- Contributed by
- Location of story:
- Arctic Circle
- Background to story:
- Royal Navy
- Article ID:
- Contributed on:
- 05 July 2005
In August 1939 after enjoying a Summer Cruise around the resorts of the South Coast, the Home Fleet were ordered to sail to Scapa Flow as the worsening situation with Germany became critical. I was a young Engine-Room Artificer serving aboard the new cruiser HMS "Newcastle". After arriving in Scapa the ship was detailed to patrol the Northern waters between Iceland and the Faroes and to stop any German vessels carrying war materials as by that time war was imminent. This exercise we persued for some weeks returning to Scapa on Oct 10th for victuals and fuel. We sailed from Scapa on the 14th Oct and the "Royal Oak" entered through the harbour gate abd took our previous anchor billet. As wew sailed out of Scapa we heard a terrific explosion and subsequently received signals that the "Royal Oak" had been sunk by torpedo with the loss of 786 personnel.
We carried on with our patrol duties in the perpetual darkness of the Arctic region, until on the 23rd of November a signal from the Admialty was received to intercept the "Deutschland", which was thought to be on her way back to Germany after preying on the shipping lines.
Steaming to the area, on the horizon a glow was seen and was apparently a large ship blazing. Coming out of the shadow of the moon we saw some distance away one blazing liner and it's attackers - two pocket battleships, recognised as "Scharnost" and "Gneisenau". They were stationary and seemed to be picking up survivers. These were the days befor radar was pefected so they were unaware of our proximity. After deliberating on the situation it was decide to radio Admiralty on the situation, the answer was to shadow whilst the Home Fleet was ordered to prevent their escape back to the Skagerak. We on board were very apprehensive for if we had attacked the two ships, whilst we may have caused some damage, they would have finished us. However, they must have picked up our radio signals and moved at high speed away. We shadowed them for some hours until blizzard descended and all trace was lost and they eventually made it to Norwegion waters and Skagerak.
The ship they attacked was the "Rawalpindi", an armed merchant liner, commanded by Capt E.C Kennedy, father of Kudovic Kennedy. The great bravery shown by the officers and crew - who were nearly all reservists was outstanding for she fought with all her guns and inflicted some damage before she was ablaxe from stem to stern. Captain Kennedy was lost in the action, which also claimed the lives of 240 men.
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