First Victoria Cross of WW2

Discussion in '1940' started by jimmyl1, Apr 19, 2010.

  1. jimmyl1

    jimmyl1 Junior Member

    Hi all, I am the new guy, Jim Lee

    I believe this was the first Victoria Cross earned during WW2.
    This is courtesy of my friend at the blog World War II Today World War II Today. I am doing a blog similiar to his but also trying to include non military events.

    Warburton-Lee wins VC at first battle of Narvik

    Narvik was the most important strategic objective of the Norwegian campaign. The northerly and remote town was an ice free port from which iron ore, brought by rail from Sweden, could supply Germany. The Germans invaded Norway in order to secure their iron ore supplies, so Narvik was central to their plans.
    [​IMG] A pre war picture of HMS Hardy

    On 9 April Captain Warburton-Lee was ordered to Narvik with orders to prevent the Germans from landing there. He led a force of five “H” class (1,500 ton) destroyers armed with four or five 4.7in guns; the flotilla leader Hardy, and the destroyers Hotspur, Havock, Hunter and Hostile.
    When Warburton-Lee reached the pilot station at Tranöy at about 4pm on 9 April he was told that six German destroyers had already made their way into the Ofotfjord leading to Narvik. He would have been aware that the German destroyers were more powerful than those in his force, at 3,000 tons armed with 5 inch guns. On informing the Admiralty of his plans to attack Warburton-Lee was told that it was his decision what action to take: he made his way up the Fjord to Narvik.
    Warburton-Lee’s force made a surprise dawn attack on German destroyers and merchant ships in Narvik harbour during a blinding snowstorm at 4am the next day. A torpedo from Hardy blew off the stern of the German flagship Wilhelm Heidkamp and killed the German flotilla commander, Commodore Friedrich Bonte. A second destroyer was sunk by two torpedoes and three others were damaged by gunfire. Six of the eight German merchant ships present were sunk.
    If Warburton-Lee’s information had been correct there should have been only one German destroyer remaining. In fact there were five, and they swiftly made their way back to Narvik from the adjacent Fjords and were in a strong position to attack the British force as it prepared to make a second attack on Narvik Harbour.
    [​IMG] On 10th April the British force at Narvik was attacked by further German destroyers coming from Herjangsfjord and Ballangen Bay.

    The British were now caught between two groups of German destroyers and came under heavy shelling. The Hardy was badly damaged, and had to be beached. Olwen George was on board the Hardy when the order was given to ‘abandon ship’:
    Just prior to this renewed shelling voices from up on the bridge were yelling at me to go up on the fo’c’stle deck just below them. They had the Captain lashed on a stretcher, lowering him feet first, and wanted me to grab him and lay him on the deck. As he came down I saw that his head and face were in a terrible state; he was groaning and breathing heavily and as he breathed lumps of flesh on his face were moving in and out. I did not think of him dying, but then the Officers came rushing down and took charge.
    Then with renewed firing we knew it was time to go! The Officers dumped the Skipper in the water and dived in after him. He was dead when they got him to the beach. I was told that some of his last words spoken on the bridge, were “I shall never forget No. Fours gun crew”
    I took my shoes off and tied them by the laces to my belt, made sure my life belt was inflated, I got hold of the ships’ Battle Ensign lying at the foot of the mainmast, rolled it up and tied that to my belt. As I climbed the guard rails I felt a blow on the inside of my left leg near my knee and realised I had been hit with something. There was no time to investigate as more shells were coming inboard.
    Joe and I dived in the water together, struck out and in a few minutes we had reached a point near the beach where we could wade. Then from behind us we heard a cry for help and looking back we saw Paymaster-Lieutenant Stanning waving. We were undecided what to do, as we were suffering from the effects of the bitter cold water, but back we turned. We saw that one of his ankles was shattered. It wasn’t so bad hauling him though the water but when we got to the beach and a high wall of snow at the water mark, it became really hard work. He was compaining bitterly at our rough treatment. Yard by yard we kept at him supporting him either side (he was quite a big man). Our object was a wooden house about 400 yards away.

