse the course of
the convoy, and this was done, the turn taking a considerable time to effect in
the prevailing weather (S.W. wind, strong to gale, sea rough.).
Commander in Chief also cancelled SHEFFIELD
proceeding with C.S. 2’s force, and said she would be proceeding with the
was the only intimation that the Battlefleet was
going to sea until 2222, when the Commander in Chief’s 1934 was received,
stating that the fleet would pass East of Orkneys and reach 61 degrees North,
001 degree West at 0700/8th April.
Thie course taken appeared to be to cover the
convoy and Northern Patrol lines.
however, the Flag Officer Commanding, Northern Patrol ordered all the Armed
Merchant Cruisers on the Patrol Lines to withdraw to the southward at their
the Commander in Chief, Rosyth’s 2140/7th
April was received, holding up the departure of H.N. 25 from Norwegian waters,
but subsequent messages showed they had already left for the rendezvous.
he ordered the Senior Officer of the local escort for O.N. 25 to keep the
convoy to the westward of the Shetlands, unless further orders were received
from the Commander in Chief, Home Fleet.
was also at this time awaiting instructions from the Commander in Chief, Home
Fleet, as it was expected that the covering cruisers would be required for a
sweep to the South east. The absence of
any such instructions, however, made it necessary to remain in a covering
position for the convoy during the night, and such indications as there were
seemed to show that the Commander in Chief had gone further to the North and
West. Accordingly, MANCHESTER and
off to the south east of the convoy during the night, intending to make contact
again with them in the morning.
situation at 7th/8th
April was thus obscure. Nothing definite
was know of the large enemy force since 1342; there
was no precise information as to the whereabouts, and no information as to the
intentions of the Commander in Chief.
known that C.S. 2 with 2 cruisers and about 15 destroyers was at sea and
sweeping towards to the S.W. corner of Norway and
remainder of the Fleet was disposed in accordance with the requirements of the
minelaying operation off the Norwegian coast and the plan R.4 for the possible
landings of Allied Troops in Norway if
German aggression occurred there consequent on the minelaying.
thus appeared to be little probably interference with the movements of the
enemy in the North Sea, at any
rate until daylight.
Monday, 8th April
Weather N.W. gale, moderating in evening, rough sea.
the minelaying operation in Norwegian waters reduced to one minefield in
Vestfiord, was completed and announced.
afterwards, the GLOWWORM, detached by an unfortunate chain of circumstances,
encountered superior enemy force and was sunk off the coast of Norway in 65-44
degrees North, 06-43 degrees East. This
located an enemy force well up the Norwegian coast, and well placed to elude
our heavy forces. It was presumably the
same force which was sighted by aircraft at 1400 in 64-07 degrees North, 06-25
degrees East, and consisted of one battlecruiser, two
cruisers, and two destroyers, i.e. the force of the day before less 1 pocket
battleship, 1 cruiser, and ten destroyers, which had presumably been detached
on another errand.
the shadowing aircraft was hit by H.A. fire and had to desist, and this force
was not found again.
C.S. 18 in MANCHESTER with
the convoy, now westbound at 0545, and remained covering it pending further
situation in the morning gave further indications that the enemy were planning
an overseas expedition rather than a naval raid, and in the absence of action
by the Commander in Chief, Home Fleet, the Admiralty made dispositions
abandoning Plan R.4; GLASGOW being ordered to proceed northwards with the 1st
Cruiser Squadron without troops (this force sailed at 1430).
informed the Commander in Chief, Home Fleet, of their intentions and placed
MANCHESTER and SOUTHAMPTON at his disposal stating that if the Commander in
Chief, Home Fleet, gave no orders to these forces by 1700 Admiralty would issue
two new German forces were reported as having moved North from their Baltic
bases at daylight and reports of large concentrations of trawlers and merchant
ships all pointed to a combined operation by the enemy.
The Commander in Chief, Rosyth, ordered convoy O.N. 25 to proceed to Kirkwall.
the Commander in Chief, Home Fleet, having given no further instructions,
Admiralty directed C.S. 2 and C.S. 18 to indicate their positions. C.S. 18’s was reported as 61-10 degrees
North, 00-40 degree West, 115 degrees, 13 knots, but shortly
afterwards course was altered to 030 degrees at 16 knots.
this time, the MANCHESTER and SOUTHAMPTON had continued their role of covering
force for O.N. 25 which had continued its slow progress westward, and at 1730
it was in 61-10 degrees North, 01 degree West, course 300 degrees, 2
knots. It had been split into two parts
and somewhat scattered by the reversal of course during the night, but
gradually gained more cohesion during the day.
The Commander in Chief, Rosyth, promulgated a report from aircraft which gave
the Commander in Chief, Home Fleet’s position at 1200 as 61-46 degrees
North, 2-27 degrees East.
Admiralty Message 1842/8th April was received giving the two main
(i). To prevent German
naval forces returning;
(ii). To deal if possible
with the large force of 100 ships reported having passed Great Belt at 1400/8
if going to Stavanger or
And disposing the forces with the C in C, C.S. 1, and C.S. 2
across the North Sea between the Shetlands and Norway.
Admiralty (2018/8) directed C.S. 18, unless otherwise ordered by the Commander
in Chief, to patrol during the night between 01-50 degrees East and 2-35
degrees East in Latitude 62-10 degrees North.
Course was altered accordingly.
C.S. 18 was in 61-15 degrees North, 00-44 degree East,
030 degrees, 16 knots and passed this information to Admiralty, the Commander
in Chief, Home Fleet, C.S. 1, and C.S. 2.
time messages from submarines in the Skaggerak showed
clearly that two considerable German forces had passed the Skaw
westward at about 1800.
were considering the possibility that the various
German squadrons might effect a junction off the Norwegian coast, and the
dispositions seem mainly to have been against this. (A.T. 2102/8th April).
the Commander in Chief, Home Fleet, established his dispositions in his message
2252/8, ordering C.S. 18 to rendezvous with him in 61-09 degrees North, 03-00
degrees East at 0700, when the main force would steer southwards to meet the
cruiser forces under C.S. 1 and C.S. 2 spread in pairs along latitude 59-30
degrees North at 0500/9th April and steaming northwards to meet the
Commander in Chief. He also said he
thought the enemy forces might have passed to the south and east of him. At 0210/9th, Admiralty ordered
cruisers under C.S. 1 and C.S. 2 to concentrate on GLASGOW at 0500
in 59-30 degrees North, 02-30 degrees East and steer
to meet the Commander in Chief.
the weather in the Northern area was very bad, and at 2045/8 BIRMINGHAM
reported herself hove to in 66-12 degrees North, 7-52 degrees East with
Tuesday, 9th April
Weather: Fresh Northerly wind,
b.c., sea rough.
information was received that German forces had during the night approached
Oslo, Bergen, and
landing operations and air raids were in progress, and that Denmark had
also been invaded. The enemy’s
intentions were now clear and it appeared the major part of his initial task
had been successfully accomplished without noticeable hindrance from the
a merchant ship was sighted to the eastward, westbound, which roused some
suspicion by altering course to the eastward; SOUTHAMPTON was
sent to investigate her, and while doing so sighted SHEFFIELD, part
of the Commander in Chief’s force.
passed Commander in Chief’s instructions that cruisers are to form an A-K line
in pairs as they joined, 7 miles ahead of him. (0608/9)
0800 and 0900, enemy shadowing aircraft (floatplanes) were several times
sighted and engaged. Ships were ordered
to conserve ammunition, as the range was very long and much further fighting
was to be expected. Two of these machines,
when they finished their patrol, appeared to jettison their bombs from a low
height. Avoiding action was taken by MANCHESTER and
SOUTHAMPTON in one
instance in case the splash represented an attempt at torpedo dropping, though
the range was extreme.
C.S. 18 received the Commander in Chief, Home Fleet’s message 1045/9 which read
ordered C.S. 18 with 18th C.S., 4th and 6th
D.F. in company to attack enemy forces reported in Bergen. These include 1
may be in hands of enemy. 3 or 4
destroyers are to enter by FejedrJedsen
Fiord, 60-44 degrees North, remainder by
Kors Fiord 60-08 degrees North. Object to destroy enemy forces and report
situation. Cruiser are
to be in support at both entrances which U boats may be patrolling.”
instruction to proceed was given at 1125 and it was then found that ships of
the 4th and 6th Destroyer Flotillas present only
comprised seven vessels: namely AFRIDI
(D.4), GURKHA, SOMALI (D.6), MASHONA, MATABELE, MOHAWK, SIKH.
was accordingly altered to 025 degrees at 1140 and speed increased to 20
knots. It was found, however, that the
destroyers could not keep up this speed in the prevailing sea. (Wind N.W. force 6 – 7, sea rough) and speed
had to be reduced to 16 knots. Owing to
the movement southward of the fleet during the forenoon it was unfortunately
necessary to retrace a lot of ground to windward to get to Bergen. At 1408 aircraft reported that there were two
cruises in Bergen instead
only seven destroyers available, the prospects of a successful attack now
appeared distinctly less, though there was some hope that the enemy could not
yet have got the shore guns effectively manned.
however, Admiralty message 1357/9th April cancelled the operation,
and course was altered to rejoin the Commander in Chief.
after this, about 1425, a series of heavy air attacks developed on the 18th
Cruiser Squadron and destroyers in company, and continued with short intervals
until 1730. Conditions
were ideal for aircraft with a blue sky and some detached medium cloud, so that
aircraft could easily hide themselves and take up position, while the
visibility from their point of view, was excellent. It is difficult to estimate the number of
aircraft which actually attacked the forces with C.S. 18, but it is thought it
cannot be less then sixty, the number of bombs dropped being between 100 and
and SOUTHAMPTON were both slightly damaged by very near misses by large bombs,
and the former had 7 casualties (n.b. for names of two killed and one died of wounds, see
xDKCas1003-Intro.htm; wounded: Able Seaman R.G. Edwards, Signalman I.S.
Lockier, A/Leading Seaman Robert Milligan, Ordinary Signalman D.G. Pattie). From
first report, which was to the effect that she was unable to steam fast to
windward, her damaged appeared more serious than it afterwards turned out to
be, and she was ordered to make the best of her way to Rosyth, but on further
examination she found it possible to effect temporary repairs to enable her to
keep up with the Fleet.
destroyers had dropped considerably astern in the course of the attempt to make
high speed towards Bergen and
were further scattered by the air attacks, and the fact that GURKHA was
severely hit was not observed from MANCHESTER, though
at least one destroyer was observed to disappear temporarily in a cloud of
smoke and haul out of line. This effect,
was, however, frequently seen as the result of misses, gunfire, and avoiding
action, and no notice was taken of it.
subsequently fell in with AURORA who rescued most of her crew before the former
sank at 1855.
all the attacks were shallow dives from about 10,000 feet to 3,000 feet or
more; the aircraft seen were all twin engine bombers, and in the climb before
the dive produced long streams of white smoke or condenses aqueous
vapour from the exhaust.
Few dives, if any, came within effective range of pom-poms. Those which caused damage to GLASGOW and
SOUTHAMPTON were two of the few pressed well home. Long range H.A. fire was effective therefore
in keeping most of the attackers outside decisive distance, and though no
machines were seen to be shot down, it appeared that at least one was damaged,
as it retired at a very low height, emitting quantities of smoke and jettisoned
bombs into the sea.
later stages of these attacks, DEVONSHIRE came
into sight to westward, having been stationed on the Commander in Chief, Home
expenditure was heavy, and for the day amounted to some 40% of outfits of 4
inch H.A., though ships were ordered to conserve
C.S. 18 received instructions from the Commander in Chief, Home Fleet, to
return to Bergen with
the 18th C.S. 4th and 6th Destroyer Flotillas,
and maintain a patrol off the entrances to Bergen to
prevent enemy forces escaping, in accordance with Admiralty message 1451/9th
April, which announced that they would be attacked by bombers.
GLASGOW, SHEFFIELD and 6th
Destroyer Flotilla were accordingly detailed to patrol off Kors
Fiord, while MANCHESTER, SOUTHAMPTON and 4th
Destroyer Flotilla patrolled off FejedrVedsen Fiord.
patrol was maintained during the night.
following is an extract from the report of proceedings of GLASGOW,
dealing with this period.
