"Graham and I were on
Watch and we were
Shook us both"
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The Land Campaign.
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The sinking of Pembroke Coast
Rear Admiral John Adams
These journal entries were made by John Adams when serving as Sub Lieutenant
on the destroyer HMS Walker during the Norwegian campaign of
1940. It will be understood, and Admiral Adams would like to stress,
that his diary is that of a young man in the midst of events, rumours
and instant impressions yet to be fully considered.
||At Sea, Clyde
Sat 13 April, 1940
Well things have been happening! After a couple of
days in Gladstone Dock we sailed at six in the morning to the Clyde
to escort the new cruiser Fijion her travels. We
were in company with Wanderer. The same day Germany
invaded Denmark and Norway. Terrific sea and air battles
and the Germans lose the Gneisenau
Wed 24 April, 1940
Still at sea! We had a couple of days in harbour
and left at 9am on Wednesday 17 to rendezvous with Glorious (Aircraft
Carrier) off the NW of Ireland. This we did and got her
into the Clyde by 7pm on 18. We then started coming home
but we stopped to stand over a buoyed contact for 24 hours. We
couldn't find anything there however. Then we were sent
off to the north of the Isle of Man to chase a submarine which
had been sighted. This also we never saw. Eventually
returned to the oiler in the Mersey at 10pm Saturday night. We
got into the lock on Sunday morning to enter Gladstone, when
we were told to escort an ammunition ship to Scapa Flow. We
arrived there on the morning of the 23rd - Tuesday.
have never seen so many warships there - literally hundreds! Including
French, British, Pole and Norwegians - our new Allies!
On shore there are so many anti-aircraft batteries etc
that I lost count. Truly a reassuring sight. An air
raid warning was in force while we were there. What wasn’t
so good was the Suffolk (10,000 ton cruiser) on the mud. The
Germans had bombed her off Narvik and had got a direct hit, exploding
in the after engine room; she was bombed for eight hours before
she was hit. 28 were killed and her side blown open. It's
a miracle she can get back to port. We oiled there and then
having anchored for about half an hour, sailed for Sullom Voe in
the Shetlands to escort a liner back to the Clyde.
Evacuation - skies over the fleet
Evacuation - disembarking at Bødo
Fierce fighting. I hope and I think we ought to
drive the Germans out of Norway pretty quickly.
28th Warspite came in from Narvik where she had beaten
up and sunk 7 German destroyers. Hardy's survivors
were also landed. At 1800 we left in panic for Scapa Flow
with Wanderer, Westcott, Antelope and Ardent after
our sailing orders had been altered twice.
arrived on 29th and sailed an hour afterwards with Galatea and Arethusa,
Westcott and Wanderer for the Norwegian coast.
30 April, 1940Tuesday
We met Sheffield, Southampton, 3 Tribals and
a passenger ship at 15.00 on a lovely fine day and entered Romsdals
Fjord at 19.00 at action stations to evacuate troops from Andalsnes
expecting German planes to blow us sky high at any moment. We
don't seem to be doing so well in Norway!
went in amongst the high mountains (one was 5,700 feet) all covered
in snow and several fishermen and their wives watching us from
the shore. It wasn't dark till 23.00, but we saw no German
planes. Two trawlers were aground in various places, Andalsnes
itself was in indescribable ruins. Not a wall standing
and fires everywhere. The German Air Force certainly knew
alongside a ruined jetty and we went outside of her and 578 troops
were pushed into us. They were in a completely demoralised
state and had been machine gunned and bombed the whole day by
3 Heinkels who had come all the way from Hamburg! They
hadn't seen many German troops, but lots of parachutists, with
light tanks, bicycles and field artillery in pieces! We
took these men to the Southampton and then went back
again for more, but there were hardly any left. There were
only 120 men from 1200 of the Sherwood Foresters, and they had
only been ashore a week!
