Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Day 221 April 8, 1940

After midnight, Marine Gruppe 3 departs Wilhelmshaven for Bergen (cruisers Königsberg & Köln, transport Karl Peters, minelayer Bremse & 5 torpedo-boats carrying 1900 troops). At dawn, Marine Gruppe 4 & 6 depart Cuxhaven carrying 1250 troops for the South coast of Norway; Marine Gruppe 5 leaves Wilhelmshaven Swinemünde for Oslo (cruisers Blücher, Lützow and Emden, 8 minesweepers & 3 torpedo-boats carrying 2000 troops) At 5 AM, British destroyers HMS Esk, Icarus, Impulsive & Ivanhoe lay mines in the Vestfjord, gateway to Narvik. At 6 AM, the Allies inform Norway of this action, to prevent passage of ships “carrying war contraband”.

At 8 AM, British destroyer HMS Glowworm encounters Marine Gruppe 1 heading to Trondheim. Glowworm is badly damaged by 8-inch shells from German cruiser Admiral Hipper, engaging the much heavier ship in close battle. Glowworm rams Admiral Hipper causing major damage & then sinks (118 lives lost, 31 taken prisoner by Admiral Hipper). Lieutenant-Commander Gerard Broadmead Roope, commanding HMS Glowworm, drowns after helping survivors put on lifejackets. He will be posthumously awarded the first Victoria Cross of WWII for his aggressive actions, in part due to the testimony of his adversary, Captain Hellmuth Heye of the Admiral Hipper, who wrote to the British authorities via the Red Cross giving a statement of Commander Roope’s courage.

Only Vice-Admiral Max Horton commanding home-based submarines (alone among Royal Navy brass) correctly perceives German intentions to invade Norway. He deploys 6 more submarines to intercept ships sailing from German naval bases. HMS Ursula, Triad and Sterlet leave port to patrol the Skagerrak between Denmark and Norway. At noon, Polish submarine Orzeł (part of Horton's 2nd Submarine Flotilla, already on patrol in the Skagerrak) sinks German troop transport Rio de Janeiro. German troops rescued by Norwegian ships confess they are en route to Bergen. However, British minelaying dominates Norwegian thinking and they are not prepared for invasion by Germany.

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