I took SHEFFIELD, SOMALI, MASHONA,
and MATABELE under my orders, and proceeded towards Kors
Fiord to comply with your signal times 1745/9.
in position 60-25 degrees North, 04-25 degrees East, a
darkened ship sighted to starboard, and I closed to investigate. The vessel was AURORA who requested my
not at first clear what kind of assistance she required, and there was some
delay before she answered that she was picking up GURKHA’s
crew. I asked whether one destroyer
would suffice, but by the time she replied, 2125, my force was in her immediate
vicinity. AURORA had
further signalled at 2124 that she would shortly be
ready to proceed, and requested that she that she might join my operation as
she had no other orders.
welcomed an additional cruiser, I remained in the vicinity until all men had
been picked up.
proceeded again at 2200.
was for AURORA and MATABELE to patrol off Bommelfiord
and for GLASGOW, SHEFFIELD,
SOMALI, and MASHONA to patrol between 59-40 degrees North
and 60-20 degrees North, both forces making rendezvous at 0530.
patrolled accordingly North and South 7 miles off shore until 0145 when the
signal times 1837/9 from the Commander in Chief, Home Fleet, ordered us to
sweep south to Obrestad was received by V/S from
SHEFFIELD. GLASGOW had not
previously received this signal by W/T.
now too late for me to reach Obrestad, but I
continued on a southerly course until 0345, and thence southwest until 0500, as
I wished to cover AURORA during
her retirement north west and I
was uncertain whether she would make the rendezvous I had ordered.
in position 6 miles west of Utire, I altered course
as ordered to the north
were sighted during the night. All navigational
lights on the coast were extinguished with the exception of Gunnarskjaershullet.
Wednesday, 10th April
0057/10th April in position WPOX 4636, MANCHESTER sighted a
submarine on the surface, on the starboard bow, crossing between SOUTHAMPTON who
was leading and MANCHESTER, the wheel was put hard a starboard and the ship
increased to full speed and attempted to ram, but passed over the submarine
just as it submerged, only striking a glancing blow.
0400/10 course was altered to the N.W. to rejoin the Commander in Chief, Home
Fleet in 61 degrees North, 1 degree West (n.b. pen and ink correction. West scored out and East inserted).
At 0855 ships were sighted ahead which
proved to be the homeward bound H.N. 25 convoy from Bergen,
escorted by TARTAR and Polish destroyers.
When course was about to be altered to clear the convoy, other ships
were sighted to westward of them, and this proved to be Captain (D) One and
destroyers, who passed instructions from the Commander in Chief, Home Fleet,
that C.S. 18 was to take cruisers into Scapa to refuel. Course was shaped accordingly at 1030 at 25
knots. At 1104, I received Admiralty
Message 1045/10th April directing 3 SOUTHAMPTON class
and 8 destroyers proceed to Narvik to attack enemy
ships there, as soon as fuelled.
of an aircraft report of a submarine to eastward of the Orkneys, course was
shaped to pass through the Fair Island Channel.
BIRMINGHAM, which was proceeding to Scapa independently passing westward of
Shetlands, and was about 25 miles ahead of MANCHESTER, reported an enemy
aircraft and that she was being attacked by bombing. Three bombs were dropped from about 4000 feet
without damage. The type of aircraft was
in 59-27 degrees North, 03-22 degrees West, sighted
the periscope of a submarine. No torpedo
track was observed and the attention of aircraft and A/S trawlers in the
vicinity was drawn to it. It is believed
one of the former carried out an attack, but the aircraft was unable to sight
proceeding independently, arrived Scapa, at 1900 followed by
BIRMINGHAM and at
2015 MANCHESTER and
GALATEA, AURORA, and EMILE BERTIN were also present.
arrival I made arrangements for fuelling and ammunitioning
to start at once. Although the ammunitioning must entail some delay, I considered it
essential that ships should complete to full stowage again, in view of heavy
provisionally selected MANCHESTER, BIRMINGHAM, and
SHEFFIELD for the
Narvik operation, in view of the damage to
SOUTHAMPTON and GLASGOW. BIRMINGHAM,
however, reported structural defects to her forecastle, owing to heavy weather,
and SOUTHAMPTON was substituted.
between 2052 and 2145, enemy aircraft attacked Scapa in several waves. Ample warning had been received by R/DF and
all guns were closed up when the first wave arrived. They were heavily engaged by ship and shore
guns and air fighters and the attack was not pressed home. No bombs were dropped in the Flow, and the
aircraft remained mostly at a considerable height. About six were destroyed.
raid caused some delay in ammunitioning and fuelling,
which I had hoped to complete rapidly by working through the night, but at
2252, I received Admiralty message 2240/10th April, countermanding
the sailing of my force. I sent a Staff
Officer ashore as soon as the air attacks had ceased and he ascertained by
telephone from the Admiralty that other units had not been detailed for the
Naval Attack on Narvik, and that my force would
probably be required to escort and cover a troop convoy proceeding to that
Thursday, 11th April
Admiralty Message 0009 of 11th April was received, directing that
one of the three cruisers detailed for the attack on Narvik
was to take General Mackesy, his staff, and advanced
party of troops to Vaagsfjorden, after he had read
and discussed plans to be brought by Brigadier Lund arriving during the
I held a meeting of the Captains of 18th Cruiser Squadron present,
which had been called to discuss the Narvik attack
ordered in Admiralty Telegram 1045 of 10th April, but was now
devoted to considering the position generally and the programme
for replenishment and making good defects.
till 0400/12th April to make good structural defects and GLASGOW
required 48 hours for temporary repairs though ready for service in emergency
in 4 hours. SOUTHAMPTON was to
complete by 0900/11th April.
I received Commander in Chief’s 1033/11th April ordered an operation
to mop up Indreled from Stadtlandet
to Narvik, for which I was requested to organize a
force of 6 destroyers and two cruisers of the 18th Cruiser
Squadron. At this time my instructions
as regards the other force were only that it was not to sail till further
orders. I did not therefore feel
justified in using it for this fresh operation and accordingly determined to
use GLASGOW and
SHEFFIELD for the
inshore operation, leaving MANCHESTER, SOUTHAMPTON, and
BIRMINGHAM for the
other force, SOUTHAMPTON being
detailed to take General Mackesy and the advanced
Admiral (D), however, came to see me and represented verbally that it was quite
impossible to provide another force of six destroyers in addition to the eight
detailed for A.T. 1045/10th April and a relief screen for the
battleships which would be required shortly.
At my suggestion he got into touch with Admiralty on the telephone and
obtained verbal approval to utilize some of the destroyers already detailed for
my force, as extra destroyers were being sent from the Western Approaches
Command with the troop convoy.
afternoon, I held a meeting in MANCHESTER
attended by Major General Mackesy, Brigadier Lund, Brigadier Phillips,
Captain L.E.H. Maund, Commander Gordon and other
staff officers and Captain F.W.H. Jeans of SOUTHAMPTON. The instructions given to General
Mackesy of the C.I.G.S. were discussed.
General explained that his task was to eject the German forces from
Narvik. It was
believed that certain Norwegian Forces were in being in the vicinity of
Harstad (in peace time a Norwegian Military Divisional
Headquarters), or at Bardu – 35 miles of
Admiralty suggestion was that the ships should anchor to the west of
Stanglandet, and the General select the landing place in
consultation with the
senior Naval Officer, the final decision whether to land or not being similarly
taken. General Mackesy was, however, instructed that,
as soon as he had sufficient troops, he was to effect
a landing somewhere.
were made to embark 22 officers and 335 other ranks (half battalion of the
Scots Guards) in the SOUTHAMPTON as the
advance party, General Mackesy gave the following as
the expected general programme for arrival of further
Remainder of 24th Infantry Brigade. (Irish Guards, half battalion of Scots Guards and
2nd South Wales Borderers.)
16th – 18th April
Two T.A. infantry brigades less 2 battalions.
21st – 29th April
Lead echelon of French troops – 6 battalions of Chasseurs Alpins.
appeared probably from the discussion that though the landing itself would, it
was thought, be unopposed, it would be necessary to have trawlers for A/S and
transport work immediately on the troops’ arrival, and this and other
requirements which General Mackesy mentioned, I
transmitted in my message time 1855/11th April.
decided that the SOUTHAMPTON could
sail by on the
12th and Admiralty, Flag Officer Commanding, Orkneys and Shetlands,
and the Commander in Chief, Home Fleet were informed of this. (C.S. 18 1509/11th April).
I received an intercepted message (Admiralty 1429/11th April) giving
the arrangements for escorting the first troop and store convoy for
Narvik. This message
was not addressed or repeated to me, but as I could not see any other cruiser
force likely to be available to act as a cruiser escort to it, I presumed it to
be the intention that I should do so with MANCHESTER and
further consideration of the duties required of SOUTHAMPTON, it
appeared to me desirable that she should be accompanied by destroyers, both in
order to assist in landing troops, and to provide some A/S protection. I accordingly suggested this in my message
210/11th April which Admiralty approved. I also represented in a personal message to
D.C.N.S. the necessity of some trawlers to assist in landing troops from the
larger transports. The boat facilities
of the latter, and of available warships, seemed very inadequate, and landing
would not be facilitated by the fact that two of the vessels were Polish.
MASHONA, AFRIDI, SIKH, MATABELE, and MOHAWK sailed for the inshore operation.
Friday, 12th April
I held a meeting with Commodores and Captains of CHROBRY and BATORY, General
Mackesy and his staff, Captain Maund,
and Captain Jeans to discuss the best placed and methods for landing operations
The discussion was an officer with local knowledge (Sub Lieutenant Job,
PROSERPINE), whose services were offered by the Rear Admiral, Scapa. His information showed that landing would
probably present great navigational difficulties, owing to the great depths of
water, the snow clad landscape, and the possibility of ice in the inlets. As there was more than a possibility that
landing might be opposed and there would certainly be air attacks, the chances
of success began to appear somewhat problematical. The troops would be landing in inhospitable
and rugged country, without artillery or A.A. protection. On full consideration, it appeared to me
that, unless we could effect a landing at
Narvik itself, it would be better to transfer the operation
to Tromso. In
this connection, I found that General Mackesy was
unaware of the report given in A.T. 1529/11th April that German
warships had arrived at Tromso and were landing
troops, and he expressed some concern at the prospect of the enemy having
established themselves there. (This report afterwards proved to have been
therefore sent my message 1234/12th April, recommending that this
alternative should be considered, and after verbal communication with D.C.N.S.
through Flag Officer Commanding, Orkneys and Shetlands, I sent my 1225/11th
April, stating that I intended to sail with MANCHESTER and
BIRMINGHAM at 1600
to rendezvous and form course for the troop convoy.
with ESCAPADE and ELECTRA, and at 1200 CHROBRY and BATORY with PROTECTOR,
VOLUNTEER, WITHERINGTON, VANOC, and WHIRLWIND.
H.A. Packer, R.N. assumed command of MANCHESTER at
1400, when Captain H.H. Bousfield left for London on
I sailed from Scapa with MANCHESTER and BIRMINGHAM and off Cape Wrath at 1900
fell in with troops convoy, consisting of CHROBRY, BATORY, EMPRESS OF
AUSTRALIA, MONARCH OF BERMUDA, REINA DEL PACIFICO, and PROTECTOR, escorted by
CAIRO, WITHERINGTON, VOLUNTEER, VANOC, WHIRLWIND, and HIGHLANDER and proceeded
– speed of advance 14 knots.
Saturday, 13th April
VINDICTIVE with CODRINGTON, ACASTA, and ARDENT joined company from Scapa and
Captain (D) First Destroyer Flotilla became Senior Officer of escort.
BRAZEN joined from SullomVoe.
REPULSE, screened by JANUS, JAVELIN, and JUNO were then sighted. REPULSE proceeded for Scapa escorted by the
“J” class destroyers and VALIANT took station ahead of the convoy, screened
separately by GRIFFIN,
FEARLESS, and BRAZEN.
convoy and escorting forces continued their course northward during the day
without further incident.
Sunday, 14th April
I received the Commander in Chief, Home Fleet’s 0916/14th April,
asking for whereabouts of MANCHESTER and
BIRMINGHAM. A reply was made at once, though it was
necessary to break W/T silence for the first time since leaving Scapa, as the
enquiry was marked IMMEDIATE. At 1230,
special Norwegian charts for ships going to Vaagsfjord
were transferred to ARDEN by
landed 300 seaman and marines from that ship and SHEFFIELD at
Namsos, without opposition.
The cruisers then withdrew to seaward, maintaining touch with the
landing party by destroyer.
orders were received in A.T. 1818/14th April that the troops in
CHROBRY and EMPRESS OF AUSTRALIA were to be diverted to arriveNamsos at dusk on Monday, 15th April. The Convoy was accordingly divided as
one battalion Yorks and Lancs. Regt. And Brigade
EMPRESS OF AUSTRALIA
one battalion of K.O.Y.L.I. and one battalion of
actually signalled to Captain (D), First Destroyer
Flotilla to detail 4 destroyers to join the Namsos
contingent, but only three joined up; in the gathering darkness and prevailing
weather it was difficult for a destroyer to close rapidly.
ordered CURLEW to join the Namsos convoy, but she was
some distance away and could not join, even at her maximum seagoing speed of 25
½ knots, till 1600, 15th April.
