Operation Juno

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Operation Juno
Part of Norwegian Campaign of World War II
Date 8 June 1940
Location North Sea
Result Nazi Germany German victory
Belligerents
Nazi Germany Germany  United Kingdom
Commanders and leaders
Nazi Germany Wilhelm Marschall

Nazi Germany Kurt-Caesar Hoffmann

United Kingdom Guy D'Oyly-Hughes 

United Kingdom Charles Eric Glasfurd 
United Kingdom John Frederick Barker 
United Kingdom Geoffrey Seymour Grenfell 

Strength
2 battlecruisers
1 heavy cruiser
4 destroyers
1 aircraft carrier
2 destroyers
1 minesweeper
1 troopship
1 oil tanker
1 hospital ship
Casualties and losses
1 battlecruiser damaged 1 aircraft carrier sunk
2 destroyers sunk

1 minesweeper sunk
1 troopship sunk
1 oil tanker sunk
1,612 killed

Operation Juno was a German naval offensive late in the Norwegian Campaign. The German ships involved were the battlecruisers Scharnhorst and Gneisenau, the heavy cruiser Admiral Hipper and the destroyers Karl Galster, Hans Lody, Erich Steinbrinck and Hermann Schoemann.

The mission was launched on 8 June 1940, as an attack on Harstad to relieve pressure on the German garrison at Narvik. After refuelling at Jan Mayen Island the mission became unnecessary as the Allies were evacuating from Norway. On his own initiative, however, the German commander, Admiral Marschall, decided to seek and destroy the Allied transports. The troop transport Orama, the tanker Oil Pioneer and the minesweepeing trawler HMT Juniper were sunk. Marschall ordered the Admiral Hipper and the destroyers to Trondheim, where they arrived in the morning of 9 June.

The next day, Admiral Hipper attempted to leave Trondheim, but was forestalled by the sighting of a British submarine.

Sinking of HMS Glorious[edit]

As a notorious sideline to Operation Juno, Scharnhorst under the command of Kapitän zur See Kurt-Caesar Hoffmann and Gneisenau sank the British aircraft carrier HMS Glorious and her escorting destroyers HMS Acasta and Ardent on 8 June at around 64° N off Norway.

On the night of 7–8 June, the Glorious, under the command of Captain Guy D'Oyly-Hughes (who was a submarine specialist and had only 10 months experience in aircraft carrier operations), took on board 10 Gloster Gladiators and eight Hawker Hurricanes from No. 46 Squadron RAF and No. 263 Squadron Royal Air Force, the first landing of modern aircraft without arrestor hooks on a carrier. These had been flown off from land bases to keep them from being destroyed in the evacuation. Glorious was part of a troop convoy headed for Scapa Flow, also including the carrier HMS Ark Royal.

In the early hours of 8 June, Glorious requested permission to proceed independently, and at a faster speed. It is believed[by whom?] this was because D'Oyly-Hughes was impatient to hold a court-martial of his Commander (Air), J. B. Heath, who had refused an order to attack certain shore targets on the grounds that his aircraft were unsuited to the task, and had therefore been left behind in Scapa to await trial.[1]

It has been noted[by whom?] that Glorious was is a low state of readiness. The high crow's nest look-out position was not manned, leaving the observation task to the destroyers with much lower observing angles. Only 12 out of 18 of boilers were in use, so she could not develop full speed (from 17 kn (20 mph; 31 km/h) to 30 kn (35 mph; 56 km/h)) as fast as was required. Most importantly, D'Oyly-Hughes failed to launch any aircraft to form a Combat Air Patrol around the carrier group, reportedly to give the aircrews a rest. The previous commander always had some aircraft in the air. Had he done so, Glorious might have been able to spot incoming threats, or have been able to either turn and run or fight. No aircraft were even on the deck for a quick launch. In her hangars were 10 Hurricanes and 10 Gladiators from the RAF, and her own nine Sea Gladiators plus five Swordfish.

While sailing through the Norwegian Sea, the carrier and her two escorts, the destroyers HMS Acasta and Ardent, were intercepted by the German battleships Scharnhorst and Gneisenau. The carrier and her escorts were sunk in two hours, roughly 170 nmi (200 mi; 310 km) west of Harstad, with the loss of 1,519 men; there were only 45 survivors. The single survivor from Acasta was rescued by the Norwegian steam merchant Borgund which also saved 38 men from one of Glorious' lifeboats. All 39 men saved by Borgund were set ashore at Tórshavn in the Faroe Islands on 14 June.[2]

Scharnhorst's salvoes hit Glorious at 16:32, before her torpedo-bombers could be launched.[3] Scharnhorst's second salvo, at 16:38, struck Glorious at the extreme range of 26,300 yd (24,000 m), one of the longest range hits ever recorded. A Gneisenau salvo subsequently hit the bridge. The destroyers had started to lay smoke to protect Glorious and themselves. Ardent and Acasta made continual attempts to launch torpedoes at the German ships. At about 17:39, Scharnhorst was hit by one of four torpedoes launched by Acasta.[4] Fifty sailors were killed, 2,500 long tons (2,500 t) of water flooded into her and her aft turret was put out of action. Ardent was sunk at around 17:20 having made seven attacks with torpedoes.

The approximate sinking position based on last transmission from Glorious: 69°0′N 04°0′E / 69.000°N 4.000°E / 69.000; 4.000.

Admiral Wilhelm Marschall, aboard his flagship Gneisenau ordered Scharnhorst to cease fire and wasting ammunition on Glorious. At this point, Gneisenau was 4,374 yd (4,000 m) closer to Glorious than Scharnhorst.[5]

Scharnhorst in company with Gneisenau made for Trondheim for repairs, due to their exposed position they were not able to stop to rescue survivors of any of the ships. On 13 June, Fleet Air Arm Blackburn Skua bombers from Ark Royal attacked Scharnhorst in harbour; only a single bomb struck her.[citation needed]

As a result of the action, 1533 people on board were killed, 63 of them from RAF, the greatest military loss of life for Britain up to that time in the war.[5][citation needed]

Despite this notable success, damage from the torpedo attacks forced Scharnhorst to return to Trondheim, for emergency repairs. It was not until 23 June that she was able to reach Kiel and a dry dock. She remained there under repair for most of the rest of 1940. Although the sacrifice of Glorious was great, the withdrawal of these two powerful German warships allowed the remaining Allied convoys to reach Britain with a greatly reduced threat.

In 1997, Channel 4 (UK) screened a documentary in its Secret History series entitled "The Tragedy of HMS Glorious" and interviewed one of the surviving RAF pilots. There is a degree of mystery about the sinking of the Glorious because papers relating to the sinking have a "100 year rule" embargo on their release.

In the later Battle off Samar, a force of small U.S. escort carriers and destroyer escorts was surprised by a very large battleship force. An antisubmarine patrol spotted the surprise approach of an incoming battle force, and aircraft were in a state ready to launch. Though some escorts and one carrier were lost to surface fire, aggressive action by small destroyer escorts and harassment by aircraft (together the Americans had over a dozen carriers and hundreds of aircraft at their disposal) caused sufficient damage and confusion to turn back a much more powerful surface fleet.

References[edit]

  1. ^ "The Loss of HMS Glorious", An Analysis of the Action, Vernon W. Howland Captain, RCN (Retd.)
  2. ^ www.warsailors.com on D/S Borgund
  3. ^ Glorious had been sailing home in a largely unprepared state
  4. ^ Operation Juno
  5. ^ a b Operation Juno

External links[edit]