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ADMIRALTY WAR DIARIES of WORLD WAR 2

 

VICE ADMIRAL, EIGHTEENTH (18th) CRUISER SQUADRON - March to May 1940

 

Transcribed by Don Kindell, edited by Gordon Smith, Naval-History.Net

 HMS Manchester (Navy Photos, click to enlarge)

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Source: ADM 199/385

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).


 

 

VICE ADMIRAL COMMANDING, 18TH CRUISER SQUADRON

 

WAR DIARY

 

1st – 15th MARCH 1940

 

ENCLOSURE TO 18TH C.S. 155/682 OF 23RD March 1940

 

Friday, 1st March 1940

 

At Scapa.

 

Fleet 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

 

I .  (n.b. 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.

 

MANCHESTER sighted 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 rough.

 

Sunday, 3rd March

 

Entered patrol area at 0900 and reach patrol line N.P. 54 at 1300.

 

1620.  In position 62-37 degrees North, 16-00 degrees West, sighted and identified Norwegian S.S. HALLINGDAL, for Oslo from Cardenas, with cargo of sugar.  Weather being unsuitable for boarding, she was escorted towards the W. Faroes trawler rendezvous.

 

Weather.  Strong westerly wind.  Sea rough.  Overcast.  Visibility good.

 

Monday, 4th March

 

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.

 

Shaping 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.

 

At 1800, 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 March).

 

By noon, the wind had back to west, force 2 – 3.  Sea Slight, and extreme visibility.

 

1130.  MANCHESTER arrived 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 N.P. 53).

 

1655.  In position 62-54 degrees North, 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.

 

The 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 North, 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.

 

Wednesday, 6th March

 

Weather.  Wind S.S.W. 3-4 freshening.  Sea and swell slight.  Visibility good.

 

Nothing to report.

 

Thursday, 7th March

 

Weather.  Strong S.W. winds veering west and reaching gale force p.m.  Visibility moderate, improving.

 

1120.  In position 63-30 degrees North, 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 North, 15-30 degrees West, sighted Belgian trawler VAN OOST, steering S.S.E.  She was allow to proceed.

 

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 North, 13-22 degrees West, sighted and identified Swedish HAMMAREN, westbound, from Goteburg to New YorkAllowed to proceed.  (C.A.F.O. 261/40).

 

1436.    In position 63-09 degrees North, 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 North, 14-32 degrees West, sighted a darkened ship bearing 200 degrees about 10 miles.  MANCHESTER 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.

 

CORINTHIA 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

 

NEWCASTLE left 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 moderate.

 

1035.  In position 63-34 degrees North, 11-35 degrees West sighted and identified Norwegian S.S. HAALEGG from Philadelphia to AalsundOrdered her to proceed in accordance with Admiralty Message 2020 of 29th February 1940.

 

Sunday, 10th March

 

SOUTHAMPTON left 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 North, 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 North, 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.

 

Monday, 11th March

 

Weather.  Moderate fresh N.W. winds.  Wintery showers.  Sea slight.

 

0700.  Left patrol line for Scapa.

 

Tuesday, 12th March

 

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.

 

No other ships of the 18th Cruiser Squadron were present at Scapa up till 15th March.

 

Wednesday, 13th March – Friday, 15th March

 

At Scapa.  MANCHESTER completed with fuel and provisions, but had difficulty in obtaining naval stores long on demand.

 

On 15th March, there was a violent North westerly gale (with gusts up to 65 knots.)

 

State of the 18th Cruiser Squadron on 15th March 1940

MANCHESTER (Flag) (4)

At Scapa

EDINBURGH (1)

At sea, covering Scandinavian convoy

SHEFFIELD (2)

At Tyne, completing refit, p.m. 15th. Ready to sail a.m. 17th

GLASGOW (2)

At Belfast for repairs. Completing 22nd March

NEWCASTLE (4)

Northern Patrol (left Scapa 9th)

SOUTHAMPTON (3)

Northern Patrol (left Scapa 10th)

BIRMINGHAM (2)

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 action.

(4):  Not fitted with D.G.

 


 

 

VICE ADMIRAL COMMANDING, 18TH CRUISER SQUADRON

 

WAR DIARY

 

16th – 31st  MARCH 1940

 

Saturday, 16th March

 

At Scapa.  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 wave 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

 

Vice Admiral Commanding, 18th Cruiser Squadron in MANCHESTER left Scapa at 0700 to relieve SOUTHAMPTON on the Northern Patrol.