Monday, 15th April
planned that the troopships should arrive at the entrance to Namsen Fjord about dusk, so as to be able to unload under
cover of darkness. I was somewhat uneasy
about the chances of getting these large vessels safely unloaded, especially in
the case of the EMPRESS OF AUSTRALIA, which has in turning screws. There is only room for one ship at a time to
anchor off Namsos.
I therefore arranged to transport troops from the EMPRESS OF AUSTRALIA
in to the destroyers of Captain (D), Sixth Destroyer Flotilla’s force inside
1001/15th April, CURLEW reported she would be sixteen hours late at
the rendezvous given her for 1600, in existing weather. This was
as it appeared that every possible A.A. protection would be needed.
working to seaward of the Namsos area, had been
shadowed daily by enemy reconnaissance aircraft, though not as yet
attacked. The destroyer force in shore
waters was attacked at frequent intervals.
On Sunday, 14th April they were attacked by 22 aircraft, but
suffered no damage and three of the enemy aircraft made forced landings, their
crews being captured by the Norwegians.
15th April, SOMALI was very heavily attacked while waiting in the
vicinity of Namsos for the arrival of General Carton
de Wiart, who was due to arrive from the United
Kingdom by a Sunderland flying boat, and to take command of the troops to be
landed at Namsos.
Three separate attacks were made on SOMALI in the course of the day by
Junker 88 bombers and Junker 87 dive bombers.
61 bombs were dropped but there were no hits and two of the enemy
machines appeared to be hit by gunfire.
General de Wiart arrived at the beginning of
the final attack, and his flying boat was machine guns, his A.D.C. being
wounded in the knee and having to return to England in the
flying boat. This was the only casualty
caused by the enemy attacks.
expended all her H.E. ammunition and was firing H.A. practice for moral effect
at the end. I have mentioned this
incident at some length because it is typical of the conditions produced by
operating within short distance of an enemy air base without air protection and
without intensive attack on that air base (Vaernes
airport was not attacked by our aircraft until the night of 16/17th
April). Captain Nicholson informed me
that the ship’s company of SOMALI behaved with great steadiness through a
grueling day, but one cannot but be concerned at the position produced by the
rapid expenditure of the outfit of H.A. ammunition. The aircraft must
that if they go on long enough ships are bound to run out and be at their
mercy, and it is impossible to refrain from engaging aircraft which may be
about to make a high level bombing attack.
time CAIRO and the older destroyers were becoming short on fuel, and it was
necessary to consider seriously where they could be replenish, as there
appeared to be no suitable anchorage nearer than Skjelfjord
and the tanker there had many calls to meet.
The smaller ships could be oiled from the cruisers if necessary, and
preparations were made for this.
I received Admiralty Message 1146/15th April, ordering the landing
to be deferred and my force to steer N.W., and at 1354 Admiralty Message
1322/15th April directing me to proceed to Lillesjona
anchorage in 66-14 degrees North, 13-00 degrees East. The convoy’s course was altered accordingly
and as it was impossible to reach the anchorage before dark, I steamed out to
the westward until dusk, to escape aircraft observation. In this the convoy was fortunate on this
occasion, as no enemy aircraft were sighted all day.
COMMANDING, 18TH CRUISER SQUADRON
State of 18th
Cruiser Squadron at 0001, 16th April
proceeding to Lillesjona anchorage in company with convoy NP.1
At Vaagsfjord, orders of Flag Officer in Charge, Narvik.
At sea off Trondhjem area, supporting destroyers working in the Indreled, with landing parties established
ashore at Namsos and Bangsund.
Refitting at Tyne. Structural defects. Date uncertain
Refitting at Tyne. Annual refit. Completing about mid May.
Saturday, 16th April (n.b. should read Tuesday, 16th
intercepted Admiralty Message 1339/15 to Captain (D), Sixth Destroyer Flotilla,
which gave the policy to be followed as regards landing from the convoy – i.e.
to transship troops and stores to destroyers at Lillesjona
and send them down to Namsos through the inner leads.
I considered this a great improvement on
the previous plan, but though it was inevitable that the convoy would be
subject to air attack (and also, probably , submarine
attack) if it remained long at this anchorage.
I accordingly sent my message 2022/15 expressing my intention to
withdraw the transports to Vaagsfjord if air attack
2. At 0500 an enemy flying boat was sighted over
the land, distance 12 miles, steering a southerly course; it continued steadily
on its way and only just came within gun range.
It is doubtful whether it observed the convoy.
3. My force arrived at
anchorage and anchored at 0600/16; AFRIDI, MATABELE, MASHONA, and SIKH joined
my flag outside. The oiler WAR PINDARI,
escorted by FORTUNE and NUBIAN arrived at 0800, and SOMALI with Major General
Carton de Wiart, arrived from Namsos
at 0930. Immediate steps were taken to
complete destroyers was necessary with fuel, and to transfer the troops. General de
hoped to get the destroyers away with two battalions and advanced Brigade
Headquarters by . After fuelling, destroyers went alongside
transports and embarked troops and stores at follows.
No. 1 Stbd
wireless long range set
No. 2 Port
A and B coys. Yorks and Lancs Regiment
Both for Namsos
C and D coys. York and Lancs Regiment. Major Strong. 1 short range
W/T set, M.O. and stretcher bearers
No. 1 Stbd
A, B, and C
Companies Lincoln, Sub Section R.E.Õs (11)
No. 2 Port
H.Q. Coy and
D Coy, Lincolns; Advanced Brigade Headquarters
Both for Namsos.
4. On his arrival I held a conference on board
MANCHESTER with General de Wiart, Captains (D) Fourth
and Sixth Destroyer Flotillas, and the Officers Commanding Battalions, to
discuss the details of trans shipment.
The Brigadier of the 146th Brigade and his staff were
unfortunately still in the BATORY as it had not been possible to transfer them
5. It was decided at this meeting to get the two
battalions away so as to land the same evening with just as many stores as
could be embarked at the time. To do
this, and send SOMALI to Scapa to replenish with fuel and ammunition, I had to
take NUBIAN from WAR PINDARI’s escort.
6. The Third Battalion was to be embarked on the
destroyers’ return the next morning, and meanwhile all stores would, I hoped,
have been trans shipped to CHROBRY which would then
proceed to Namsos with stores only. Unfortunately these plans had to be modified
as result of enemy air attack. Enemy
aircraft were first sighted at 1250 and the first machine appeared to be merely
on reconnaissance. Other machines
arrived, however, at short intervals and a number of bombs were dropped in a
series of High Level Bombing attacks which lasted from 1245 to 1615. Subsequent single aircraft were sighted and
engaged between 1730 and 1815 but these made no attacks and were routine
reconnaissance machines. All the
attackers were twin engined land bombers, probably
Junker 88. The first salvo of bombs fell
between the two liners and another within a short distance of the WAR PINDARI;
these three ships each had two destroyers alongside making a very large and
vulnerable target. Other bombs fell on
7. In spite of these attacks, the destroyers
(AFRIDI, NUBIAN, MATABELE, MASHONA, and SIKH) were got away with the troops at
1345, and SOMALI then sailed for Scapa.
As the last named had no H.E. ammunition left I was compelled to refuse
Captain Nicholson’s suggestion that as he had most local knowledge he should
take the General back to Namsos.
8. When it became clear that air attacks were
persisting, I had to review the plans made in concert with the General. It was true that air attacks were not so far
on a very large scale, though practically continuous; but I could see no reason
why they should not increase and continue at short intervals; and it was
impossible to ignore the risk of a disastrous hit on a liner full of
troops. I was confirmed in my opinion by
a visit I paid to the troopships in the course of the afternoon, when it became
clear to me that the morale of the young and untried soldiers was likely to
suffer, if they were subjected to prolonged attacks of this kind, while still
embarked. I therefore decided that it
would be necessary to leave the anchorage before daylight the next
morning. This made it impossible to use
the destroyers as arranged. According, I
decided to move the third battalion and as many stores as possible from the
EMPRESS OF AUSTRALIA to the CHROBRY and send the latter in alone to
Namsos. I had hoped
to be able to put half the battalion in ASHANTI, which
had been ordered to join my flag at Lillesjona, but
she was diverted by the Admiralty and did not arrive. I was thus committed to sending a battalion
into Namsos in the CHROBRY, but as General de
Wiart was very anxious for these reinforcements, as well as
the stores, I decided the risk must be accepted as being no greater than would
be incurred by the ship remaining at Lillesjona and
exposed to air attacks until the
9. Accordingly work was commenced on the
transfer as soon as practicable and went on without cessation with assistance
of the Norwegian patrol vessel NORDKAPP, Commander Seip,
which arrived shortly after my force and was taken alongside the transports for
10. Expenditure of ammunition during the air
attacks on this afternoon was again heavy, although the necessity of husbanding
resources was impressed on all ships by signal.
The accuracy of fire was somewhat variable. At least on enemy aircraft was hit and
disappeared over the hills losing height rapidly. A moment later distant explosions were heard,
which were probably bombs jettisoned.
Local intelligence at Namsos subsequently
reported that three machines had failed to return to their bases. The enemy apparently found bomb aiming
difficult, and on several occasions made dummy runs without dropping
bombs. There was a strong squally N.E.
wind blowing down the fjord. High hills
and cloud conditions made it easy for the enemy bombers to disappear quickly at
need. Later in the afternoon, the amount
of low clouds increased, down to the hill tops in places; these conditions may
well have been responsible for the attacks ceasing at the time they did.
11. WAR PINDARI, with FORTUNE as escort, sailed
for Skjel Fjord at 1800. CURLEW arrived at 1730.
Wednesday, 17th April
12. By 0230 transfer of stores and troops had to
stop if I was to get my force away before daylight. By then all the troops had been transferred
and all but 170 tons of the stores in the EMPRESS OF AUSTRALIA.
13. It was unfortunate, in these circumstances,
that at 0130 HIGHLANDER, who was on patrol at the Southern entrance to the
fjord reported that she had run aground and had one engine and her Asdic gear out
of action. She was however to proceed
without escort and make good 15 – 20 knots on one engine, while the other
engine might possible be of use in emergency.
I accordingly ordered her to proceed at convenient speed to SullomVoe. This accident seemed particularly
unfortunate, as my already small destroyer screen was now reduced to two old
considerable difficulty in weighing due to the anchor jamming between rocks,
and this delayed the sailing of my force somewhat. Eventually the other ships were ordered to
proceed ahead at 0338 and MANCHESTER
followed some ten minutes later.
15. There was, however, one fortunate result of
this chapter of accidents and that was that HIGHLANDER, when well ahead of the
force, sighted an enemy submarine on the surface and compelled it to dive, so
that the convoy had little difficulty in avoiding its position.
16. On leaving
anchorage I steered out to the westward, turning southeast in time to arrived
off the entrance to Namsen Fjord at 1945 (sunset
being 1952). Meanwhile a report was
received from Captain (D) Fourth Destroyer Flotilla, that the troops had
successfully landed from the Tribals during the night
and the latter had left Namsen Fjord to rendezvous
with me. This they did at 1000 when they
were formed up as an A/S screen on the convoy.
At 0800 ARDENT overtook the convoy from the northward and reported that
she had on board Brigadier Phillips, commanding the 146th Brigade
for passage to Namsos. She was directed to keep in company with the
convoy and proceeded in with CHROBRY at dusk.
17. No aircraft were sighed during the day until
1845, when a Walrus, probably GLASGOW’s aircraft, was
seen to the eastward and at 1900, a
large flying boat, probably enemy, was sighted far away to the westward,
18. At 1145 I detached
VANOC and WHIRLWIND, to escort EMPRESS OF AUSTRALIA back to the Clyde. There seemed no alternative to letting the
170 tons of stores still in her go back to the United
Kingdom and be shipped
back in a smaller vessel, and the sooner this was done the better.
General de Wiart, who was in AFRIDI at this time, agreed. It was unfortunate that it was later reported
that certain but important items of stores for Brigade Headquarters (Bren guns,
parts of the W/T set and Officers’ kits) were still in the VANOC, but it was
essential to send the “W” class destroyers back for fuel, and Admiralty were
asked by W/T to reship these also. In
the circumstances of transfer of stores at maximum speed in the dark and with
minimum facilities or notice, some confusion was almost inevitable.
