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30 Apr 2024

Norwegians plan to honour tragic WW2 destroyer

Norwegians plan to honour tragic WW2 destroyer
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Royal Navy Press Release
Norwegians hope to erect a memorial to a Royal Navy warship sunk trying to prevent the invasion of their country in 1940.

HMS Glowworm was lost in the Norwegian Sea after a valiant but futile attempt to thwart superior German forces reaching Trondheim in the opening moves of Operation Weserübung.

The destroyer was patrolling off the Norwegian coast on the morning of April 8 1940 when she encountered two German destroyers – part of the covering screen for a naval force bound for Trondheim, led by the cruiser Admiral Hipper.

When Glowworm engaged the destroyers, they signalled the cruiser for help.

Though outnumbered and outgunned, Glowworm’s Commanding Officer Lieutenant Commander Gerard Roope took the fight to the enemy.

Glowworm scored at least one hit on the Hipper, but the five torpedoes she fired at her foe all missed – and the German guns took a terrible toll of the destroyer: the bridge, engine room, captain’s cabin and forward 4.7in gun were all wrecked.

While making smoke to buy time for a second torpedo attack, the destroyer was surprised by the Hipper emerging from the fog at near point-blank range, prompting Roope to decide to ram the cruiser as a last resort.

The impact ripped off Glowworm’s bow – plus a 130ft of the cruiser’s protective armoured belt. Hipper took on water which caused her to list slightly, but otherwise was unaffected, while the Glowworm began to sink rapidly.

At least 109 men went down with the crippled destroyer. The Germans picked up about 40 men, though around half a dozen subsequently died of their wounds.

Gerard Roope lost the strength to hold on to the rope as he was being hauled aboard the Hipper and drowned. He was posthumously awarded the Victoria Cross for his actions – one of only three presented to participants of the ill-fated campaign in Norway.

It was an award made in part thanks to the recommendation of his foe; Hipper’s skipper Hellmuth Heye praised Roope’s bravery and conduct.

Largely undamaged, the German cruiser continued to Trondheim and the city was occupied the following day, April 9, as Nazi forces struck throughout Norway.

Due to the succession of blows and tragedies which befell Norway in 1940, plus the remoteness of the action, the clash between the Glowworm and the Hipper is largely unknown beyond the realm of historians.

The nearest land to the clash – the tiny, rocky island of Kya – was only inhabited by a handful of fishermen in 1940.

Today it’s uninhabited and, despite its remoteness, popular with adventurous tourists and divers keen to experience its underwater wildlife.

Petter Krogstad, who is overseeing the memorial project, said it was important from his nation’s perspective to remember Glowworm's “forgotten heroes” received “the attention and honour they deserve.

“Britons interested in war are well aware of the story of Lieutenant Commander Roope and his brave men, but HMS Glowworm's heroic fight against an opponent ten times its size is sadly unknown in this country,” said Petter Krogstad.

The form of the monument has yet to be decided, but the plan is to erect it on Kya’s highest point, facing west towards the scene of the encounter, dedicating the memorial in the presence of VIPs 85 years to the day Glowworm was lost: April 25 2025.

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