 

BIRMINGHAM arrived Scapa to fuel after passage from Portsmouth and sailed later to relieve SHEFFIELD on patrol.

 

Tuesday, 19th March

 

Spoke SOUTHAMPTON and DERBYSHIRE leaving patrol.

 

1630.  In position 62-41 degrees North, 15-50 degrees West, sighted and identified Fleetwood Trawler 56 (DHOON) and Grimsby Trawler No. 9 (EVELYN ROSE), steering 120 degrees.

 

Commander 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 North, 17-23 degrees West, closed an Icelandic motor trawler steering 135 degrees.  Name not obtained.

 

Thursday, 21st March

 

1704.  In position 62-03 degrees North, 17-23 degrees West, closed and identified Icelandic ship EDDA from Runcorn to Reykjavik, last port of call TroonOrdered her to proceed.

 

Friday, 22nd March

 

Nothing to report.

 

The wind 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

 

Wind increased to fresh N.E. during night.

 

0112.  In position 62-21 degrees North, 16-089 degrees West, closed and identified Icelandic trawler DORA, steering 350 degrees.

 

0247.  In 62-27 degrees North, 15-24 degrees West, closed and identified one armed and four unarmed Grimsby trawlers, steering 320 degrees.

 

0518.  In 62-58 degrees North, 14-30 degrees West, closed and identified Belgian trawler O.297 (name not ascertained).

 

0800.  Closed BIRMINGHAM on N.P. 53 to exchange signals regarding throw off firing on leaving patrol.

 

0934.  Exchanged identities with SALOPIAN on N.P. 55.

 

1700.  In 62-03 degrees North, 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 North, 17-37 degrees East closed and identified Dutch S.S. SLOTERDIJK westbound.  She was allowed to proceed in accordance with N.P.D.S. 18.

 

Sunday, 24th March

 

Easter Day.

 

Wind increased to gale force from N.E., sea rough.  Weather showery and colder.

 

Nothing to report.

 

Monday, 25th March

 

Wind backed to North and decreased during day.  Visibility good except in snow squalls.

 

0450.  In 62-45 degrees North, 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 North, 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 North, 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 North, 17-12 degrees West intercepted Icelandic trawler HUGINN steering 340 degrees.  Fishing No. not obtained.

 

Tuesday, 26th March

 

Wind N.E. moderate, increasing steadily to fresh and strong during the day.  Visibility good except in snow squalls.

 

0217.  In 62-36 degrees North, 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 North, 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 North, 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. 411   ST HELENA

H. 477   LADY ROSEMARY

H. 327   STELLA CARINA (armed).

NEWCASTLE arrived 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 North, 10-00 degrees West intercepted Norwegian ship HAARFAGRE.  She was allowed to proceed in accordance with N.P.D.S. 14.

 

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 North, 8-30 degrees West intercepted Finnish ship NINA from Genoa to BergenOrdered her to proceed in accordance with N.P.D.S. 22.

 

Thursday, 28th March

 

Arrived Scapa 0800.

 

Strong northerly winds continuing.

 

BIRMINGHAM arrived at 1230.

 

MANCHESTER and BIRMINGHAM were relieved on patrol by SOUTHAMPTON and GLASGOW. 

 

SHEFFIELD arrive 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.

 

A westerly gale sprang up in the afternoon, though with fair sunny weather.

 

BIRMINGHAM sailed p.m. with 2 destroyers for an operation to intercept enemy shipping off the Norwegian coast.

 

SOUTHAMPTON 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

MANCHESTER (Flagship)

At Scapa

EDINBURGH

At Tyne – refitting and giving 21 days leave

NEWCASTLE

At Tyne – refitting and giving 21 days leave

SOUTHAMPTON

Proceeding to Scapa from patrol

GLASGOW

Proceeding to Rosyth from patrol

BIRMINGHAM

Proceeding to Norwegian Coast for Operation DV

SHEFFIELD

At Scapa

 


 

 

VICE ADMIRAL COMMANDING, 18TH CRUISER SQUADRON

 

WAR DIARY

 

1st – 15th APRIL 1940

 

Monday, 1st April

 

At Scapa.  N/E gale

 

Tuesday, 2nd April

 

At Scapa.

 

At 2038, 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.

 

The 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 any bombs.

