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HMS Hunter

● Kommodore Friedrich Bonte, senior German naval offi cer at Narvik. He was killed instantly when a shell struck his fl agship Wilhelm Heidkamp (pictured,

right, sinking after her stern was

blown off) in the opening minutes of the fi rst battle for Narvik

 Continued from page iii

asleep: a good twenty merchantmen at anchor in the roadstead – plus the unmistakeable sight of the masts of at least two German warships. “There they are!” a crewman on Hardy’s bridge breathlessly remarked. Her torpedo officer was equally taken aback. “There’s a torpedo target such as I’ve never seen in my life!” he gushed. Warburton-Lee’s response was typically restrained. “Well, get on with it then.” He did. The first torpedo missed its target

– Wilhelm Heidkamp – and took the bow off a merchantman. The second found its mark.

On the bridge of the Wilhelm Heidkamp, Korvettenkapitän Hans Erdmenger could hear the enemy, but in the driving snow he could see nothing.

magazine detonated. Her two 12.7cm guns were tossed into the night by the blast. One crashed into the boiler room, the other destroyed the port side of the bridge. At the same time a British shell smashed into the signal shack, adding to the devastation on the bridge. “The bridge looked like a desert,” wrote Erdmenger. “Ruins, bent pieces of iron, holes caused by shell splinters.” Friedrich Bonte was dead, killed instantly; he still wore the edelweiss – the emblem of the German mountain infantry – presented to him by Eduard Dietl. Most of Bonte’s staff were dead too, and the flagship was dying. Her stern simply ceased to exist. The harbour waters lapped against the aft funnel, while black smoke clouds enveloped the destroyer.

The watch had sounded the alarm when they heard the thunder of cannon somewhere off the harbour entrance. Shells suddenly crashed into a boat nearby. Seconds later the destroyer was rocked by two explosions. The first was a hammer blow, the second cataclysmic as the aft

After Hardy came Hunter, which fired as many as eight torpedoes into the harbour. They did for the Anton Schmitt, whose crew had been woken by the explosion on the Heidkamp – all except their commanding officer. Friedrich Bohme was in a deep sleep, his first in 48 hours. Not the sound

of shell fire nor the crippling of the Heidkamp could rouse him. By the time he awoke, he no longer had a command. The first shell crashed into the

bow, followed seconds later by an almighty explosion which shook the entire ship as a British torpedo destroyed the boiler room. The blast jammed the door of Bohme’s cabin. When he finally freed it, he ran aft to inspect the damage. A second torpedo struck the Anton Schmitt, tearing her other boiler room apart. The blast threw Friedrich Bohme overboard. As he bobbed in the water he watched his ship break into two. The bow capsized, the stern protruded from the harbour waters. It was half an hour before the



struggled ashore on the nearby railway pier. Eighty-three of his shipmates never did, killed by the explosions or drowned in Narvik harbour.

The second torpedo which crippled the Schmitt came from the tubes of HMS Havock – one of a trio of ‘tin fish’ which all hit shipping in

the harbour. As she turned to leave the bay after her run, the Germans belatedly responded. Their gunnery was ineffective. But not the Havock’s, commanded by the aptly-named Lt Cdr Courage. Her guns crippled the Hans Lüdemann.


And so ended the first round of the first battle of Narvik. There was little pause before Warburton-Lee turned his ships about for a second run. Three of the German destroyers in harbour were still capable of offering a fight, none more so than the Diether von Roeder, which fired a spread of torpedoes at the incoming British. All eight raced towards the harbour mouth. All eight were evaded. The British response was devastating. Shells and torpedoes turned the von Roeder into a blazing hulk from bow to stern.

Again Warburton-Lee regrouped his ships for a third run. The guns of the Hans Lüdemann and Hermann Künne were still firing. On the crippled flagship Wilhelm Heidkamp, Hans Erdmenger observed the muzzle flashes of the British ships. The crash






of guns – British, German, naval turret or machine-gun – reverberated constantly around the sides of the fjord. A thick layer of oil covered the waters of the harbour as German sailors struggled to swim ashore. Erdmenger could do nothing to influence the battle. His port guns faced in the wrong direction and could not be brought to bear against the foe. He watched helplessly as the wake of a torpedo lanced through the harbour; it passed ahead of the Wilhelm Heidkamp and exploded against the pier. What Hans Engmenger could do was salvage any working equipment and destroy all secret equipment. Code books and confidential documents were stuffed into bags and tossed to the bottom of the fjord. Ammunition and a handful of anti-aircraft guns were carried ashore. The destroyer’s crew found temporary quarters in a school. They would not return to sea for two months.




As he turned away following his third run, Warburton-Lee sighted three enemy ships bearing down on him from the north, out of Herjangsfjord. The attack on Narvik had woken the sleeping giants – Wolfgang Zenker, Erich Koellner and Erich Giese. Bernard Warburton-Lee had pushed his luck sufficiently this Wednesday morning. He turned to a shipmate on the bridge: “This is our moment to get out.”

Fully fuelled, the Georg Thiele and Bernd von Arnim had spent the Page 1  |  Page 2  |  Page 3  |  Page 4  |  Page 5  |  Page 6  |  Page 7  |  Page 8  |  Page 9  |  Page 10  |  Page 11  |  Page 12  |  Page 13  |  Page 14  |  Page 15  |  Page 16  |  Page 17  |  Page 18  |  Page 19  |  Page 20  |  Page 21  |  Page 22  |  Page 23  |  Page 24  |  Page 25  |  Page 26  |  Page 27  |  Page 28  |  Page 29  |  Page 30  |  Page 31  |  Page 32  |  Page 33  |  Page 34  |  Page 35  |  Page 36  |  Page 37  |  Page 38  |  Page 39  |  Page 40  |  Page 41  |  Page 42  |  Page 43  |  Page 44  |  Page 45  |  Page 46  |  Page 47  |  Page 48  |  Page 49  |  Page 50  |  Page 51  |  Page 52  |  Page 53  |  Page 54  |  Page 55  |  Page 56
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