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HMS Glorious

On this day 8 June 1940

Published: 08 Jun 2013

While evacuating twenty RAF fighters from Norway to Scapa Flow, the aircraft carrier HMS GLORIOUS and her escorting destroyers HMS ACASTA and HMS ARDENT were intercepted by the German battleships SCHARNHORST and GNEISENAU. It was a day of calm sea and unlimited visibility but GLORIOUS had no air patrols and no aircraft ranged on deck. The RN ships were engaged with gunfire and all were sunk, GLORIOUS going to the bottom in ninety minutes with very few survivors; There was only one survivor from ACASTA and one from ARDENT. More than 1,500 men from the three ships were lost in the Arctic waters.

GLORIOUS was part of a large fleet of ships, which included ARK ROYAL, involved in Operation Alphabet evacuating all British and Allied forces from Norway.

8 June, by 0115 GLORIOUS had landed on ten Gladiators of 263 Sqd RAF, (the first Gladiator had taken off just after 2300/7) followed by ten Hurricanes of 46 Sqd RAF, all from Bardufoss, and one Walrus of 701 Sqd FAA, ferrying Group Captain Wood, RAF from Harstad. All landings were completely successful.  GLORIOUS then landed on the Swordfish of 823 Sqd that had acted as navigating aircraft.

At 0207 ARK ROYAL landed on Walrus 5A of 701 Sqd, pilot Lt M B Francklin from GLORIOUS. This was to be the last aircraft to take off from GLORIOUS.

At 0300 in position 70-17N, 14-10E, instead of sailing with rest of the ships, GLORIOUS, ARDENT and ACASTA detached for Scapa. The Flag Officer Aircraft Carriers had agreed to the request of Commanding Officer of GLORIOUS, Captain, D'Oyly-Hughes RN, for GLORIOUS to proceed independently to Scapa to expedite a Court Martial against his own Commander (Air), J. B. Heath, who had been left behind in Scapa.

At 1546  A lookout on the SCHARNHORST sighted smoke. The Germans initially identified the vessel sighted as ARK ROYAL but it was actually the GLORIOUS escorted by ARDENT and ACASTA they were steering 205deg speed 17 knots. The German battlecruisers turned on to a south easterly course and closed to attack.

At 1600 the battle cruisers were sighted by GLORIOUS and ARDENT was ordered to close and identify them.

At 1627 ARDENT was fired on by GNEISENAU and at 1630 by SCHARNHORST. ARDENT withdrew, firing torpedoes, one of which was seen to pass close ahead of the SCHARNHORST. 

At 1630  the battlecruisers opened fire on GLORIOUS.

At 1638 GLORIOUS received her first 280mm hit from SCHARNHORST's third salvo. ARDENT and ACASTA made smoke and turned towards the enemy. The smoke was effective enough to cause the Germans to cease fire from about 1658 to 1720.

At 1652, GNEISENAU picked up GLORIOUS transmitting the following message on 8.29 MHz addressed to Scapa W/T; "Two battlecruisers bearing 308° 15 miles course 030°. My position 154°69'N 04°E. This signal was not picked up by any British station or ship.

At 1720 the heavy cruiser DEVONSHIRE who was then about 70 miles west of GLORIOUS picked up a weak and broken signal on 3.7 MHz. DEVONSHIRE took no action upon receipt of the distorted signal. 

ARDENT achieved one hit on SCHARNHORST with her 4.7-inch guns, but was extensively damaged by return fire from the 150mm secondary armament of the battlecruisers, and sank at about 1725.

At about 1730, ACASTER passed ahead of SCHARNHORST and turned to run down her starboard side, ACASTER then fired two four-tube salvos of torpedoes. One torpedo hit SCHARNHORST below Caesar turret, causing heavy damage and casualties, and causing a sharp reduction in speed. ACASTER also made a hit on SCHARNHORST's B turret with her 4.7 "guns, but came under heavy and accurate fire after she had turned away, which left her burning and in a sinking condition. 

At about 1740 the German ships ceased fire and GLORIOUS sank at about 1820. The Germans ceased fire on ACASTER at about 1808 and she also sank at about 1820.

You tube video showing film taken on SCHARNHORST of the sinking of GLorious.


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