 

Wednesday, 3rd April, Thursday, 4th April, Friday, 5th April

 

At Scapa.

 

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 follows:

 

Operations again enemy shipping

 

            Off Northern Norway BIRMINGHAM (sailed 31st March)

 

Covering force for O.H.N. Convoys

 

            (two at a time) – MANCHESTER

 

                                    SOUTHAMPTON

 

                                    SHEFFIELD

 

Attached to 1st Cruiser Squadron to replace NORFOLK for trooping duties

 

                                    GLASGOW

 

Refitting           

 

                                    EDINBURGH (completes end of June)

 

                                    NEWCASTLE (completes mid May)

 

The 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

 

SHEFFIELD and PENELOPE arrived Scapa from covering O.H.N. 24.

 

Sunday, 7th April

 

The Vice Admiral Commanding, 18th Cruiser Squadron, in MANCHESTER with SOUTHAMPTON sailed from Scapa at 0530 to provide cover for O.H.H. 25, proceeding east of the Orkneys and Shetlands.  At 1411, North of Muckle Flugga, 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 Muckle Flugga with CALCUTTA and 4 destroyers in company; they were somewhat scattered owing to the recent heavy weather.

 

Meanwhile there had been numerous reports of enemy surface forces at sea.

 

These 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.

 

These 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.

 

C.S. 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.

 

At 1620 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.

 

The 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)

 

At 1921 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.).

 

The Commander in Chief also cancelled SHEFFIELD proceeding with C.S. 2’s force, and said she would be proceeding with the Battlefleet.  This 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.

 

At 2200, however, the Flag Officer Commanding, Northern Patrol ordered all the Armed Merchant Cruisers on the Patrol Lines to withdraw to the southward at their best speed.

 

At 2325, 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.

 

At 2325, 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.

 

C.S. 18 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 SOUTHAMPTON stood off to the south east of the convoy during the night, intending to make contact again with them in the morning.

 

The situation at midnight 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.

 

It was 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 then northwards.

 

The 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.

 

There 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.

 

By 0529, the minelaying operation in Norwegian waters reduced to one minefield in Vestfiord, was completed and announced.

 

Shortly 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.

 

Unfortunately, the shadowing aircraft was hit by H.A. fire and had to desist, and this force was not found again.

 

Meanwhile, C.S. 18 in MANCHESTER with SOUTHAMPTON located the convoy, now westbound at 0545, and remained covering it pending further instructions.

 

The 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).

 

Admiralty 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 them.

 

At 1510 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.

 

At 1552, The Commander in Chief, Rosyth, ordered convoy O.N. 25 to proceed to Kirkwall.

 

At 1725, 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.

 

Up to 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.

 

At 1500, 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.

 

At 2008, Admiralty Message 1842/8th April was received giving the two main objectives as:

 

          (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 Bergen.

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.

 

2108, 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.

 

At 2120, 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.

 

At this time messages from submarines in the Skaggerak showed clearly that two considerable German forces had passed the Skaw westward at about 1800.

 

Admiralty 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).

 

At 2346, 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.

 

Meanwhile, 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 FEARLESS.

 

Tuesday, 9th April

 

Weather:  Fresh Northerly wind, b.c., sea rough.

 

At 0445, information was received that German forces had during the night approached Oslo, Bergen, and Stavanger, that 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 British Fleet.

 

At 0600, 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.

 

SHEFFIELD then 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)

 

Between 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.

 

At 1110, C.S. 18 received the Commander in Chief, Home Fleet’s message 1045/9 which read as follows:

 

“When 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 KOLN class cruiser.  Defences may be in hands of enemy.  3 or 4 destroyers are to enter by Fejedr Jedsen 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.”

 

The 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.

 

Course 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 of one.

 

With 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.

 

At 1410, however, Admiralty message 1357/9th April cancelled the operation, and course was altered to rejoin the Commander in Chief.

 

Shortly 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 200.

 

GLASGOW and SOUTHAMPTON were both slightly damaged by very near misses by large bombs, and the former had 7 casualties (n.bfor 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 GLASGOW’s 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.

 

The 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.

 

GURKHA subsequently fell in with AURORA who rescued most of her crew before the former sank at 1855.

 

Nearly 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.

 

In the later stages of these attacks, DEVONSHIRE came into sight to westward, having been stationed on the Commander in Chief, Home Fleet.

