Last Glorious Fight of the Glowworm

Glowworm‘s only surviving officer was the 27-years old Lieutenant Robert Ramsay, R.N. It was known that the Glowworm sank under the attack of the enemy in the North Sea, on April 9, 1940, but nothing more than that.

She was escorting the Renown cruiser when one of the crew members fell overboard in the sea and while trying to find him, she was left behind by the main British force and had to reduce speed to ten knots because of the weather. Confronted with an unidentified destroyer, the Swedish made opened fire. Shortly after, there came another one and she heroically engaged in the battle again. The enemy was firing with all guns. The sea was throwing and rolling the ship. Another two men were lost overboard and many others were injured but they managed a big hit on the leading enemy destroyer, The War Illustrated reports.

Glowworm’s Commanding Officer, Lieut.-Cmdr. Gerard Roope, R.N. believed he knew that the enemy was planning something even more powerful so he decided to follow and shadow and then report all their movements. It was the Hipper with his eight 8-in., twelve 4.1-in. and twelve 37-mm. guns against the Glowworm with her four 4.7-in. guns. But the weather made it almost impossible to shadow.

What Lieut.-Cmdr. Roope wanted was to cause as much damage as the destroyer possibly could before it got sank. And so the glorious battle began.

The Glowworm wasn’t even in position when the Hipper started firing 8-in. shells at her.  “We made smoke”, said Lieut. Ramsay, “and began to close the enemy cruiser. When we got within range, I fired our torpedoes.”

Last Glorious Fight of the Glowworm

Men began falling overboard under the attack. Some of them were able to pick themselves up and return, other got lost under fire, smoke and sea water. Most of the crew was killed, along with all the staff of the Wireless Office by a shell that burst in the Transmitting Station. There were very few left uninjured and all they could do was to put lifebelts on, jump in the sea and hope they would float.

At 10 o’clock, the Glowworn floated bottom-up for only a few seconds before she sank. The Hipper began picking up survivors and took them to Trondheim before returning to Germany for repairs.

“I was taken before the Hipper’s Captain, who told me our torpedoes had missed his ship by only a few yards. The ramming had damaged one set of her torpedo tubes, flooded two compartments, and put her fresh water system out of action,” Lieut. Ramsay said.

Ian Harvey

Ian Harvey is one of the authors writing for WAR HISTORY ONLINE