19. At 1945, I parted company with the convoy at
the entrance to Namsen Fjord and stood off to the
North westward for the night. CAIRO was
detached to Skjel Fjord to fuel from the BRITISH LADY
and CURLEW and the Tribal destroyers accompanied CHROBRY up the fiord.
Thursday, 18th April
20. The disembarkation of the third battalion and
the stores from CHROBRY at Namsos proceeded without
interruption from the enemy, and went on till 0200 when the military working
parties were withdrawn, presumably in order to take cover before daylight. This cessation left 130 tons of stores still
on board her and the G.O.C. agreed to these remaining.
21. The ships then left for the open sea before
daylight and joined me in position 65-00 degrees North,
7-50 degrees West.
I had received message 0430/18th April from the Flag Officer in
EMILE BERTIN which made it clear that the first French convoy could not arrive
Namsos until the evening of the 19th instead of
on the 18th as expected. This
convoy consisted of the following ships:
EL D’JEZAIR (Flag), 5000 tons, EL MANSOUR, 5000 tons, EL KANTARA, 5000
tons, and VILLE D’ORAN, 10,000 tons. It
was escorted by the EMILE BERTIN, TARTU, MAILLE
BREZE, EPERVIER, and MILAN. General de
did not consider that it was possible to deal with all 4 transports at one time
at Namsos and it was accordingly intended that two of
the smaller vessels should go in the first night and the remainder 24 hours
22. Now that it was apparent that the French
convoy could not arrive until the 19th, there was another day in
hand and accordingly Captain (D) Fourth Destroyer Flotilla proposed that
CHROBRY should be turned round and go in again at dusk to unload the remainder
of her stores, and also to embark a quantity of timber which was at
Namsos awaiting shipment.
I agreed, although the Commodore transmitted to me a strong protest from
the Master of the CHROBRY in his signal 1124/18th April (n.b. pen and ink
correction inserted “and 1801/18") of which a copy is enclosed. I consider that the unexpected opportunity of
landing the additional stores should not be missed.
23. After disembarking their troops at
Namsos the Tribal destroyers had re embarked their naval
landing parties of GLASGOW and
SHEFFIELD. These were transferred to their proper ships
inside the entrance to the Fiords and GLASGOW and
me 0900. I then ordered these two ships
to return to Scapa to refuel and await further orders; the operation for which
they had been sent (the mopping up of the Indreled)
had now come to an end and they also required to fuel before further service.
24. MATABELE had also to be sent in for fuel, and
Captain (D) Fourth Destroyer Flotilla reported that he was becoming short
handed for the operations in prospect as SOMALI had already gone and ASHANTI had not
joined as expected. I therefore asked
the Flag Officer in Charge, Narvik to send ZULU to
join Captain (D) Fourth Destroyer Flotilla, but he was unable to spare her in
view of his own impending operations. I
also asked for SOMALI to return as soon as possible. There remained the question of escort for the
FRANCONIA which was due to
be detached from the main convoy for passage to Narvik. I felt that REPULSE could ill afford to
detach even one of her three screening destroyers and I directed REPULSE, in my
message 2150/18 which was repeated to the Commander in Chief, Home Fleet, to
take FRANCONIA on to
Narvik herself. The
French convoy would be continuously covered by my two cruisers.
25. CHROBRY duly went into
Fjord at 1845, escorted by CAIRO and
four destroyers. An enemy seaplane was
sighted at about 1900 but no attack developed.
Namsos was reached, the remaining stores
unloaded and a quantity of timber was embarked, the ship sailing again at 0230.
Friday, 19th April
26. I received the Commander in Chief’s signal
0057/19 ordering MANCHESTER and BIRMINGHAM to Rosyth, GLASGOW and SHEFFIELD to
the Clyde (all to arrive by a.m. 20th April), and all destroyers,
except MOHAWK and ASHANTI, from Namsos area to
Scapa. MANCHESTER turned
to the southwestward accordingly and worked up to 27 knots. GLASGOW and
already about to ender Scapa and had to go in there in any case to fuel. At 0238, I received Admiralty message 0017,
which gave further information regarding the operations contemplated and
preparations were accordingly begun in MANCHESTER for the
reception of troops and stores. The
detachment of these ships left only the A.A. cruiser to escort and cover the
convoy into Namsosharbour. I view this position with some anxiety,
especially as the next convoy was to be the first French one and in view of the
growing probability of submarines operating off the entrance to
Namsen Fjord. At
0515 I sighted REPULSE and her screen; she had not made contact with the French
convoy and I informed her of the new orders under which I was acting.
27. The destroyers had left
before the revised orders were received, and it was necessary for Captain (D),
Fourth Destroyer Flotilla to arrange to transfer to the shore the General and
his staff (who had again embarked in AFRIDI for the day to remain in
communication) and pilots for the French for the French convoy. For this purpose, he had to reenter the Fiord
with AFRIDI, NUBIAN, and CAIRO.
maintained a speed of 27 knots to the southward during the day, in order to
arrive at Rosyth in good time on the 20th. At 1741, however, I received the Commander in
Chief’s signal 1646/19 cancelling the previous orders and directing me to
return to the Namsos area with one A.A. cruiser and
one destroyer and assist the French. As
we had made some 400 miles to the southward since the morning it was clearly impossible
to get back to Namsos for the first and critical
French landing. I therefore adjusted
course and speed with a view to meeting the convoy on its return journey from
Namsos. I felt in
these circumstances my position might be an awkward one as my intervention at a
later stage might not be appreciated, especially if the French had met with
loss or difficulty in effecting the landing.
Hence my message 1942/19; I thought that in the circumstances it might
have been better not to afford belated support.
Saturday, 20th April
29. On the morning of this day I found
considerable difficulty in clearing up the situation and obtaining the
necessary information as to the whereabouts of the units concerned. By 0600 I had no information whether in fact
the French convoy had arrived at Namsos during the
night in whole or in part, whether it had landed troops, where it was not or
what ships were in company with it, and I was compelled to ask for information
by W/T of CAIRO, Captain (D) Fourth Destroyer Flotilla, and EMILE BERTIN.
30. At 0658 I received the Commander in Chief,
Home Fleet’s 0554/20 ordering BIRMINGHAM to
proceed with despatch to escort convoy F.P. 1, which
was stated had sailed from Namsos at 0500 escorted by
two French destroyers.
31. At 0810 EMILE
0001/20 and received in which it was reported that she had been hit during an
aircraft attack “Off Namsos” at 1802 the previous
evening and was proceeding southwestwards at 22 knots. These signals still left me unaware whether a
landing had been effected.
32. At 0821 Captain (D), Fourth Destroyer
Flotilla reported that he was not in company with the convoy. At 1114, as I had received no reply from
CAIRO to my
0604 and the last report from her at 0455 from FoldenFjiord was a report of enemy aircraft, I send a
hastening signal. At 1141 as it was
clear that MANCHESTER would reach F.P. 1 long before BIRMINGHAM could do so I
ordered the latter to make contact with the second French troop convoy F.P. 1A
(VILLE D’ALGER, CALCUTTA, and two French destroyers) and cover them towards
Namsos. In the
absence of any further information regarding F.P. 1 I asked EL DJEZAIR at 1332
to report its position, course, and speed, and whether the transports were
empty. Shortly after this message was despatched the situation was cleared up expectedly by an
intercepted signal from TARTU timed
1100/20 and I now know that the transports had been successfully cleared except
for a few tons of stores.
33. I therefore decided to steer to the westward
to make contact with the convoy and escort on its return journey, proceeding
myself to fuel at Scapa as soon as I had seen it safely into SullomVoe.
34. I was greatly relieved to get this
information about the French convoys, as the continued silence of CAIRO
combined with reports of aircraft attacks, had seemed very ominous. CAIRO’s reply to my 0604 was timed 0953 and, being
sent without indication of priority, was not actually received by me until
35. At 1830 I sighted the French convoy with
NUBIAN, TARTU, and LE
CHEVALIER PAUL in company. I took
station in the rear of the convoy to accompany them on their passage
westwards. CAIRO now signalled
a report of the air attacks which had taken place on the convoy F.P. 1 in the
approaches to Namsos the previous evening, and as a
result of this, and of messages I had received from the Senior Officer of the
A/S trawlers at Namsos reporting very heavy air
attacks on the town and his ships during the day, I send my message 2035/20
stressing the paramount necessity of air protection and support at
Namsos if that place was not to become untenable. As it was, the Anti Submarine Force was
compelled to withdraw and it appeared the town itself was practically
destroyed. At this time, of course, it
was defenceless except for the close range weapons of
contact with VILLE D’ALGER and CALCUTTA (F.P.
1A at 2230. NUBIAN had been ordered on
ahead to Namsos to consult with the General as to
future landing operations in view of the air attacks on the port.
Sunday, 21st April
0416/21 and 0530/21 gave General de Wiart’s report of
the situation at Namsos, and from these it must
appear that of the face of it further disembarkation must cease for the time
being. At 1206, however, Admiralty
ordered NUBIAN to return to Namsos and afford A.A.
protection to that place. This left the
policy to be followed still in doubt, and I did not feel justified in issuing
any instructions to F.P. 1 A. The same
applied to two ships of the Store Convoy N.S.M. 1 which were due to arrive at
Namsos on 22nd April. These were BLACKHEATH with motor transport,
ammunition and other stores and BALMAHA with coal for the trawlers.
37. No further instructions having been received,
however, at 1355/21 BISON reported that she was steering 020 degrees with
Convoy F.P. 1 A until further orders and, at 1600/21 she was steering course
At 1621 I received BIRMINGHAM’s 1531/21 stated that BISON had been
instructed to this effect and asking whether this action was correct. I replied that it was so unless contrary
orders were received from the Commander in Chief, my intentions were to carry
out the existing policy as regards landing until it was definitely changed by
higher authority. My instructions were
confirmed by the Commander in Chief at 1729/21.
Meanwhile at 1556/21 the Admiralty were still
asking for further information about the situation at Namsos
in a message addressed to NUBIAN. As the
latter could not get to Namsos till 1915 and had then
to communicate with the General, it would obviously be impossible to get a
reply in time for a landing that evening, though the question was actually
asked whether this would be possible.
38. To return to
MANCHESTER’s movements, at 1300 I parted company with
the convoy off the Shetlands and proceeded at 23 knots to arrive at Scapa
before dark. One unidentified aircraft
was sighted on passage, but only for a brief interval through the clouds, and
may have been friendly. At 2000 MANCHESTER arrived
at Scapa and anchored in A.1 Berth and I went on board RODNEY to report
verbally to the Commander in Chief regarding the situation in the
39. On my return I saw
messages 2046 and 2121, representing very strongly on behalf of General de
Wiart that no further landings should take place at
Namsos and even that the evacuation of the troops there
must be contemplated. In consequence the
Commander in Chief, at 2304/21, ordered VILLE D’ALGER not to enter
Namsos. She was then
already inside the Fiord but went out again.
The Commander in Chief’s instructions in fact crossed a signal from BIRMINGHAM
reporting that the convoy had entered Namsen Fjord
without incident at 2030.
40. The Commander in Chief, Home Fleet also
ordered BLACKHEATH to stand off to the northward and arrive at
Namsos at dusk on 22nd, BIRMINGHAM
returning to Scapa.
41. At this stage I considered myself as having
relinquished the immediate responsibility in Namsos
42. At 0800 on this day Rear Admiral M.L. Clarke
hoisted his Flag in the SHEFFIELD as Rear
Admiral, Second in Command of the 18th Cruiser Squadron. SHEFFIELD was
selected as temporary Flagship as SOUTHAMPTON was
still detained in the Narvik Area.