 

Ammunition expenditure was heavy, and for the day amounted to some 40% of outfits of 4 inch H.A., though ships were ordered to conserve ammunition.

 

At 1706, 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 Fejedr Vedsen Fiord.

 

The patrol was maintained during the night.

 

The following is an extract from the report of proceedings of GLASGOW, dealing with this period.

 

“At 1800 I took SHEFFIELD, SOMALI, MASHONA, and MATABELE under my orders, and proceeded towards Kors Fiord to comply with your signal times 1745/9.

 

At 2030 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 assistance.

 

It was 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.

 

As I welcomed an additional cruiser, I remained in the vicinity until all men had been picked up.

 

My force proceeded again at 2200.

 

My plan 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.

 

I 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.

 

It was 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.

 

At 0500 in position 6 miles west of Utire, I altered course as ordered to the north west.

 

No ships were sighted during the night.  All navigational lights on the coast were extinguished with the exception of Gunnarskjaershullet.

 

Wednesday, 10th April

 

At 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.

 

At 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.

 

In view of an aircraft report of a submarine to eastward of the Orkneys, course was shaped to pass through the Fair Island Channel.

 

At 1601, 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 not identified.

 

At 1609, BIRMINGHAM, then 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 the submarine.

 

At 1830, GLASGOW and SHEFFIELD, proceeding independently, arrived Scapa,  at 1900 followed by BIRMINGHAM and at 2015 MANCHESTER and SOUTHAMPTON.

 

ARETHUSA, GALATEA, AURORA, and EMILE BERTIN were also present.

 

On 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 expenditure.

 

I 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.

 

At dusk, 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.

 

This 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 place later.

 

Thursday, 11th April

 

At 0134, 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 morning.

 

At 0930 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.  BIRMINGHAM need 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.

 

At 1032 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 party.

 

Rear 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.

 

In the 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.

 

The 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 Salangen.

 

The 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.

 

Arrangements 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 troops:

15th April

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.

19th April

Transport for the forgoing.

27th April

Remainder of 49th Division

Between

 

21st – 29th April

Lead echelon of French troops – 6 battalions of Chasseurs Alpins.

It 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.

 

It was decided that the SOUTHAMPTON could sail by noon 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).

 

At 1649, 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 BIRMINGHAM.

 

After 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.

 

At 2000, GLASGOW, SHEFFIELD, MASHONA, AFRIDI, SIKH, MATABELE, and MOHAWK sailed for the inshore operation.

 

Friday, 12th April

 

At 0900 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 in Vaagsfjord.  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 unfounded.)

 

I 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.

 

At 1235, SOUTHAMPTON proceeded with ESCAPADE and ELECTRA, and at 1200 CHROBRY and BATORY with PROTECTOR, VOLUNTEER, WITHERINGTON, VANOC, and WHIRLWIND. 

 

Captain H.A. Packer, R.N. assumed command of MANCHESTER at 1400, when Captain H.H. Bousfield left for London on relief.

 

At 1600 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

 

At 1630, VINDICTIVE with CODRINGTON, ACASTA, and ARDENT joined company from Scapa and Captain (D) First Destroyer Flotilla became Senior Officer of escort.

 

FEARLESS, GRIFFIN, and BRAZEN joined from Sullom Voe.

 

VALIANT and 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.

 

The convoy and escorting forces continued their course northward during the day without further incident.

 

Sunday, 14th April

 

At 1029, 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 Coston gun.

 

At 1900, GLASGOW successfully 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.

 

At 1907 orders were received in A.T. 1818/14th April that the troops in CHROBRY and EMPRESS OF AUSTRALIA were to be diverted to arrive Namsos at dusk on Monday, 15th April.  The Convoy was accordingly divided as follows:

 

To Namsos

CHROBRY

one battalion Yorks and Lancs. Regt. And Brigade Headquarters

 

EMPRESS OF AUSTRALIA

one battalion of K.O.Y.L.I. and one battalion of Lincolns.

 

Escorted by:

 

 

MANCHESTER

 

 

BIRMINGHAM

 

 

VANOC

 

 

WHIRLWIND

 

 

HIGHLANDER

 

 

CAIRO

 

 

 

 

To Vaagsfjord

MONARCH OF BERMUDA

Irish Guards

 

REINA DEL PACIFICO

S.W. Borderers

 

BATORY

Scots Guards

 

PROTECTOR

 

 

VINDICTIVE

 

 

Escorted by

 

 

VALIANT

 

 

CODRINGTON

 

 

AMAZON

 

 

ACASTA

 

 

ARDENT

 

 

VOLUNTEER

 

 

WITHERINGTON

 

 

GRIFFIN

 ) 

 

FEARLESS

 )  screening VALIANT

 

BRAZEN

 )

 

I had 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.

