Saturday, June 15, 2024

Big Picture


First Lord of the Admiralty 

Churchill's fingerprints were all over the Norwegian 

campaign.  It wouldn't take much to capture Narvik

and cut Germany off from its iron ore.  This one small

victory could have a decisive effect in the course of the

war over the long term.  It was worth the gamble.

The iron fields at Gallivare are the real objective.

Germany can get the ore it needs from the harbor at 

Lulea once the ice melts in April.  The port of Narvik

is no longer of importance.  Britain must take Sweden's

iron ore fields if the Allies are to keep this metal from Hitler.

The Royal Navy zigged when they should have zagged.

The Glowworm's sinking by the Admiral Hipper

confirmed to the Admiralty at Scapa Flow that 

Germany's warships were making a break for the 

British shipping lanes of the Atlantic.  The Home Fleet

made a dash to prevent the Reich's battleships and

cruisers from destroying its ocean lifelines.

Turns out the Royal Navy was actually headed 

away from the ships they hoped to intercept.

The enemy rarely gives you the battle you want.

The Royal Navy wanted a showdown with the German

Kriegsmarine because such a conflict plays to the 

Home Fleet's strength.  Certainly Germany's 

Admiral Raeder knew his navy wasn't prepared for 

such a head on confrontation.  The idea is to come

up with something unexpected.

Germany captured Norway's ports, mostly unopposed.

Surprise.  Your ports have all been captured by your enemy.

Your militia was sleeping and the British were off chasing

a phantom fleet out to sea.

British battleship sinks flotilla of ten German destroyers.

The Kriegsmarine was pretty much swept from the board

by the Royal Navy in the days that followed.

Admiral Raeder's credibility with Hitler had dropped 

to near nothing.  U-boats had the proven strategy

and that was the province of Admiral Donitz, 

Raeder's rival.

Hitler was about to upend the entire Allied defense.

Norway was a distraction that was easily handled.

In a matter of days British troops abandon their 

outpost in Narvik because the entire Scandinavian

campaign had just become irrelevant.

Everyone's attention had suddenly turned to 

a small French town in the Ardennes named


* * * * * 

©  Tom Taylor



Saturday, June 8, 2024



German flotilla heads for Narvik.

Ten destroyers slipped from the small German harbor

of Wesermunde, near the border with Denmark.

Their mission was to capture Narvik, preventing

British disruption of iron ore meant for Germany.

Troops target all main Norwegian ports.

Each destroyer was transporting 200 fully equipped

German infantry.  Norwegian ports targeted for attack

included Oslo, the capital, Bergen and Trondheim -

besides the small town of Narvik, nearly 1,200 

miles away.

Attacks everywhere begin 9 April, 0500hrs.

Everyone needs to be in place, ready to launch

the attack at the appointed hour.  Surprise here

is the key to success.  German forces are small.

They need to catch the Norwegian militia off guard.

German battleships provide destroyer protection.

Two German battleships provide the necessary firepower

to ward off most anything other than a mano y mano tussle

with their British counterparts.

The cruiser Admiral Hipper is an unpleasant welcome.

Three of the destroyers are dropped off for their attack

on Trondheim.  The group is stumbled upon by the

British destroyer Glowworm.  It's 5 inch guns are

no match for the radar directed broadsides coming

 from the cruiser Admiral Hipper, here to protect 

the Trondheim landing force.

HMS Glowworm is ablaze bow to stern.

An apparent defenseless wreck, the Glowworm

veers full force into the hull of the Hipper.  The 

cruiser must return to Germany for repairs but 

Glowworm's damage is catastrophic.  It quickly

turns belly-up, then sinks, taking most of the crew

to the bottom with it.


But the alarm has now been sounded.

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©  Tom Taylor




Saturday, June 1, 2024

happy birthday jeremy !


Rear View Mirror




Iron Ore


 German military production soars as war with France looms.

 Gallivare is Germany's prime source for iron. 

Much of the ore Germany needs to produce steel

comes from these Swedish iron fields. With the harbor

at Lulea closed in winter the Arctic port of Narvik becomes

Germany's sole means of reaching this strategic metal.


First Lord and Prime Minister probe for German weakness.

As head of the Royal Navy Winston Churchill plots

the takeover of Narvik by British troops, cutting Germany's 

link with Swedish ore.  Narvik's capture by Britain 

would deprive Germany of a staple of industry.

Raeder - an admiral among generals.

Britain is astir.  This sudden surge of radio traffic.  

Troops are seen assembling.  Transports all, on the move.

Admiral Raeder suspects the British have designs

on Norway.  Closing Norway's coastline to German

navigation is unacceptable.  The Fuhrer must be warned.

Hitler needs Norway to stay neutral.

The Fuhrer is currently planning his attack on France.

There isn't time for some military diversion against Norway.

Raeder is to keep Hitler apprised of British moves but,

otherwise, don't bother him with fearful speculation.

 German prison ship discovered by RAF reconnaissance.

It's the Altmark, supply vessel for the Graf Spee.  It has 

been steaming for Germany, closely pursued by the Royal

 Navy.  A British destroyer boards the cornered vessel 

in this tiny fjord.  Three hundred British prisoners found 

onboard are freed.  

