H.M.S. Glorious

Loss of the aircraft carrier HMS Glorious


By early June 1940 the Allies had lost the battle for Norway and Operation Alphabet, the evacuation of the remaining Allied forces and aircraft from Norway began. HMS Glorious arrived off the coast on 2 June to provide air support and to evacuate the remaining RAF fighters in Norway. The Gladiators of 263 Squadron and the Hurricanes of 46 Squadron were flown aboard on the 7th June. In the early hours of the 8th June, Glorious and her two escorting destroyers HMS Ardent and HMS Acasta were ordered back to Scapa Flow.

During the afternoon they were intercepted by the German battleships Scharnhorst and Gneisenau. The Ardent attempted to lay a protective smokescreen and closing on the Scharnhorst, scored a direct hit on the German vessel with her 4.7-inch guns. However, she was massively outgunned by Scharnhorst and after receiving several hits she was put out of action and eventually sank at 5.25pm.
Scharnhorst switched her fire to Glorious and on her third salvo, at an approximate range of 26,000 yards (24,000 m), a single 28.3-centimetre shell hit the forward flight deck and burst in the upper hangar, starting a large fire. This hit destroyed two Swordfish being prepared for flight and the hole in the flight deck prevented any other aircraft from taking off. Splinters penetrated a boiler casing and caused a temporary drop in steam pressure. A second shell hit the homing beacon above the bridge and killed or wounded the captain and most of the personnel stationed there. Glorious was hit again in the centre engine room around 5:20pm and this caused her to lose speed, develop a list to starboard and commence a slow circle to port. The German ships closed to within 16,000 yards and continued to fire at her for the next 20 minutes. HMS Glorious sank at around 6:10pm.

As the German ships approached Glorious, the destroyer Acasta, which had been trying to maintain the smokescreen, broke through her own smoke and fired two volleys of torpedoes at Scharnhorst. One of these hit the battleship at 5:34 abreast her rear turret and badly damaged her. Acasta also managed one hit from her 4.7-inch guns on Scharnhorst, but was riddled by German gunfire and sank around 6:20pm.

The German ships did not try to save survivors. The Royal Navy knew nothing of the sinking until it was announced on German radio. Eventually passing ships and seaplanes rescued 38 men from Glorious and one each from Acasta and Ardent. The total killed or missing was 1,207 from Glorious, 160 from Acasta and 152 from Ardent, a total of 1,519.

The disaster and the failure to mount an effective rescue was clearly an embarrassment for the Royal Navy. All ships encountering the enemy were expected to broadcast a sighting report, and so the lack of a sighting report from Glorious was eventually raised in the House of Commons. It later became known that the heavy cruiser HMS Devonshire had passed within 30–50 miles of the battle, carrying out orders to evacuate the Norwegian Royal Family to the UK and maintaining radio silence. Some surviving eyewitnesses from Glorious and Devonshire later testified that the sighting report had been correctly sent, and received in Devonshire, but that it had been suppressed by Vice-Admiral Cunningham, who departed at high speed in accordance with his orders. The subsequent Committee of Enquiry also highlighted that the absence of normal airborne patrols over Glorious and its attendant destroyers, in conditions of maximum visibility, was a contributory factor to the disaster.


This website may use Cookies
This website may use Cookies in order to work better. At anytime you can disable or manage it in your browser's settings. Using our website, means you agree with Cookies usage.

OK, I understand or More Info
Cookies Information
This website may use Cookies in order to work better. At anytime you can disable or manage it in your browser's settings. Using our website, means you agree with Cookies usage.
OK, I understand