 

Admiralty 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

 

It was 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 the fjord.

 

At 1001/15th April, CURLEW reported she would be sixteen hours late at the rendezvous given her for 1600, in existing weather.   This was unfortunate, as it appeared that every possible A.A. protection would be needed.

 

GLASGOW and SHEFFIELD, 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.

 

On Monday, 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.

 

SOMALI 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 realise 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.

 

By this 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.

 

At 1236, 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.

 

 


 

 

VICE ADMIRAL COMMANDING, 18TH CRUISER SQUADRON

 

WAR DIARY

 

16th - 30th  APRIL 1940

 

 

State of 18th Cruiser Squadron at 0001, 16th April

MANCHESTER (Flag)

At sea, proceeding to Lillesjona anchorage in company with convoy NP.1

BIRMINGHAM

At Vaagsfjord, orders of Flag Officer in Charge, Narvik.

SOUTHAMPTON

At sea off Trondhjem area, supporting destroyers working in the Indreled, with landing parties established ashore at Namsos and Bangsund.

GLASGOW, SHEFFIELD

Refitting at Tyne. Structural defects. Date uncertain

EDINBURGH

Refitting at Tyne. Annual refit. Completing about mid May.

Saturday, 16th April (n.b. should read Tuesday, 16th April)

 

I had 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 became heavy.

 

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 Lillesjona 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 Wiart hoped to get the destroyers away with two battalions and advanced Brigade Headquarters by noon.  After fuelling, destroyers went alongside transports and embarked troops and stores at follows.

 

CHROBRY

No. 1 Stbd

H.Q. Company, wireless long range set

 

No. 2 Port

A and B coys. Yorks and Lancs Regiment

 

Both for Namsos

 

 

No. 3

C and D coys. York and Lancs Regiment. Major Strong. 1 short range W/T set, M.O. and stretcher bearers

 

For Bangsund

 

 

 

 

EMPRESS OF AUSTRALIA

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 at sea.

 

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 shore.

 

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 noon the next day.

 

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 the purpose.

 

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 Sullom Voe.  This accident seemed particularly unfortunate, as my already small destroyer screen was now reduced to two old “W” destroyers.

 

14.  MANCHESTER had 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 Lillesjona 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, steering north.

 

18.  At 1145 I detached BIRMINGHAM, with 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.

 

At 0530 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 Wiart 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 later.

 

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 SHEFFIELD joined 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 Namsen 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 SHEFFIELD were 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 Namsos harbour.  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 Namsos 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.

 

28.  MANCHESTER 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 BERTIN’s 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 Folden Fjiord 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 Sullom Voe.

 

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 1859.

 

35.  At 1830 I sighted the French convoy with CAIRO, 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 the trawlers.

 

BIRMINGHAM made 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

 

36.  NUBIAN’s messages 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 towards Namsos.  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 Namsos area.

 

39.  On my return I saw NUBIAN’s 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 area.

 

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 YORK, and the destroyers ARROW, ACHERON, and GRIFFIN.  I accordingly left Scapa in MANCHESTER for Rosyth at 1800.  BIRMINGHAM was unable to reach Rosyth without refuelling and was due to arrive at Scapa from the north at 0200/23.  YORK had already proceeded to Rosyth for this operation.  GLASGOW and SHEFFIELD under 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 0700.

 

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 daylight.

 

Wednesday, 24th April

 

45.  The troops were embarked between midnight at 0600.  A battalion of the Green Howards were embarked in BIRMINGHAM and GRIFFIN, 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 follows:

 

 

MANCHESTER

61 officers and 429 other ranks

 

YORK

10 officers and 271 other ranks

 

BIRMINGHAM

22 officers and 589 other ranks

 

ARROW

5 officers and 57 other ranks

 

ACHERON

3 officers and 57 other ranks

 

GRIFFIN

3 officers and 57 other ranks

 

Commander (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. engineer.