Monday, 22nd April
43. At 1100 I visited the Chief of Staff in the
RODNEY was given verbal instructions from the Commander in Chief to proceed to
Rosyth and take charge of a force of three cruisers and three destroyers to be
employed in transporting a body of 2000 troops and 300 tons of stores to
Molde and Aandalsnes. The cruisers detailed were
MANCHESTER, BIRMINGHAM, and
the destroyers ARROW, ACHERON, and GRIFFIN. I accordingly left Scapa in
Rosyth at 1800. BIRMINGHAM was
unable to reach Rosyth without refuelling and was due
to arrive at Scapa from the north at 0200/23.
already proceeded to Rosyth for this operation.
the orders of Vice Admiral Commanding, Second Cruiser Squadron in GALATEA with
6 destroyers had already sailed from Rosyth with a similar force for
Molde and Aandalsnes area at
Tuesday, 23rd April
44. I arrived at Rosyth in
MANCHESTER at 0700
and went alongside North Wall. Stores
for the Military, including two Bofors guns, were
embarked during the day but it was discovered that the troops themselves would
not be available to embark until the early hours of the 24th. I was anxious to proceed as early as possible
on that day in order to have time in hand to enter the Fiords at about sunset
on the 25th even if adverse winds were encountered. BIRMINGHAM arrived
at Rosyth at 1700 and at once began embarking stores. I discussed the arrangements for the passage
and disembarkation at a meeting of Commanding Officers and explained that it
was my intention that ships should leave the disembarkation ports individually
as soon as they had completed the disembarkation and in any case well before
Wednesday, 24th April
45. The troops were embarked between
A battalion of the Green
Howards were embarked in BIRMINGHAM and
personnel of No. 260 A.A. Battery in YORK; apart
from them the troops consisted of line of communication units and base
details. Major General Paget and the
Headquarters Staff of his Division, embarked in MANCHESTER,
together with some officers of the Advance Headquarters Unit of the Fifth Corps
and Captain Maxwell-Hyslop, Royal Navy, Liaison
Officer with the Fifth Corps. The number
of troops embarked were somewhat reduced from the original estimate as a large
party of Base Units were delayed on the Clyde. The numbers actually embarked were as
61 officers and 429 other ranks
10 officers and 271
22 officers and 589 other ranks
5 officers and 57 other
officers and 57 other ranks
3 officers and 57 other
(n.b. pen and
ink correction to “Commodore”)Boase, appointed
P.S.T.O., Norway, was
embarked in YORK and also Mr. E.K. Sandeman, a B.B.C.
MANCHESTER, BIRMINGHAM, and
ARROW, ACHERON, and GRIFFIN sailed
from Rosyth at 0600 on 24th April and proceeded by the swept channel
and east of the Orkneys and Shetlands.
Thursday, 25th April
47. Weather, fresh to strong E.N.E. wind, sea
moderate becoming rough. During the day
the force proceeded towards Romdals Fiord by the
0800 62-10 degrees North, 01-44 degrees East
1200 62-56 degrees North, 03-31 degrees East
aircraft provided A/S patrol in the early part of the day. At 1600 two German aircraft were sighted and
carried out a high level bombing attack dropping two salvos of eight bombs,
four of which fell near MANCHESTER and the
others produced three near misses on BIRMINGHAM, but
without damage. These aircraft made off
and were probably a normal reconnaissance patrol at or near the end of its
endurance, as they did not stay or shadow.
They were engaged by the ships’ H.A. guns and the cruisers opened their
distance to two miles on being attack.
An escort of Blenheims from 1800 to 1900 had
been promised but did not materialize.
49. At 1900 the force arrived off
Bjornsund and entered the fjord, ARROW and ACHERON carrying
out an A/S sweep ahead, followed by MANCHESTER, YORK, and BIRMINGHAM in that
order, GRIFFIN being stationed on my port quarter. Two unidentified aircraft were sighted at
long range to the southwestward as the ships were entering the Fjord but soon
disappeared. Another unidentified aircraft
was sighted to the southward but also disappeared. MANCHESTER went alongside
the quay at Molde at 2030 and the remainder of the
force proceeded to Aandalsnes. Disembarkation from
commenced at once and troops, guns and stores landed on the quay. The General and an advances party of
Headquarters Staff embarked in the Norwegian destroyer SLEIPNER, which came
alongside and proceeded to Aandalsnes, the remainder
of the Headquarters Units being embarked in a puffer for the same
destination. The unloading of ship was
carried out with unexpectedly rapidity and the ship was clear of troops and
stores by 2215. I then proceeded out of
the Fjords and to seaward as previously arranged. While at Molde I
saw Captain M.M. Denny, R.N., the Senior Naval Officer in the
Aandalsnes-Molde area, who informed me that
Aandalsnes anchorage had been subjected to heavy air
attacks during the day and that three trawlers of the 22nd A/S Group
and a Norwegian torpedo boat had been sunk.
MOLDE had only been raided once during the afternoon without much
embarked Major Beasly(n.b. G.W. Beazley), R.M. and 3 naval
ratings and 1 army rank wounded for passage to the United
BIRMINGHAM and the
destroyers had proceeded to Aandalsnes and carried
out their disembarkation there successfully and without interference from the
enemy. YORK went
alongside the wharf and BIRMINGHAM
anchored in the fjord. Disembarkation
was effected with the help of destroyers and puffers. These ships proceeded on completing
disembarkation at 0150 on the 26th.
Friday, 26th April
Fresh to strong E.N.E. wind, cloudy, and sea rough.
arranged a rendezvous with BIRMINGHAM at 1000
on 26th. YORK and the
destroyers had been ordered to proceed to Scapa on completion of the landing
operations and were proceeding independently.
Between 0500 and 0700 MANCHESTER was
shadowed by an enemy aircraft which was intermittently engaged. The machine was a
115 seaplane. At the end of its
shadowing period, it dropped a salvo of bombs through the clouds, which fell
200 yards astern of MANCHESTER. At 0740
reported enemy aircraft dropping bombs but subsequently that the splashes were
not bombs, but the result of an engagement between ARROW and a German armed
trawler, which BIRMINGHAM
sank. This trawler was disguised with
Dutch colours, but hoisted the German ensign and
succeeded in ramming ARROW when her identity was discovered. ARROW was holed above the waterline. In consequence of this and early shadowing by
enemy aircraft I altered my rendezvous with BIRMINGHAM to 1230
in a position further to the northwest.
52. As a result of
BIRMINGHAM’s encounter with the armed trawler, however,
I was ordered by CinC to
sweep to the southward to locate transports which he considered were almost
certainly being escorted by the trawler and turned to this course at 1045.
however, reported that the trawler was a minelayer and was not escorting. The other destroyers now fell in with a
second enemy armed trawler, this time fitted as a Submarine Supply Ship and
armed with two torpedo tubes. This
vessel was to the southward of the previous one; she was captured by GRIFFIN and a
prize crew put on board.
53. The area in which further units connected
with these trawlers were likely to be had already been traversed in several
directions by units of our forces proceeded to and from Namsos
and Romdals Fjord in the last twelve hours. To sweep it out again finally I made us of
six destroyers under HYPERION, which I now sighed steering southwest. These were the relieved screen for the
aircraft carriers returning to Scapa Flow to
fuel. I ordered them to spread on a line
of bearing on their way south and keep a look out for enemy supply ships. To deal with the area to the eastwards of
that covered by these destroyers I stationed BIRMINGHAM on my port beam ten
miles and the two cruisers swept south and then east until 1600 when, nothing
having been sighted except a shadowing aircraft during the afternoon, I turned
to the northward to take up a covering position off the entrance to
TrondhjemFjiord for the
night. This was in accordance with the CinC’s signal 1543/26, directing me to cover the operations
of NUBIAN, SIKH, ASHANTI, and MOHAWK inside TrondjemLeden and VaaksKrags Fjord on the nights of 26th and 27th
April. This patrol was maintained
without incident, the two cruisers patrolling on a line 040 degrees – 220
degrees about 30 miles from the coast until daylight.
Saturday, 27th April
54. Weather fine, wind light variable, sea
smooth, small amount of high cloud only.
as 0407 an enemy shadowing aircraft – a Heinkel 111 K
– was sighted and shadowers were in view at intervals
throughout the morning.
55. At this juncture, a large number of different
convoys and units had become congregated in the area to westward of the coast
between Namsos and Romdals
Fjord and several were sighted by MANCHESTER. At 0550 five ships were sighted which were
made out to be the petrol carrier RONAN escorted by four A/S trawlers and bound
for Namsos. At
0615 eight more trawlers were sighted which proved to be the 15th
and 16th A/S Striking Forces, also bound for Namsos. At 1057 a convoy consisting of the ship
GUNVOR MAERSK, escorted by WOLVERINE, KIMBERLEY,
BRAZEN, and two A/S trawlers was sighted.
This convoy was also bound for Namsos.
56. From reports of shadowing aircraft it was
clear that V.A. (A) and his aircraft carrier force were operating in the
vicinity and that CURLEW was close by on her way to Namsos. On its way to
was also convoy T.M. 1 consisting of four important
store ships escorted by three destroyers.
It appeared very likely that any or all of these units would be attacked
by enemy aircraft during the day, but I considered that my task remained that
of covering the inshore operations of the four Tribals
and I therefore did not attempt to provide special cover for any of the other
units but stood off to the westward until 1400, when I turned to the reciprocal
to get in position to repeat the patrol of the previous night. At 1630 MANCHESTER sighted
and sank a German floating mine (horned type) in 65-24 degrees
North, 5-05 East.
57. At 1750
a single twin engined bomber. This machine did not appear to be exactly
identical with either the HE 111 K or JU 88 types but resembled more closely
the former. After circling round the
ships this machine made a high level bombing attack from about 11,000 feet, but
gunfire being accurate, it sheered off, banking steeply and disappearing into a
high cloud layer, the bombs falling about 1000 yards from either ship. No further enemy aircraft were sighted during
the day. At 2230 I turned to the
southwestward to patrol off the coast during the night as on the previous
day. The only reports
received from the destroyers operating inshore so far had been those of enemy
aircraft shadowing and attacking.
Sunday, 28th April
58. At 0819 orders were received for the
evacuation of troops in the Aandalsnes area to be
carried out as soon as possible (Admiralty message 0339/28th April). MANCHESTER and BIRMINGHAM, then in position
64-56 degrees North, 4-58 degrees East were down to 60 % and 66
% of their fuel
respectively, and in response to inquiry from the Commander in Chief (0922/28th
April) I decided the ships must return to Scapa to refuel before undertaking
operations which would probably extend up to the 4th May and would involve high speed steaming.
59. Course was accordingly altered to the
southward at 1100 and speed worked up to 30 knots. This speed was maintained until 1900, when it
was reduced to get out paravanes. MANCHESTER’s port backhaul parted and she formed astern
of BIRMINGHAM. Ships then proceeded at 28 knots there being
a strong southerly wind and moderately rough sea which covered the ships with
heavy spray at high speed. No aircraft
were sighted during this day. At 1405 I
was informed by the Commander in Chief that I was to be in charge of the
evacuation of the Aandalsnes area with the available
ships of the 18th and 2nd Cruiser Squadron, transports
and ULSTER MONARCH, and the necessary destroyers.
Monday, 29th April
at Scapa at 0500. At 0930 I went on
board RODNEY and discussed the situation with the Commander in Chief, and Vice
Admiral Commanding, Second Cruiser Squadron.
I was then verbally informed by the Commander in Chief that my
responsibility for the evacuation would now be limited to the second day’s
operations, Vice Admiral Commanding, Second Cruiser Squadron being in charge of
the first day’s, the original operations having been made on the assumption
that I should already be in the area when the operation started.
61. The situation being so doubtful I considered
it undesirable to issue any written orders for the operations for which I was
responsible, and I sent for the Commanding Officers of the ships detailed to
work with me (MANCHESTER, BIRMINGHAM, CALCUTTA,
INGLEFIELD, DELIGHT, and DIANA) at 1800 and explained to them verbally my
intentions. They were given the route I
intended to follow to and from Romsdals Fjord and the
general instruction that all units were to leave independently without delay as
soon as they had embarked troops. Two
further transports (ROYAL SCOTSMAN and ROYAL ULSTERMAN) were also placed at my
disposal, but I represented to the Commander in Chief in my signal 1855/29 that
I was anxious not to use these vessels for the final day’s embarkation as they
have a speed of only 16 knots and a quick getaway would be essential. MANCHESTER and
completed with fuel and ammunition that (n.b. pen and ink correction.
Changed to “this”) day.
Tuesday, 30th April
62. During the night messages were received and
in particular a report from Brigadier Hogg at Aandalsnes,
which appeared to indicate that the situation was much more serious than had
been expected and that considerable embarrassment had been caused to the
military authorities because they had been expecting the first day’s evacuation
to take place on the night of the 29th-30th April. Owing to the development of the military
situation it was now impossible to use Molde for the
final evacuation, as communication between this place and Aandalsnes
had broken down. It would therefore be
necessary to do the final evacuation from Aandalsnes,
which would inevitably involved a much longer time being spent inside the
fjords by the ships concerned, besides increasing the time necessary to embark
troops, as there was now only one quay fit for use at Aandalsnes. I discussed these latest developments in the
situation with Commanding Officers at a further meeting at 0930. The Commander in Chief then ordered
CALCUTTA to go
on ahead to Aandalsnes in order to provide additional
A.A. defence there in view of the critical
accordingly sailed at 1115. I left Scapa
with MANCHESTER, BIRMINGHAM,
INGLEFIELD, DELIGHT, and DIANA at 1600 and proceeded east of the Orkneys and
Shetlands to position 63 degrees North, 00-45 degree
East, and thence to a position 45 miles 315 degrees from Bud with a view to
passing Buddybet at about 2030 the following day.