Several of the cruisers took troops - but not many. We
had the biggest load, and then all retired. In the meanwhile Wanderer had
gone aground and a tribal just managed to tow her off. Westcott and
ourselves stayed behind to pick up 150 Royal Marines who were
waiting on a lonely beach to be embarked. This we had to
do in boats which was a long task and just got them off by 03.00
/ 1st May when it was just daylight. The German planes
were due any moment now!
Marines had been told to embark at 04.00 but there would have
been no-one there at that time if we hadn't found them. Apparently
the Germans were having it all their own way. The RMs were
fed up at the RAF and told us the following true tale. Glorious flew
off 18 Gladiator pilots for patrol round Andalsnes and they landed
on a frozen lake.
Next morning over came the Germans and
bombed the lake and planes to hell. 7 were left while the
RAF men ran for cover and didn't move the planes. They
had let their engines freeze up. Next day two crashed taking
off so 5 were left. These RMs had to guard, and actually
burnt them the same day we picked the troops up. There
was no-one to fly them.
we left in a hurry down the fjord - 36 miles to open sea and
were all standing on the bridge wondering why the Luftwaffe hadn't
turned up and the First Lieutenant remarked, "nasty black
things, these Heinkels" when rat tat tat came the machine
gun fire and we looked aft over the mainmast and there was a
German diving at us. One could see the tracer bullets coming
at the bridge but the range was too far and they fell into the sea
1 May 1940
Others came in much closer however.
rushed down to 'B' gun as officer of the quarters there but we
never got a round off as it wouldn't elevate enough. How
we cursed! The first salvo of bombs fell near Westcott and
then our helm jammed. We circled round to port, Wescott just
missing our stern and rang down, "Full ahead". Black
smoke came out of the funnels and this accounted for Lord Haw
Haw's (the German radio propaganda merchant) remark that a destroyer
was hit while retiring out of the fjord. The channel was
luckily broad at this point, but Westcott got ahead
and it was some minutes before we could straighten out and make
for the sea. The second lot of bombs fell close astern
and then our (?) and X and Y guns did a very creditable shoot
which made him sheer away.
the entrance another one attacked from ahead and I could see
the bombs coming the whole way. At first I thought it was
going to be a hit, but they landed abrest the bridge about half
the ships length away (40 yards)
didn't molest us after this and we were soon in the open sea. The
cruisers were being attacked and we could see their shells bursting
up in the sky, though it was too far away to see the planes or
joined the cruisers about noon and made for Scapa then a signal
came through that Southampton, Westcott and
ourselves were to go to Sullom Voe where we arrived at 2000 and
transferred all the troops to Westcott. She then
sailed for Scapa, while we sailed off for another Andalsnes party,
the Southampton already having gone on ahead. However,
the final embarkation of the same night was successful and at
05.00 on 2nd May (Thursday) we were told we weren't wanted on
Thursday night and so we returned to Scapa by 20.00
Embarking Irish Guards at Harstad
HMS Walker disembarking
Irish Guards at Bødo
Thursday 16 May
I had a very good leave and was very annoyed when the
time came to drive back on Friday evening.
my return I found the 1st Lieutenant had left and S/L Graham
arrived in his place. We now have a Sub Lieut! The
same day Chamberlain resigned and Churchill became Prime Minister
with a united national cabinet. We sailed at 0800 on Saturday
morning with a new motorboat and a cut down main mast. Arrived
at Greenock at 8pm and found lots of transports etc, besides
two aircraft carriers and the funnels of the French destroyer
just showing above the water, where she had sunk after one of
her warheads had gone up. We spent the night here.
The sinking of Jersey City: The only one we couldn't take.
Norway May / June 1940. Racing through the Narrows, always a bad place to meet bombers.