    Olwen George’s vivid description of life on board HMS Hardy prior to the action as well as subsequent events is at BBC WW2 People’s War.
    HMS Hunter was sunk outright. A third British destroyer, the Hotspur was also badly damaged. The five German destroyers had also taken some damage in the fighting, and failed to press their advantage, allowing the two relatively undamaged British destroyers to rescue the Hotspur. On their way out of the fjord, the British sank the German ammunition ship Rauenfels, the only one to have reached Narvik.
    [​IMG] Captain Warburton-Lee, awarded the VC posthumously

    Captain Bernard Warburton-Lee was awarded the VC for this action, the first to be awarded ( or ‘gazetted’ – formally announced in the London Gazette) during World War II. His citation reads:
    For gallantry, enterprise and daring in command of the force engaged in the First Battle of Narvik, on 10th April, 1940. On being ordered to carry out an attack on Narvik, Captain Warburton-Lee learned that the enemy was holding the place in much greater force than had been thought. He signalled to the Admiralty that six German destroyers and one submarine were there, that the channel might be mined, and that he intended to attack at dawn. The Admiralty replied that he alone could judge whether to attack, and that whatever decision he made would have full support. Captain Warburton led his flotilla of five destroyers up the fjord in heavy snow-storms, arriving off Narvik just after daybreak. He took the enemy completely by surprise and made three successful attacks on warships and merchantmen in the harbour. As the flotilla withdrew, five enemy destroyers of superior gunpower were encountered and engaged. The captain was mortally wounded by a shell which hit the bridge of H.M.S. Hardy. His last signal was “Continue to engage the enemy”.

    Captain Roope of HMS Glowworm had won the first VC of World War II, for his actions on the 8th April 1940, but he was not awarded this until 1945.
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  2. dbf

    dbf Moderatrix MOD

    Hi Jim,
    Just moved your post as it deserves a little attention of its own.
  3. Olly George

    Olly George Junior Member

    Olwen George’s vivid description of life on board HMS Hardy prior to the action as well as subsequent events is at BBC WW2 People’s War

    Please see above - your account is rather misleading - I (Olwen George) was not on board HMS Hardy - my Uncle Frederick Arthur Mason was - I put his account on the BBC WW22 People's War website on his behalf.

    I would be grateful if you would please correct the information on the web link.
    Thank YOu
    Anne-Marie1 likes this.
  4. Spañiard

    Spañiard Junior Member

    The Victoria Cross was awarded 182 times to 181 recipients in "The Unnecessary War."

    The first VC of The Second World War, for his actions on the 8th April 1940.

    It's the Date of His Heroic Gallantry, not when he received it.

    Therefore Captain Roope of HMS Glowworm was the first to Win the V.C.:poppy:
    According to my list

    Lest We Forget.
    Anne-Marie1 likes this.
  5. David Goodey

    David Goodey Member

    Just to clarify the above. Roope in Glowworm earned his VC on April 8 but it was not awarded until after the war after Hipper's reports were read. Warburton-Lee won his on April 10 in First Narvik (my father was on HMS Havock) and received his award the following month. So Warburton-Lee was the first awarded but Roope's was the first won. Hope that is clear.
    David Goodey
  6. Tricky Dicky

    Tricky Dicky Don'tre member

    UK, Victoria Cross Medals, 1857-2007
    Name: Gerald Broadmead Roope
    Birth Date: 13 Mar 1905
    Birth Place: Hillbrook Trull, Near Taunton, Somerset
    Death Date: 8 Apr 1940
    Death Place: West Fjord, Norway

    Name: Bernard Armitage Warburton Warburton-Lee
    Birth Date: 13 Sep 1895
    Birth Place: Broad Oak, Redbrook, Near Whitchurch, Flintshire, Wales
    Birth Place Modern: Clwyd
    Death Date: 10 Apr 1940
    Death Place: Ofot Fjord, Near Narvik, Norway

    Recce_Mitch and CL1 like this.
  7. David Goodey

    David Goodey Member

    That's interesting in that I believe Roope's action with Hipper was outside Vestfjord in open water west of the Lofotens.
  8. Anne-Marie1

    Anne-Marie1 Member

    My great-uncle was awarded the VC posthumously in 1944. I found this thread a really interesting read - thank you!

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