(continued after May heading following)
COMMANDING, 18TH CRUISER SQUADRON
1st - 15th MAY 1940
Wednesday, 1st May
63. At 0620 the result of the first night’s
evacuation under the Vice Admiral Commanding Second Cruiser Squadron was
received in message 0430/1st May.
It appeared from Vice Admiral Commanding, Second Cruiser Squadron’s
report that some 2000 troops had been embarked by his force, but that ULSTER
MONARCH was empty and none of his other ships were completely full.
Molde had been
completely evacuated by TARTAR and ULSTER PRINCE, Captain Denny and
his staff embarked in TARTAR and about 150 personnel in ULSTER
PRINCE. Vice Admiral Commanding Second
Cruiser Squadron reported that about 1500 British troops remained to be
embarked, together with an uncertain number of Norwegian troops. The Admiralty had also given authority for
refugees to be embarked at the discretion of Commanding Officers.
64. During the course of the forenoon, I sighted
Vice Admiral Commanding Second Cruiser Squadron’s force proceeding on its
return journey to Scapa. He had already
placed the ULSTER MONARCH at my disposal, and in view
of the indefinite numbers both of British and Norwegian troops that might
require evacuation, I decided to use her and directed Captain (D) VI to take
her into Romsdals Fjord to Aandalsnes
to embark as many troops as possible and sail with DIANA as soon as
loaded. At 1206, however, ULSTER MONARCH
reported that she had a cracked piston and was told to return to Scapa
forthwith. She accordingly proceeded in
company with SIKH and SOMALI and MASHONA joined by flag. I intended on using SOMALI for evacuating the
Naval Marine Landing Party at Aalesund and to use
MASHONA to assist in ferrying troops to BIRMINGHAM and
MANCHESTER. I hoped with one ferry trip by destroyers and
one loading direct into CALCUTTA and
should be able to take off the numbers requiring embarkation. This was, however, considerable doubt as to
the numbers which might require evacuation.
As previously stated, the Vice Admiral Commanding Second Cruiser
Squadron had estimated these at 1500 British and an indefinite number of
Norwegians, and I was unable to obtain any information as to the numbers of the
latter. Vice Admiral Commanding Second
Cruiser Squadron signalled at 1032 that there were no
Norwegian troops actually awaiting embarkation at the time when he left.
Moreover, he reported in his signal 1024/1st May that, as a result
of their experiences, the officers at Aandalsnes were
so shaken that they were unable to give any reliable account of what the real
position at the front was. In the
meantime, CALCUTTA and
arrived in Romsdals Fjord and I hoped to be able to
use one or both of these ships to obtain information regarding the situation
there, though they were instructed to withdraw if bomber attacks became too
66. I arranged for DIANA to go to
Molde for the purpose of embarking the Norwegian Commander
in Chief and his Staff and any stragglers, as the Norwegian Commander in Chief
had refused to embark unless he could be transferred direct some other
Norwegian port. It was not know for
certain whether he would be there, and if he was not she was to proceed to
Aandalsnes and assist me.
67. At 1439 I received a report from CALCUTTA
timed 1303 that the numbers still to be evacuated from Aandalsnes
were about 1800 and that in addition there were about 200 Marines to embark
from the beach in a bay one mile S.W. of Aandalsnes
who would have to be brought off in ships’ boats. At 1706, however, I received the Commander in
Chief’s 1601 containing an estimate by the War Office of the number of British
troops to be embarked which placed the figure as high as 2900 and mentioning
the possibility of some of the troops being unable to reach the embarkation
point on the second night. In
consequence of this information the Commander in Chief, Home Fleet, now began
to make preparations to send in further ships on the night of the 2nd/3rd
May to complete the evacuation.
68. I made arrangements for all ships to drop
their whalers on the way in to evacuate the Royal Marine detachment referred to
above, but as soon as I had done this the Vice Admiral Commanding, Second
Cruiser Squadron informed me that WALKER had reported that the 120 Marines she
had embarked at Veblusungen comprised the whole
detachment. The discrepancy between the
two figures cast some doubt on whether this was so, but in view of the great
delay and complication involved in the use of ships’ boats in embarking troops
from the beach, I acted on the assumption that this party had already been
evacuated, and as far as I am able to ascertain this
was the case.
69. Aircraft attacks on
Romsdals Fjord began at 0730 and continued with increasing
intensity during the day until the ships were finally compelled to withdraw
from the vicinity of Aandalsnes at about 1600.
70. At 1425 a series of enemy aircraft attacks on
began. The first attack was delivered by
three aircraft (probably JU 88’s) diving from a great height to about 2500
feet. The sky was practically
cloudless. The aircraft were not sighted
till shortly before they released their bombs, and were not engaged. Six bombs were dropped and one or more
aircraft also opened fire with machine guns.
There were no hits.
71. Between 1455 and 1510 five aircraft made
three attempts at high level bombing from a considerable height – between
17,000 and 19,000 feet. They were
however engaged and on several occasions sheered off when they found the H.A.
fire becoming accurate. Two machines
appear to fail to get in an attack at all.
About ten bombs were dropped and there were no hits.
72. Between 1540 and 1550 a formation of six
aircraft circled the ships at long range but did not attack. This may possibly have been a formation which
had attacked the aircraft carrier squadron and was on its way back home. For half an hour from 1600 to 1630 the force
was shadowed by a single HE 115 seaplane.
No further attacks developed until the entrance of the Fjords was
73. Fighter escorts when approaching the coast at
dusk had been asked for, but none materialized, though Blenheims
had been over Aandalsnes during the morning.
74. At 1800, SOMALI was detached to
Aalesund to embark the 200 officers and men to the PRIMROSE
75. Although the visibility to seaward was still
extreme, on approaching the coast there were unpleasant signs of fog conditions
which (coupled with reports of dense fog in the Namsos
area) caused me some anxiety and made me decided that it was imperative to get
away in time to clear the land before early morning fog conditions reached
their peak. It would have been a very
unpleasant experience to have been held up in the Fjords with the ships loaded
with troops and the Germans taking possession of that port.
76. At 1900
met off Buddybet and turned back to proceed in
company with the remainder of the force.
They had been very heavily engaged by enemy aircraft all day and both
reported being short of ammunition. Over
150 bombs had been dropped on them but no hits were scored. CALCUTTA had one
4 inch mounting out of action and AUCKLAND only 70
rounds per gun remaining.
77. At 2025 as the force was entering the Fjord a
single enemy bomber was sighted over land on a northerly course. It evidently sighted the ships and turned in
to attack. A high level bombing attack
was delivered from about 11,000 feet in spite of accurate H.A. fire, a salvo of
bombs falling about 500 yards off MANCHESTER’s port
quarter. A second machine then appeared
from the northward and approached to deliver a similar attack from a similar
direction; H.A. fire from the cruisers was however heavy and before the
position of bomb release was reached a direct hit was scored on the enemy
aircraft, which burst into flames and crashed on the hillside. Other enemy aircraft were also seen and
engaged at intervals for the next three quarters of an hour but no further
bombing attacks were delivered until 2145 and it is probable that some of the
aircraft had already dropped bombs on Aandalsnes and
78. At 2145, when well inside the fjords a well
judged and unseen attack on MANCHESTER was
delivered by a single aircraft, probably from a considerable height as
it was not seen and only its engine was heard.
A salvo of three bombs burst close to MANCHESTER’s port bow and threw many splinters on
board. The shock of the explosion
carried away the main and secondary W/T aerials but these were soon replaced by
ship’s staff. No other damage was
done. At the time of this attack
twilight was at its most deceptive stage and it was impossible to see aircraft
at all at anything above a moderate height.
79. In the outer reaches of the fjords four
British trawlers were seen sheltering under the cliffs, and the wrecks of two
others were visible. The surviving
vessels were ordered to proceed to Scapa forthwith. I considered their best chance of getting
away without molestation from aircraft was to proceed independently and put as
bit a distance between themselves and the coast before daylight as possible.
80. Passage up the Fiords was made at 20 knots,
INGLEFIELD and DIANA carrying out an A/S sweep ahead, MASHONA and DELIGHT
following astern of them and dropping occasional depth charges in inlets which
might hold submarines. Off Molde, DIANA was detached to embark the Norwegian Commander
in Chief and his Staff and take them to Tromso if
they wished to go there. Molde was seen to be badly on fire and covering with a
thick pall of smoke. On approaching the
arm of Romsdals Fjord on which Aandalsnes
is situated, the glow of another great fire could soon be seen and a nearer
view showed this to be the village of
southwest of Aandalsnes which was ablaze from end to
end and appeared to have been recently set afire by incendiary bombs. It continued to blaze fiercely throughout the
evacuation, though the flames were dying down when the force left. The illumination
produced by this conflagration, though brilliant over a small area, would
hardly have been sufficient for high bombing purposes against the ships, though
it seemed possible at the time that this was the object of setting fire to the
village. From later information, it
seems more likely that it was part of a deliberated policy of bombing possible
billeting areas, and indicates that the enemy were not
prepared for immediate evacuation.
81. My force arrived off
at 2245. MANCHESTER and BIRMINGHAM
anchored off the town and MASHONA and INGLEFIELD at once went alongside the
quay, which was fortunately still undamaged in spite of the town have been
incessantly bombed for several days. I
received a signal from the Naval Officer in Charge, Captain Champness,
through MASHONA, informing me that only 300 men were then available to embark
and that the main body from the front would arrive in the town between 0100 and
0200. This news was a bolt from the
blue, as I had been previously assured that all would be ready for the final
embarkation to start at 2300. As I have
mentioned above, I considered it vital for the force to get away by 0100 or
very shortly thereafter and to be clear of Buddybet
by daylight, and I landed to get into touch with the Naval Officer in Charge
and General Paget. Their information
when I met them appeared to be scanty, and in point of fact fresh bodies of
troops began to arrive shortly after I landed, and the destroyers alongside
were quickly filled. MASHONA took a full
load to BIRMINGHAM and
INGLEFIELD and DELIGHT took about 850 and 8 German prisoners to MANCHESTER. When some 1300 men had reached the quayside
General Paget informed me that this was all the main body and that only a rear
guard of some 200 men now remained, who would arrive by lorry.
Thursday, 2nd May
82. I accordingly returned to
MANCHESTER at 0010
and ordered CALCUTTA and
embark the remaining troops. The other
ships were ordered to proceed as soon as they were ready. At 0015, DIANA which had come round from
Molde, with Norwegian Commander in Chief and some 30 staff
officers on board, was directed to proceed to Tromso.
proceeded at 0046 and MANCHESTER and the
destroyers at 0115.
83. Major General
Paget and his staff embarked in MANCHESTER.
the jetty at 0130 having filled up with troops.
It was with some surprise, in view of the statements of the authorities
ashore, that I learned later that she had over 700 men on board excluding the
rear guard. I left AUCKLAND to deal with
the latter, choosing her for this service in spite of her slow speed, shortage
of ammunition and her ship’s company having been in action all day, because her
officers along possessed the local knowledge which would be badly needed in the
event of difficulty in getting out of the fjords in fog. None of the destroyers had been inside before. As
proceeding, the lights of lorries could be seen coming
over the hill, which it was thought should be the rear guard. I ordered AUCKLAND not to
remain in any case beyond 0230 for stragglers.
85. The troops when they embarked were for the
most part dead beat and demoralized; especially those who had been in
Aandalsnes during the constant bombing of that place in the
last few days. They only desired to sit
or lie down somewhere. After a few hours
on board the ships, however, most of them very quickly recovered.
86. I cleared the Fjords at
at 0250 in MANCHESTER with
INGLEFIELD, and DELIGHT in company, and set course 270 degrees at 27
knots. CALCUTTA was
some distance astern and MASHONA had stopped to embark a party of remnants –
trawlers’ crews, stragglers, wound, etc. – from a Norwegian drifter met in the
fjord. Visibility on leaving was very
patchy and the danger that fog might set in was real. It never became sufficiently thick to
interfere with movements and once well clear of the coast visibility was again
87. By 0800, the whole force, except
over 100 miles clear of the coast and I ordered MASHONA and CALCUTTA to
proceed to Scapa in company independently at convenient speed, MASHONA having
reported trouble with one turbine. With MANCHESTER, BIRMINGHAM,
INGLEFIELD, and DELIGHT, I proceeded at 25 knots to cross the Greenwich
meridian in 63 degrees North and thence west of the
Shetlands to Scapa. No sign of enemy
aircraft was seen.
aircraft as A/S escort joined at 0630 and remained in company until 0830. The flight of
had been promised as a fighter escort from 0400 to 0700 did not materialize but
at 0815 a flight of Blenheims arrived and kept in
company till 1040.
appearance was very welcome, although, as it happened, they found no opponents,
as they were the first of our own fighter aircraft to be sighted during the
flights of fighters were in attendance at intervals up to 1430.
