Friday, 25 June 2010

The magnificent story of HMS Glowworm

HMS Glowworm (H92) was a G-class destroyer of the Royal Navy. She entered service in the interwar period and initially served in the Mediterranean. She had a brief but distinguished career in the Second World War. She was an early war loss when she fought an unequal engagement with the German cruiser Admiral Hipper on 8 April 1940, being heavily damaged before ramming the Admiral Hipper, and then sinking.








On the morning of 8 April 1940 Glowworm was on her way to rejoin the Renown when she encountered the German destroyers Z 11 Bernd von Arnim and then the Z 18 Hans L├╝demann in the heavy fog around 08:00. The destroyers were part of a German naval detachment, led by the heavy cruiser Admiral Hipper, on its way to land invasion troops at Trondheim as part of the German invasion of Norway (Operation Weser├╝bung). A skirmish broke out and the German destroyers fled, signalling for help.

The request was soon answered by the Admiral Hipper. Although hopelessly outgunned, Glowworm accepted the fight and, while receiving several heavy hits, fired torpedoes at the German cruiser. They missed and, in a final desperate effort to sink or at least seriously damage her opponent, Glowworm then attempted to ram Admiral Hipper. One of the Hipper’s shells hit the Glowworm’s mast. As this crashed down, it caused a short circuit of the wiring, causing the ship's siren to start a banshee wail which nobody was able to stop.

As the ships collided, Admiral Hipper suffered major damage, with a large underwater gash in her bow. With the two ships locked together, Glowworm fired one last shot at point-blank range into the Hipper. Glowworm was pushed under the cruiser's bow and her entire forecastle was sheared off up to the bridge. For several minutes she drifted, on fire, alongside Admiral Hipper, then capsized and sank north-west of Trondheim. 111 of the ship's company were killed and 39 were taken prisoner.

During the engagement Glowworm had broken radio silence and informed the Admiralty of her situation. She was not able to complete her transmission, and all the Admiralty knew was that the Glowworm had been confronted by a large German ship, shots were fired, and contact with the destroyer could not be re-established. In response, the Admiralty ordered the Renown and her single destroyer escort (the other two had gone to friendly ports for fuel) to abandon its post at the Vestfjords and head to the Glowworm's last known location.

At 10:45, the remaining eight destroyers of the minelaying force were ordered to join as well. The Admiral Hipper had meanwhile departed the scene damaged, and made her way to Trondheim.


The Glowworm’s commanding officer, Lieutenant Commander Gerard Broadmead Roope, killed when she sank, was posthumously awarded the Victoria Cross, thus becoming the first VC recipient of the Second World War. The award was justified, in part, by the recommendation of his opponent, Captain Hellmuth Heye of the Admiral Hipper, who wrote to the British authorities via the Red Cross, giving a statement of the valiant courage Lt Cdr Roope had shown when engaging a much superior ship in close battle.

Ship position at sinking:64°27′N 06°28′E.




7 comments:

BazzaS said...

In my teenage years I knew a survivor of the Glowworm incident. Jack Townsley sat on the upturned hull with Lt Cdr Roope, awaiting rescue. Roppe said to him "Well Townsley, it will be many years before we play cricket together again".
Until I learned of the action I wondered why Jack Townsely was such a keen cricketer into middle age.

Anonymous said...

Just researching my family tree and discovered that my great uncle William George Ashby of Bedford served on HMS Glowworm and was one of the many killed in action on the 8th April 1940.

Albanaich said...

Not entirely true. Lloyd Trigg was awarded a VC on the recomendation of Oberleutnanr Klemens Schmoag

Albanaich said...

Not entirely true.Lloyd Trigg was a awarded a VC on the recommendation of Oberleutnant Klemens Schmoag

tadgeyboy said...

MY GRANDFATHER SERVED ON THE GLOWORM DURING THAT ACTION AND WAS KILLED HE WAS ABLE SEAMAN GORDON BECK. MY GRANDMOTHER TOLD ME SHE FOUND OUT FIRST VIA PATHE NEWS AFTER MY MOTHERS DEATH. I HAVE MY GRANDFATHERS NAVY RECORD AND THE TELEGRAM NOTIFYING MY NAN OF HIS DEATH. MICHAEL TAYLOR.

RON COPE said...

The story of HMS Glowworm in April 1940, is the ulimate in naval warfare and brave young sailors, mixed with tradegy. My father Cyril Cope was a twenty one year old Torpedoman on board HMS Hardy, whose ship was sent to find and assist 'Glowworm'.
Subsequently, I have written two books about the 2nd Destroyer Flotilla and the Battle of Narvik, where out of respect I had to mention the epic story of Glowworm, her crew and the assistance offered by her adversary 'Hipper'. For those wishing to read my books they are 'Attack at Dawn' and 'Doomed Destroyer'(working title). Ron Cope Website 'submerged.co.uk'

Joan beastall nee allen said...



I have always wanted to know more about my father's brother Frances Allen who is reputed to have served and died on hms glowworm in its last battle. He was only about 18 or 19 years of age and he had only been in the navy a matter of weeks when he was posted to the glowworm. It makes me very sad that none of our family ever spoke about him and have nothing to commemmorate his memory. The only thing i remember from when i was small is an oval framed picture of him in his naval uniform on my grandads wall I asked who he was and was told it was my uncle frank my dad's brother and he was never mentioned again
27 September 2016