On 10th. April 1940 The Royal Navy engaged the German Kriegsmarine in a destroyer action at Narvik in Northern Norway. The Royal Navy flotilla inflicted heavy losses on the Germans (two destroyers and seven merchantmen sunk, four destroyers badly damaged) but lost its commander and two destroyers. Now the resting place of one of the latter has been found.
HMS Hunter sank in 1000 feet of water during the first Battle of Narvik and its resting place had eluded searchers for nigh on sixty-eight years. Now the Royal Norwegian Navy has located it, an event described as ‘poignant’ by Major General Garry Robison, Commandant General, Royal Marines. HMS Hunter was torpedoed in the action and sank almost immediately with the loss of more than one hundred lives. Flotilla Commander Captain Bernard Warburton-Lee (on HMS Hardy),was killed in the battle and was posthumously awarded the Victoria Cross
The reaction of the Norwegians is notable. A service of commemoration will be held this Saturday and NATO ships will sail past in line astern as a mark of respect. Those who have had a part in the discovery have plainly been much moved by it and the reminder it gives of the sacrifice far from home of so many young Britons.
Norwegian defence spokesman Colonel John Ogland said:
“Being able to host this large multinational exercise is great for us but to find HMS Hunter whilst doing so makes it very special indeed.
“We remain close allies and are eternally grateful to those who helped preserve our freedom.”
I recount the story as much for this last thought as anything. It is notable how the smaller nations whom we helped in the Second World War remain close friends of ours and within their populations there remains a significant reservoir of goodwill and gratitude for the UK.
How very different from some countries who are routinely listed as our closes allies or friends in the EU who find it almost impossible to say a kind word to us let alone thank us for liberating them and expending the lives of our young men in their defence and who will not bear the modern risks of warfare in defence of their and our interests and keep their young men out of harms’ way when the going gets tough.