89. At 1203
reported her position, course, and speed as well clear of the Norwegian coast
and that she had 23 officers and 218 men on board including Brigadier Hopwood,
this constituted the complete rear guard.
90. At 0005 Captain (D) VI had reported that the
embarkation of the PRIMROSE force from Aalesund was
complete and that had left for Scapa.
91. The evacuation of SICKLE and PRIMROSE had
therefore been carried out with complete success and without loss in the face
of considerable enemy air opposition.
The latter faded away at the critical time, as a bombing or machine gun
attack while embarkation was in progress would have been difficult to compete
with. The total numbers embarked in each
ship was at follows:
(n.b. 2228 total)
No Norwegian troops required evacuation and I found no
bullion awaiting shipment.
To: D.4 (R) C.S. 18
Your 1128. Submit from reports no room ashore
yet further stores. Your order received
and still be obeyed but may I respectfully protest in
view of service and the often repeated requests of Harbour
Master and Military to get clear, that it is most undesirable. Cannot again proceed to pier unless flat calm.
(R) C.S. 18 From: Commodore
Your 1721, not to C.S. 18. It is understood that we are to proceed to
the same berth as yesterday. If so,
Captain will use his utmost endeavour to comply with
all orders received but he wished me to state that he cannot accept any
responsibility for damage to the his
ship or to the pier. Further tugs being
useless, he must point out that it may not be possible to get the ship away
from the quay in which case most serious damage will result and ship may go
RECOMMENDATIONS FOR OPERATIONS OFF THE NORWEGIANCOAST
From: The Vice Admiral Commanding, 18th
13th May 1940 18th
C.S. … 163/77
To: THE COMMANDER IN CHIEF, HOME FLEET
The Secretary of the Admiralty)
(18th C.S. 248/77)
reference to my submission No. 218/682 of 5th May, forwarding a copy
of my war diary covering the evacuation of troops from Aandalsnes
and Molde on the night of 1st – 2nd
May 1940, I had intended to submit a fuller report mainly with the object of
transmitting reports from the Captains of ships concerned, and of recommending
the good services of any officers and men they might mention. The Commanding Officer, H.M.S. CALCUTTA, has
however, submitted a report (No. 054/28 of 2nd May 1940) direct to
you and to the Admiralty says he has nothing to add to this. Apart from these two ships, other units have
no fresh facts to bring to light, as they were mostly in close company with me.
2. I should like, however, to take this
opportunity of bring to your notice the good serve performed by the
undermentioned officers in these operations, for
consideration under H.G.C. 73, paragraph 4.
Captain D.M. Lees, R.N. ,
Commander J.G. Hewitt,
R.N. , H.M.S. AUCKLAND
Lees‘ report dated 2nd May 1930 gives a very good account of the doings of
Lees had to take on board his small cruiser unexpectedly and at the last moment
no fewer than 758 troops in a weary and demoralized state, and the fact that he
did so without delay or confusion points to a very high degree of resource and
I consider he did extremely well.
mentioned in Captain Lees’ report, CALCUTTA was
well supported by AUCKLAND, and I
consider Commander Hewitt’s ship performed very good service. To her fell the longest day and most
hazardous task, that of the final evacuation of the rearguard, and retirement
in daylight from the fjords. Commander
Hewitt has not rendered a detailed report on his proceedings, but I consider
his ship’s successful performance of this role a tribute to his determination
Captain P. Todd, R.N. H.M.S. INGLEFIELD
most impressed by the way in which this officer took charge of the situation on
the quay at Aandalsnes during the embarkation of
troops into destroyers. By great force
of character and leadership he succeeded in getting large numbers of
disorganized and dead beat troops embarked with astonishing rapidity, when
speed was all important, and where the control of control of troops by their
own officers had practically ceased to exist.
Commander W.W. Sitwell, R.N., H.M.S. MANCHESTER
officer displayed exceptional powers of organisation
and resource in dealing at short notice with the accommodation of large numbers
of troops. This was evident both on the
occasion of the landing of troops at Molde on 25th
April and on that of the evacuation. On
neither occasion was reliable information available until the last moment of
numbers or units coming; on both occasions the operations were carried out
during the night. His good qualities
were specially noticeable in dealing with the
unexpectedly large numbers embarked during the evacuation.
3. Captain Lees has submitted in letter quoted
above the names of certain officers and men for consideration for their good
service. In the circumstances, I feel
sure that similar recommendations are merited by officers and men in other
ships, but I do not propose to call for these specially, as this was by no
means the only occasion on which the operations of the Norwegian coast have
given opportunity for good service, and you may prefer to call for
recommendations covering a longer period.
State of 18th
Cruiser Squadron at 0001/1st May 1940
(Flag of Vice Admiral), BIRMINGHAM
Proceeding to Aandalsnes to evacuate troops.
At Aandalsnes evacuating troops and covering evacuation.
At Tromso after disembarking H.M. the King of Norway and Norwegian Government
the Tyne; completes 29th May
Refitting on Tyne. Structural defects. Reduced to special complement 24th April. Completes end of September.
DIARY – 3rd
to 15th May 1940
Friday, 3rd May
INGLEFIELD, and DELIGHT arrived Scapa at 0045.
MASHONA arrived 0800.
were disembarked into tugs and drifters during the forenoon, and thence into
liners for passage to Clyde. Ships completed with ammunition, oil, etc,
during the day. SHEFFIELD in
Exchanged calls with Rear Admiral, Second in Command, 18th
Saturday, 4th May
Sunday, 5th May
arrived. Flag of R.A. 18 transferred
from SHEFFIELD to SOUTHAMPTON.
represented defects to diesel dynamos, and steam cross connection pipes, the
necessity of changing 4 inch gun barrels, and for repairs to her D.G.
equipment. This was represented verbally
to the Commander in Chief.
Monday, 6th May
4. R.A. 18 in
for Rosyth 2240 for repairs as above.
Tuesday, 7th May
5. GLASGOW ordered to dock and repair,
consequent on bomb damage on 9th April and damage to propeller after
completion of duty in Iceland, about 14th May. SOUTHAMPTON arrived
Wednesday, 8th May
to Rosyth and sailed at 0500.
Thursday, 9th May
out 6 inch full calibre practice in Pentland Firth, a.m.
8. Enemy forces consisting of (a) 6
M.T.B.’s and (b) 1 M.T.B., 4 minelayers or minesweepers and
3 destroyers were reported at sea in the North central part of the North
Sea. BIRMINGHAM was
then ordered to proceed with the 8 destroyers which had been ordered to the
(D.5), KANDAHAR, KIMBERLEY,
HOSTILE, HYPERION, HEREWARD, HAVOCK and JANUS) and 5 destroyers from Scapa
(FURY, FORESIGHT, MOHAWK, GALLANT, and BULLDOG) to engage these forces. The five destroyers from Scapa were to deal
with the M.T.B.’s first and then join BIRMINGHAM. The force was to sweep to the westward at
2230 if nothing had been sighted. In the
event, the enemy M.T.B.’s were encountered at 2235,
lying almost stopped in the path of the sweep. They were sighted at very short range, the
night being dark and the boats hard to pick up.
The M.T.B.’s fired torpedoes from about 600
yards range and one of these hit KELLY.
None of the M.T.B.’swere
sunk by gunfire, but one rammed KELLY and BULLDOG when the latter was taking KELLY
in tow, and sank alongside.
Friday, 10th May
9. Information of this attack and that some ship
had been damaged was received at Scapa between 2330 and midnight, and at 2358,
MANCHESTER and SHEFFIELD were ordered by the Commander in Chief, Home Fleet, to
raise steam for full speed with all despatch, and in
his 0104/10th May, received at 0122, they were ordered to proceed as
soon as possible and cover the withdrawal of KELLY. Meanwhile BIRMINGHAM was
instructed to concentrate the whole of his force and withdraw with KELLY, which
had now been taken in tow by BULLDOG.
10. MANCHESTER and SHEFFIELD were underway by
0210 and sailed from Scapa at 0245, and after proceeding through the swept
channel, set course 110 degrees with a view of rounding the N.E. corner of the
declared mine area and then joining the forces screening KELLY as early as
practicable; it did not appear, from the positions and speeds available that
this juncture could be effected before noon on the 10th. BULLDOG was reported to be making good 7
knots with the tow.
11. Air support for what was bound to be a slow
withdrawal from the enemy’s waters was obviously imperative, and I asked in my
signal 0204 of 10th May to the Commander in Chief, Rosyth, for
maximum possible support. This was promised
from 0430 onwards as long as daylight lasted.
12. At 0621, news was received of the German
invasion of Holland, and a
little later of the attacks on Belgium and
Luxembourg. As a consequence of this, Admiralty ordered
leave two destroyers with BULLDOG and KELLY and proceed with the remainder
towards Terschelling at maximum speed.
13. I accordingly increased speed to 28 knots to
provide earlier support to KELLY with my force.
14. From 0549,
reported shadowing aircraft, and though during the forenoon a battle flight was
in attendance on her force, this protection lapsed at about , and for the next 6 hours the force
was without air escort, in spite of repeated attempts to get in touch with the
escorts sent out. During this period,
several attacks by enemy aircraft took place, as described more fully below.
15. Meanwhile, the positions given by aircraft
and ships for KELLY and her escort proved to be considerably at variance with
one another, and though visibility was extreme and weather conditions
excellent, the ships were somewhat elusive, and in fact much further to the
eastward than they had placed themselves, and further to the southward than
they were placed by aircraft.
16. At 1315
a trawler and was directed to investigate.
She reported three trawlers flying Dutch colours
and proceeding west; closed to 100 yards and considered them innocent.
sighted a similar trawler at 1345.
18. At 1327, BULLDOG and
reported they were being attacked by 4 enemy aircraft and asked for
assistance. It was not, however,
possible to get in touch with our fighters.
The positions given were again inaccurate, and it was not until 1507
that the destroyers were sighted by from MANCHESTER. As the ships closed, it was seen that KELLY
had a pronounced list to starboard and was down by the head. She was yawing badly and from the position in
which the ships were actually met (56-30 degrees North, 03-50 degrees East at
1530), appeared only to have made good about 3 ½ knots. This was a blow, as it bade fair to double
the length of time during which the ships would be compelled to pass at slow
speed through an area very likely to be subject to air, submarine, and M.T.B.
19. Moreover, while the cruisers were joining up
KELLY and the destroyers were again attacked by enemy bombers. There was a discontinuous cloud cover sheet (strato cumulus) at about 10,000 feet which gave ideal cover
to the bombers, but fortunately this passed away to the eastward during the
afternoon leaving a clear sky and extreme visibility. One enemy aircraft (Ju
88) dropped a stick of 6 bombs among the destroyers; another dropped a salvo of
bombs very wide of the SHEFFIELD. Other aircraft were seen and engaged
intermittently by all ships including KELLY, which had still her guns in
action, although she reported that her boiler rooms and lower mess deck were
flooded and the bottom blown out of the former.
20. These attacks ceased at about 1615; further
efforts to get in touch with the fighter escorts proved unavailing while they
21. At 1625
reported an asdic contact but this was not confirmed. At 1655, the escorting destroyers (KANDAHAR,
HAVOCK, and FURY) reported a submarine in sight and attacked with depth
charges. No apparent result.
22. On joining up, the cruisers
manoeuvred off the van and rear of the destroyers, making
wide zigzags 70 degrees
off the mean line of advance and proceeding at 18 knots. Even so, the danger from submarines was
great, as the ships were compelled to pass and repass
the same stretch of water.
At 1620, a floating
mine (German horned type) was sighted.
24. From 1648 onwards, my force was consistently
shadowed at long range by two and sometimes three Dornier flying boats. Our own air support was not forthcoming until
1815 when three Hudsons
arrived, and the Dorniers made off. From then onwards until dark, continuous
escort was available. The Hudsons and Blenheims
occasionally flew too directly towards the ships and exposed themselves
unnecessarily to the risk of being fired at.
I regret that this actually happened at 2145, when SHEFFIELD fired a
few rounds of pom-pom at a Hudson. This incident was actually due to an error on
the part of the gunlayer, as all personnel on the
bridge had recognized the aircraft as friendly.
25. In considering dispositions for the night, I
had in mind the distinct possibility that the enemy M.T.B.’s
would repeat their attacks. I therefore
decided to station the cruisers well ahead of the tow, the three escorting
destroyers screening it from astern.