Hitler is alarmed.  Britain openly violated the coastal

waters of Norway but Oslo doesn't appear outraged.

  Their sentiments are not neutral.  Germany cannot

tolerate its northern flank dominated by the enemy.

German invasion force slips by Royal Navy.

Preoccupied with the search for large warships

the Home Fleet from Scapa Flow totally ignored

the small fry German transports and destroyers

that steamed up the Norwegian coast.

Admiral Raeder is about to deliver 10,000 

German troops to all major Norwegian ports


* * * * * 

©  Tom Taylor



Saturday, May 25, 2024

Graf Spee


 Graf Spee was the last of three Deutschland class Pocket Battleships.

The Graf Spee was designed to be a commerce raider - powerful enough to knock out patrolling cruisers and the speed to elude the more powerful full size battleships.

Germany launches its first aircraft carrier.

 The Kriegsmarine, Germany's navy, wasn't prepared when war broke out in 1939.  It would easily take them another eight years before Germany could compete on the seas with the Royal Navy.  Preoccupied with directing his land army, Hitler left naval strategy to the admirals.  The Kriegsmarine chose to ad lib a blockade of England with the few odds and ends they had available.  Grandiose projects such as aircraft carriers consumed too much time and resources dedicated to their production.  Ultimately a number of surface warships were completed only to be turned around and then dismantled for scrap.  Precious metal was now freed up to better contribute to the war effort by furnishing new tanks, aircraft and subs.   

U-boat Wolf Pack tactics devastate early convoys.

 A picket line of U-boats block the convoy as it makes its way to English ports. Once the Allied fleet is sighted, the command is given for all U-boats to converge on the target zone, flooding it with torpedoes.  The war is going well.  It is the 'Happy Time' for U-boat personnel.

British cruisers intercept Graf Spee off Uruguay.

The commander of a group of three British cruisers was playing a hunch when he directed his vessels toward Uruguay and a hoped for confrontation with Germany's elusive surface raider, the Graf Spee.  In fact, the Graf Spee's Captain had decided now was an opportune time for disrupting the heavy South Atlantic commerce that continually passes near Montevideo.

A barrage of eleven inch shells knock Exeter out of the battle.

The Graf Spee made its retreat towards Montevideo's harbor despite the fact there was but one of the three cruisers left behind that was in actual working order.  Graf Spee's Captain Langsdorff was needing a respite in safe harbor to tend to his ship's own extensive damage.  Uruguay, a neutral country, offered waring adversaries a limited stay of 72 hours, strictly enforced.   The Graf Spee needed two weeks for repairs if it was to have any chance of surviving a confrontation with the waiting British cruisers.

The Ark Royal believed to reinforce cruiser blockade.

 Word is the Royal Navy carrier Ark Royal and the battleship Renown have just arrived, adding decisively to the growing number of Royal Navy warships, each waiting, eager for the kill.

German commander scuttles battleship, commits suicide.

With all hope gone of successfully returning to Germany, Langsdorff orders his ship sunk in the shallow estuary that leads to the sea.  Too bad the reports of powerful reinforcements arriving was all a ruse.  The Royal Navy's Ark Royal and battleship Renown were still two thousand distant miles away.  In its short career the Graf Spee sank all of eleven merchant ships.  In return, a valuable battleship was sacrificed.  Two U-boats could have accomplished as much and in less time.  The surface raider strategy was a loser.  

U-boats get it done.  They're cheap and you can turn out a couple dozen a month.  That's important because the British merchant marine consists of over four thousand ships.  Taming this torrent of trade requires an estimated 300 U-boats.  That puts one hundred subs on station in the Atlantic doing its damage.  Another hundred U-boats are in transit between coming and going destinations.  The final hundred are in port for maintenance, training and repairs.  To win the war with Britain in 1940, Germany must send 700,000 tons of supplies to the bottom of the ocean each and every month, depriving Great Britain for a full year of what it needs to make its society work.

©  Tom Taylor



Saturday, May 18, 2024

Scapa Flow


Mission:  Contain the German fleet.

Perfect position to cut German access to the Atlantic.

Over 700 made - heroes of the 'Happy Time'.

SPEED:               17.9 KNOTS - SURFACE

                              8.0 KNOTS - SUBMERGED

RANGE:               8,700 MILES @ 10 KNOTS, SURFACE

                                 90 MILES @ 4 KNOTS, SUBMERGED

CREW:                 44 - 52

Safe harbor to Britain's largest fleet.

 U-47 sailed through Kirk Sound above water to avoid a barrier 

of sunken hulks of ships, its conning tower cloaked in a

New Moon night.

The Grand Lady too old to keep up.

U-47 missed 4 before 3 hit in the amidship gut.

Royal Oak rolled over quickly and sank 

taking with it 800 sailors trapped inside.

U-47 commander gets Berlin parade.

Captain Gunther Prien became a Nazi in 1933, the year Hitler

came to power.

Constant vigil for U-boats.

 Germany needed to sink 700,000 tons a month to win

the war in 1940.

©  Tom Taylor