Sunday 12 May
We sailed at 0800 with about 10 ships for Narvik, full
of lorries, ammunition and guns. Since then we have been
seaming steadily northwards and we are now (16th) almost in the
Arctic Circle. We expect to arrive tomorrow night.
in Europe, events have been happening so quickly that it is almost
impossible to put them down on paper. The Germans invaded
Holland and Belgium on Monday 13 (I think) and in two days lost
250 aeroplanes. By Wednesday 15th, Holland's army laid
down their arms after having a quarter of their army (400,000)
killed mostly by Goering's bombers. Parachute troops played
an important part. Belgium is still holding out and French
and English battle troops are engaged in a terrific battle which
is still going on at the moment.
have been evacuating troops from The Hook -all same Andalsnes!
And several ships have been badly damaged by bombs. Valentine has
been breached on the Dutch coast.
Germans have lost 30 merchantmen in Dutch colonial hands and
we have gained the Dutch and Belgian navies. Quite a big
as I say, events are moving so rapidly that one can't keep apace
with them. Italy is due to 'declare' war on us at any moment. Switzerland,
Greece and Turkey, everyone is mobilising!
got to Haarstad (about 20 miles across the fjord from Narvik)
at 0700 on Sunday 19 May with half the convoy. It was very
difficult to find anywhere to anchor, the fjord being so deep.
took us an hour and a half and eventually anchored in 80f.
oiled during the day and at 1930 went alongside to embark two
companies of the South Wales Borderers to take them back to Bodø (150
miles away down the coast) while they were coming in, I went
and cooked at Eskimo, a tribal class destroyer who had
had her bars blown off by a torpedo. She was an ugly mess. 20
feet away was a British FAA plane which had been shot down by
the Germans. An Irish Guards lieutenant, with whom I got
talking, told me of the incredible inefficiency of the British
organisation - no anything and nothing to do except get bombed
day and night; everyone everywhere was crying out for fighter
aircraft with which to compete with the Germans bombers.
Tribal was sunk by a bomb yesterday just off Haarstad. The Somali
Effingham, a cruiser hit a rock at 20 knts and sank the
same day just off Bodø. We're not winning this war
at the moment and the news in France is bad - Germans coming
through everywhere. The troops we took had already had
two attempts to get Bodø. The first time their transport,
a Polish liner, was bombed and sank. The Poles behaved
very badly - rowed away in two lifeboats and left it to the Irish
Guards to lower the others. Two days later they again went
down in the Effingham and now they are trying the Firedrake.
was the first day since the war in Norway that there
wasn't an air raid in Haarstad!
Map of sea patrols
20 May, 1940
we got badly delayed by fog and managed to land the
troops at 0600 / 20 May. As we were leaving the air raid
sirens went and over came a Heinkel. He didn't bother us,
however, and we didn’t pot at him though the temptation
was strong. However the guns couldn't have elevated high
we're on our way back to Haarstad with dispatches from the Colonel
coming through the Narrows (very narrow fjord between Bodø and
Haarstad) a huge Junkers flew over us at 10,000 feet and
made a high level bombing attack at us. He dropped
either 4 bombs in a cluster or one 1100 lbs one. It
made a loud whistling noise and there was a terrific explosion
about 100 yards on our starboard quarter. We couldn't
shoot at him and we all flung ourselves on our faces as it
hit the water. Splinters
came in at the ship all around, but no-one was hurt. I tried
to get to bed three times in the afternoon and evening and
each time the alarm bells rang and German planes came over. We
were by this time carrying out an A/S sweep at the entrance
to the fjord.
the evening 14 planes attacked Haarstad - we could see them -
and made a direct hit on an oil fuel tank which went up in flames
and made a huge pillar of smoke which went right across the sky. 2
ships, one was one of our convoy, were set on fire alongside
the tanks. (12 planes were shot down)
21st May, 1940
We entered harbour from patrol at 0300 / 21st and secured
alongside the oiler after 2 hours. She was moving herself
from the proximity of the fire, in case the petrol tank blew
up. Anchored one and a half hours later and so I got 3
hours sleep that night.