26. One aircraft of the escort was ordered to
search astern at dusk for any sign of enemy surface craft or submarines. A search to a depth of 50 miles and 30 miles
either side of the track was carried out and nothing sighted.
27. At 2055,
obtained a confirmed contact and cruisers altered course to 180 degrees and
increased to 25 knots, returning to resume station at 2115.
28. At 2130 BULLDOG appeared to be in difficulty
with the two, but on being closed reported that all was well, though steering
29. At 2150 cruisers proceeded to get 5 miles
ahead of destroyers, and maintained a mean line of advance of 260 degrees
during the night, zigzagging
80 degrees each side at 15 knots. Hands
were stationed at action stations throughout the night.
Saturday, 11th May
30. At daylight, the destroyers were again closed
detached to Rosyth to refuel. From their
0400 position, it appeared that they had made good some 5 knots during the
night, but unfortunately the wind, which had been very light, now began to
freshen somewhat from the N.W. with a slight lop. This made the tow much less manageable, and
it became clear that little or no progress would be made with one destroyer
towing except in the calmest weather. I
therefore asked for a tug in my message 0410/11 and at 0551/11 asked for two
ocean going tugs, as Captain (D) 5 had reported that KELLY
was just holding together.
31. The position of the cruiser as regards
submarine attack was now causing me growing concern. It was clear that the enemy must have enough
information of the position and slow progress of the tow. He was in a position to direct submarines to
it long before it could reach safety.
The cruisers, maintaining long zigzags in the vicinity of the convoy, had of necessity to
pass and repass the same areas. I accordingly suggested in my 0410/11 that
they should withdraw, as I judged the risk of attack by surface craft larger
than M.T.B.’s to be comparatively slight, and the
A.A. protection of the cruisers to be of little value unless they could keep
close company with the tow, which was impossible on account of the submarine
32. In accordance with the Commander in Chief’s
0638/11th May , in reply to this
suggestion, I held off to the westward during the day, regaining V/S touch at
intervals of two hours, the cruisers zigzagging at 20 to 25 knots.
33. At 0600, the tow parted and it took some
considerable time to pass it to FURY, the operation being completed about
1100. In view of the state of the sea,
which was at this time steadily worsening, I told Captain (D), 5th
Destroyer Flotilla to consider abandoning and sinking KELLY. In reply, however, he expressed his
confidence that the ship could be saved with ocean tugs, and was well worth
saving as all her armament and equipment was in good condition.
34. During the morning, two German floating mines
(horned type) were passed.
35. Air escorts arrived punctually on this day
and were maintained continuously.
Between 1430 and 1500, however, when 3 Hudsons were in
attendance, an attack was made by enemy aircraft. No R/D.F. report of them was received in
they were first sighted from that ship.
The cruisers were then about 5 miles distant from the convoy. Three or four enemy aircraft (HE 111 and JU
88) took part in the attack; five salvos of bombs were dropped in high level
bombing attacks from about 6 -8000 feet, two aimed at MANCHESTER, two at the
destroyers, and one at SHEFFIELD. All
were fairly wide misses. The sky was
party clouded at this time with heavy detached cumulus clouds which provided
good cover for the bombers. The first
attack (on MANCHESTER) was
delivered before the aircraft had been sighted from that ship. Other attackers were engaged by all ships; no
ships or aircraft were hit, but the attacks were not pressed home.
36. The three
Hudsons of the
current escort were at the time flying around the ships at about 1000 to 2000
feet. They had just reported a submarine
8 miles westward. A signal was made by
V/S to them to close the destroyers which they promptly carried out.
flight of Hudsons arrived
during the attacks, but they were not seen to engage the enemy. One Hudson was
observed chasing a Junker 88 but was someway astern and unable to catch up.
37. It was felt that the tactics of the
were bound to be ineffective against fast bombers in high level bombing
attacks, as they flew so low that they could not possibly climb to their
opponents’ height in the time available.
38. The afternoon appears to be a
favourite time for bombing attacks on ships. One reason for this is of course that it may
be the result of shadowing during the forenoon, but another is that in fine
weather there is normally a marked cloud maximum during the afternoon. On this occasion no shadowing aircraft were
sighted; either they were kept away by the Hudsons, or the
enemy had sufficient information of our positions by D/F and D.R. to dispose
39. There was a second report of a submarine from
an aircraft at 1600 and SHEFFIELD had
several asdic contacts during the afternoon.
The presence of submarines was not established by an actual attack, but
these numerous reports were disquieting, and I decided to keep the cruisers at
least 25 miles from the convoy. It was
possible that the Hudsons were
performing good service in keeping one or more submarines submerged and
40. Further observations at 1500 showed that the
tow had made no progress at all since 0600, in fact they had made 7 miles
leeway to the S.E.; it was possible, at best, that the tugs (WATERMEYER from
BRAHMAN from Rosyth) would arrive by , but
more likely that they would not make contact till after daylight.
41. I reported this lack of progress, and at
1711, I received the Commander in Chief’s 1609/11 directing the cruisers to
proceed to Rosyth. I accordingly turned
to 270 degrees and increased to 27 knots.
I welcomed this decision as there was a growing risk that, in
endeavouring to save one damaged destroyer we might incur
more serious losses. At the same time, I
parted company with Captain (D) 5th Destroyer Flotilla, and his ship
with very great reluctance, as I was impressed by the gallantry and
determination of the efforts which he and his ship’s company were making to
save their rather unfortunate ship. He
informed me that all on board were desperately anxious to save her and were
prepared to take their chance along till tugs could find them if an escort
could not remain.
42. On leaving for Rosyth, I asked the Commander
in Chief, Rosyth, to provide air escorts, both for fighter and A/S purposes for
the convoy the next day, and drew special attention to the importance of
providing high performance machines during the afternoon.
Sunday, 12th May
at Rosyth at 0100/12th May.
Ships remained at 2 hours notice for steam until MANCHESTER
required 4 hours’ notice to take in hand temporary degaussing.
the forenoon, I visited the Commander in Chief, Rosyth and Rear Admiral, 18th
Cruiser Squadron with a view to arrange for the completion of the D.G. work in
MANCHESTER and SOUTHAMPTON with all despatch.
As MANCHESTER had now
been nearly 6 months without giving any night leave, I obtained approval from
the Commander in Chief, Home Fleet by telephone to give one night’s leave to
each watch. I considered this most
desirable before calling on the ship’s company for further arduous service.
Monday, 13th May
44. The work of running the first cables for D.G.
in MANCHESTER was
progressed by the ship’s staff and completed by 1700.
represented to the Commander in Chief in my message 1105/13, the desirability
of considering an early refit for MANCHESTER, in
spite of the grave situation. This ship
had, in fact, been running continuously for a long period than had been
achieved by any of the other cruisers of the 18th Cruiser Squadron,
and her many defects could not be let go for much longer.
Tuesday, 14th May to Wednesday, 15th
degaussing in MANCHESTER and
progressed at Rosyth.
State of 18th
Cruiser Squadron at 2359/15th May
MANCHESTER (Flag of Vice Admiral)
being fitting with temporary D.G.
SOUTHAMPTON (Flag of Rear Admiral)
Rosyth, repairs to D.G. and fitting of F and Q coils
Humber, being fitted with D.G. F and Q coils
First four ships at Fleet notice for steam
hand for repairs to bomb damage, exchange of gun barrels, replacement of propellers, and modifications
completed 29th May
Structural defects. Completes end of September. Reduced to
COMMANDING, 18th CRUISER SQUADRON
WAR DIARY – 16th – 31st May 1940
Wednesday, 15th May
in Chief, Home Fleet, directed work of fitting temporary D.G. in BIRMINGHAM at
Humber to be
progressed with ship at 4 hours’ notice, and that MANCHESTER should
be taken in hand for refit on completion of NEWCASTLE and
approved for MANCHESTER to give
night leave, although at 4 hours’ notice, as long as D.G. work was in hand.
Thursday, 16th May, Friday, 17th May,
Saturday, 18th May, Sunday, 19th May
Monday, 20th May
orders were received for the 18th Cruiser Squadron and RENOWN to
raise steam for full speed with all despatch. This was in consequence of an enemy report
from aircraft of a battleship and a large number of destroyers steering west,
north of the Frisian Islands. Personnel were recalled from leave, and
ready to proceed at 0530 and MANCHESTER at
0645. The latter had considerable work
to do in securing the temporary D.G. gear for sea.
enemy report later appeared to refer only to 4 destroyers and possibly a large
ship going to Emden, and no
ships were ordered to get underway.
reverted to 4 hours’ notice for steam at 1130.
Tuesday, 21st May
Rosyth from Humber. BIRMINGHAM and
out D.G. calibration.
fitting temporary D.G. in MANCHESTER was
completed, in spite of some delay caused by raising steam and preparing for sea
the previous day.
It was now
reported that GLASGOW could
not complete dockyard work at Liverpool until 1st
July, owing to structural defects which had been discovered and which, although
they might have been secondary effects of the bomb damage, seemed to indicate a
weakness in design. I therefore asked
the Commander in Chief, Home Fleet, whether MANCHESTER could
be taken in hand on completion of NEWCASTLE.
Wednesday, 22nd May
completed, and MANCHESTER carried
out D.G. calibration. SOUTHAMPTON was
then sailed for Narvik in accordance with
instructions from the Commander in Chief, Home Fleet. Rear Admiral, Second in Command, 18th
Cruiser Squadron, reported that SOUTHAMPTON’s asdic was unreliable owing to defective
dome which could not be remedied without docking.
Thursday, 23rd May, Friday, 24th May,
Saturday, 25th May
Nothing to report.
alongside North Wall to progress work on permanent D.G. and fitting manhole
doors to lower deck hatches, but remained at fleet notice for steam.
Sunday, 26th May
orders were received from the Commander in Chief, Rosyth, for the cruisers to
raise steam and at 2217 Admiralty message 2131/26 May was received ordering
MANCHESTER, BIRMINGHAM, and
proceed to the Humber and come under the
orders of the Commander in Chief, The Nore. I decided not to sail until daylight as
visibility was poor (varying up to ½ mile) and the urgency did not appear such
as to warrant leaving until it improved.
Monday, 27th May
Squadron accordingly proceeded at 0415, and making a
good 20 knots down the War Channel, arrived off Immingham
at 1700 without incident. The three
cruisers anchored in the stream. In
spite of the advantages from the communications point of view in going
alongside, I decided to anchor all ships in order to keep them at the minimum
notice for getting underway.
fixed at 30 minutes notice between 2100 and 0500 and 2 ½ hours’ notice at other
times, special precautions being taken against M.T.B. attack. The Humber anchorage, being without any boom
defences, were obviously particularly exposed to attack by
M.T.B.’s which, if attacking in large numbers, seemed to
have a very good change of putting the cruisers out of action.
Admiral Commanding, 18th Cruiser Squadron, was informed by the Commander
in Chief, The Nore, that most probable function of
the squadron would be to act in case of (a) and attack by enemy destroyers or
larger ships on our shipping off Dunkirk or (b)
an attack by enemy forces on the East coast of England. He was instructed to proceed without further
orders should there by any indication of either of these events, and to inform
the Commander in Chief, The Nore, and Admiralty of
his intentions before sailing.
Tuesday, 28th May
Rosyth, was placed under the orders of Vice Admiral Commanding, 18th
Cruiser Squadron by the Commander in Chief, Home Fleet, if required for
operations in the Southern part of the North Sea.
Wednesday, 29th May
FORESIGHT, and FORTUNE were ordered to Humber to come
under the orders of Vice Admiral Commanding, 18th Cruiser
Squadron. They did not arrive until a.m.
30th May owing to an encounter with a submarine outside and to fog.
Thursday, 30th May
sailed p.m. to escort two liners (ORAMA and ORFORD) up the East coast route as
far as MayIsland.
1100 and 1200 one or possibly two enemy reconnaissance aircraft appeared over
the Humber and ships went to
A.A. action stations. Six of our
fighters went up and the enemy withdrew after circling round for sometime. Fire was not opened.
Friday, 31st May
there was a report of enemy aircraft off Spurn Point, and ships went to action
stations. Fighter patrols went up and
the enemy aircraft, which were at 1000 and were probably minelaying, withdrew.
State of 18th
Cruiser Squadron at 0001/1st June
(Flag of V.A.)
At the Humber
at 30 minutes notice
At the Humber
at 30 minutes notice
At the Humber
at 30 minutes notice
SOUTHAMPTON (Flag of R.A.)
Narvik area. Slightly damaged by near misses
refit. Ready for sea 2nd June
– repairs. Completes 1st July
Tyne – structural defects. Completes end September