 

46.  MANCHESTER, BIRMINGHAM, and YORK, with 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 following route:

0800     62-10 degrees North, 01-44 degrees East

 

1200     62-56 degrees North, 03-31 degrees East

48.  A Sunderland 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 MANCHESTER 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 damaged.  MANCHESTER embarked Major Beasly (n.b. G.W. Beazley), R.M. and 3 naval ratings and 1 army rank wounded for passage to the United Kingdom.

 

50.  Meanwhile YORK and 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

 

51.  Weather. Fresh to strong E.N.E. wind, cloudy, and sea rough.

 

I had 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 Heinkel 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 BIRMINGHAM 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.  BIRMINGHAM, 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 Trondhjem Fjiord 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 Trondjem Leden and Vaaks Krags 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 early 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 Aandalsnes 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 MANCHESTER and BIRMINGHAM engaged 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 ULSTER PRINCE and ULSTER MONARCH, and the necessary destroyers.

 

Monday, 29th April

 

60.  MANCHESTER and BIRMINGHAM arrived 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 BIRMINGHAM 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 situation.  CALCUTTA 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)

 

 


 

 

VICE ADMIRAL COMMANDING, 18TH CRUISER SQUADRON

 

WAR DIARY

 

1st - 15th  MAY 1940

 

 

Wednesday, 1st May

 

(continued here)

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 AUCKLAND we 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.

 

65. 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 AUCKLAND had 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 heavy.

 

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 AUCKLAND and CALCUTTA in 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 MANCHESTER and BIRMINGHAM 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 reached.

 

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 force.

 

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 CALCUTTA and AUCKLAND were 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 Molde.

 

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 Grytten 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 Aandalsnes 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 AUCKLAND to 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 BIRMINGHAM proceeded at 0046 and MANCHESTER and the destroyers at 0115.

 

83.  Major General Paget and his staff embarked in MANCHESTER.

 

84.  CALCUTTA left 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 MANCHESTER was 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 Buddybet at 0250 in MANCHESTER with BIRMINGHAM, 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 extreme.

 

87.  By 0800, the whole force, except AUCKLAND, was 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.

 

88.   A Sunderland aircraft as A/S escort joined at 0630 and remained in company until 0830.  The flight of Hudsons with 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.

 

Their 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 operation.

 

Other flights of fighters were in attendance at intervals up to 1430.

 

89.  At 1203 AUCKLAND 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:

MANCHESTER

860

BIRMINGHAM

394

CALCUTTA

718

MASHONA

11

INGLEFIELD

1

AUCKLAND

240

DELIGHT

4

 

(n.b. 2228 total)

No Norwegian troops required evacuation and I found no bullion awaiting shipment.


 

To:  D.4 (R) C.S. 18                                           From:  Commodore

 

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.

 

                                                            1124/18/4


 

To: D.4 (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 aground.

 

                                                            1801/18


 

RECOMMENDATIONS FOR OPERATIONS OFF THE NORWEGIAN COAST

 

From:    The Vice Admiral Commanding, 18th Cruiser Squadron

 

Date:    13th May 1940                                                                18th C.S. … 163/77

 

To:        THE COMMANDER IN CHIEF, HOME FLEET

 

(Copy to The Secretary of the Admiralty)

 

            (18th C.S. 248/77)

 

With 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. , H.M.S. CALCUTTA

 

Commander J.G. Hewitt, R.N. , H.M.S. AUCKLAND

 

Captain Lees‘ report dated 2nd May 1930 gives a very good account of the doings of these ships.

 

Captain 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 rapid organisation.  I consider he did extremely well.

 

As 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 and leadership.

 

 

Captain P. Todd, R.N. H.M.S. INGLEFIELD

 

I was 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

 

This 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.

 

                                                            (sgd) (stamp) G. Layton

 

                                                            Vice Admiral

 

State of 18th Cruiser Squadron at 0001/1st May 1940

MANCHESTER (Flag of Vice Admiral), BIRMINGHAM

Proceeding to Aandalsnes to evacuate troops.

SOUTHAMPTON, SHEFFIELD

At Aandalsnes evacuating troops and covering evacuation.

GLASGOW

At Tromso after disembarking H.M. the King of Norway and Norwegian Government

NEWCASTLE

Refitting on the Tyne; completes 29th May

EDINBURGH

Refitting on Tyne. Structural defects. Reduced to special complement 24th April. Completes end of September.

 


 

 

DIARY – 3rd to 15th May 1940

 

Friday, 3rd May

 

MANCHESTER, BIRMINGHAM, INGLEFIELD, and DELIGHT arrived Scapa at 0045.