0800 hours there seemed a danger of the burning ships drifting
down on the town so we were ordered to sink them by gunfire using
practice projectiles. These made no impression! Then
we thought we'd try and take a wire to them and tow them off
but, as usual in the Navy, everyone got panicky and countermanded
everyone else's orders. Then they broke loose and went
down on the town. 2 trawlers got hold of them and pulled
them off and then we had a shot at towing but of course the tow
parted. Eventually Aurora sank her with an 8" H.E.
shell, and then sank the other one outside. At 1200 we
went alongside the jetty and embarked more Irish Guards for Bodø and
landed the there at 0030 / 22nd May after dense fog. They
told us that the German plane which sank the Polish liner had
British markings and the correct two star recognition signal!
the way back, a German seaplane had a good look at us, but we
were too tired to bother about him.
Gladiator (fighters) have now arrived but 200,000 gallons of
their petrol went up yesterday in one of the ships!
at 1430, oiled, and left in a panic as another German came over. He
was, however, pursued by 2 Gladiators. The ships company's
nerves are in a terrible state.
are now on A/S patrol at the entrance to the fjord again. At
2000 returned to convoy some ships out. A Heinkel attacked
us and dropped a bomb at the ship ahead. My guns were quite
taken by surprise, these being low lying clouds and didn't fire
a shot. We got the ships to sea and returned at 1130 / 23rd May.
Norway May / June 1940: After a raid on Harstad.
Norway May / June 1940: Narvik on and under fire.
23rd May, 1940
Were ordered to Narvik to relieve Fame she
was being bombed as we came up to her. Firedrake was just
missed by a German shore battery at Narvik at Narvik and is full
of splinter holes.
is up and down off Narvik and we spent most of our time being
bombed. One landed in the water about 10 feet off, abrest
the funnel and almost lifted the ship out of the water. It
blew all the lighting off the dynamos and I later found my ship's
office in terrible chaos. About 5 others were dropped
at us, and two at Firedrake. The near miss was
a dive bombing attack out of the sun. I heard him but couldn't
see him till too late.
were German planes around us the whole time we were at Narvik.
are our fighters?!
Germans have captured Boulogne and raided Yorkshire and Kent. Lots
of Fascists have been arrested. The Government have made
a bill turning everyone's property over to the state.
Graham and I were on Watch and we were Completely
speechless Shook us both
We went down to Bahoy at 2300 / 23rd and relieved Delight who
relieved Firedrake at Narvik.
Planes were coming over all the middle (I should state here that
it is daylight for 24 hours out of 24, the sun sets at 23.00 and
rises before 01.00!) and at 03.00 / 24 a Heinkel came very low and
close apparently in difficulties and we think she crashed just over
the hills. For some time she was coming straight at us, only some
40 feet up.
At 06.00 while I was asleep, 4 Junkers bombed us and I was awoken
by the crash of the explosion.
Map of sea convoy
24 May, 1940
All we can do is go full ahead and zigzag frantically. Our
guns are no use. The forenoon and the afternoon were reasonably
quiet, while from 18.00 till 20.00 we were attacked continuously,
low clouds at first making it very difficult to spot them.
bombs were dropped at us, a salvo of three straddled us. One
about 10 feet on port beam, abrest B gun - where I was! and failed
to explode otherwise I wouldn't be here to tell the tale. In
two cases, including the latter, I could see the plane release
the bombs and follow them the whole way down. It's a most
ghastly sensation! The salvo of 3 looked like a hit the
whole way down, while others one could tell were a miss straightaway. All
these attacks were high level bombing.
must say I would rather be on land for a raid than in a ship
with practically no AA defence. One feels so naked and
exposed on the upper deck and unable to dodge, and also one knows
that the plane is attacking you which you don’t
get on land. One or two planes over during the night.
