Friday, December 29, 2006

Fullbore Friday

Remember: nothing is routine. No watch is standard. Combat will not wait for you to be ready. Place yourself on watch on the HMS Glowworm. You still are not happy going on liberty with "Glowworm" on your cover, but your nation is at war - and you suck it up. You have been detached from the main formation to look for a man overboard that in this water you know must be dead by now. After longer than you should, you give up the search and turn to return to your Task Force. You just received your second cup of tea for this watch....
...the Glowworm sighted a destroyer who when challenged, identified itself as Swedish. It was in fact the German von Röder class destroyer, Bernd Von Arnim, which very quickly opened fire, to which Glowworm responded. Unfortunately another German destroyer, the Paul Jakobi soon appeared. However, the Von Arnim was packed with invasion troops and soon both it and the Paul Jakobi turned and fled into a rainsquall. Lt Cdr Roope gave chase despite guessing that they were trying lead him onto their main force in an attempt to discover there whereabouts and inform the Admiralty.
Hiding in the showers, eh? Well, good Skipper, you head in as well - not to let Jerry get away from a proper battle. Then...
As the Glowworm emerged from the squall she came face-to-face with 14,000 ton the German Heavy Cruiser, Admiral Von Hipper armed with eight 8 inch and twelve 4 inch guns. The Glowworm laid smoke and conducted torpedo attacks from the cover of the smoke scrren but failed to hit the Hipper. Glowworm had sustained substantial damage by this time and Lt Cdr Roope gave the order 'Stand by to ram'. The Hipper, realising what was happening tried to turn and ram the Glowworm but was too slow. The Gllowworm tore into the starboard side of the Hipper amidships and tore 100 feet of armour plating away, damaged her starboard torpedo tubes and punctured two fresh water tanks. After ramming the Hipper, Glowworm drew clear, but received another close range salvo from the Hipper to which the single gun, commanded by Petty Officer Walter Scott responded. Glowworm by this time had sustained massive damaged and started to sink and Lt Cdr Roope gave the order to abandon ship. He went down to open the sea cocks himself and the ship started to sink, forcing men into the freezing water or onto her bow.
In the very Navy way the Germans fought at sea in WWII,
The Captain of the Hipper, Helmuth Heye, gallantly stayed for over an hour picking up survivors. He positioned Hipper so that the tidal currents would carry the survivors too them. All the personnel on deck helped with hauling survivors aboard but many were too exhausted to make the final effort of climbing up the ropes and ladders and slipped away, including Lt Cdr Roope who helped many of his men to get life jackets on and to get to ladders. Out of a crew of 149, only 31 survived, the only officerbeing Lt Robert Ramsey. The prisoners were treated well by the Germans who congratulated them on a good fight, and Captain Heye told the men that their Captain was a brave man.
You want class? Need 'professionalism' defined? I present to you two men, LCDR Roope and CAPT Heye (later VADM).
Later, Heye sent a message through the International Red Cross recommending Lt Cdr Roope for the Victoria Cross, the only time in British history that a VC has been recommended by the enemy. The survivors spent the rest of the war as PoWs and afterwards, Lt Ramsey was able to return home and tell the whole story. The story was published on the 10th July 1945, in the Fourth Supplement to the London Gazette for Friday, 6th July 1945. As a result, Lt Cdr Roope was awarded the Victoria Cross, Lt Ramsey the Distinguished Service Order and three other ratings received the Conspicuous Gallantry Medal.


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