 

CALCUTTA and MASHONA arrived 0800.

 

AUCKLAND arrived 1030.

 

Troops 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 harbour.  Exchanged calls with Rear Admiral, Second in Command, 18th Cruiser Squadron.

 

Saturday, 4th May

 

Sunday, 5th May

 

2.  SOUTHAMPTON arrived.  Flag of R.A. 18 transferred from SHEFFIELD to SOUTHAMPTON.

 

3.  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 SOUTHAMPTON sailed 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 at Rosyth.

 

Wednesday, 8th May

 

6.  BIRMINGHAM ordered to Rosyth and sailed at 0500.

 

Thursday, 9th May

 

7.  BIRMINGHAM ordered to Humber MANCHESTER and SHEFFIELD carried 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 Humber (KELLY (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.’s were 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 BIRMINGHAM to 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, BIRMINGHAM reported shadowing aircraft, and though during the forenoon a battle flight was in attendance on her force, this protection lapsed at about noon, 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 SHEFFIELD sighted 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.

 

17.  MANCHESTER also sighted a similar trawler at 1345.

 

18.  At 1327, BULLDOG and KANDAHAR 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. attack.

 

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 were continuing.

 

21.  At 1625 SHEFFIELD 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 zig zags 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.

 

23.  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, SHEFFIELD 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 was difficult.

 

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, zig zagging 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 and KANDAHAR 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 zig zags 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 risk.

 

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 zig zagging 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 SHEFFIELD, but 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.

 

A relief 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 Hudson escorts 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 with shadowing.

 

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 preventing attack.

 

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 Tyne and BRAHMAN from Rosyth) would arrive by midnight, 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

 

43.  MANCHESTER and SHEFFIELD arrived 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.

 

During 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.

 

I 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 May

 

Work of degaussing in MANCHESTER and SOUTHAMPTON progressed at Rosyth.

 

 

State of 18th Cruiser Squadron at 2359/15th May

 

MANCHESTER (Flag of Vice Admiral)

 Rosyth, being fitting with temporary D.G.

SOUTHAMPTON (Flag of Rear Admiral)

 Rosyth, repairs to D.G. and fitting of F and Q coils

SHEFFIELD

Rosyth

BIRMINGHAM

Humber, being fitted with D.G. F and Q coils

First four ships at Fleet notice for steam

GLASGOW

Liverpool. In hand for repairs to bomb damage, exchange of gun barrels, replacement of propellers, and modifications to D.G.

NEWCASTLE

Tyne. Refit, completed 29th May

EDINBURGH

Tyne. Repairs. Structural defects. Completes end of September. Reduced to special complement.

 

 


 

VICE ADMIRAL COMMANDING, 18th CRUISER SQUADRON

 

WAR DIARY – 16th – 31st  May 1940

Wednesday, 15th May

 

Commander 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 GLASGOW.

 

It was 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

 

Nothing to report

 

Monday, 20th May

 

At 0227 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 SOUTHAMPTON and SHEFFIELD were 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.

 

The 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.

 

Ships reverted to 4 hours’ notice for steam at 1130.

 

Tuesday, 21st May

 

BIRMINGHAM arrived Rosyth from Humber BIRMINGHAM and SOUTHAMPTON carried out D.G. calibration.

 

Work on 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

 

SOUTHAMPTON 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.

 

SHEFFIELD went 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

 

At 2130 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 SHEFFIELD to 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

 

The 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.

 

This was 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.

 

Vice 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

 

YORK, at 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

 

FURY, 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

 

FORESIGHT sailed p.m. to escort two liners (ORAMA and ORFORD) up the East coast route as far as May Island.

 

Between 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

 

At 0100 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

MANCHESTER (Flag of V.A.)

At the Humber at 30 minutes notice

BIRMINGHAM

At the Humber at 30 minutes notice

SHEFFIELD

At the Humber at 30 minutes notice

SOUTHAMPTON (Flag of R.A.)

Narvik area. Slightly damaged by near misses from bombs

NEWCASTLE

Tyne – refit. Ready for sea 2nd June

GLASGOW

Liverpool – repairs. Completes 1st July

EDINBURGH

Tyne – structural defects. Completes end September

 

 

on to 18th CS, June-Dec 1940
or back to Admiralty War Diaries

revised 16/7/11


 

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