25 May 1940
It is now 1000 / Saturday 25 May. Planes started
coming over at 11.30 and at 12.30 the first salvo came down. In
the next 3/4 of an hour 33 bombs were dropped on us. I
was on watch frantically altering course every 30 seconds and
doing 22 knots. They were all high level attacks and we
could do absolutely nothing against it. There was no-one
else to help us - that is, to have a pot at them and by the time
1600 came I was completely exhausted. Clean blue sky and
dazzling sun made it so difficult to see them that several times
the first thing we knew was the rising whistle of the bombs as
they came down. Several were unpleasantly close and splinters
came on the bridge.
were relieved at 1700 by Whirlwind and dashed back to
fuel. Just as we had secured an air raid warning went and
we had to push off again. 40 minutes later we secured again,
again an air raid warning went just as we left the oiler, out
of the sun came a diving Heinkel, straight at one of our store
ships, which had already hit this morning and was aground. Everyone
opened fire, but he came roaring down. I could see it wasn't
at us, and for the first time took a real interest in the attack! The
bombs fell just to the left of the ship and the plane had got
away unhurt. However, two were brought down this morning
by the Gladiator.
secured the third time without incident and got 12 bags of mail
on board, ammunition and meat.
Norway: Unloading (at least transferring troops baggage onto Lancastria
Sinking of the Jersey City
Sunday 26 May, 1940
At 0130 / 26 May we pushed off on B Patrol. During
the afternoon a heavy raid took place of Haarstad and the first
thing we knew were bombs raining down ahead of us. Again
the dazzling blue sky!
AA gun fire all evening.
attacked 20/30 again when a Heinkel came out of the newly formed
clouds, machine gunned us and dropped 10 bombs on port side.
to Haarstad at 0600, found our last oiler sinking as a result
of bombing, went alongside another which had none left. We
had to leave the third in a hurry because of an air raid and
returned in half an hours time.
at 0915 with flag officer. Narvik's SOO took orders to
various ships and dropped SOO off. French territory at
Narvik. Attack on Narvik starts tonight. Picked
up SOO again and put him in Cairo off Baroy.
2300 we had all assembled off Narvik and started bombarding. French
75s were firing over our heads and the scream and zip as they
went over were most 'exhilerating'!
28 May 1940
Knocked down entrances to railway tunnels and various
other length. German paratroops on train in tunnel with
UK merchant - men gun on track. Troops landed in ALC and
MLC in front of us. Intense machine gun fire. Carried
on bombarding until about 1400/ 28th Tuesday. Hurricanes
and Gladiators overhead to keep off the bombers.
0410 I was wondering where the bombers were and looking overhead
saw a Heinkel about to dive bomb the Southampton. I
must have been the first to see him - surprise was complete. He
missed Southamptonand then they came over in threes
and twos for two hours - absolute pandemonium. 8 ships
zigzagging like fury, everyone blazing into the sky and almost
impossible to see planes. We had 52 bombs dropped on ourselves
alone - we were again singled out from the others! Or so it appeared. "where
were the fighters?" everyone was wailing - God knows where
they got to.
Wed. 29 May, 1940
At 0700 we left and proceeded half way up various awaiting
further events. French tanks got bogged on landing!
Still waiting up Narrows. Attack so far seems fairly successful
but short of ammunition and Germans holding up well. At
2400 (10 hours ago) 5 seaplanes reported nearby. Probably
laying magnetic mines around the corner!
noon we left for Haarstad. Found Cairo had been
hit at Narvik, 40 injured and had left for Scapa. No sooner
had we finished oiling then there was an air raid and a salvo
of bombs landed between Coventryand Havelock as
they were steaming out of the southern entrance to Haarstad.
small puffers have to be examined for German troops. At
2200 / 1st returning to Haarstad. Firedrake relieves
Sunday 2 June 1940
Fine day spent in Haarstad waiting for air raid! At
1400 Firedrake and Narvik got hell! Fighters
overhead at Haarstad all afternoon - except at 1430 when we had
an air raid and had to rush out of the harbour. Of course,
then the fighters were nowhere to be seen!
we curse these RAF men for their uncanny knack of being in the
wrong place at the right moment!
to evacuate all Narvik forces starting tomorrow night. I
told Mr Short on 10 May that I could only give Narvik another
month to hold out!
Evening in harbour, waiting. Clouding
Monday 3 June
over E Patrol. Fighter shot down 13 planes over Narvik
yesterday without loss. Clouding over nicely.
2200 went alongside jetty at Haarstad and embarked 500 troops
in first stage of evacuation of Narvik: several destroyers doing
it. We took our lot out to sea and round the corner and
alongside the Lancastria in a heavy swell, knocked the
forecastle in a bit and smashed up the starboard wing bridge. Then
at 0400 / 4th we then shot back again and got another load at
0800 landing them on the Lancastria by 1300. We
got quite a nice manilla from her in exchange for a bottle of
rum. Saw our friend the Guards officer!
then esented the transports out to sea - Lancastria, Monarch
of Bermuda and Georgia.
Norway, towing the Pembroke Coast.
The sinking of the Jersey City: Transferring the crew from Gloucester City to Walker.
Wed 5 June
Came back and carried out A S patrol in Andfjorden to
cover Batory, Sobieski and Georgia, embarking
troops. Sky still covered in clouds
appeared about 10 mins later. We are now 160 rounds of
SAP short. Oil fuel tanks leaking, rudder out of alignment
action - result of recent bombing. We then went on B patrol
all Wednesday night and Thursday.
to oil at 0200 / 31st Friday and then left for Rombats fjord,
where we'll probably get bombed to blazes.
were laid on Tuesday night and we have to be preceded by a trawler
when going through the Narrows. Bodø has been razed
to the ground by bombs and the other destroyers are busy evacuating
it and bringing what remains of the soldiers back again. What
a mess! The last two days have been misty and probably
kept the planes away, but now its fine again, worst luck!
German plane down near Haarstad, Whirlwind brought in
the prisoners last night.
destroyers sunk off Dunkerque which is being evacuated by Allies.
for the last week of 70 German planes brought down a day
by RAF alone. We lose about 20 a day.
Rombaks about 1300 / 31st Friday and stayed around with Echo who
left us at 2100.
1700 began a big air raid on Narvik by about 20 planes coming
over in threes. We tried to keep out of the way and luckily
weren't molested. This went on for about 2 1/2 hours but
no fighters appeared! Huge fire started.
might want us to bombard positions of Germans down east end of
mist all Saturday/ 1st June which gave us grand rest from aircraft. Had
a talk with naval liaison officer. Machine gun fire now
and then from the shore. Norwegians evacuating Narvik now
it is in friendly hands again.
have almost reached Boray and Tys fjord German radio says they
know we are evacuating but that we will have a hot time on the
way back! Went back at midnight to oil at Haarstad.
Thursday 6 June
Left oiler at 0430 and went to rendezvous D2 to pick
up RAF and about 300 Alpines Chasseurs, crack French troops,
who looked very tough, were very nice and much cleaner than our
own troops. Still very cloudy, stops German aircraft, but
plenty of Ark Royal's and Glorious'
stukas flying around. Hurricanes and Gladiators carrying
out patrols over Narvik until Friday midnight.
troops on Vindictive (old cadet training ship, converted
cruiser, now destroyer store ship) at 1100 then took convoy to
brought back Royal Ulsterman and Monarch, Ormonde and Orousay to
rendezvous for more troops. About 10 destroyers employed
A/S patrols filling ships up. Carried out A/S patrol and
then took ships to sea. Friday morning, convoy all day,
Germans winning hands down in France. Armed merchant cruiser
'Carinthia' torpedoed off NW Ireland. Came in
to oil at 2100 after trouble with smoke caused by water in our
fuel tanks. German planes bombing ships and Narvik all
Left oiler at 0300/8th
This page: the Sea Campaign .
The Land Campaign.